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February 20, 2006

Comments

Yitzchak Goodman

I also declare my support for . . . Palestinians to use violence to resist occupation.

So let's say I'm in Tel Aviv buying a felafel.
Do you support someone's act of blowing me up?

ss

I declare you are a terrorist. supporting terror or glorifying it is absolutely wrong. i welcome such a law anywhere in the world. we have it in india. it is like using a cuss word. but on a larger scale that could motivate more terrorists ?

a part of Kashmir is occupied by pakistan. there is no fight there. you can write whatever you want and have a wishful thinking. it only echos your stupidity again and again.

Steve

Thabit - I was hoping you could clarify your last few comments. In particular, I wanted to get a clearer definition of what was the ethical boundaries around violence and struggle. This is quite crucial.

Also, on the last point of martyrdom, I couldn't help but think of Irshad Manji. She calls herself Muslim, and argues she is struggling for the soul of Islam (and implicitly God), and were she be killed, would you see fit to call her a martyr? In other words, it seems to me that it is insufficient to simply call yourself a Muslim, claim you're struggling for God, and then bam, you qualify as a martyr. And further, who makes such a determination? Most of the individuals involved in Sept 11 are called martyrs by some of their supporters, and yet I cannot believe that God would sanction the death of a simple janitor at work in the World Trade Centers, any more than he would sanction the death of an innocent Iraqi. Would God not oppose both forms of violence?

Manar

Thabit – You said: “Any Muslim who dies on while struggling for God is a martyr.” In regards to martyrdom, there's an interesting verse in the Qur'an that says, "No one can know the soldiers of God except God" or according to Yusuf Ali's translation: "And none can know the forces of thy Lord, except He and this is no other than a warning to mankind" (wa ma ya`lamu junuda rabbika illa huwa) 74:31.

This verse seems to deny human beings the right to claim being a “soldier” bestowed on them with God’s authority. Further, some people perceive “soldiers” in the literal sense and others as a figurative term for individuals who do God’s work. But we find that in a lot of cases, Muslims cannot divorce their own historical context from the one that generated the verse in the first place. People claim there’s a “holy war” going on, and they start using big words like “Jihad” and “martyrdom,” because it seems fitting with the political tension in the world.

But who are we to name martyrs, soldiers, or forces that God and supposedly only Him knows? Has the understanding of Islam become so jaded amidst the political struggles for lands and countries? Moreover, despite the injustices in the world, it’s disheartening when people claim the authority to speak for God. Killing in the name of Islam or God is so arrogant and such a denigration to the faith. The word “Jihad” has become so mechanical and void of meaning when every other self-proclaimed “soldier” blurts it out for what are ultimately random political purposes. We get so mad when Bush talks about “freedom” when he’s about to kill thousands of Iraqis. “What freedom?” we say. Well, similarly what “Jihad”? How is killing innocent people on either side pleasing to God?

I wholeheartedly support the Palestinian cause and resistance because those people are occupied and oppressed every single day of their lives – they have the right to be human beings, but I am against the idea that it is a “holy” resistance. It is a human resistance. Every human should relate.

Lastly, Thabit I understand your frustration with the hypocrisies in freedom of speech and expression. But Blair’s idiocy shouldn’t validate or justify a so-called “holy war.” As such, killing “for God” doesn’t make the death of innocent people glorious. So why use Islam to glorify such violence?

thabet

All: Thank you for your responses, which confirmed, to various degrees, what I thought would happen.

Now for individual responses:

YG: "So let's say I'm in Tel Aviv buying a felafel. Do you support someone's act of blowing me up?"
t: No, on both moral and religious grounds. You can search my archives, Yitzchak. I'm quite consistent on this specific point that you raise. This doesn't mean I believe a Palestinian doesn't the right to defend his family, home and livelihood. And to prompt you: I don't deny Israel has a right to defend its citizens either.

ss: "I declare you are a terrorist. supporting terror or glorifying it is absolutely wrong."
t: Declare away, but it's mere assertion. I am not a terrorist. I do not support or glorify terrorism. Your word against mine. And this highlights the whole problem with this legislation. No idea what the rest of your response is about. I am not a Pakistani nationalist or a Kahsmiri. But I do know Kashmiris who want independence. Speak to them if you have a problem with that.

SG: "I wanted to get a clearer definition of what was the ethical boundaries around violence and struggle. This is quite crucial."
t: I quite agree, Steve. This is the crucial question for any proponent of a 'just war' theory. For a start, I would say non-combatants are not are target; even 'unintentionally' ('intention' often appears to be a post facto rationalisation for laziness, or incompetence or worse). Muslims are fastidious about "rules" and there are "rules" about jihad just like their are "rules" about diet and prayer. But I am afraid that in our late modern, technological, world there are grey areas especially with the kind of destructive force modern weapons have. This, for me, puts the emphasis on avoiding war as much as possible.

See my response to Manar regarding martyrs and martyrdom.

M: "But who are we to name martyrs, soldiers, or forces that God and supposedly only Him knows?"
t: I completely agree. No one knows who is and isn't a martyr for God. I am sure you're familiar with the Muslim tradition that one of the first people to enter hell will be a mujahid. You don't need to believe in heaven/hell to understand what this means. And yes, people do fight for "worldly" causes and dress their activites in Islamic mofits and terms; our human intentions are often multiple and complex. But this doesn't mean there aren't 'martyrs'; note my statement on jihad or martyrdom mentioned no one person explicitly and I never tied the statement with any particular cause. These were assumptions you made. What I did was reiterate a Muslim belief that people who die while 'struggling' for God are martyrs. And while I don't dispute that Muslims have abused terms like "jihad" and "shaheed" for random (and I would say complex) purposes, from base desires, hatred of non-Muslims, sectarianism, through to (secular) political aims, this doesn't remove the point that jihad has a multiplicity of meanings, one of which is 'warfare'. It would be a lie to say otherwise.

M: "How is killing innocent people on either side pleasing to God?"
t: That is quite a leap, Manar. Where did I suggest this at all?

M: "...but I am against the idea that it is a “holy” resistance. It is a human resistance. Every human should relate."
t: Again I have not tied my statements on jihad and martyrdom with any particular cause. I don't think the grotesque violence in Iraq is "jihad" or someone blowing himself up together with individual buying falafels achieves "martyrdom". (In fact, if you ask me I'd say they're the opposite.)

Now let me say there may be people in these struggles who perhaps die as martyrs. But, as you say, we humans do not know for certain who they are, only God. To adopt a term from Steve's recent post on DA, I don't believe in 'institutionalised martyrdom'. There isn't some club or group or activity you join and become a martyr. But again I would reiterate that doesn't mean there aren't those who die as martyrs whose inner intents and motivations will be known by God alone. And further, someone on 'a struggle for God' might be the individual who, through her love for God and so His creations, gives up worldly luxuries and spends years helping the poor and needy.

M: "As such, killing “for God” doesn’t make the death of innocent people glorious. So why use Islam to glorify such violence?"
t: Again I've said nothing about 'killing innocent people' (I don't see where you brought 'innocence' from, Manar). In fact, I believe far too Muslims who have perverted "jihad" and made violence into a Golden Calf (this is also an insult to the Prophet, upon whom be peace, I would add; moreso than some cartoons). The violence they engage appears to be their only end, at whose alter they will sacrifice everything remotely approaching transcendent.

I've reiterated my support for various peoples of the world to resist occupation, through violent means if need be, in their struggle for legitimacy in this world (the only way people can gain legitimicy today is to form an independent nation-state).

Further, I've also reiterated two Muslim beliefs; that there is a concept of martyrdom in Islam and that there is a concept of warfare in Islam. I haven't linked them together with any particular cause or any particular group or any particular individual (although I see why you must have thought so).

But you can see the problem with this legislation.

And God knows best.

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