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26 Jun, 2005

Those Who Send Others to Die for a Lie Are all Cut from the Same Cloth

Originally Published: 26 June 2005

The editor of Sunday Perspective emailed me last week thus, “Several readers have requested that you comment on Islam’s view on killing of innocent people by Muslims. Is it OK for Muslims to kill people who kill fellow Muslims?”

The answers to both those questions are short and easy, but open up wider issues which demand closer scrutiny.

Islam’s view on killing of innocent people by Muslims: Totally prohibited.

Is it OK for Muslims to kill people who kill fellow Muslims: No.

So, readers may follow up, why is it happening and what are Muslims doing about it?

Behind these questions is a degree of understandable puzzlement about a religion that professes to be one of peace and yet seems to applaud violence. If that appears to reflect a disconnect in principles and values, Islam is certainly not unique.

Indeed, readers should ask themselves the following questions:

<> Is it okay to lie, attack another country and bomb and kill innocent people while preaching ‘freedom and democracy?’

<> Is it okay to occupy someone else’s land because it was ‘given by God since Biblical times?”

No religion approves the taking of innocent life. But since 9/11, it has become trendy to seek explanations only from Muslims for the acts of a few whose religion may be Islam but who may have other objectives, allegiances and affiliations.

Firstly, just because someone sets up an organisation and tags it ‘Islamic’ does not mean it represents Islam or speaks for Muslims.

It is just a security blanket, providing a cover and justification for their acts. Like any position, it depends on the broader context in which it is framed and the interpretation applied to it. Put a good lawyer and communicator together and they will make a case for anything.

For example, in Iraq, the psychological indoctrination necessary in order to kill or be killed on someone else’s behalf is identical on both sides. You need to really pumped up and totally convinced of its righteousness.

Parents of the “coalition of willing” who send their children off to kill or be killed in Iraq are the same as those parents who send their children off to die in suicide bombings. From their own adversarial perspectives, they both think they are doing the right thing.

Overdosed on Schwarzenegger movies, what were the troops and their parents told? That attacking Iraq was for a worthy, patriotic, nationalistic cause, to avenge 9/11, fight terrorism, make the US safe from weapons of mass destruction – in other words, a holy war (jihad) in defense of America.

Even though it proved to be a complete lie, it is still believed, so effective was the sheer persistence and consistence of the propaganda.

If supposedly educated people could believe that hogwash, Muslims who have grown up with only a religious education can similarly be indoctrinated to kill people seen as occupiers or collaborators.

Both sides have their justifications: One invokes Islam, the other patriotism and democracy.

Secondly, most Muslims have no way of making these self-styled “Islamic” groups accountable. Nobody voted them in, they do not use public tax money, and cannot be stopped from abusing the name of Islam. Neither can their acts be explained or justified legally because they are plain wrong.

On the other hand, the killings by the coalition armies are being carried out on orders of leaders voted in by the people, using their tax money and who should and can be held accountable, but aren’t.

It is this illegal war and occupation which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Although it is supposed to be making the world a safer place, numerous studies indicate exactly the opposite.

Yet, where are the investigations and tribunals to hold those lying leaders accountable?

If it is claimed that the killings by Islamists contradict their faith, Muslims, too, want to know whether the reactions by the leaders of the so-called Western democracies are in line with their much-vaunted values and self-proclaimed principles of the rule of law, democracy and transparency.

What is the difference between these leaders who lie in order to send someone else’s children to die on their behalf for the sake of a ‘safer’ world and for ‘freedom and democracy’, and the Islamists who promise their flock a reward in paradise if they do the same?

Indeed, they all become birds of the same feather. It is not only Islamists who kill innocent people. So, too, do Judaists and Christianists.

Christianists are major supporters of the ‘war president’ George W Bush who has made public statements about his professed relationship with God.

As for the Judaists, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Judaist fanatic fundamentalist terrorist named Yigal Amir, who is of the same stock as the people who are living on illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

The US occupation of Iraq is illegal, as is the Israeli occupation of Palestine. How far would Thais resist if this land were to be similarly occupied? Merely roll over and succumb? I truly doubt it.

Killers defy any stereotyping in terms of caste, colour or creed, religion, nationality, community or society. Killing is a daily occurrence, some for religious reasons, others for revenge, blackmail, family feuds, whatever.

Who were the killers in Serbia and Rwanda? Not Muslims for sure. Who are the Basques in Spain, the Maoists in Nepal? Who were the Irish terrorists? The suicide bombers in Sri Lanka? Those who caused the carnage in Gujarat? Who were the Nazis? The Khmer Rouge? The Stalinists?

Who perpetrated the revolting apartheid system in South Africa? Who are the Ku Klux Klan? Who was responsible for the ‘stolen generations’ in Australia? For lynching blacks in the US?

Yesterday, they were going after the ‘niggers’, today it’s the Muslims. Different generation, same animosity.

Just in the last week alone, there were three stories of innocent people being killed for all kinds of twisted reasons.

In India, three people, one a tantric, were charged with murder after pouring boiling oil over a four and a half year old girl before beheading her as part of a religious sacrifice, according to Indian police. The tantric was not a Muslim.

A Cambodian terrorised an international school in Siem Reap apparently in revenge against a Korean employer who had slapped him, and shot a two-year-old in the head just to stop him crying. Not a Muslim here, either.

A US court convicted a 58-year-old man of killing nine of his children, and 14 counts of raping and molesting seven of his daughters and nieces. He had fathered children with two of his own daughters.

His trial heard “how he exercised a tyrannical control over his family, forbidding the women from contact with the outside world and presenting himself as a divinely-inspired preacher. He told his family they needed to have “babies for the Lord”.

The BBC described him as a ‘religious zealot’, pointedly avoiding mention of any religion. In Israel, those being ousted from the Gaza settlements are simply referred to as “Jewish settlers”, not illegal Jewish fanatic fundamentalist settlers, which they are.

But in South Thailand, the knee-jerk language used is ‘suspected Islamic insurgents’. Why? Why not just ‘suspected insurgents’? As the killers are also Thai ID card-holders, why not ‘suspected Thai insurgents’?

This selective tagging has been a major part of the propaganda drumbeat, conveying the impression that only “Muslims” have some kind of a predilection for killing innocent people. Like the issue of weapons of mass destruction, a lie told often enough becomes the truth.

There is nothing exclusively Islamic about the act of killing innocent people. Muslims asked for an explanation should not fear demanding one from their questioners, too.

As for those who support the Iraq war, let them put their money where their mouth is by volunteering their own sons and daughters, nieces and nephews to top up the depleting ranks of the US army. Then, they can earn the right to write as many letters to Postbag as they wish.