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Terror in the name of Islam, once more

It has become tough to watch the global breaking news as a Muslim. Once in a while a bomb goes off, or gunmen fire their weapons, in some part of the world killing innocent people. And the people who do this butchery very often act in the name of Islam. For a more than a billion Muslims who, like me, think that human life is sacred and invaluable, this evil committed in the name of our faith is a big disgrace.

The recent attack on Mumbai, the financial capital of India, once again gave me that feeling of shame. At least 125 people are reported to be killed and about 300 more seem to be injured. And not just the city of Mumbai, or even the country of India, but also the whole world feel shocked and traumatized. As I was writing this piece, the perpetrators had not been clearly identified, but it seemed likely that this was yet another act of Jihadist terrorism. Probably not al-Qaeda, but some other fanatic group that claims to lead an "Islamic struggle," was the most likely candidate to be the executor of this carnage.

I am no terrorism expert and can not even claim any depth about the political landscape of the Indian subcontinent. But let me tell you what I think about this carnage, as a Muslim who is concerned about the condition of his faith and his "umma," the faith community.

First, let me note that terrorism, i.e, violence against civilians, is against not just the spirit but also the clear instructions of Islam, as is understood by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims. Islam cannot be defined as pacifist religion, to be honest, because it has the idea and tradition of just war. That is rooted right at the heart of the main source, the Koran, as it is also rooted in the Old Testament. But just war, as its name implies, is not wanton killing. Quite the contrary: From the earliest days, Islamic teaching put great emphasis on the distinction between combatants and civilians. The Prophet is on record for ordering his soldiers to, "avoid harming women, children, the elderly, or people at temples and monasteries." The "ulema," i.e., religious scholars, debated in the Middle Ages whether it would be lawful to use catapults against enemy fortresses. Quite a few of them found this unlawful, and the stated reason was that such imprecise weapons could harm civilians as well, besides the soldiers. But today, we have terrorists who deliberately target the civilians whom they consider as enemies, and refer to this as "jihad." But, no, it is not jihad in the Koranic sense. It is indiscriminate killing. It is barbaric, cruel and evil.We Muslims should denounce all forms of such immoral violence that is perpetrated in the name of our religion. We should do this not because non-Muslims are asking it from us, but because it is a major insult to our values. And we should do that forcefully and steadily, because only then those who might be sympathetic to terrorism among us can realize that they are on a wicked track.

Seeds of hatred
Moreover, we Muslims should be honest and frank about all this. It does not suffice to just say, "Islam is a religion of peace," and those who kill innocents, "have nothing to do with Islam." Let us be honest. They are Muslims and they have something to do with Islam. And Islam is not just a "religion of peace," but it also has a tradition of war. But today’s vicious terrorists are not on the path of the noble warriors of the Middle Ages, like, say, Saladin who showed utmost respect to the civilians among the Crusaders that he fought with. Today’s Islamist terrorists do refer to Islam, but theirs is an ideology that is closer to violent Marxism-Leninism than to the traditional faith we perform in our mosques. They subscribe to a perverted form of our faith and it is our duty to be vigilant against them. As for non-Muslims, there are things to be careful about, too. They should never fall into the misconception of extrapolating from this tiny faction of fanatics to the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims. If they do so, they will only be empowering those fanatics, who are dying to pull more and more Muslims to their side. And while judging these fanatics, the westerners should remember that they had their own, ranging from the Crusaders to the Inquisitors, to militant Israeli settlers. The people of India, whose suffering I share, should also be very careful in handling the aftermath of this tragedy. The country has a sad history of inter-communal violence between Hindus and Muslims. A big task right now is to prevent this evil act in Mumbai from ripping the scab off those old wounds. The terrorists certainly knew that they were sowing the seeds of hatred while planning this bloodbath. We should do everything that we can to make them fail.