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Who are the Real Terrorists

Who are the Real Terrorists

The Real Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda
by S. Brian Willson – 1999

“But you will not by any means, listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected….Our future security will be in their inability to injure us…and in the terror with which the severity of the chastizement they receive will inspire them….Lay waste all the settlements around…that the country may not be merely overrun but destroyed.”
–General George Washington, orders given to Major General

John Sullivan to proceed against the Seneca Nation of the
Iroquois Confederacy in Central New York State, 1779
“The central–and not very surprising–conclusion that emerges from the documentary and historical record is that U.S. international and security policy, rooted in the structure of power in the domestic society, has as its primary goal the preservation of what we might call ‘the fifth freedom,’ understood crudely but with a fair degree of accuracy as the freedom to rob, to exploit and to dominate, to undertake any course of action to ensure that existing privilege is protected and advanced.”

–Noam Chomsky, 1988 The REAL Terror Network is the title of a book authored by Edward S. Herman (South End Press, 1982), who at the time was professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In this book he analyzes historical U.S. imperial policies through study of economics, and his understanding of the political/media use of the term “terrorist” is very helpful.

In country after country in the expanding U.S. sphere of influence after World War II, “dominoes” fell, and military regimes and other dependent tyrannies came into power with the aid of U.S. covert and/or overt interventions. This occurred in virtually all of Central and South America, and in many parts of Africa and Asia. These regimes invariably exhibited common characteristics: (a) they represented a small, wealthy elite interest, including multinational corporations, promoting intense capitalist economics; (b) they all used terror, including torture, carried out by security forces often trained in these techniques by the U.S. military, to keep the aggrieved majority unorganized, powerless, and subservient to minority elite and corporate goals; (c) the leadership of these states was almost always knowingly corrupt; and (d) they assured, with the support of official U.S. policy, that already highly skewed income and wealth distribution disparities became ever more unequal and caused the majority of their populations to be kept in a state of extreme deprivation and misery.

In the post-Cold War, unipolar, Pax Americana world, many of these regimes are now being described as “democratic” by the U.S. government. This despite the fact that structural disparities between the Haves and Have-Nots have widened even further, and that the elected leaders continue to primarily represent the wealthy elite, and tend to be corrupt. Worse, they continue to use methods of terror, frequently U.S.-facilitated, in response to grassroots popular movements expressing an alternative to state-imposed, top-down “neoliberal capitalist economics.” The numbers of voiceless poor are increasing in this so-called “democratic,” post-Cold War era, in the U.S. as elsewhere.

Now, without existence of an alternative powerful pole, i.e. the Soviet Union, effecting a moderating influence, U.S. behavior has become ever more belligerent and lawless, as evidenced by its unilateral attacks with impunity on Panama, Sudan, and Afghanistan, and its relentless bilateral bombings, with Britain, of Iraq. U.S. aggressive foreign policy, along with its sponsored, funded, armed and/or trained “authoritarian” and “democratic” states comprise the real terror network, i.e., the network of wholesale terrorists. The increasingly sophisticated, nearly unchecked propaganda machinery of the “democratic” West has successfully censored this demonic history of the real terror network. Substituted in its place is an often desperate, frequently concocted network of the voiceless that includes, by careful definition and selectivity, only those “terrorists” who challenge important Western “neoliberal” economic interests, or who can be linked in some way, no matter how remotely, to the “enemies” of these interests. This substituted group of individuals and smaller groups of relatively poor people, in fact, become the network of retail terrorists who serve to distract attention from the more substantial and systemic destructive behavior of the wholesale terrorists.

The poor remain our enemy, whether described as “Communists,” “terrorists,” “drug traffickers,” “demons,” “backwards,” etc., and whether they reside in the U.S. or abroad. The existence of the poor threatens the disproportionately privileged collective Western and American Way of Life (AWOL). Their misery is, in effect, inevitably and forcefully imposed as a trade-off enabling AWOL affluence. Genuine democracy (self-determination) and true justice for the majority of the world’s people are not tolerated by political/economic systems such as ours, so totally dependent upon exploitation of public resources and human labor to assure maximization of private profits for the few.

Veterans Speak from Personal Military Experiences

Many military veterans are committed to sharing stories of personal military experiences to increase public awareness of the true costs of war, including its universal casualty–the truth; to restraining our government from lawlessly intervening, overtly or covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations; and to ending war as an accepted instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Many of us have looked into the eyes of the “enemy,” and we live with the burden of having participated in killing our “enemy” without even having understood their humanity or the political and economic context within which they lived and struggled. Through these experiences we have hopefully learned wisdom and humility, coming to understand the fallacious assumptions and arrogance upon which much of U.S. intervention policy is based.

Many of us are continually disturbed and grief stricken because it seems that our U.S. government does not yet understand: (a) the historical social, cultural, and economic issues that underlay most of the political and ecological problems of the world; (b) the need to comply with, as legally agreed to, rather than continually defy, international law and international institutions established for addressing conflict; and (c) that military solutions, including production, sale, and use of the latest in technological weapons, are simply ill-equipped and wrong-headed for solving fundamental social and economic problems. It is helpful to examine statements that reflect the level of understandings of former and current military officers, including representatives of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The most highly decorated Marine Corps General in U.S. history, Smedley D. Butler understood all too well the real nature of the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. foreign policy in general when he concluded after his retirement in 1931 that during his 33 years as a Marine officer operating on three continents, he served “as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers…a gangster for capitalism” [Smedley D. Butler, “America’s Armed Forces,” Part 2, Common Sense, Vol. 4, No. 11 (Nov. 1935)]. But it seems that that understanding is easily forgotten. General A.M. Gray, former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, in 1990 identified threats to the United States as originating from the “underdeveloped world’s growing dissatisfaction over the gap between rich and poor nations,” creating “a fertile breeding ground for insurgencies which have the potential to jeopardize regional stability and our access to vital economic and military resources” (Marine Corps Gazette, May 1990). Gray understands the structural social and economic problems, but it apparently does not occur to him that the solution might be to directly address the injustices rather than perpetuate them with the use of military force.

Col. James A. Lasswell, head of the experimental operations for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory that is planning the Urban Warrior exercises like the ones witnessed in Monterey and Alameda/Oakland, California, in March 1999, declared in a January 1999 article in Armed Forces Journal International, that “There will be widespread economic problems and cultural, ethnic, and tribal tensions, many caused by wave after wave of immigration.” An important question is rarely asked: What are the causes of waves of immigration and the nature of the social and economic conditions that force people to flee for survival? And as the truth becomes known, we sadly discover the direct relationship between U.S. foreign policies that protect our 4.5% of the world’s population consuming up to half the world’s resources, and the concomitant, inevitable perpetuation of people’s misery around the world.

And in another issue of the Armed Forces Journal International, Major General Scales reports that “The future urban center will contain a mixed population, ranging from the rich elite to the poor and disenfranchised” with “enormous problems of infrastructure and the demand for social services” and that the “proximity of the disenfranchised to the ruling elite provides the spark of further unrest and sporadic violence” (Gar Smith, “One Nation Under Guard,” San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 10, 1999). When will we choose to address injustices directly rather than implementing military policies that serve to deepen and expand them?
Not only has the history of U.S. foreign policy favored the elite over the majority poor, further aggravating social and economic problems, but U.S. policy is often conducted militarily in violation of a number of international laws, applied with enraging double standards, and without considering the long-term negative implications for world stability, and peace for the United States and West in general. Unilaterally launching missiles, in violation of international laws, into Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, killing innocent civilians, enrages the voiceless and, therefore, further endangers America. Our lawless, policies of wholesale terrorism, committed with absolute impunity, create more retail terrorists by increasing desperation. Furthermore, the U.S. is the world’s largest arms supplier, guaranteeing perpetual exorbitant profits for corporations comprising the military-industrial complex, further endangering world peace by militarizing the globe.

These are the concerns of veterans who challenge the merits of continued U.S. militarism, such as development of Marine Corps Urban Warrior and other armed forces counter-“terrorist” exercises, and the assumptions upon which they are planned and carried out. Our grief as veterans will be substantially healed when and if our government commits to being a law-abiding member of the international community, respecting all life, practicing “golden rule” principles of do unto others as you would have done unto you.

A Chronicle of U.S. Military Interventions Abroad

A careful examination of U.S. foreign policy history reveals over 400 overt military interventions and over 6,000 covert interventions into at least 100 countries, killing millions of innocents. The first recorded use of U.S. Armed Forces abroad occurred in 1798 when the Marines were dispatched to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Eighty-five interventions later, the U.S. Armed Forces invaded the Hawaiian Islands in 1889 to protect U.S. “interests” in the coastal city of Honolulu. Several hundred more interventions occurred between 1890 and the present. The Marines have been practicing and refining their destabilizing intervention techniques into coastal cities for 200 years. Virtually all of these interventions have violated international laws. Only 5 of our more than 400 military interventions have been declared wars as required by our Constitution! And the U.S. Armed Forces have intervened against its own citizens on numerous occasions to repress military veterans’ protestations, Indigenous self-determination struggles, workers’ labor strikes, racial strife, etc.

The following is a partial list of U.S. military interventions since 1890. This list does not include demonstration duty by military police, mobilizations of the National Guard, offshore shows of naval strength, reinforcements of embassy personnel, the use of non-Defense Department personnel such as the Drug Enforcement Agency and the CIA, military exercises, non-combat mobilizations such as replacing postal workers, the permanent stationing of armed forces, covert operations where the U.S. did not play a command and control role, the use of small hostage rescue units, most uses of proxy troops, U.S. piloting of foreign warplanes, foreign disaster assistance, military training and advisory programs not involving direct combat, civic action programs, and various other military activities. Virtually all these interventions have been and continue to be in “Third World” countries, the “enemy” being the poor, and for much of the Twentieth Century, labeled as “Communist,” a convenient pretext, now out of date. “Terrorists” has become the new rationale, with “drug traffickers” being a popular backup option. In the case of Colombia, the U.S. Government refers to the guerrillas as “narco-terrorists,” combining these two pretexts.

Location/Period/Type of Force/Comments on U.S. Role
SOUTH DAKOTA/1890/Troops/300 Lakota Indians massacred at Wounded Knee
ARGENTINA/1890/Troops/Buenos Aires interests protected.
CHILE/1891/Troops/Marines clash with nationalist rebels.
HAITI/1891/Troops/Black workers revolt on U.S.-claimed Navassa Island defeated.
IDAHO/1892/Troops/Army suppresses silver miners’ strike.
HAWAII/1893 (-?)/Naval, troops/Independent kingdom overthrown, annexed.
CHICAGO/1894/Troops/Breaking of rail strike, 34 killed.
NICARAGUA/1894/Troops/Month-long occupation of Bluefields.
CHINA/1894-95/Naval, troops/Marines land in Sino-Japanese War.
KOREA/1894-96/Troops/Marines kept in Seoul during war.
PANAMA/1895/Naval, troops/Marines land in Colombian province.
NICARAGUA/1896/Troops/Marines land in port of Corinto.
CHINA/1898-1900/Troops/Boxer Rebellion fought by foreign armies.
PHILIPPINES/1898-1910(-?)/Naval, troops/Seized from Spain, killed 600,000 Filipinos.
CUBA/1898-1902(-?)/Naval, troops/Seized from Spain, U.S. still holds Navy base at Guantanamo.
PUERTO RICO/1898(-?)/Naval, troops/Seized from Spain, occupation continues.
GUAM/1898(-?)/Naval, troops/Seized from Spain, still use as base.
MINNESOTA/1898(-?)/Troops/Army battles Chippewa at Leech Lake.
NICARAGUA/1898/Troops/Marines land at port of San Juan del Sur.
SAMOA/1899/Troops/Battle over succession to throne.
NICARAGUA/1899/Troops/Marines land at port of Bluefields.
IDAHO/1899-1901/Troops/Army occupies Coeur d’Alene mining region.
OKLAHOMA/1901/Troops/Army battles Creek Indian revolt.
PANAMA/1901-03/Naval, troops/Broke off from Colombia, annexed Canal Zone.
HONDURAS/1903/Troops/Marines intervene in revolution.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC/1903-04/Troops/U.S. interests protected in Revolution.
KOREA/1904-05/Troops/Marines land in Russo-Japanese War.
CUBA/1906-09/Troops/Marines land in democratic election.
NICARAGUA/1907/Troops/”Dollar Diplomacy” protectorate set up.
HONDURAS/1907/Troops/Marines land during war with Nicaragua.
PANAMA/1908/Troops/Marines intervene in election contest.
NICARAGUA/1910/Troops/Marines land in Bluefields and Corinto.
HONDURAS/1911/Troops/U.S. interests protected in civil war.
CHINA/1911-41/Naval, troops/Continuous occupation with flare-ups.
CUBA/1912/Troops/U.S. interests protected in Havana.
PANAMA/1912/Troops/Marines land during heated election.
HONDURAS/1912/Troops/Marines protect U.S. economic interests.
NICARAGUA/1912-33/Troops, bombing/20-year occupation, fought guerrillas.
MEXICO/1913/Naval/Americans evacuated during revolution.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC/1914/Naval/Fight with rebels over Santo Domingo.
COLORADO/1914/Troops/Breaking of miners’ strike by Army.
MEXICO/1914-18/Naval, troops/Series of interventions against nationalists.
HAITI/1914-34/Troops, bombing/19-year occupation after revolts.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC/1916-24/Troops/8-year Marine occupation.
CUBA/1917-33/Troops/Military occupation, economic protectorate.
WORLD WAR I/1917-18/Naval, troops/Ships sunk, fought Germany for 1 1/2 years.
RUSSIA/1918-22/Naval, troops/Five landings to fight Bolsheviks.
PANAMA/1918-20/Troops/”Police duty” during unrest after elections.
HONDURAS/1919/Troops/Marines land during election campaign.
GUATEMALA/1920/Troops/2-week intervention against unionists.
WEST VIRGINIA/1920-21/Troops, bombing/Army intervenes against mineworkers.
TURKEY/l922/Troops/Fought nationalists in Smyma (Izmir).
CHINA/1922-27/Naval, troops/Deployment during nationalist revolt.
HONDURAS/1924-25/Troops/Landed twice during election strife.
PANAMA/1925/Troops/Marines suppress general strike.
CHINA/1928-34/Troops/Marines stationed throughout the country.
EL SALVADOR/1932/Naval/Warships sent during Faribundo Marti revolt.
WASHINGTON, D.C./1932/Troops/Army stops WWI vet bonus protest.
WORLD WAR II/1941-45/Naval,troops, bombing, nuclear/Hawaii bombed, fought Japan, Italy and Germany for 3 years; 1st nuclear war.
DETROIT/1943/Troops/Army puts down Black rebellion.
IRAN/1946/Nuclear threat/Soviet troops told to leave north (Iranian Azerbaijan).
YUGOSLAVIA/1946/Nuclear threat/Response to shooting-down of U.S. plane.
URUGUAY/1947/Nuclear threat/Bombers deployed as show of strength.
GREECE/1947-49/Command operation/U.S. directs extreme-right in civil war.
GERMANY/1948/Nuclear threat/Atomic-capable bombers guard Berlin Airlift.
PHILIPPINES/1948-54/Command operation/CIA directs war against Huk Rebellion.
PUERTO RICO/1950/Command operation/Independence rebellion crushed in Ponce.
KOREA/1951-53(-?)/Troops, naval, bombing, nuclear threats/U.S.& South Korea fight China & North Korea to stalemate; A-bomb threat in 1950, and against China in 1953; four million Koreans killed; still have bases.
IRAN/1953/Command operation/CIA overthrows democracy, installs Shah.
VIETNAM/1954/Nuclear threat/Bombs offered to French to use against siege.
GUATEMALA/1954-?/Command operation, bombing, nuclear threat/CIA directs exile invasion and coup d’Etat after newly elected government nationalizes unused U.S.’s United Fruit Company lands; bombers based in Nicaragua; long-term result: 200,000 murdered.
EGYPT/1956/Nuclear threat/Soviets told to keep out of Suez crisis.
LEBANON/1958/Troops, naval/Marine occupation against rebels.
IRAQ/1958/Nuclear threat/Iraq warned against invading Kuwait.
CHINA/1958/Nuclear threat/China told not to move on Taiwan isles.
PANAMA/1958/Troops/Flag protests erupt into confrontation.
VIETNAM/1960-75/Troops, naval, bombing, nuclear threats/ Fought South Vietnam revolt & North Vietnam; five million killed in longest U.S. war; atomic bomb threats in 1968 and 1969.
LAOS/1961/Command operation/Military buildup during guerrilla war.
CUBA/1961/Command operation/CIA-directed exile invasion fails.
GERMANY/1961/Nuclear threat/Alert during Berlin Wall crisis.
CUBA/1962/Nuclear threat, naval/Blockade during missile crisis; near-war with Soviet Union.
PANAMA/1964/Troops/Panamanians shot for urging canal’s return.
INDONESIA/1965/Command operation/Million killed in CIA-assisted army coup.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC/1965-66/Troops, bombing/ Marines land during election campaign.
GUATEMALA/1966-67/Command operation/Green Berets intervene against rebels.
DETROIT/1967/Troops/Army battles Blacks, 43 killed.
UNITED STATES/1968/Troops/After Martin Luther King is shot; over 21,000 soldiers in cities.
CAMBODIA/l969-75/Bombing, troops, naval/Up to 2 million killed in decade of bombing, starvation, and political chaos.
OMAN/1970/Command operation/U.S. directs Iranian marine invasion.
LAOS/1971-73/Command operation, bombing/U.S. directs South Vietnamese invasion; “carpet-bombs” countryside.
DAKOTA/1973/Command operation/Army directs Wounded Knee siege of Lakotas.
MIDEAST/1973/Nuclear threat/World-wide alert during Mideast War.
CHILE/1973/Command operation/CIA-backed coup ousts democratically elected Marxist president.
CAMBODIA/1975/Troops, bombing/Gas captured ship, 28 die in copter crash.
ANGOLA/1976-92/Command operation/CIA assists South African-backed rebels.
IRAN/1980/Troops, nuclear threat, aborted bombing/Raid to rescue Embassy hostages; 8 troops die in copter-plane crash. Soviets warned not to get involved in revolution.
LIBYA/1981/Naval jets/Two Libyan jets shot down in maneuvers.
EL SALVADOR/1981-92/Command operation, troops/ Advisors, overflights aid anti-rebel war, soldiers briefly involved in hostage clash; long-term result: 75,000 murdered and destruction of popular movement.
NICARAGUA/1981-90/Command operation, naval/CIA directs exile (Contra) invasions, plants harbor mines against revolution; result: 50,000 murdered.
HONDURAS/1982-90/Troops/Maneuvers help build bases near borders.
LEBANON/1982-84/Naval, bombing, troops/Marines expel PLO and back Phalangists, Navy bombs and shells Muslim positions.
GRENADA/1983-84/Troops, bombing/Invasion four years after revolution.
LIBYA/1986/Bombing, naval/Air strikes to topple nationalist government.
BOLIVIA/1987/Troops/Army assists raids on cocaine region.
IRAN/1987-88/Naval, bombing/U.S. intervenes on side of Iraq in war.
LIBYA/1989/Naval jets/Two Libyan jets shot down.
VIRGIN ISLANDS/1989/Troops/St. Croix Black unrest after storm.
PHILIPPINES/1989/Jets/Air cover provided for government against coup.
PANAMA/1989-?/Troops, bombing/Nationalist government ousted by 27,000 soldiers, leaders arrested, 2000+ killed.
LIBERIA/1990/Troops/Foreigners evacuated during civil war.
SAUDI ARABIA/1990-91/Troops, jets/Iraq countered after invading fiefdom of Kuwait. 540,000 troops also stationed in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Israel.
KUWAIT/1991/Naval, bombing, troops/Kuwait royal family returned to throne.
IRAQ/1990-1991/Bombing, troops, naval/ Blockade of Iraqi and Jordanian ports, air strikes; 200,000+ killed in invasion of Iraq and Kuwait; no-fly zone over Kurdish north, Shiite south, large-scale destruction of Iraqi military.
LOS ANGELES/1992/Troops/Army, Marines deployed against anti-police uprising.
SOMALIA/1992-94/Troops, naval, bombing/U.S.-led United Nations occupation during civil war; raids against one Mogadishu faction.
YUGOSLAVIA/1992-94/Naval/NATO blockade of Serbia and Montenegro.
BOSNIA/1993-?/Jets, bombing/No-fly zone patrolled in civil war; downed jets, bombed Serbs.
HAITI/1994-?/Troops, naval/Blockade against military government; troops restore President Aristide to office three years after coup.

Blum, William. Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventionism Since World War II. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.
Ege & Makhijani. “180 Landings by the U.S. Marine Corps” (History Division), Counterspy (July-Aug. 1982).
Foreign Affairs Division, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Instances of Use of Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-1945. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975, revision of 1969 version.
Grossman, Zoltan. Over A Century of U.S. Military Interventions. Self-published, revised Jan. 1, 1995.
Sklar, Holly. “Who’s Who: Invading ‘Our’ Hemisphere 1831-,” Z Magazine (Feb. 1990).
U.S. Congress, Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Report. Background Information on the Use of United States Armed Forces in Foreign Countries. Washington, D.C.: 91st Congress, 2nd Session, 1970.
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. New York: Perennial Library, Harper & Row, 1980.

Soucre Link
Bombing A la Mode

Bombing A la Mode

The U.S. right to police, rule, and exterminate 

by Edward S. Herman
Z magazine, December 1998

The U.S. leadership and elite are ready, willing, and often eager to drop bombs on the lesser peoples of the world. They can do this without fear of retaliation because of the huge military advantage of a superpower and the subservience of the “international community.”

U.S. leaders are also never constrained by any sense of embarrassment or shame at using advanced weaponry against essentially defenseless people.

Joy in Bombing

One factor explaining this readiness to bomb is the elite’s long-standing sense of racial and cultural superiority, and self-serving assumption of the right to police, rule, and exterminate. Its classic expression was Secretary of State Richard Olney’s 1895 proclamation that “the United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition.”

But from Teddy Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson and his successors, Olney’s arrogance is matched by a stream of racist put-downs of the “riggers” and “gooks” we were killing and pacifying. Throughout the post-colonial wars of our age, the increasingly high tech, capital intensive warfare we have employed has been openly designed to reduce our casualties, while increasing the civilian as well as military toll imposed on our enemies. Enemy casualties are given zero weight in the calculus of U.S. military-political planners, a dehumanizing process reflected in the frequency with which war casualty enumerations entirely ignore those of the enemy. This attitude makes bombing easy, but the key factor in stimulating the bombing activity is no doubt the U.S. imperial role.

Military forces with global reach, as demonstrated by bombing, serve the interests of the U. S. -based transnational corporations dominant in the globalization process, by showing what can happen to countries that are slow to open markets or to install friendly regimes in power. Using boycotts and bombs to punish “rogues ” who somehow presume to control their own markets and resources has been an integral feature of U.S. and western policy since 1917.

Periodic bombing forays also help justify the large military establishment and allow it to reduce old inventories and display and experiment with new weapons. A further and related factor in the readiness to bomb is that bombing is a political winner at home, with the media always getting on the chauvinistic bandwagon, and the public also regularly rallying around the flag and in support of our boys. George Bush’s poll ratings rose as he bombed Iraq in 1991, with the reporters and public enthralled at our new clean war.

With the right-wing and mainstream media helping demonize anybody standing in our way, U.S. presidents are also regularly under pressure to drop bombs as a display of macho “character” and “leadership.” Weak presidents are especially prone to bomb in order to quiet their critics and protect and improve their poll ratings. Clinton’s 1993 attack on Baghdad in the wake of an alleged Iraqi assassination plan against George Bush was a model case of a bombing response to media/right-wing political pressure. The rapid bombing response to the attacks on the U.S. African embassies in August 1998 was also based heavily on the need to do something forceful to forestall political criticism.

Of course, in the official explanations and mainstream media the bombs are allegedly dropped only after “agonizing choices,” but this is apologetic propaganda that glosses over the exclusively political considerations involved in the decisions and the miniscule weight given “collateral damage” and international law. When the evidence assembled after the 1998 bombing of the pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan showed that the U.S. claims justifying the attack were false and based on incompetently gathered and evaluated data, there was very little if any criticism in the mainstream media. For the media, the U.S. has a right to bomb another country if it thinks it has any kind of case – it doesn’t have to be sure of the facts, or rush to compensate the victims of its errors, any more than it is obliged to abide by international law.

Rules of the Bombing Game

The rules of the bombing game are simple: if you are a friend and useful ally, you automatically possess legitimate “security concerns” and can cross borders, kill, and ravage, free of any bombing threat; but if you are an enemy or otherwise obstruct the achievement of our objectives, your crossing of borders and killing, at home or abroad, cannot be tolerated and you are bombable. There is even an obligatory and droll tendency to exaggerate the crimes and threats of the bombables.

Thus, just months before the U.S. attack and proxy invasion of Guatemala in June 1954, the National Security Council described the virtually disarmed victim country as “increasingly [an] instrument of Soviet aggression” in Latin America, as if it rather than the U.S. was about to engage in an armed attack. Similarly, tiny Nicaragua, under U.S. attack in the 1980s, was alleged to be carrying out a “revolution without frontiers,” and when it pursued U.S.-sponsored terrorists across the border into Honduras, was declared by the U.S. government (and media) to be carrying out an “invasion.” Neither of these bombable countries was allowed the right of self defense. The governments of both were removed by U.S. bombs and other forms of violence, although the Nicaraguan government’s final exit was engineered by an election held under conditions of blackmail after years of devastating terrorist attack.

Iraq, of course, became eminently bombable after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It had crossed us, and there were other important reasons to bomb: the right-wing pundits were screaming for blood, Bush was in political trouble, and the military establishment needed a post-Soviet military budget rationale and had large inventories of bombs to run down and weapons it wanted to put on display.

With the help of the media, the long appeasement and support of Saddam Hussein was ignored, and the many efforts to allow him to withdraw from Kuwait with dignity were brushed aside. So bombs away.

It is enlightening that Iraq was not bombable before the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, despite its doing some pretty awful things, like attacking Iran and using chemical weapons against its indigenous Kurds in 1986. As Saddam Hussein was then a U.S. friend, a recipient of U.S. aid, and performing a desired service-killing Iranians, when Iran was a high-ranking enemy-these matters could be overlooked by us and by the “international community.” Never let it be said that principle and the need for policy consistency would stand in the way of pursuit of our short term interests.

Another notable exception to bombability occurred following Suharto’s 1975 invasion and occupation of East Timor. This involved ethnic cleansing far beyond anything the Serbs or even Saddam Hussein have ever perpetrated. But as our friend, with an open door and providing an investors paradise, not only was Suharto not bombed, he was supplied the arms to kill, diplomatic protection, and the necessary eye aversion in the U.S. and other western media.

Turkey and Israel

In the midst of the western furor over the Serbs in Kosovo, in October 1998 the Turkish army launched another pacification-drive against the Kurds in Eastern Turkey. In 1995 the New York Times acknowledged that the Turkish army had been “using the F-16s and other American weapons to strafe Turkish villages…killing thousands of civilians and leaving millions homeless” (ed., October 17, 1995).

Turkey has also repeatedly invaded northern Iraq in extended campaigns of pacification, not only killing alleged Kurdish “terrorists” but with its troops “frequently reported to murder Kurdish villagers at random”, engaging in “beatings, looting and destruction of homes and property” of the civilian population (Financial Times, August 8, 1995).

Turkey is also notorious for the institutionalized use of torture on prisoners of all kinds. The Turkish torture, ethnic cleansing and invasions have been an “embarrassment” to its allies (NYT, September 7, 1992), who have urged Turkey to be nicer. Although the Turkish attacks on the Kurds have caused far more death and destruction than Serb repression of ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo, have been going on for years, and have also involved repeated invasions of another country (Iraq), there has never been any call for bombings or even for monitoring of Turkish actions by the U.S. or international community.

In accord with the rules of the bombing game, as a friendly power, with an open door and regularly obeying orders, Turkey has “security concerns” that must be acknowledged, and it is not only not bombable, it continues to receive U.S. aid and diplomatic support.

In the midst of its further assault on the Kurds, the European Commission has proposed giving Turkey an aid package of $182 million “to help it prepare for European Union membership and strengthen a customs union” (Financial Times, October 23, 1998). The Clinton administration has exerted no pressure whatsoever on Turkey to stop killing Kurds. It goes without saying that the mainstream U. S. media have given the Turkish ethnic cleansing minimal attention and indignation and have failed to note the remarkable double standard.

Israel, of course, is even more closely allied to and protected by the U.S. than Turkey, and is freer still to engage in ethnic cleansing and cross-border invasions and raids, without fear of international sanction.

For decades Israel has been pushing Palestinians out of their homes in favor of Jewish settlers, and has maintained a system of discriminatory housing and land ownership that has been compared unfavorably to South African apartheid in the Israeli (but not U.S.) press (see Ha’aretz, February 10, 1991). The homes of Palestinian protectors throwing stones are regularly demolished, but following his murder of 29 Palestinians Baruch Goldstein’s home was left intact.

Torture has been used on a systematic basis for decades, the New York Times acknowledging in passing (August 14, 1993) that 400-500 Palestinians were being so treated per month. Well over a thousand Palestinians were killed and over 130,000 injured during the Intifada protests against discrimination, in which Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin instructed the Israeli army that they were free to enter Palestinian homes and beat men, women, and children without fear of prosecution.

No action against Israel was taken by the international community in response to this brutal repression. The state of Israel has also repeatedly invaded Lebanon, relentlessly bombing and killing many thousands of civilians and putting hundreds of thousands into flight. It has for many years maintained a terrorist army in South Lebanon to serve its pacification interests there. And Israel has felt free to make periodic punitive raids into Lebanon and to bomb the country at its discretion.

This ethnic cleansing within Israel, persistently violating international law as well as UN Security Council resolutions, and the regular invasions and cross-border attacks against Lebanon, have never led to Israel being threatened with bombing. It has never even been subjected to any reduction in U.S. aid or the flow of supplies of bombs and other weapons to carry out its repression and invasions. Although Israel has had towering military superiority over the Palestinians and the neighbors which it has periodically invaded, Israel’s behavior is justified by its allegedly serious “security concerns,” whereas its victims have none.
Israel is also declared to be a victim of “terrorism” and its massive ethnic cleansing and discrimination, and cross-border attacks, are counter-terrorism and retaliation, by virtue of its status as a U.S. client state (even if a case where the tail wags the dog).
These truths are institutionalized in the U.S. mainstream media, so that Israel can obtain subsidies to do things that would make an enemy power extremely bombable.

Published in Z Magazine
Edward S. Herman is Professor Emeritus at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

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The True Spirit of Jihad (Part 1)

The True Spirit of Jihad (Part 1)

By Sarah Ahmad

Jihad means striving to the utmost extent of one's ability and power by exerting oneself spiritually in the way of Allah.

Jihad means striving to the utmost extent of one’s ability and power by exerting oneself spiritually in the way of Allah.

The believers are those only who believe in Allah and His Messenger, then they doubt not, and struggle hard with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah. Such are the truthful ones. (Al-Hujurat 49:15)

Jihad is an Islamic institution that is widely misunderstood. The non-Muslims fearfully regard it as an Islamic practice that aims to wage ‘Holy War’ against all disbelievers, to convert them to Islam or to kill them. To the common western mind, the word ‘Jihad’ is synonymous with ‘terrorism’ and Islam is a ‘militant’ religion.

Here, I will attempt to present the real meaning of jihad in Islam, as taught by the Holy Quran and practiced by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his Companions, and revived in this age by the promised Messiah.

The word ‘jihad’ is derived from the root ‘jahd‘ or ‘juhd‘ whose meaning is given by Imam Raghib Al-Asfahani as ability, exertion or power and ‘jihad’ and ‘mujahida‘ mean the exerting of one’s power in repelling the enemy. He then goes on to say:

‘Jihad is of three kinds; viz., the carrying out of a struggle against: 1. a visible enemy, 2. the devil, 3. one’s nafs (self).’

Thus, in a broader sense, jihad means striving to the utmost extent of one’s ability and power by exerting oneself spiritually in the way of Allah and doing one’s best to preach the message of Islam to others. This is the jihad that a Muslim can carry out for Islam throughout his life. When used in the narrower sense of fighting against a visible enemy, jihad means fighting only in self-defense, when the initiative of attack is taken by the other party.

Let us consider the sense in which the word is used in the Qur’an in an early Makkan revelation:

And those who strive hard (the word used is jahadu) for Us, We shall certainly guide them in our ways, and Allah is surely with the doers of good. (Al-‘Ankabut 29:69)

A similar injunction occurs in:

And strive hard for Allah with due striving. (Al-Hajj 22:78)

The jihad referred to here is clearly jihad by nafs; the spiritual exertion to curb one’s lower desires and evil inclinations and to try to increase in the doing of good in order to attain nearness to Allah. I believe this form of jihad against one’s own self is perhaps the most difficult of all.

It would have been easy enough if jihad had only meant the defense of Islam by fighting against an enemy bent upon the extermination of the Muslims when the occasion so demanded; but to be constantly engaged in fighting against one’s inner demons, to guard against all sorts of temptations and greed and never to allow oneself to weaken for a moment lest one be overcome is by far more arduous a struggle. Yet when a believer sincerely tries to purify his soul and asks help from his Creator, he finds Him nigh and God guides him in his efforts.

Let us now take a look at the Qur’anic injunction of ihad al-qital or jihad with the sword, which is the most commonly understood meaning of jihad. Consider the circumstances under which the first permission to fight is given to the faithful. The Muslims had patiently borne the most ruthless persecution at the hands of the Quraish for thirteen years in Makkah.

The flight to Madinah, however, had further fanned the fire of the wrath of the Quraish since the Muslims were now out of their reach. With individual persecution no longer possible, they now planned the extinction of the Muslims as a nation. They would either annihilate the Muslims or compel them to return to unbelief. In these circumstances came the earliest permission to fight:

Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And surely Allah is able to assist them – Those who are driven from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. And if Allah did not repel some people by others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, in which Allah’s name is much remembered, would have been pulled down. And surely Allah will help him who helps His cause. (Al-Hajj 22:39-40)

Indeed, war with such a pure motive as to establish the principle of religious liberty was truly a jihad, a struggle carried on simply with the object that truth may prosper, and that freedom of conscience may be maintained.

The second verse giving the Muslims permission to fight runs as follows:

And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, and be not aggressive; surely Allah loves not the aggressors. (Al-Baqarah 2:190)

Here again the condition is plainly laid down that the Muslims shall not be the first to attack. They had to fight – it had now become a duty – but only against those who fought against them; aggression was expressly prohibited. The words fi sabilillah (in the way of Allah) are misinterpreted by most Western writers as meaning for the propagation of Islam, when nothing could be further from the truth since the Muslims were not fighting to force Islam on others, rather they were being fought to force them to renounce their faith. Moreover, God says:

There is no compulsion in religion. (Al-Baqarah 2:256)

This verse was revealed after the permission for war had been given, and it is therefore certain that fighting had no connection with the preaching of religion.

The fifth verse of chapter 9 of the Qur’an is mistakenly called by some people “the verse of the sword”, as if it inculcated the indiscriminate massacre of all idolators or unbelievers. The misconception is due to the fact that the words are taken out of their context and a significance is forced on them which the context cannot bear. The words of the fifth verse are:

So when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush. But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free. Surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (At-Tawbah 9:5)

It is asserted that this verse offers to the disbelievers the alternative of the sword or the Qur’an. Nothing is farther from the truth. As the title of this chapter and the opening verses show, the Muslims are granted ‘immunity’ from their obligations with such of the idolatrous tribes as had repeatedly broken their engagements with the Muslims and repeatedly dealt telling blows to the Muslims whenever they had an opportunity of doing so.

The injunction in the fifth verse to wage war is clearly against these idolaters who repeatedly violated their agreements with the Muslims, while clear exceptions are made with regard to those idolatrous tribes who adhered to their treaties and those who sought the protection of the Muslims. The latter were to be conveyed the message of Islam but in case they did not accept it, they were to be safely conveyed to their homes.

This clearly shows that the reason why the Muslims were fight against the idolaters, as mentioned in that verse, was not because they were idolaters but because they repeatedly violated the trust of the Muslims and invited them to war.

Nowhere does the Qur’an give the Muslims permission to enter on an unprovoked war against the whole world. Conditions are also laid down as to when war should cease. Says verse 193 of Chapter 2:

And fight with them until there is no more persecution, and religion should be only for Allah. (Al-Baqarah 2:193)

The words ‘religion should be only for Allah’ are sometimes misinterpreted as meaning that all people should accept Islam. This misconception, however, is soon dispelled upon comparison with another verse which carries very similar words.

And fight with them until there is no more persecution and all religions are for Allah. (Al-Anfal 8:39)

This clearly shows that both the expressions ‘religion should be only for Allah’ and ‘all religions are for Allah’ carry the same significance, namely that religion is a matter between man and his God, in which nobody has a right to interfere.

This teaching was supported by the practice of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who gave full religious liberty to a people who had been subjugated in war. A well-known example is the occasion of the conquest of Makkah.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           To be continued…



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Forms of Jihad in Islam (Part 1)

Forms of Jihad in Islam (Part 1)

For Muslims the term jihad is applied to all forms of striving and has developed some special meanings over time.

For Muslims the term jihad is applied to all forms of striving and has developed some special meanings over time.

By Dr. M. Amir Ali 

In the linguistic sense, the Arabic word ‘jihad’ means struggling or striving and applies to any effort exerted by anyone. In this sense a student struggles and strives to get an education and pass course work; an employee strives to fulfill his/her job and maintain good relations with his/her employer; a politician strives to maintain or increase his popularity with his constituents and so on.

The term ‘strive’ or ‘struggle’ may be used for/by Muslims as well as non-Muslims; for example Allah says in the Qur’an:

We have enjoined on people kindness to parents; but if they strive (jahadaka) to make you ascribe false deities along with Me that of which you have no knowledge, then don’t obey them… (Al-`Ankabut 29:8)

But if they strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no knowledge, obey them not…(Luqman 31:15)

In the above two verses of the Qur’an, it is non-Muslim parents who jahada (strive) to convert their Muslim child back to their religion.

In the West, jihad is generally translated as holy war- a usage the media has popularized unknown to Islamic texts.

According to Islamic teachings, it is unholy to instigate or start war; however, some wars are inevitable and justifiable. If we translate the words holy war into Arabic we get harbun muqaddasatun or for the holy war al-harbu al-muqaddasatu. We challenge any researcher or scholar to find this word in the Qur’an, authentic Hadith collections, or in the first few centuries’ Islamic literature.

Unfortunately, some Muslim writers and translators of the Qur’an, the Hadith and other Islamic literature translate the term jihad as holy war, due to the influence of Western propaganda. This could be a reflection of the Christian use of the term ‘Holy War’ to refer to the Crusades of a thousand years ago. However, the Arabic words for ‘war’ are harb or qital, which are found in the Qur’an and Hadith.

For Muslims the term jihad is applied to all forms of striving and has developed some special meanings over time. The sources of this development are the Qur’an (the Word of Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Hadith (teachings of Prophet Muhammad). The Qur’an and the Hadith use the word ‘jihad’ in several different contexts which are given below:

1. Recognizing the Creator and loving Him Most

It is human nature to love what is seen with the eyes and felt with the senses more than the ‘unseen reality’. The Creator of the universe and the One God is the ‘unseen reality’ which we tend to ignore and not recognize. The Qur’an addresses those who claim to be believers:

O you who believe! Don’t choose your fathers or your brethren for supporters if they choose disbelief over belief; whoever of you takes them for supporters, such are wrong-doers. Say: if you’re fathers, your children, your brethren, your spouses, your tribe, the wealth you have acquired, business for which you fear shrinkage, or houses you are pleased with are dearer to you than God and His Messenger and striving in His way: then wait till God brings His command to pass (Day of Judgment). God does not guide the rebellious. (At-Tawbah 9:23-24)

It is indeed a struggle to put Allah ahead of our loved ones, our wealth, our worldly ambitions and our own lives. Especially for a non-Muslim who embraces Islam, it may be a tough struggle due to the opposition of his family, peers and society.

2. Resisting Pressure of Parents, Peers, and Society

Once a person has made up his mind to put the Creator of the Universe above all else, he often comes under intense pressures. It is not easy to resist such pressures and strive to maintain dedication and love of God over all else. A person who has turned to Islam from another religion may be subjected to pressures designed to turn him back to the religion of the family. We read in the Qur’an:

So obey not those who reject faith, but strive against them (jahidhum) with it. This is a great endeavor. (Al-Furqan 25:52)

So does this verse mean to throw the Qur’an at someone or does it mean to read the Qur’an learn the wisdom of God’s message and use that knowledge in presenting the truth to those who disbelieve? You tell us.

3. Staying on the Straight Path Steadfastly

Allah says in the Qur’an:

And strive for the sake of Allah with the best of your ability (jihadihi). He has chosen you and has not laid upon you any hardship … (Al-Hajj 22:78)

And whosoever strives, strives only for himself, for lo! Allah is altogether independent of the universe (not in need of anything). (Al-`Ankabut 29:6)

As for those who strive and struggle to live as true Muslims while their lives are made difficult due to persecution by their opponents, they are advised to migrate to a more peaceful and tolerant land and continue with their struggle in the cause of Allah:

Lo! As for those whom the angels take (in death) while they were unjust to themselves, (the angels) will ask: How did you live your life? They will say: We were oppressed in the land. (The angels) will say: was not God’s earth spacious that you could have migrated therein? (An-Nisaa’ 4:97)

Allah tests the believers in their faith and their steadfastness:

Or did you think that you would enter Paradise while you haven’t showed Allah those of you who really (jahadoo) strive, or those (of you) who are perseverant. (Aal `Imran 3:142)

And surely We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and fruits; but give glad tidings to the steadfast. (Al-Baqarah 2:155)

We find that the Prophet Muhammad and his clan were boycotted socially and economically for three years to force him to stop his message and compromise with the pagans but he resisted and saw a moral victory thereafter.

4. Striving for Righteous Deeds

Allah declares in the Qur’an:

As for those who (jahadoo) strive in the cause of God, We will surely guide them to our righteous ways, and lo! Allah is with the pious. (Al-`Ankabut 29:69)

When we are faced with two competing interests, it becomes jihad to choose the right one, as the following Hadith exemplifies.

`A’ishah (may God be pleased with her), wife of the Prophet asked:

“O Messenger of Allah, we see jihad as the best of deeds, so shouldn’t we join it?” He replied: “But, the best of Jihad is a perfect Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah).” (Bukhari)

At another occasion a man asked the Prophet Muhammad:

“Should I join the Jihad? He asked: “Do you have parents?” The man said: Yes! The Prophet said: “Then strive (Jahid) by (serving) them! (Bukhari)

Yet another man asked the Messenger of Allah:

“What kind of Jihad is better? He replied, A word of truth in front of an oppressive ruler!” (Anl-Nasa’i)

The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad said: “… the mujahid (one who carries out jihad) is he who strives against himself (his desires) for the sake of obeying Allah, and the muhajir (one who emigrates) is he who abandons evil deeds and sin.” (Ibn Hibban)

5. Having Courage and Steadfastness to Convey the Message of Islam

The Qur’an narrates the experiences of a large number of Prophets and good people who suffered a great deal trying to convey the message of Allah to mankind. For examples see Surat Ash-Shu`araa’ 26:1-190, Surat Ya-Sin 36:13-32.

In the Qur’an, Allah specifically praises those who strive to convey His message:

Who is better in speech than one who calls (other people) to God, works righteous, and declares that he is from the Muslims. (Fussilat 41:33)

Under adverse conditions it takes great courage to remain a Muslim, declare oneself to be a Muslim and call others to Islam:

The (true) believers are only those who believe in Allah and his messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive (Jahadoo) with their wealth and themselves for the cause of Allah. Such are the truthful. (Al-Hujurat 49:15)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   To be continued…


Dr. M. Amir Ali, PhD is the Managing Director of the Institute of Islamic Information & Education (III&E) which is dedicated to conveying the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims in North America, trying thereby to removing ignorance and prejudices. <![CDATA[
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How Islam Defines Terrorism

How Islam Defines Terrorism


Islam is a religion that came down to offer humanity a life filled with the peace and well-being in which Allah’s eternal mercy and compassion is manifested in the world.

Terrorism is generally defined as killing of civilians for political reasons. Dr. Azzam Tamimi, President of the Fiqh Council of North America, writes: “A straightforward definition of terrorism has been: ‘the use of force (or violence) to advocate a political cause’.”

It is to be emphasized that terrorism against the innocent civilians, whether through aggression or suicidal means, is under no circumstances permissible in Islam. Islam encourages the oppressed people to struggle for their liberation and it commands other Muslims to help those who are oppressed and suffering, but Islam does not allow, under any circumstance, terrorism against non-combatants and innocent people.

Islam has not only forbidden terror and violence, but also abhors even the slightest imposition of any idea on another human being. Allah Almighty says:

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things. (Al-Baqarah 2:256)

So remind, you need only to remind. You cannot compel them to believe. (Al-Ghashiyah 88:22)

Some people who say they are acting in the name of religion may misunderstand their religion or practice it wrongly. For this reason, it is a mistake to form any idea of that religion from the activities of these people.

The best way to understand Islam is through its main source, the Qur’an; and the model of morality in the Qur’an is completely different from the image of it formed in the minds of some Westerners or some bigot Muslims.

The Qur’an is based on the concepts of morality, love, compassion, mercy, modesty, self-sacrifice, tolerance and peace, and a Muslim who truly lives according to these moral precepts is highly refined, thoughtful, tolerant, trustworthy and accommodating. To those around him he gives love, respect, peace of mind and a sense of the joy of life.

Islam: A Religion of Peace & Well-Being

The word Islam has the same meaning as ‘peace’ in Arabic. Islam is a religion that came down to offer humanity a life filled with the peace and well-being in which Allah’s eternal mercy and compassion is manifested in the world.

Allah invites all people to accept the moral teachings of the Qur’an as a model whereby mercy, compassion, tolerance and peace may be experienced in the world. In Surat Al-Baqarah, this command is given: “You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He is an outright enemy to you.” (Al-Baqarah 2:208)

As we see in this verse, people will experience well-being and happiness by living according to the moral teaching of the Qur’an.

Allah Condemns Mischief

Allah has commanded humanity to avoid evil; He has forbidden immorality, rebellion, cruelty, aggressiveness, murder and bloodshed. Those who do not obey this command of Allah are walking in the steps of Satan, as the Qur’an says in the verse above, and have adopted an attitude that Allah has clearly declared unlawful.

Of the many verses that bear on this subject, here are only two:

But as for those who break Allah’s contract after it has been agreed and sever what Allah has commanded to be joined, and cause corruption in the earth, the curse will be upon them. They will have the Evil Abode. (Ar-Ra`d 13:25)

Seek the abode of the hereafter with what Allah has given you, without forgetting your portion of the world. And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause mischief on earth. Allah does not love mischief makers. (Al-Qasas 28:77)

As we can see, Allah has forbidden every kind of mischievous acts in Islam including terrorism and violence, and condemned those who commit such deeds. A Muslim lends beauty to the world and improves it.

Islam, Tolerance and Freedom of Speech

Islam is a religion, which fosters freedom of life, ideas and thought. It has forbidden tension and conflict among people, calumny, suspicion and even having negative thoughts about another individual. To force anyone to believe in a religion or to practice it is against the spirit and essence of Islam. Because it is necessary that faith be accepted with free will and conscience.

Of course, Muslims may urge one another to keep the moral precepts taught in the Qur’an, but they never use compulsion. In any case, an individual cannot be induced to the practice of religion by either threat or offering him a worldly privilege.

Allah has commanded tolerance and forgiveness:

Take to forgiveness and enjoin good and turn aside from the ignorant. (Al-A`raf 7:199)

The phrase “practice forgiveness here expresses the concept of forgiveness and tolerance which is one of the basic principles of Islam.

When we look at Islamic history, we can see clearly how Muslims established this important precept of the moral teaching of the Qur’an in their social life. At every point in their advance, Muslims destroyed unlawful practices and created a free and tolerant environment.

In the areas of religion, language and culture, they made it possible for people totally opposite to each other to live under the same roof in freedom and peace, thereby giving to those subject to them the advantages of knowledge, wealth and position.

Likewise, one of the most important reasons that the large and widespread Ottoman Empire was able to sustain its existence for so many centuries was that its way of life was directed by the tolerance and understanding brought by Islam.

For centuries, their tolerance and compassion have characterized Muslims. In every period of time they have been the most just and merciful of people. All ethnic groups within this multi-national community freely practiced the religions they have followed for years and enjoyed every opportunity to live in their own cultures and worship in their own way. Indeed, the particular tolerance of Muslims, when practiced as commanded in the Qur’an, can alone bring peace and well-being to the whole world.

The Qur’an refers to this particular kind of tolerance: “The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.” (Fussilat 41:34)

All this shows that the moral teaching offered to humanity by Islam is one that will bring peace, happiness and justice to the world. The barbarism that is happening in the world today under the name of “Islamic Terrorism” is completely removed from the moral teachings of the Qur’an; it is the work of ignorant, bigoted people, criminals who have nothing to do with religion. The solution which will be applied against these individuals and groups who are trying to commit their deeds of savagery under the guise of Islam, will be the instruction of people in the true moral teaching of Islam.

Islam’s Counter-terrorism Principles

Eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states:

“No doubt, aggression against innocent people is a grave sin and a heinous crime, irrespective of the victim’s religion, country, or race. No one is permitted to commit such crime, for Allah, Most High, abhors aggression. Unlike Judaism, Islam does not hold a double-standard policy in safeguarding human rights.”

The following are three relevant Islamic principles based on the Qur’an and Sunnah:

1- Islam Forbids Aggression against Innocent People

Islam does not permit aggression against innocent people, whether the aggression is against life, property, or honor, and this ruling applies to everyone, regardless of post, status and prestige. In Islam, as the state’s subject is addressed with Islamic teachings, so is the ruler or caliph; he is not allowed to violate people’s rights, lives, honor, property, etc.

In the Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet (peace be upon him) declared the principle that people’s lives, property, and honor are inviolable until the Day of Judgment. This ruling is not restricted to Muslims; rather, it includes non-Muslims who are not fighting Muslims. Even in case of war, Islam does not permit killing those who are not involved in fighting, such as women, children, the aged, and the monks who confine themselves to worship only.

This shouldn’t raise any wonder, for Islam is a religion that prohibits aggression even against animals. Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) quote the Prophet as saying: “A woman (was made to) enter (Hell) Fire because of a cat which she tied, neither giving it food nor setting it free to eat from the vermin of the earth.” (Al-Bukhari)

If such is Islamic ruling concerning aggressive acts against animals, then, with greater reason, the punishment is bound to be severe when human being happens to be the victim of aggression, torture and terrorism.

2- Individual Responsibility

In Islam, everyone is held accountable for his own acts, not others’. No one bears the consequences of others’ faults, even his close relatives. This is the ultimate form of justice, clarified in the Qur’an:

Or has he not had news of what is in the books of Moses and Abraham who fulfilled (the commandments): That no laden one shall bear another’s load. (An-Najm 53:36-38)

Therefore, it’s very painful to see some people ‘who are Muslims by name’ launching aggression against innocent people and taking them as scapegoats for any disagreement they have with the state’s authority!! What is the crime of the common people then?!

Murder is one of heinous crimes completely abhorred in Islam, to the extent that some Muslim scholars hold the opinion that the repentance of the murderer will not be accepted by Allah, Most High. In this context, we recall the Qur’anic verse that reads, “…if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)

3- Ends Do Not Justify Means

In Islam, the notion “End justifies the means” has no place at all. It is not allowed to attain good aims through evil means, and, therefore, alms collected from unlawful avenues are not halal (lawful). In this context, the Messenger of Allah said, “Surely, Allah is Good and never accepts but what is good.”

Thus, in Shari`ah, with all its sources: “the Qur’an, the Sunnah, consensus of Muslim jurists”, aggression and violation of human rights are completely forbidden. On this issue, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi adds:

“The Islamic position as regards non-Muslims is that they should recognize Allah’s Oneness and Prophet Muhammad as Allah’s Final Prophet. They should accept Islam to live happily and successfully in this world and to be saved in the Hereafter. It is Muslims’ duty to give them this message clearly, but without any coercion or intolerance. If others accept this message it is good for them, but if they do not accept, Muslims should still treat them with kindness and gentleness and leave the final judgment to Allah.”

In our enthusiasm for da`wah, we should not be intolerant and aggressive towards others. However, in our politeness and civility we should also not give up our mission and message. We should not be intimidated to become quiet and we should not feel shy to tell the truth.



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What Islam Says about Terrorism

What Islam Says about Terrorism

What does Islam say about terrorism?

The actions of a few fanatical individuals who happen to have Muslim names or ascribe themselves to the Muslim faith should not be a yardstick by which Islam is judged.

Unfortunately more and more often, Islam has been associated with terrorism and violence due to the actions of a few extreme individuals who have taken it upon themselves to do the most heinous crimes in the name of Islam.

Tragic events such as the attack on the twin towers in New York, the bombings of Bali, Madrid and London are assumed to be justified by Islam in the minds of some people. This idea has been fueled further by many media channels which defame Islam by portraying these bombers as ‘Islamists’ or ‘Jihadists’, as though they were sanctioned by Islam, or had any legitimate spokemenship on behalf of Muslims.

The actions of a few fanatical individuals who happen to have Muslim names or ascribe themselves to the Muslim faith should not be a yardstick by which Islam is judged. For the same reason, that one would not do justice to Christianity if it were perceived as sanctioning the genocide of the Native Americans, the atrocities of world war II or the bombings of the IRA.

To understand Islam’s stance on terrorism, one must refer to its original sources, the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which are explicit in their prohibition of any form of injustice including that of wanton violence which seeks to instill fear, injury or death to civilians.

The Qur’an turns our attention to the high value of human life, whether it is Muslim or Non-Muslim and makes it absolutely forbidden to take an innocent life unjustly.  The gravity of such a crime is equated, in the Qur’an, with the killing of all humanity.

On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person- unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)

Not only is human life sacred in Islam but the property, wealth, family and dignity of all individuals in society are to be respected and protected.  Those who transgress these rights and sow fasad (corruption) as the Qur’an describes it, incur the wrath of Allah.

…and seek not corruption in the earth; lo! Allah loves not corrupters. (Al-Qasas 28:77)

Likewise in another verse:

The blame is only against those who oppress men and wrong-doing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a penalty grievous. (Ash-Shura 42:42)

Islam goes further than just prohibiting oppression and safeguarding rights, it commands its faithful to deal kindly and compassionately to all those who seek to live in peace and harmony

Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for your faith, nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: For Allah loves those who are just. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8)

In times of war and conflict, where enmity can obstruct an individual’s judgment to act morally, Islam commands that justice be upheld even towards one’s enemies.

O you who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do. (Al-Ma’idah 5:8)

Centuries before the Geneva Convention was drawn up, Muslims were bound by a code of conduct which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) set. He forbade the killing of women, children and elderly in war. In an authentic narration the Prophet (peace be upon him) warned that he who kills anyone who has a covenant of peace with the Muslims will not smell the scent of Paradise.

In fact, he taught that justice is not only to humans but must be shown to animals and all living things. In a narration the Prophet informed us about how a lady was sent to hell because of a cat she had locked up until it starved and died. If such is the sanctity which Islam places on the soul of an animal, how much more grave is the killing of hundreds of innocent humans?!

Abu Bakr, the first Caliph of the Muslims, reflected these prophetic teachings when he advised his general Yazid, who was confronting Roman armies,

’I advise you ten things: Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.’

The message of the Qur’an is clear as we have seen that the sanctity of any human life is to be respected and any violation in that regard is paramount to the worst crime.

Mercy is at the heart of the Islamic call: “We sent thee (O Muhammad) not save as a mercy for the peoples” (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:107); a totally different message to what the terrorists are sadly imparting to humanity.



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