Back in 1980's a vicious circle of sectarian violence gripped Karachi, where people were shot in mosques, homes were bombed and people kidnapped and executed by miscreants who from both the Shia and the Sunni sects. The Taliban had not been invented, 9/11 was way over the horizon, the US war on terror was not coined and Gitmo did not exist. I then wrote a piece in which I called this the "Kalashnikov Culture": a deeply disturbing sense of right embedded in the dogma of misguided self styled "religious" figures and in effect stated that this had nothing to do with Islam but merely terrorists hijacking Islam.
A few weeks after the article I bumped into one of the self styled leaders of this sect at the karachi airport and he proudly told me his mission was to cleanse Pakistan. I narrated to him my view that he did not understand Islam and his beard and turban were ideal replacements for the ski mask that bank robbers in the US don during their raids. He was offended and called me an infidel amongst other colourful names.
Three decades on we have seen a lot of senseless killings have taken place around the world, and with it not only has the violence been politicised it has also been steeped into religious labels. The vernacular of the terrorist has become more pronounced and the acts of violence become more senseless. While the self styled leader thirty years back did not have the labels of Jihadist, Taliban or ISIS, his actions were simply violent based on his own self beliefs.
The attack on Istanbul airport highlight the blind nature of these attacks; killing innocent people and while no one has so far claimed responsibility yet seems to be motivated by the same misguided nonsense of the ISIS, and the Taliban. Before my American friends jump on this let it be said emphatically that more Muslims have been killed by these so called "Islamist" radicals than any people of any other faith. These attacks are not on the US, these attacks are against EVERYONE and most of all against the Muslims themselves.
However, we are making the problem worse by styling it as "Islamic Terrorism" and buying into the hysteria of Islamophobia because these attackers are not Muslims. If they follow the Quran and the teaching of Prophet Muhammed then their violent actions are contrary to the principles and teaching of Islam. We have to come up with a new word a new vernacular for these people and this should not be a religious one. If all the people who committed the school shootings were to say they did it because they were Christians we would be wrong to say that Christianity was at fault.
Here are my reasons to say that these attackers are not Muslims:
1. The act of taking the life of a person, and an innocent person at that, is essentially 'murder'. Assume that we buy into the argument of the ISIS that they are at war with the West and hence killing 'western infidels' is fine; here is the problem, even in those conditions the killing of a person who is not an instrument of war, nor a combatant is considered the killing of an innocent person and thus murder. Terrorism is above all murder. Qur’an 6:151 says, “and do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct, save lawfully.” (i.e. murder is forbidden but the death penalty imposed by the state for a crime is permitted). verse 5:53 states , “… who so kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wrecking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.” (reference to murder in 5.53 and to corruption, which is spreading terror in the land, means that for such crimes the person committing the crime can be put to death by the 'state'.)
These verses were never abrogated or superseded and form the basic injunctions to Muslims to consider all life 'sacred'. These attackers therefore are violating the injunction of the Quran itself.
2. One common 'logic', much like the man in Karachi, of such terrorists is that they are either 'cleansing' the land of infidels or they are imposing the 'will of Islam' on the people. In Islam it is forbidden to attempt to impose it upon people through force. The Qur’an says, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right way has become distinct from error.” (-The Cow, 2:256). This important verse was revealed in Medina in 622 AD, at the very advent of Islam and it the foundation for tolerance and the lack of coercion in religious matters. So to paint the acts of terror as a religious act is contrary to the teaching is Islam.
3. Even in a state of declared warfare, (which has to be declared by the established head of an Islamic state) the Quran is very explicit in extolling Muslims to seek peace. The Quran says, “But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in God! For He is the one who hears and knows all things.” (8:61) The Quran in the Surah, “The Cow,” 2:190, says, “Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggressors.”
How can Islam extoll aggressive behaviour when even in warfare it is asking Muslims to seek peace?
4. There are many other examples of traditions from the life of Prophet Muhammed where aggression and violence were not the norm, so much so that he frowned upon surprise attacks even when war was declared and in one instance warned the adversary four months before an attack. In the conduct of war specific rules were made for his forces which included not harming women and children and non combatants and not destroying the land and trees and crops.
Indeed in Arabia there was the tradition of 'Ghazu', which were raids on caravans and other tribes to acquire livestock and food, but these 'acquisition raids' had rules that insisted that no one must be killed in these raids. This was a tradition before the advent of Islam and during the Prophet's lifetime such raids were carried out. But the raids were not about aggression to kill the other party but merely to acquire goods and livestock. Western commentators often refer to these raids as a testimony to the violent nature of Islam; in the first place Ghazu was a pre Islamic tradition, and second, very rarely did they result in the taking of a life.
The events in Istanbul highlight all my arguments that the people who sanction such attacks and carry them out are not Muslims. This was also the very point the Turkish Prime Minister made, all the more when we see that all the people killed in the raid were non combatants and innocent people. The insistence by these terror groups that they are killing infidels is completely wrong because in the first place they kill more Muslims than any other people, and then I must emphasise that Christians and Jews are people of the Book and are not considered infidels by Islam. Jesus and Mary are both highly revered in the Quran, so much so there is a whole chapter on Mary and extolls her virtues and role.
On a broader front two things, both very disturbing are going on in the world; on the one hand politicians like Donald Trump are playing the Islamophobia card with virtually no understanding of the religion or the issues, and on the other hand Muslims themselves lack the understanding to realise that Islam is being hijacked by these terror groups who claim and evangelical purity of their cause. It is time people on both sides of the fence realise that is a battle for the minds of the young people and tolerance, understanding and a common stance to assert that these terrorists are NOT Muslims and we should not label them as such. In such labels lie the damage of labelling all Muslims (ala Trump style) as terrorists.
In my eyes all that this is an extension of the Kalashnikov Culture of the 1980's and all that has happened is that these violent people have adopted for themselves a religious label; a label that everyone else has bought into and hence the word 'radical Islam'. My argument is simply that if one is a true Muslim there cannot be a radical Islam it can only be a tolerant and understanding Islam.