By Dr Nazari Ismail

Suicide bombings not against Islam


I refer to Dr Mazeni Alwi's article Live, don't die for Islam (July 22).

Let me begin first by stating that I think I can understand where Mazeni is coming from and have no doubt as regards to his sincerity and his concern for the Palestinians. However, I have serious misgivings on many of his viewpoints.

Muslims live and die for Islam. Both are equally important and need to be emphasised. During the 'iftitah' or opening supplication read by Muslims during their five daily prayers, Muslims say 'Verily, my prayers, my Haj rituals, my life and my death are all for Allah, Lord of the universe". That prayer is a proof that both life an death are equally important from an Islamic perspective.

As regard to the martyrdom operations (or the so-called 'suicide bombings') carried out by Palestinians in Israel, let us be clear from the very outset that those actions are not against Islamic teachings.

From an Islamic viewpoint those actions are not immoral. Please read the lengthy explanation given by the European Council for Fatwa and Research on this matter.

To be honest, I find it hard to understand why Mazeni is still talking about moral equivalency on this issue even though the eminent and highly respected Dr Yusuf Qaradawi and members of the European Council for Fatwa and Research have given clear and detailed explanations on the matter. The only explanation for his personal stance, to my mind, is that he has not read the detailed explanations given by the scholars.

As regard to the question of whether it is strategically clever or not for the Palestinians to engage in this method in order to further their struggles, I must point out that according to Dr Azzam Tamimi of the London-based Institute of Islamic Political Thought, many people in Britain and elsewhere are increasingly sympathetic towards the Palestinians despite the suicide bombings.

Many people are quite rational. When they read of the martyrdom operations carried out by Palestinians, they begin to wonder why they would resort to such actions. As a result, they begin to try and understand the causes for those actions.

They also begin to realise the extent of the atrocities committed by the Israelis towards innocent Palestinians. Unlike the unjustified, stupid and un-Islamic operations of Al-Qaeda members and supporters, martyrdom operations involving Islamically-oriented Palestinian groups (e.g. Hamas) are carried out only in Palestine and not anywhere else.

Therefore, it is easier for the world at large to connect with the plight of the Palestinians. People will also begin to want to find out the background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a good thing - especially if they start researching the historical background of the conflict and find out the nature of the Israeli society.

For example, they will find out that the so-called innocent citizens of Israel also include hundreds of thousands of immigrant Jews from Russia and Eastern European who are reservist soldiers and who also are living on lands illegally dispossessed from Palestinians.

Incidentally, the recent slowdown of emigrants from these countries into Israel and the reduced attractiveness of settlements on Palestinian lands is also largely due to the martyrdom operations (as reported by the BBC).

Mazeni seems to suggest that Palestinians should try to negotiate for their rights with the Israelis. Obviously, Mazeni does not seem to be fully aware of the actions of the Israelis. During all previous negotiations, the Israelis continued to change the `reality' on the ground in order to strengthen their bargaining position.

For example, now the Israelis are saying that it is impossible to completely abandon the West Bank because of the great number of settlements there. But they intentionally failed to tell the world that many of these settlements were built whilst political negotiations were going on.

It is therefore, grossly unfair to keep asking the Palestinians to negotiate with a party that has proven itself to be interested only in practicing ethnic cleansing.

Moreover, the current international geo-political arrangement will ensure that any 'political' settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis must require the arbitration and endorsement of the US government.

Surely we can see the futility of such an exercise from the viewpoint of the Palestinians.

Mazeni mentioned that, on moral reasons, it is difficult to defend the 'martyrdom operations' to non-Muslims. Well, I had lunch with a non-Muslim colleague. I asked him what he personally thinks of `suicide bombings' (I deliberately used that term instead of `martyrdom operations') by Palestinians.

He said: "If you asked me this question a few years ago, I would've have said that those people are crazy. But having seen the injustices being committed by the Americans and Israelis towards them, I will say that if I am a Palestinian, I will also do the same thing.

"What choice do the Palestinians have? The Palestinians simply do not have any other choice".

Mazeni obviously needs to give more credit to some non-Muslims with regards to their understanding of this conflict. And he also needs to give more credit to Hamas and other Islamically-oriented Palestinian groups because surely they have also considered the possible impact of their martyrdom operations on the perceptions of non-Muslims throughout the world.

Lastly, I think that if we are genuinely concerned for the plight of our Palestinian brothers, we should spend more efforts highlighting the atrocities committed towards them by the Zionists.

Even if we are confident enough in our intellectual and scholarly capabilities to disagree with Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi and other eminent Muslim scholars (who, unlike us, have spent their entire lives studying the religion), I still think that the need to highlight the plight of the Palestinians takes precedence over the need to preserve our personal images as so-called `moderates' in the eyes of non-Muslims.