Just recently, a high ranking Pakistani cleric, one Munib ur-Rehmen, asserted that “Islam does not allow anybody to take lives of innocent people by any means.” However, when he was grand mufti, two years earlier, he also said that “truly Islamic” states must kill the apostate from Islam. Considering his former statement, that Islam forbids the taking of “innocent” lives, has Munib been caught fibbing? Either way, this anecdote occasions the question: who is “innocent” in Islam?
Whereas other Muslims may shy away from this question, opting for the naïve Westerner to simply assume that “innocence” in Islam is akin to the liberal West’s notions of “innocence,” al-Qaeda—which seems to be supported by nearly half of the Muslim world—has been only to happy to clarify this matter.
Back in December, the terrorist organization’s primary media conduit, al-Sahab (the “clouds”) announced that al-Qaeda’s number two, Ayman Zawahiri, would be taking questions from the public and that he would “respond as soon as possible.”
Then, a few months later in April, according to the Associated Press, Zawahiri released a 90 minute audio tape, “billed as the first installment of answers to the more than 900 questions submitted on extremist Internet sites by al-Qaida supporters, critics and journalists.”
In response to a question that suggested al-Qaeda was responsible for the deaths of innocents in Baghdad, Morocco, and Algeria—Muslim areas where countless terrorist attacks in the name of al-Qaeda still occur daily—Zawahiri adamantly maintained that “We haven’t killed innocents,” not in any of those regions mentioned; “nor,” added Zawahari, “anywhere else”—which obviously includes 9/11, the London and Madrid bombings, and the rest.
Was Zawahiri being facetious, or does he truly deem all those killed in the aforementioned attacks as not “innocent”—that is, guilty?
As for Western infidels, Osama bin Laden himself has announced on various occasions that, since America is a democracy, and thus responsible for its government (which is always portrayed as one of the greatest enemies of Islam), “Every American man is an enemy—whether he fights us directly or pays his taxes,” (The Al Qaeda Reader, 281). Accordingly, al-Qaeda issued its famous fatwa in 1998 concluding that “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilian and military—is an individual obligation incumbent upon every Muslim who can do it and in any country” (AQR, 13).
What of women and children? What of fellow Muslims? Surely all these are innocent? In fact, Zawahiri, in one of his major treatises written for Muslim-eyes only, “Jihad, Martyrdom, and the Killing of Innocents” (see AQR,141-171), demonstrates the opposite. After quoting several anecdotes from authoritative hadith and sira sources documenting Muhammad legitimizing haphazard attacks against infidel strongholds—including by utilizing catapults (al-manjonil) and fire—even though women and children were known to be sheltered there, Zawahiri quotes the observations of a prominent exegete: “It is well known that whoever follows such a course, bombarding infidels, will inevitably hit their women and children, who are otherwise forbidden from being killed. Likewise, the same goes if Muslims are among them. It is compulsory that this [the possibility of hitting women, children, and Muslims] not dissuade the launching of an incursion against them… even if one dreads hitting another Muslim” (AQR,165).
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