The Crescent Report

May 24, 2010

Mutual Destruction or Mutual Respect? A Reply to Shaykh Anwar Al-Awlaki

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 2:02 pm

Mutual Destruction or Mutual Respect? A Reply to Shaykh Anwar Al-Awlaki

Last week, Western media publicized yet another video and statement from Shaykh Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S-born Muslim who is allied with Al Qaeda and other armed formations at odds with the United States and American military forces around the world.

Shaykh Anwar came to the attention of millions of people in the United States and the broader Western world when, some months. ago, his pronouncements against the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were connected to the killings in Fort Hood, Texas committed by Major Nidal Hassan, a U.S. Army psychiatrist and a Muslim.

Shaykh Al-Awlaki admitted his support for the killings, and his encouragement of Muslims in the United States to take similar actions against American service personnel. But in his latest pronouncement, he has sanctioned the killing not only of combatants, but of American civilians as well.  This proposed violence, according to Al-Awlaki’s logic, is justified because the United States has killed one million Muslim civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and because, in his own words, “American people, in general, are taking part in this, that they elected this administration, and that they are financing the war.”

True enough, in one sense:  U.S. military, political, and economic power has enforced lethal sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (1990-2003), spearheaded another war in that same nation from 2003 until the present, and engaged in military operations in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and other places, that have killed untold numbers of Muslims civilians.

But is the answer to this horror the repayment, in kind, for mass bloodshed aimed at American non-combatants?  I would offer Shaykh Al-Awlaki two things to ponder.

The first, a statement from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the context of a metaphor, is that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world in blindness.  The cycle of mass violence directed against the Muslim world is concomitant with mass violence directed by Muslims against ourselves.  And if there is any profound lesson to be learned from the sad state of our world, it is simply that violence, perpetrated by any people against their “enemies”, will eventually consume the victims themselves.

But the second reflection, from the Holy Qur’an (5:32), contains the admonition from God Almighty that….”If anyone killed a person-except it be for murder of spreading mischief in the land-it would be as it he killed all mankind.”  The transliteration may vary a bit depending on the English-language translation from the Arabic that is used, but the essence of the divine injunction is clear:  Murder is an abomination and an evil, period.  It is not justified, and cannot be justified, by the political expedience of retaliation against either armed adversaries, or non-combatants who come from the nation with which a particular group of people is in conflict.

There is another reality that must be considered by the Shaykh, and all of us: Muslims in America are not a “Fifth Column” of dormant Jihadis, waiting for the command to strike terror in the hearts of their compatriots.  Rather, Muslims are an integral part of the society.  We are teachers, doctors, engineers, students, mothers and fathers.  American Muslims have been present here since before there was, officially, an independent United States of America.

Our role should not be to participate in armed violence-and Shaykh Al-Awlaki knows this.  But neither should we be seduced by the totally false idea that hatred, killing, and violence against America will bring justice to the Islamic world, or end the greater violence that some Muslims perpetrate against other Muslims, in the name of some ”correct” interpretation of the faith.

The injustice of killing any human being, or any mass of human beings, is a stain on the honor of those people who are part of the U.S. military and who claim to be “patriotic” Americans.  It is equally a crime and a sin for those who profess allegiance to Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab, the Taliban, or any other Islamic formation that raises their sword against their co-religionists.

There is no doubt that Muslims, and all people of conscience, should oppose these wars.  But the naked retaliatory hatred of people in America, or the willingness to harm or kill them, is contrary to the principles of the Qur’an, and the understanding of the basic concept of Rahma (compassion) that undergirds the most precious and inviolable relationship that we have with our Creator and our fellow human beings.

No, Shaykh Al-Awlaki.  We will not defend the killing of innocent Muslims.  But neither will we, nor should we, call for the killing of anyone.  That is a commandment from our Lord-and the Lord of Creation that Shaykh Anwar Al-Awlaki professes to love and serve as well.

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