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In The name of Allah,The Most Merciful,The Most gracious

US Government finally Admits Killing 4 Muslim American Citizen by Drones

US Government finally Admits Killing 4 Muslim American Citizen by Drones

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to open a new phase in the nation’s long struggle with terrorism on Thursday by restricting the use of unmanned drone strikes that have been at the heart of his national security strategy and shifting control of them away from the C.I.A. to the military.

In his first major speech on counterterrorism of his second term, Mr. Obama hopes to refocus the epic conflict that has defined American priorities since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and even foresees an unspecified day when the so-called war on terror might all but end, according to people briefed on White House plans.

As part of the shift in approach, the administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged for the first time that it had killed four American citizens in drone strikes outside the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, arguing that its actions were justified by the danger to the United States. Mr. Obama approved providing new information to Congress and the public about the rules governing his attacks on Al Qaeda and its allies.

A new classified policy guidance signed by Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists.

US Government finally Admits Killing 4 Muslim American Citizen by Drones2

Lethal force will be used only against targets who pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot feasibly be captured, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter to Congress, suggesting that threats to a partner like Afghanistan or Yemen alone would not be enough to justify being targeted.

The standard could signal an end to “signature strikes,” or attacks on groups of unknown men based only on their presumed status as members of Al Qaeda or some other enemy group — an approach that administration critics say has resulted in many civilian casualties. In effect, this appears to be a step away from the less restricted use of force allowed in war zones and toward the more limited use of force for self-defense allowed outside of armed conflict.

In the speech he will give on Thursday at the National Defense University, Mr. Obama will also renew his long-stalled effort to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Officials said they would make a fresh push to transfer detainees to home countries and lift the ban on sending some back to Yemen. The president plans to reappoint a high-level State Department official to oversee the effort to reduce the prison population.

The combined actions constitute a pivot point for a president who came to office highly critical of his predecessor, George W. Bush, yet who preserved and in some cases expanded on some of the counterterrorism policies he inherited. Much as Mr. Bush did in 2006 when he acknowledged and emptied secret overseas C.I.A. prisons, Mr. Obama appears intent on countering criticism of his most controversial policies by reorienting them to meet changing conditions.

In his speech, Mr. Obama is expected to reject the notion of a perpetual war with terrorists, envisioning a day when Al Qaeda has been so incapacitated that wartime authority will end. However, because he is also institutionalizing procedures for drone strikes, it does not appear that he thinks that day has come. A Pentagon official suggested last week that the current conflict could continue for 10 to 20 years.

Yet even as he moves the counter terrorism effort to a next stage, Mr. Obama plans to offer a robust defense of a continued role for targeted killings, a policy he has generally addressed only in passing or in interviews rather than in a comprehensive speech. A White House official said he “will discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action.”

Drone strikes have already been decreasing in the past few years as targets have been killed and opposition has grown. John O. Brennan, the new C.I.A. director, has been eager to shift the agency more toward espionage, intelligence gathering and analysis and away from the paramilitary mission it has adopted since Sept. 11.

US Government finally Admits Killing 4 Muslim American Citizen by Drones3

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said that after more than a decade of war it was time to “rebalance” the missions of the Pentagon and C.I.A. “The policy is intended to refocus the activities of the intelligence community to collection, which is crucial,” he said.

But Mr. Obama’s moves may provoke criticism from some Republicans who say a law enforcement approach underestimates the continuing threat from terrorism. An aide to Representative Howard P. McKeon of California, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said his boss would insist on “concrete answers” about what Mr. Obama planned to do with “terrorists who are too dangerous to be released” from Guantánamo.

In his letter to Congressional leaders, Mr. Holder confirmed that the administration had deliberately killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who died in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen. Mr. Holder also wrote that United States forces had killed three other Americans who “were not specifically targeted.”

The American involvement in Mr. Awlaki’s death has been widely reported, but the administration until now had refused to confirm it. Likewise, Mr. Holder confirmed the government’s role in the deaths of Samir Khan, who was killed in the same strike, and Mr. Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who died in another strike. The letter disclosed the death of a fourth American named Jude Kenan Mohammad but gave no further details.

Mr. Holder defended the actions, saying they were consistent with American law and taken only after careful consideration. “Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during the current conflict, it is clear and logical that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted,” he wrote.

Critics were not assuaged. “The Obama administration continues to claim authority to kill virtually anyone anywhere in the world under the ‘global battlefield’ legal theory and a radical redefinition of the concept of imminence,” said Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International. “President Obama should reject these concepts in his speech tomorrow and commit to upholding human rights, not just in word but in deed.”

The lifting of the veil of official secrecy over the Awlaki killing could have broad legal ramifications. The Justice Department on Wednesday afternoon dropped an effort to throw out a California lawsuit seeking documents related to the killing, while a judge here ordered the government to address the disclosure in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Mr. Awlaki’s family.

Mr. Holder, in a speech at Northwestern law school last year, laid out the administration’s basic legal thinking that it could target American citizens deemed to be operational terrorists who pose an “imminent threat of violent attack” and where capture is not feasible.

Mr. Holder’s letter expanded the rationale for the killing of Mr. Awlaki. Mr. Holder said Mr. Awlaki not only had “planned” the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25, 2009, a claim that has been widely discussed in court documents and elsewhere, but had also “played a key role” in an October 2010 plot to blow up cargo planes bound for the United States, including taking “part in the development and testing” of the bombs. He added that Mr. Awlaki had also been involved in “the planning of numerous other plots.”

“The decision to target Anwar al-Awlaki was lawful, it was considered, and it was just,” Mr. Holder said.

 

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In The name of Allah,The Most Merciful,The Most gracious

Terrorism is to Jihad as Adultery is to Marriage

Terrorism_JIHAD_Marraige

For the past four days I had been working on the following article, which I intended to post yesterday evening. However, I then heard about the vile and sadistic act of violence carried out by two men with knives and a meat cleaver in Woolwich. So I thought it best to review the blog post in light of the event, to see if I should develop it in any way. But barring a few edits here and there, I am posting the article more or less as it was originally written.

This is a brief overview of what Islam has to say about jihad, terrorism and the sanctity of human life. It bases itself, not on the need to please policy makers or the powers to be, nor on a colonialised mindset desperate to fit Islam into some acceptable liberal mould, but upon the texts of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and the consensus (ijma’) and considerations of mainstream Muslim jurists.

On a personal note, combating terrorism, and its ideological underpinnings, has long been a significant part of my da’wah or outreach programme; and all praise is for God. It was animated long before the events of 9-11 or 7-7; since 1992 in fact, when a few of my teachers in shari’ah alerted me to its realities, dangers and its unIslamic character. What follows is, as stated earlier, a brief trek across some of that terrain:

1. The first thing to mention in this regards is Islam’s outlook concerning the sanctity (hurmah) of human life. For as Islam views it, the human creature is indeed a sacred creation; so much so that: Whoever kills a person for other than crimes of manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he has killed the whole of humanity; and whosoever saves the life of one person, it shall be as if he has saved the whole of humanity. [5:32] Such, then, is the extraordinary value placed on human life in the Qur’an. And thus, as will be shown, acts of terror where women, children and other civilians are intentionally targeted and killed is categorically repudiated by Islam and by the agreement of those versed in law and learning among the Muslims.

2. Jihad as a word stems from jahada, which means: to strive, to exert oneself, to take extraordinary pains. As for its religious sense, al-Raghib al-Asbahani (d.425H/1034CE) defines it thus: ‘Exerting one’s utmost ability in repelling an enemy, and it is of three kinds: namely, contending against the outward enemy, the devil, and one’s ego. Each of these enters into God’s statement, exalted is He: And strive for God as He rightly must be striven for. [22:78] And strive with your wealth and your lives in the cause of God. [9:41] Also: Those who believed and left their homes and strove with their wealth and their lives in the cause of God. [8:72]’1

3. In Islam, the decision about war and peace is not left to scholars, soldiers, or anyone else. Rather it rests with the head of state who wields executive authority. This being a cardinal rule of warfare in Islam. Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi (d.620H/1223CE) explains the rule like so: ‘The question of declaring war [or not] is entrusted to the head of state and his decision (amr al-jihad mawkulun ila’l-imām wa ijtihadihi). Compliance with the decision is the subject’s duty in terms of what the authorities deem fit in the matter.’2 Al-Buhuti (1051H/1641CE) echoes the principle: ‘Declaring jihad or not is entrusted to the head of state and his decision, for he best knows the condition of the Muslims and of the enemy.’3

4. The classical Islamic doctrine that forbids killing non-combatants and civilians in an outward (military) jihad takes its cue from the Prophet’s words, peace be upon him: ‘March forth in the name of God, trusting in God and adhering to the religion of God. Do not kill elderly men, infants, young children or women.’4 And Ibn ‘Umar relates that the Prophet, peace be upon him, ‘forbade the killing of women and children.’5

5. After quoting the last hadith, imām al-Nawawi (d.676H/1277CE) typified the juristic consensus on the issue when he said: ‘Scholars concur upon acting by this hadith and forbid the killing of women and children, provided that they do not engage in combat. But if they do, the overwhelming majority of scholars (jamahir al-‘ulema) hold that they may be fought.’6 Ibn Qudamah, explaining the logic behind the consensus against not fighting women, the elderly, children, monks or traders, writes that each of these ‘are non-combatants (laysa min ahl al-qital).’7 Again, he states: ‘It is not permissible to kill a child among them, nor the insane, nor a woman, monk, elderly man, someone with a debilitating illness, and nor a blind man – except if they fight.’8

6. Thus, as has been shown, the intentional targeting and killing of civilians, which a fringe minority now seek to pass off as a bonafide jihad, is a gross departure from the classical juristic consensus and a perversion of the prophetic teachings. The wanton carnage and urban mayhem unleashed upon civilian lives, and the twisted re-readings of Islam’s scriptural sources by the current vanguards of terrorism, must continue to be denounced, repudiated and textually exposed. In unmasking terrorism (hiraba) for what it truly is, it has been aptly contended that: ‘Terrorism is to jihad what adultery is to marriage.’9 The Qur’an says: ‘What! Have you slain an innocent soul though he has killed nobody? Truly you have done a thing most foul.’ [18:73]

7. One argument extremists use to justify their acts of terror is to allege that civilians living in a democracy aren’t innocent at all. Their logic runs like this: In a democracy the government represents the will of the people, therefore civilian populations are complicit in their government’s foreign policies and are thus legitimate targets in war. This allegation is as false as it is factually distorted. What this reductionist everyone’s-guilty-in-a-democracy argument ignores or overlooks is that large swathes of citizens in a democracy may not agree with their government’s foreign policies, or even have voted them into power! So how can such citizens be complicit in their government’s actions? The anti-war demonstrations and protests against the Iraq war, for instance, which scores of millions of ordinary citizens across Western Europe and the United States rallied behind, is enough to show the fallacy of such logic. Moreover, as we shall see below, the shari’ah still considers such people as not being min ahl al-qital – “actual combatants”.

8. A more direct rebuttal of this twisted logic would be to look at the context in which the Prophet, peace be upon him, prohibited the killing of women, children and other civilians in war. This injunction was given when the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the early Muslims were in the midst of war with the pagan Arabs of Mecca, whose goal was no less than the extermination of Muslims. The Makkan idolators were a tightly–knit confederacy whose tribal elders would make decisions collectively at their tribal councils. The average person in such a society had far greater access to their elders and leaders and far more influence on policies than any citizen in today’s Western democracies. In fact, it was not uncommon for women (either married or related to tribal leaders, or those with social influence) to pressurise, cajole and even threaten their husbands into war with the Muslims, on pain of family disgrace and tribal ignominy, if they did not do so. During the battle of Uhud, women, led by Hind, even went out onto the battlefield to lend moral support to the aggressors. In spite of knowing all this, the Prophet, peace be upon him, still insisted: ‘Do not kill elderly men, young children, or women.’10 And when he once saw a woman that had been killed, he said: ‘This is not one who should have been fought.’11

9. Another proof used to justify the killing of civilians is a hadith in which the Prophet was asked about some of the idolators whose settlements had been attacked at night and which resulted in a few women and children being killed. This led him to say: ‘They are from them (hum minhum).’12 There are two reasons why this hadith cannot be used in this manner: Firstly, a large body of jurists consider the hadith to have been abrogated by the explicit command to ‘not kill civilians in war.’13 Secondly, jurists who do permit night raids that could result in civilian loss clearly state: ‘This is provided they [women, children and other non-combatants] are not deliberately targeted.’14 It is also interesting that a leading jurist of early Islam, as well as the actual sub-narrator of this hadith, imām al-Zuhri, would qualify the above hadith by immediately relating the hadith which forbids killing civilians. Thus: ‘Whenever al-Zuhri related this hadith, he would say: “Ka’b b. Malik’s son narrated to me; from his uncle … that the Prophet, peace be upon him, forbade the killing of women and children.”’15

10. Another aspect of the shari’ah which bears on the subject, but which has also come under extremism’s aberrant re-readings, is the notion of ‘aqd al-aman – “the covenant of security”. What this implies is that Muslims residing, for instance, in a non-Muslim land – either native born, naturalised or legal resident – are under an explicit pact or contract which renders all non-Muslim life, property and honour sacrosanct. That is, Muslim citizens of non-Muslim countries cannot engage in acts of aggression against their own state of fellow citizens. Ibn Qudamah said: ‘As for treachery towards them, this is expressly forbidden. For they only granted him security on condition that he not betray them and that they be safe from his harm. If this is not stipulated in explicit terms, it is implicitly implied. …This being so, it is unlawful for us to be treacherous to them, since this is betrayal; and our religion has no place for betrayal. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “The Muslims fulfil their contracts.”16’17

11. It isn’t possible to stress enough how seriously orthodox Islam takes the obligation to honour contracts and covenants, or how unlawful it is for a Muslim who lives or resides in a land to then attack it or its citizens. What should also be appreciated is that a Muslim may even hold the following opinion with no internal contradiction with the above ten points: that America and Britain are waging wars of aggression in the Middle East; however, Muslims who are under a pledge of security may not attack their country, nor its soldiers, nor any of its citizens. One hadith has this threat of humiliation and ignominy: ‘For every person who betrays a covenant will have a flag at his back on the Day of Judgement, which will be raised according to the level of his treachery.’18

To conclude: the chorus of condemnation from Islam’s textual sources and religious authorities, against acts of terror, must continue to ring out urgently and loudly. If we wish to be dissenting voices on any issue of domestic or foreign policy, we must find legitimate ways within the democratic process to voice such dissent.

It is to their credit that Muslim scholars, despite differences between them on a whole array of theological and legal issues, have come out so unanimously against terrorism. What we also ask of them is to continue to strive to expose and eradicate the deviant notions and assumptions that underpin it. Our governments (British and American) also have a responsibility to act. For they can drain much of the extremists’ anger by securing a fair resolution to the Palestinian problem, closing Guantanamo Bay prison, and enacting just foreign policies. It is for the Muslim scholars, however, to vanquish the twisted fiqh-cum-theology of the terrorists.

1. Mufradat Alfaz al-Qur’an (Damascus: Dar al-Qalam, 2002), 208.

2. Al-Mughni (Saudi Arabia: Dar al-‘Alam al-Kutub, 1999), 13:11.

3. Kashshaf al-Qina’ (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Nasr al-Hadithah, n.d.), 3:41.

4. Abu Dawud, Sunan, no.2614.

5. Bukhāri, no.3015; Muslim, no.1744.

6. Sharh Sahih Muslim (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1995), 12:43.

7. Al-Mughni, 13:178.

8. ‘Umdat al-Fiqh (Riyadh: Dar al-Mayman, 2009), 220.

9. Abdal Hakim Murad, Contentions, 5/7, at http://www.masud.co.uk

10. Abu Dawud, no.2614.

11. Abu Dawud, no.2669; Ibn Majah, no.2842.

12. Bukhāri, no.3012.

13. See: Ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani, Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih Bukhāri (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 1989), 6:182.

14. As per the classical Hanbali jurist, al-Buhuti, Kashshaf al-Qina’, 3:47-8.

15. Cited in Fath al-Bari, 6:182. I am grateful to Muḥammad Nizami for pointing out this report to me.

16. Al-Tirmidhi, no.1352.

17. Al-Mughni, 13:152.

18. Muslim, no.1738.

 
Shaykh Abu Aaliyah Shurkeel
Source : MM 

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In The name of Allah,The Most Merciful,The Most gracious

Aussie Muslims condemn London attack

THE peak body for Australian Muslims has condemned as “sick and twisted” the slaying of a man on a busy London street by two men shouting Islamist slogans.

The victim, thought to be a soldier, was attacked on Wednesday a few hundred metres from a military barracks in Woolwich, in southeast London.

The attackers, wielding knives and a meat cleaver, then delivered an Islamist tirade to passers-by and encouraged them to take video.

Armed police later shot and wounded the two attackers after they ran at officers.

In a statement, Muslims Australia president Hafez Kassem condemned the killing as unjustifiable.

“The attack on an unarmed civilian believed to be a member of the British military in Woolwich is a crime that is condemned and deplored by Australian Muslims,” Mr Kassem said.

“My sympathies and condolences go to the victim’s family and I strongly condemn the unjustifiable attack.”

Islam condemned the use of violence, Muslims Australia’s Keysar Trad said.

“It takes a sick and twisted mind to hack another person with a meat cleaver,” he said.

“Islam condemns and deplores this violence, as do I, as does every Australian Muslim.”

Amateur footage of one of the men carrying a blood-stained knife and meat cleaver shows him saying: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned the “appalling crime” and has said there are “strong indications that it is a terrorist incident”.

 

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In The name of Allah,The Most Merciful,The Most gracious

Woolwich attack: of course British foreign policy had a role

Joe Glenton

I am a former soldier. I completed one tour of duty in Afghanistan, refused on legal and moral grounds to serve a second tour, and spent five months in a military prison as a result. When the news about theattack in Woolwich broke, by pure coincidence Ross Caputi was crashing on my sofa. Ross is a soft-spoken ex-US marine turned film-maker who served in Iraq and witnessed the pillaging and irradiation of Falluja. He is also a native of Boston, the scene of a recent homegrown terror attack. Together, we watched the news, and right away we were certain that what we were seeing was informed by the misguided military adventures in which we had taken part.

So at the very outset, and before the rising tide of prejudice and pseudo-patriotism fully encloses us, let us be clear: while nothing can justify the savage killing in Woolwich yesterday of a man since confirmed to have been a serving British soldier, it should not be hard to explain why the murder happened.

These awful events cannot be explained in the almost Texan terms of ColoneRichard Kemp, who served as commander of British forces in Afghanistan in 2001. He tweeted on last night that they were “not about Iraq or Afghanistan”, but were an attack on “our way of life”. Plenty of others are saying the same.

But let’s start by examining what emerged from the mouths of the assailants themselves. In an accent that was pure London, according to one of the courageous women who intervened at the scene, one alleged killer claimed he was “… fed up with people killing Muslims in Afghanistan …”. It is unclear whether it was the same man, or his alleged co-assailant, who said “… bring our [Note: our] troops home so we can all live in peace”.

It should by now be self-evident that by attacking Muslims overseas, you will occasionally spawn twisted and, as we saw yesterday, even murderous hatred at home. We need to recognise that, given the continued role our government has chosen to play in the US imperial project in the Middle East, we are lucky that these attacks are so few and far between.

It is equally important to point out, however, that rejection of and opposition to the toxic wars that informed yesterday’s attacks is by no means a “Muslim” trait. Vast swaths of the British population also stand in opposition to these wars, including many veterans of the wars like myself and Ross, as well as serving soldiers I speak to who cannot be named here for fear of persecution.

Yet this anti-war view, so widely held and strongly felt, finds no expression in a parliament for whom the merest whiff of boot polish or military jargon causes a fit of “Tommy this, Tommy that …” jingoism. The fact is, there are two majority views in this country: one in the political body that says war, war and more war; and one in the population which says it’s had enough of giving up its sons and daughter abroad and now, again, at home.

For 12 years British Muslims have been set upon, pilloried and alienated by successive governments and by the media for things that they did not do. We must say clearly that the alleged actions of these two men are theirs alone, regardless of being informed by the wars, and we should not descend into yet another round of collective responsibility peddling.

Indeed, if there is collective responsibility for the killings, it belongs to the hawks whose policies have caused bloodbaths – directly, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, and indirectly in places as far apart as Woolwich and Boston, which in turn have created political space for the far right to peddle their hatred, as we saw in the immediate aftermath of the Woolwich attack.

What we must do now is straightforward enough. Our own responsibilities are first of all to make sure innocents are not subject to blanket punishment for things that they did not do, and to force our government – safe in their houses – to put an end to Britain’s involvement in the vicious foreign occupations that have again created bloodshed in London.

 

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In The name of Allah,The Most Merciful,The Most gracious

Was the London killing of a British soldier ‘terrorism’?

Woolwich attack, suspect on street

Two men yesterday engaged in a horrific act of violence on the streets of London by using what appeared to be a meat cleaver to hack to death a British soldier. In the wake of claims that the assailants shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the killing, and a video showing one of the assailants citing Islam as well as a desire to avenge and stop continuous UK violence against Muslims, media outlets (including the Guardian) and British politicians instantly characterized the attack as “terrorism”.

That this was a barbaric and horrendous act goes without saying, but given the legal, military, cultural and political significance of the term “terrorism”, it is vital to ask: is that term really applicable to this act of violence? To begin with, in order for an act of violence to be “terrorism”, many argue that it must deliberately target civilians. That’s the most common means used by those who try to distinguish the violence engaged in by western nations from that used by the “terrorists”: sure, we kill civilians sometimes, but we don’t deliberately target them the way the “terrorists” do.

But here, just as was true for Nidal Hasan’s attack on a Fort Hood military base, the victim of the violence was a soldier of a nation at war, not a civilian. He was stationed at an army barracks quite close to the attack. The killer made clear that he knew he had attacked a soldier when he said afterward: “this British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

The US, the UK and its allies have repeatedly killed Muslim civilians over the past decade (and before that), but defenders of those governments insist that this cannot be “terrorism” because it is combatants, not civilians, who are the targets. Can it really be the case that when western nations continuously kill Muslim civilians, that’s not “terrorism”, but when Muslims kill western soldiers, that is terrorism? Amazingly, the US has even imprisoned people at Guantanamo and elsewhere on accusations of “terrorism” who are accused of nothing more than engaging in violence against US soldiers who invaded their country.

It’s true that the soldier who was killed yesterday was out of uniform and not engaged in combat at the time he was attacked. But the same is true for the vast bulk of killings carried out by the US and its allies over the last decade, where people are killed in their homes, in their cars, at work, while asleep (in fact, the US has re-defined “militant to mean “any military-aged male in a strike zone”). Indeed, at a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on drone killings, Gen. James Cartwright and Sen. Lindsey Graham both agreed that the US has the right to kill its enemies even while they are “asleep”, that you don’t “have to wake them up before you shoot them” and “make it a fair fight”. Once you declare that the “entire globe is a battlefield” (which includes London) and that any “combatant” (defined as broadly as possible) is fair game to be killed – as the US has done – then how can the killing of a solider of a nation engaged in that war, horrific though it is, possibly be “terrorism”?

When I asked on Twitter this morning what specific attributes of this attack make it “terrorism” given that it was a soldier who was killed, the most frequent answer I received was that “terrorism” means any act of violence designed to achieve political change, or more specifically, to induce a civilian population to change their government or its policies of out fear of violence. Because, this line of reasoning went, one of the attackers here said that “the only reasons we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily” and warned that “you people will never be safe. Remove your government”, the intent of the violence was to induce political change, thus making it “terrorism”.

That is at least a coherent definition. But doesn’t that then encompass the vast majority of violent acts undertaken by the US and its allies over the last decade? What was the US/UK “shock and awe” attack on Baghdad if not a campaign to intimidate the population with a massive show of violence into submitting to the invading armies and ceasing their support for Saddam’s regime? That was clearly its functional intent and even its stated intent. That definition would also immediately include the massive air bombings of German cities during World War II. It would include the Central American civilian-slaughtering militias supported, funded and armed by the Reagan administration throughout the 1980s, the Bangledeshi death squads trained and funded by the UK, and countless other groups supported by the west that used violence against civilians to achieve political ends.

The ongoing US drone attacks unquestionably have the effect, and one could reasonably argue the intent, of terrorizing the local populations so that they cease harboring or supporting those the west deems to be enemies. The brutal sanctions regime imposed by the west on Iraq and Iran, which kills large numbers of people, clearly has the intent of terrorizing the population into changing its governments’ policies and even the government itself. How can one create a definition of “terrorism” that includes Wednesday’s London attack on this British soldier without including many acts of violence undertaken by the US, the UK and its allies and partners? Can that be done?

I know this vital caveat will fall on deaf ears for some, but nothing about this discussion has anything to do with justifiability. An act can be vile, evil, and devoid of justification without being “terrorism”: indeed, most of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century, from the Holocaust to the wanton slaughter of Stalin and Pol Pot and the massive destruction of human life in Vietnam, are not typically described as “terrorism”. To question whether something qualifies as “terrorism” is not remotely to justify or even mitigate it. That should go without saying, though I know it doesn’t.

The reason it’s so crucial to ask this question is that there are few terms – if there are any – that pack the political, cultural and emotional punch that “terrorism” provides. When it comes to the actions of western governments, it is a conversation-stopper, justifying virtually anything those governments want to do. It’s a term that is used to start wars, engage in sustained military action, send people to prison for decades or life, to target suspects for due-process-free execution, shield government actions behind a wall of secrecy, and instantly shape public perceptions around the world. It matters what the definition of the term is, or whether there is a consistent and coherent definition. It matters a great deal.

There is ample scholarship proving that the term has no such clear or consistently applied meaning (see the penultimate section here, and my interview with Remi Brulin here). It is very hard to escape the conclusion that, operationally, the term has no real definition at this point beyond “violence engaged in by Muslims in retaliation against western violence toward Muslims”. When media reports yesterday began saying that “there are indications that this may be act of terror”, it seems clear that what was really meant was: “there are indications that the perpetrators were Muslims driven by political grievances against the west” (earlier this month, an elderly British Muslim was stabbed to death in an apparent anti-Muslim hate crime and nobody called that “terrorism”). Put another way, the term at this point seems to have no function other than propagandistically and legally legitimizing the violence of western states against Muslims while delegitimizing any and all violence done in return to those states.

One last point: in the wake of the Boston Marathon attacks, Idocumented that the perpetrators of virtually every recent attempted and successful “terrorist” attack against the west cited as their motive the continuous violence by western states against Muslim civilians. It’s certainly true that Islam plays an important role in making these individuals willing to fight and die for this perceived just cause (just as ChristianityJudaismBuddhism, and nationalism lead some people to be willing to fight and die for their cause). But the proximate cause of these attacks are plainly political grievances: namely, the belief that engaging in violence against aggressive western nations is the only way to deter and/or avenge western violence that kills Muslim civilians.

Add the London knife attack on this soldier to that growing list. One of the perpetrators said on camera that “the only reason we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily” and “we apologize that women had to see this today, but in our lands our women have to see the same.” As I’ve endlessly pointed out, highlighting this causation doesn’t remotely justify the acts. But it should make it anything other than surprising. On Twitter last night, Michael Moore sardonically summarized western reaction to the London killing this way:

I am outraged that we can’t kill people in other counties without them trying to kill us!”

Basic human nature simply does not allow you to cheer on your government as it carries out massive violence in multiple countries around the world and then have you be completely immune from having that violence returned.

 

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In The name of Allah,The Most Merciful,The Most gracious

British Muslims Condemn Savage Attack On Drummer Lee Rigby

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LONDON (RNS) Leaders of Britain’s 2.8 million Muslims reacted with horror and anger following Wednesday’s (May 22) slaughter with knives and machetes of an off-duty British soldier in the streets outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in south London.

A statement from the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the slaughter of the soldier by two men – both believed to be Christian converts to Islam – as “a barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and which we condemn unreservedly.”

Abdullah al Andalusi, a spokesman for the Muslim Debate Initiative, which brings together Islamic scholars and researchers in the U.K., said: “These people claimed they killed the soldier in the name of protecting others from UK foreign policy. But if what they claim is true, they have acted no differently from the crimes they claim they wish to see stopped.”

The slain soldier was identified Thursday as 25-year-old Drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Every major British newspaper carried graphic photos of one of the suspects, identified as 28-year old Michael Adebolajo, waving a butcher’s cleaver, his hands soaked in blood, following the attack.

Media reports indicate his Nigerian-born parents moved him to London at age 15 to get him away from Islamic fundamentalists; a report in Thursday’s London Evening Standard said that he had been raised as a Christian but had converted to Islam.

“They have done a cowardly, barbaric act,” said Imam Ajmal Masroor of the Islamic Society of Britain. “They have insulted God and Islam. They are low vile scum. We, the British, will remain together resolute and strong.”

Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short a visit to Paris when he heard the news of the horrendous slaughter, said the nation remains “resolute” in the face of the attacks but also tried to prevent a backlash of anti-Muslim violence that has already resulted in attacks on at least two mosques.

“We will never give in to terrorism in any of its forms,” he said. “This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life. It was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to this country. There is nothing in Islam that justified this dreadful act.”

A prominent Muslim in the city of Leicester told Religion News Service that he and his community are “extremely worried” about right-wing reaction to the slaughter in London.

“This could fuel the anger of organizations like the English Defence League and the British National Party,” he said, requesting anonymity because he feared for his safety. “The EDL last night had over 250 of its supporters wearing white balaclavas near the scene of the murder. They were shouting anti-Islamic slogans.”

EDL leader Tommy Robinson told reporters: “They’ve cut off one of our army’s (soldier’s) heads in the streets of London. Our next generation are being taught in schools that Islam is a religion of peace. It never has been. What you saw today is Islam.”

 

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