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Attacks in Libya Go Against Islam

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The Claremont Main Road Masjid joins the Libyan People and Muslims all over the world in unequivocally condemning the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff members. The sanctity of human life is a supreme value in Islam and nothing is worth the cost of a human life. Such heinous acts of murder and violence are dishonorable and betray any expression of faith in Islam….

[This statement was originally posted at 24 Peace Scholars.]

The Claremont Main Road Masjid joins the Libyan People and Muslims all over the world in unequivocally condemning the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff members. The sanctity of human life is a supreme value in Islam and nothing is worth the cost of a human life. Such heinous acts of murder and violence are dishonorable and betray any expression of faith in Islam.

Reports indicate that those who committed these atrocities did so using the pretext of an obscure YouTube film aimed at depicting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a negative and profane manner. Although we agree that the video is hateful, bigoted, offensive and deliberately provocative, this could never be an excuse to commit any acts of violence whatsoever.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) should be our example in everything we do, and even though he was repeatedly attacked and insulted many times throughout his life, he always reacted with compassion and forgiveness, never with revenge or violence. By choosing violence as a response, the embassy attackers ironically and tragically betray the legacy, spirit and wisdom of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who is described in the Qur’an as a source of “mercy, compassion and tenderness to the worlds” (Q21:107).

Furthermore, the Qur’an lays down an ethical standard for how one is to respond to evil, and the command is clear: “Respond to evil with good deeds” (Q41:34). No matter how offensive the video about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is, Muslims should not condone acts of revenge, especially when motivated by anger and rage. For the Qur’an (Q5:135) also teaches us, that we should not allow our dislike for others to make us swerve away from justice. We must always be cautious not to become as dehumanized as those we accuse of committing atrocities against us.

When the great Libyan anti-colonial liberation fighter, Omar Mukhtar protected two surviving Italian prisoners, saying: “we do not kill prisoners,” his fellow warrior says: “they do it to us.” Omar Mukhtar responded in these grave yet majestic words: “they are not our teachers.”  We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of those who were killed and we call on all Muslims, and all peace- and justice-loving people all over the world to unite in condemning all extremists and terrorists regardless of nationality or religious affiliation.

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Rashied Omar, research scholar of Islamic studies and peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, is the coordinating imam of Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa. He issued this statement today from Cape Town, where he spends the fall semester each year. 

One thought on “Attacks in Libya Go Against Islam

  1. I agree fully with the central points of this piece, and appreciate deeply the anecdote about Omar Mukhtar, but the line about the Prophet Muhammad never resorting to violence ignores the little part of his life where he waged a war against pagan tribes and their temples—which followed the harsh persecution he and his folowers received.

    Please don’t take this comment as a simple riposte. I am eager to hear how you would reconcile this with the fact that he preached forgiveness. I recognize that part of this can be compared to much of what we find in the Old Testament—the violence, the war, the cleansing. The big difference for me, and the reason I find this difficult to accept, is that for Christians, the Christ who preached forgiveness did not wage war. He did not rely on the sword. He died on the cross. He lived forgiveness. There is a contradictory element in asserting the Prophet Muhammad’s call for forgiveness and the fact that he himself waged war on non-believers. At best, we wind up with some bifurcation of personal life on the one hand and broader religio-political concerns on the other: a strange thing to accept for a religion that stresses so strongly (and in certain major ways, I would say, rightly) the lack of such distinction. This would be a false dichotomy in any but the most modern sense.

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