Followers of Islam who kill civilians in the name of their faith, as the bombers of the U.S. embassies in Africa are suspected of doing, distort the literal words and interpreted meaning of the Koran, experts on Islam say.
The experts contacted by The Jewish Week, both Jewish and Muslim, point to the Koranic verse, “If you take an individual’s life, it is as if you have killed humanity.” The verse is similar to one in the Talmud.
“It’s very, very clear — in conflict situations you cannot attack civilians,” said a spokesman for a Muslim American organization who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The spokesman said Osama bin Laden, the multimillionaire Saudi businessman considered the twin bombing’s chief suspect by American intelligence authorities, is not authorized to issue life-and-death edicts.
Bin Laden, exiled from his homeland, is based in Afghanistan, where he has formed a coalition of anti-American and anti-Israel forces known as the International Islamic Front for Holy War Against the Jews and Crusaders.
In February, bin Laden issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, signed by militant members of the Islamic clergy, that called for guerrilla attacks on U.S. military and civilian targets around the world.
A Palestinian arrested in the recent bombing in Tanzania said he was obeying orders from bin Laden and that “I did it all for the cause of Islam,” according to published reports.
“He’s not an authority on Islamic law,” the spokesman said. “Bin Laden does not have the right to speak for one billion Muslims in the world.”
“Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence, bombing is bombing,” said Khankan Ghazi, director of interfaith affairs and communications for the Islamic Center of Long Island. “There is nothing Islamic about bombing.”
A communiqué from an organization known as Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Sanctuaries took responsibility for the recent bombings. And several Muslim suicide bombers have shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) before setting off their explosives, according to eyewitnesses.
“So what if he said ‘Allahu Akbar’?” Ghazi asked. “It doesn’t mean that Islam taught him to bomb himself and others.”
“Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits, for Allah loveth not transgressors,” one Koranic verse states.
The Koran’s directives about warfare are clearly limited to situations of self-defense, or against infidels, experts on Islam say.
“Islam says a lot of things about everything,” according to one authority. “As within Christianity or Judaism, you can find material to support any point of view if you look hard enough.
“You don’t make war without declaring it …[by] a properly constituted authority. Only a head of state can declare war legally,” he said, adding, “Suicide is also strictly prohibited by Islamic law.”
Yehudit Barsky, Middle East research analyst at the Anti-Defamation League, said “extremist” Islamic groups — including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which regularly take credit for fatal attacks on Israelis — incorrectly apply the uncompromising, sixth-century words of Muhammad, Islam’s supreme prophet, about making war.
“Muhammad at that time was conquering different parts of the Arabian Peninsula,” which was populated by pagans, Barsky said. “The radicals will take the verses in the Koran and say they deal with how we should treat all Jews, Christians and pagans today. They have radicalized this notion that everyone who is not a Muslim is a nonbeliever.”
Mainstream Muslims, she said, recognize Jews and Christians as members of a protected class — receivers of divine revelation, albeit at a lower level than experienced by Muhammad.