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Lebanonwire, June 8, 2002

The Daily Star

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Fadlallah explains religious basis for suicide attacks
Senior cleric sanctions ‘self-sacrifice’ operations

Leading voice also speaks on Western anti-Arab and anti-Islamic prejudice, need to protect the environment

Ibrahim Mousawi
Special to the Daily Star

Suicide attacks in occupied Palestine are not the craven acts of the morally depraved as they are portrayed by Western media, but a form of legitimate resistance amid escalating dangers.
This is the view of senior Islamic scholar and marjaa (highest level of Islamic religious authority) Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who in a wide-ranging interview with The Daily Star presented a multifaceted argument about the legitimacy of the “martyrdom operations,” the culture of anti-Arab and anti-Islamic prejudice in the West and the degradation of the environment.
“Killing oneself is like killing another human being; it requires permission. One needs permission from Allah to kill himself or to kill others,” Fadlallah explained, adding that “many verses” in the Koran provided such religious sanction.
“Basically, it is haram (prohibited by religion) to kill oneself or others; but during jihad (holy war or struggle for the sake of Islam), which is a defensive or preventive war according to Islam, it is accepted and allowed, as jihad is considered an exceptional case.”
In analyzing the theological arguments legitimizing suicide attacks, Fadlallah said that Allah did not identify a certain procedure to fight the enemy and defend the rights of the nation.
“If achieving victory means that we have to go through a minefield, which necessarily and definitely means that many are going to be killed, then we would go,” he said.
Fadlallah said that the Palestinian perpetrators of “martyrdom operations” do not target civilians, but rather aim to defend their people by inflicting damage and losses on the Israeli side to maintain a kind of equilibrium with the high-tech arsenal used by the Israeli Army.
Fadlallah also insisted on a linguistic distinction between “suicide” and “self-sacrifice” operations. “Suicide is considered a crime from the religious point of view. One does not own his life to end it when he likes. Allah owns everyone’s life and it is a great transgression to inflict harm to oneself as much as it is to others.”
If one kills oneself or others without a religious permission, he will be punished in the hereafter by being immortalized in hell, he continued.
Fadlallah also contradicted views widely held by Islamic scholars on the role of women in jihad, saying women are allowed to participate and carry out “self-sacrifice” operations.
“Nothing in Islam prevents women from embracing struggle and fighting for the sake of Allah. Women initially are not required to fight, for this is men’s duty, but under certain circumstances it might be a women’s duty as well.”
Fadlallah also took issue with anti-Islamic attitudes in the West, saying these prejudices resulted in a vicious circle associating religion with terrorism.
“Europeans have a negative view of Islam; they are against whatever is Islamic because they associate it with terrorism, backwardness and violence.”
He blamed this distortion on the cultural role of reductive orientalist scholars, the Crusades and the colonization of Islamic countries.
But Fadlallah suggested that Americans do not share the cultural baggage of their fellow Westerners in Europe. This difference, he said, explains the less-encumbered spread of Islam in the United States, where many Muslims have found an environment of relative tolerance.
Despite the absence of historically ingrained anti-Islamic attitudes in the United States, the Jewish lobby, he said, had succeeded in presenting both Muslims and Arabs as anti-Semitic fanatics.
Fadlallah blamed the Western media for much of the image-distorting propaganda against Islam, which has led to what he called Islamophobia in the West and around the world. Nevertheless, he identified gestures of religious tolerance by key Western leaders, such as US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as positive developments.
But the cleric said that these gestures were largely attempts to earn credibility in the Arab and Islamic world and deflect criticism of pro-Western allies in the region.
He added that Western governments continue to exploit racist attitudes to further their political goals. “They use the anti-Arab and anti-Islamic drives to make political gains and pressure immigrant communities and force them to accept the policies of assimilation,” he said.
In stark contrast to this reservoir of racism in the West stands the Arab world, Fadlallah said: “Islam has brought Arabs up in a tolerant way. It taught, instructed and ordered them to adopt a rather open, flexible and humane strategy for dealing with other people. This is pretty evident,” he said.
“As we go back in history, Arabs invited, welcomed and encouraged people of other religions whether Christians, Jews or Magis to be part of the social, cultural and economic matrix of Islam.”
Although he said racism was a thick boundary dividing people and nations, Fadlallah expressed hope in dialogue as a means toward human progress.
“As Muslims, we call for a comprehensive human approach toward mankind, regardless of race and religion.”
Shifting to environmental issues, Fadlallah praised a new trend in Islamic jurisprudence, which emphasizes the preservation of natural resources.
“As Islam prohibits any action which inflicts harm on people, the same applies to nature and its resources. It is haram to cause any damage to nature,” the scholar said.
Fadlallah himself has issued a number of influential fatwas on the environment, including a prohibition on littering and the burning of tires.
Nevertheless, Fadlallah placed responsibility for the protection of the environment on the governments of industrialized countries. He targeted the US government in particular, citing its abandonment of international efforts to reduce gas emissions worldwide. “The American attitude, which refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, is an aggression against nature and mankind.”
The Bush administration earlier this year removed the United States as a signatory of the treaty a move Fadlallah described as a blunt expression of “American greed.”
In Islamic teachings, the protection of nature and its resources are “disciplinary duties,” he said. Reversing the tide of environmental degradation, he said, required a cooperative effort from both civil society and the state.
Fadlallah also emphasized the necessity of educational campaigns to raise environmental awareness.
“The Third World and the underdeveloped countries are not aware of many environmental problems or the ways to solve them. They are busy paying attention to other things, (but) it is very important to spread a culture of awareness and respect for nature among them,” he said.

Copyright The Daily Star

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