The Christian Science Monitor reports today on a strange phenomenon: the increase in the number of terror attacks since the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.
Why would any Muslim devote his energy to killing people during a period when he should be spending his time increasing his religious fervor? Precisely because jihad is, in the classic Muslim view, an act of piety. This comes out several times in the article:
“Ramadan is a month of commitment and renewal to their faith and also to their cause, whether by military or nonmilitary jihad,” says Prof. Nizar Hamzeh, a specialist on political Islam at the American University of Beirut. “It is a month of martyrdom and commitment to one’s Islamic ideology.”
Throughout Islamic history, Ramadan has been seen as a time of victory for Muslim armies – and a period when those who are martyred have a greater assurance of a place in paradise.”
. . . Similarly, Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah reminded Muslims that Ramadan is a time for good deeds. And the kingdom’s highest religious authority told citizens to avoid violence. “Seeking to disturb security or subject Muslim countries to instability is forbidden, and a Muslim must not seek to do so,” Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh said this week.
What about non-Muslim countries?
Sheikh Maher Hammoud, a prominent Sunni cleric in Sidon, in south Lebanon, says that Ramadan is perceived by all Muslims as “the month of jihad.” “It is not the Islamic way to bomb places like the Red Cross or Iraqi police. But in principle, Ramadan is a blessed month and known as a month for jihad.”
But he adds that Muslims have different interpretations of what constitutes legitimate jihad. “For example, shooting an Israeli soldier will be viewed by moderate Muslims as falling under the title of jihad,” Sheikh Hammoud says. “But blowing up a cafe in Tel Aviv may not be viewed by moderate Muslims as jihad. Attacks on military targets are legitimate, according to moderates, but anything against civilians is not.”
These “moderates,” then, evidently dissent from traditional Islamic legal rulings that sanction the killing of non-combatants who are viewed as in some way aiding the war effort.
Hammoud says occupation should be met with resistance. “So in Iraq, shooting a US soldier on Iraqi soil might be seen as jihad,” he says, “but shooting an American worker, businessman, or journalist – anything other than military – is not jihad. For the most part, I agree with that.”
“For the most part?” Those four words from this learned cleric are another illustration of the prevalence of supposedly “extreme,” “non-mainstream” ideas in the Islamic world.