The hopes of many were surely raised seeing a CNN.com headline on the 31st of January declaring: “Top Saudi religious authority condemns terrorists“. But upon further reading, I was disturbed to find that the Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Sheik was very selective in his condemnation.
This powerful Muslim leader – whose influence extends around the world through Saudi funded institutions and missionary activity – limited his prohibition to the killing of Muslims and those non-Muslims who have been “given sanctuary in Muslim lands”. Presumably he means by the latter those who are defined as dhimmis in Islamic law, in other words Christian and Jews who have submitted to the rule of Islam. Conspicuously absent from the Grand Mufti’s condemnation is the jihad killing of non-Muslims who have not submitted to the rule of Islam, that is to say the kufar or infidels. The Grand Mufti also exempted the possessions of non-Muslims from his injunction against the destruction of property.
Far from breaking new pacific ground in relations with non-Muslims, the Grand Mufti is apparently reiterating the precepts of traditional Islamic law which sanctions the jihad killing of non-Muslim infidels and the confiscation of their property as booty. The Grand Mufti’s threatening words are no comfort to the vast majority of people on this planet, who are non-Muslims living outside Islamic lands.
It would seem that the Grand Mufti’s declamations against the killing of non-Muslims is customarily qualified in this way. A VOA report, dated October 25, 2001, reports the Grand Mufti saying: “those who kill non-Muslims with whom Muslims have treaties [another formulation meaning dhimmis] will never see paradise.” The hidden side of this coin is “those who kill non-Muslims who are not protected by treaties with Muslims may indeed see paradise”.
Another AP report, with a dateline Mina, January 30,2004, confirms the extent to which CNN’s headline misrepresents the views of the Saudi religious establishment. Sheikh Salah al-Taleb is quoted offered the following public prayer before an assembly of 500,000 hajj pilgrims in Mecca’s Grand Mosque and nearby streets:
“Oh God, give victory to the mujahedeen (holy warriors) everywhere. Give them victory in Palestine. Oh God, make the Muslims triumphant and destroy their enemies, and make this country and other Muslim countries safe. Oh God, inflict your wrath on the criminal Zionists.”
Can it be in the public interest to obfuscate the position of influential Islamic leaders on the use of jihad violence against non-Muslims?