Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University in Cairo and one of the foremost authorities in Sunni Islam, has condemned the killings of Russian children by the Chechen jihadists. He said that the mujahedin were “criminals, not Muslims.” From AlJazeera.net, with thanks to Uncle Jeff:
“What is the guilt of those children? Why should they be responsible for your conflict with the government,” Tantawi said during a Friday sermon as he addressed the hostage-takers.
“You are taking Islam as cover and it is a deceptive cover, those who carry out the kidnappings are criminals, not Muslims,” he said.
All this sounds great, until one realizes that for Tantawi it’s all about context. From MEMRI:
Interviewer: “Will you issue a fatwa about the resistance and especially what is happening in Iraq?”
Sheik Tantawi: “I was very clear: Anyone defending his right, his land, his money, and his religion and gets killed is a martyr. Anyone who blows himself up amongst the enemy that wants to kill him and he can find no means of defending himself except blowing himself up amongst these soldiers who are occupying his land and destroying his home, and so he blows himself up amongst these aggressive soldiers, is a Shahid, Shahid, Shahid.”
Tantawi has also justified suicide bombings in Israel, with a caveat:
The actions of martyrdom undertaken by the Palestinians are in self-defence and are a sort of martyrdom as long as they are intended to kill fighters, not women and children.
Others, however, go farther — and if they can do it regarding Israel, why not Russia?
Al-Ahram columnist Fahmi Howeidy goes even further. He sees every Israeli as a legitimate target. “Every Israeli in Palestine is usurping something, including the air they breathe,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly. According to him, there are no civilians in Israel. “They are either conscripts waiting to be drafted, or reserve soldiers on vacation,” he said.
Gee, Fahmi, even the little kids?
This is a widespread view. Samir Qantar, who murdered a four-year-old Israeli girl, her father, and a policeman in a notorious 1979 raid, has said: “In our opinion there are no civilians in Israel.” In Onward Muslim Soldiers I quote Muammar Qaddafi’s son, Seyf-al-Islam (that means Sword of Islam, jimmychang, wherever you are) Qaddafi, saying the same thing: “There are no civilians in Israel.”
So if Tantawi really wants to condemn these Chechen jihadists definitively, and rule out their behavior as un-Islamic, he needs not just to say that their behavior falls outside Islamic norms, but specifically to condemn the justification used by Muslims who support this sort of thing: the idea that under certain circumstances, women and children can be considered combatants.
This idea, of course, is founded upon Islamic law, which prohibits the killing of women and children “unless they are fighting against the Muslims” (‘Umdat al-Salik o9.10, cf. al-Mawardi, al-Akham as-Sultaniyyah, 4.2). Let’s see Tantawi condemn Mawardi.