Ayman Gomaa of Al Akhbar in Cairo writes in the Sunday Herald that hostage-taking is against Islamic law:
Moderate Muslims are united in believing that the taking and killing of hostages is forbidden by the teachings of Islam.
Almost 150 foreigners have been seized in Iraq since April, in the name of Islam and under the pretext of a jihad (holy war) against infidels.
But the majority in the Islamic world describes such operations as a “grave crime which contradicts Islam and its teachings”. In fact, such teachings also forbid Muslims to kill unarmed soldiers in wartime.
Some radical Muslim clerics have scoured Islam’s sacred texts for justifications of violence and found them, but they remain a small yet very vocal minority within Islam. Safwat Hegazy, one of the most popular sheikhs in the Arab world, says: “˜”˜Prior to the rise of this minority no-one ever spoke about the taking and maltreatment of hostages.
“˜”˜Unfortunately, some of the western media rarely give a balanced presentation of Islamic thought; they tend to over-emphasise the extreme radical fundamentalist element and largely ignore moderates within Islam.
“It should be clear that Islam maintains the protection of life and does not sanction any violation against it, irrespective of the people’s religion, race or sect.–
All right. I would be very happy if this were true, but I have to ask: if it is only an “extreme radical fundamentalist element” that believes this, why does it show up in Islamic legal manuals? Why does Al-Azhar University, the most respected institution in Sunni Islam, endorse ‘Umdat al-Salik, a manual of Islamic law that says this: “When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled” (o9.13)? If the capture of non-combatants is forbidden by Islam, are we to believe that these captured women and children were acting as soldiers? If the vast majority of Muslims reject this sort of thing, why does Al-Azhar say that ‘Umdat al-Salik “conforms to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community (ahl al-Sunna wa al-Juma’a)”?
If the killing of these hostages is likewise forbidden, why does the same manual stipulate that prisoners can be killed, exchanged for ransom (why exchanged for ransom, if they are not hostages?), enslaved, or released, depending on what is best for the Muslim community (o9.14)?
If a kafir person (non-believer) goes in a Muslim country, he is like a cow. Anybody can take him. That is the Islamic law. …If a kafir is walking by and you catch him, he’s booty. You can sell him in the market. Most of them are spies. And even if they don’t do anything, if Muslims cannot take them and sell them in the market, you just kill them. It’s OK….I say the reality that’s in the Muslim books anyway. Whether I say it or not, it’s in the books.
Do you think that Hamza will believe Gomaa’s assertion that it’s not in the books, and stop all his preaching and plotting of violence?
Later on in the article Gomaa quotes that great moderate, Qaradawi, who has endorsed suicide attacks:
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a popular religious leader, has begged the hostage-takers to release Bigley, “whose only fault is having come to Iraq to help rebuild and restore the development”.
Then another Sheikh adds a final canard:
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Canada, said: “How unjust it would be to say that Christianity is a religion that teaches violence and bloodshed, by looking at the historical performance of some so-called Christians.”
Oh, Kutty. Please show me anywhere in any Christian authority anything like the statements I quoted from ‘Umdat al-Salik above, and I will grant you your point. The absence of such teachings in Christianity is precisely why your point is far from valid, although it is endlessly repeated.