A few weeks after we definitively established here that beheading of hostages is perfectly permissible under Islamic law, Amir Taheri adds that most Islamic teachers today are saying so too — or when they don’t, they only denounce beheading on political, not religious grounds. From OpinionJournal:
Who are we allowed to seize as hostage? Who are we allowed to kill?
For the past few weeks these questions have prompted much debate throughout the Muslim world. The emerging answer to both questions is: Anyone you like!
Triggered by the atrocity at a school in Beslan, in southern Russia, last month, the debate has been further fueled by kidnappings and “exhibition killings” in Iraq. Non-Muslims may find it strange that such practices are debated rather than condemned as despicable crimes. But the fact is that the seizure of hostages and “exhibition killing” go back to the early stages of Islamic history.
In the Arabia of the seventh century, where Islam was born, seizing hostages was practiced by rival tribes, and “exhibition killing” was a weapon of psychological war. The Prophet codified those practices, ending freelance kidnappings and head-chopping. One principle of the new code was that Muslims could not be held hostage by Muslims. Nor could Muslims be subjected to “exhibition killing.” Such methods were to be used solely against non-Muslims, and then only in the context of armed conflict.
Seized in combat, a non-Muslim would be treated as a war prisoner, and could win freedom by converting to Islam. He could also be ransomed or exchanged against a Muslim prisoner of war. Non-Muslim women and children captured in war would become the property of their Muslim captors. Female captives could be taken as concubines or given as gifts to Muslims. The children, brought up as Muslims, would enjoy Islamic rights.
He could also be killed. Islamic law outlined four options: the prisoner could be enslaved, ransomed, freed outright, or killed.
Centuries later, the initial code was elaborated by Imam Jaafar Sadeq, a descendant of the Prophet. He made two key rulings. Whoever entered Islam was instantly granted “full guarantee for his blood.” And non-Muslims, as long as they paid their poll tax, or jiziyah, to the Islamic authority would be protected.
He didn’t originate this. This goes all the way back to Qur’an 9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”
Recalling this background is important because what we witness in the Muslim world today is disregard of religious tradition in favor of political considerations.
Yes, but this sentence can easily be misread. Most will probably assume that the radical Muslims are discarding the religious tradition in carrying out these killings. Not so: it is the “moderates” who condemn the killings who are departing from the religious tradition:
A survey of Muslim views over the past weeks shows overwhelming, though not unanimous, condemnation of the Beslan massacre. But in all cases the reasons given for the condemnation are political rather than religious. Muslim commentators assert that Russia, having supported “the Palestinian cause,” did not deserve such treatment.
Sheik Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Sunni Muslim scholar based in Qatar, was among the first to condemn the Beslan massacre. At the same time, however, he insists that a similar attack on Israeli schools would be justified because Israeli schoolchildren, if not killed, could grow up to become soldiers. (Sheik Qaradawi also justifies the killing of unborn Israelis because, if born, they could become soldiers.)…
Yet even more disturbing is the attitude of Muslim organizations in France and Britain. Both have sent delegations to Iraq to contact the terrorists and ask for the liberation of two French, and one British, hostages. The French delegation, led by Mohamed Bechari, went out of its way to advertise France’s “heroic opposition” to the Iraq war in 2003. “I am here to defend France’s Arab policy,” Mr. Bechari told reporters. “In Iraq as well as in Palestine, France is for the Arabs.”
The two British Muslim delegates made their case in a different way by arguing that, although Britain participated in toppling Saddam Hussein, a majority of the British were opposed to the war. Thus British hostage Ken Bigley should be released not because hostage-taking is wrong but because such a move could strengthen anti-war sentiment in Britain.
By refusing to come out with a categorical rejection of terrorism, Muslim leaders and opinion-makers are helping perpetuate a situation in which no one is safe. The 9/11 attacks against the United States were based on the claim, made by al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, that all citizens of democratic countries could be murdered because, being actual or potential voters, they have a share of responsibility for the policies of their governments.