There cannot be any justification for killing innocents. As Manmohan Singh said: 'There is no cause, root or branch, that can justify the killing of innocent people.'
Many of the terrorists (not all), acting in the name of Islam, cite Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, and Afghanistan to justify the killing of anyone. They have lost their moral compass. For them anyone who does not agree with their point of view is an infidel and can be eliminated.
They are able to extract verses from the Quran to justify their acts. Not only that, they will issue fatwas even though they may not be having any legitimate authority to do so. Every now and then they will come out with a message rejoicing over terror acts and warning about some follow-up in barbarity. Their thoughts and even more their acts are completely despicable.
These misguided people have no value for traditional Islamic teachings. They do not care about scholarly interpretations by the major scholars of Islam. They do not care about the general verses of the Quran that condemn taking of innocent lives in the most vehement terms. They are almost blinded and they can only see with a skewed vision. And that is why they can only find those verses in the Quran that are contextual and they will bend it, twist it, degrade it and then act self-deceivingly.
There is one thing common between the terrorists and the staunchest of Islamic critics! Both ignore the major Islamic scholars and the major interpretations of the Quran regarding these 'contextual' verses. They decide to interpret it on their own ignoring the traditional interpretations.
There are many verses in the Quran that are contextual; that is they were revealed in a particular context. They were revealed during wars and they are not supposed to be of general nature. Definitely these are the verses that call upon the believers to fight strongly. If taken out of context they can appear to sanction violence and some Muslims are doing exactly that.
Traditionally Muslims are not allowed to interpret many such verses on their own but to rely on learned scholars to get their meaning. It is very much evident from the approach of the Muslim masses who do not 'Slay the pagans wherever you find them, seize them, beleaguer them, lie in wait for them with every stratagem.' (Quran 9:5).
It is true that the extremists today take out these very verses to feel 'righteous' and act 'righteously'. It is abhorrent to a true believer to attach such acts with the teachings of the Prophet who is called a 'Mercy to whole Mankind' and the message of the Quran.
Today, there are so many critical voices being heard which state that Islam advocates violence. Not all can be blamed. People judge by what they see. And today these terrorists speak in the name of Islam. They act violently in the name of Islam. And not many Muslim voices could be heard loudly (for whatever reasons) against these barbaric acts.
Killing of innocents cannot be justified. Period. But let us all agree to this principle irrespective of place, ethnic group, race or religion.
There is a new approach in some recent articles alleging that Muslims condemned the London bombings but added a root cause to it -- and thus in a way justifying those acts. As I wrote above, Muslim voices could not be heard loudly. The reasons are not merely that Muslims are not speaking. The reason is also how much coverage they get. Let us see a few cases.
On July 18, 500 Imams of various British mosques issued a fatwa condemning the London bombings as well as any other such terrorist act. There was no mention of any root cause in that fatwa. It was a condemnation of the terror in the strongest words.
On July 28, the Fiqh Council of North America issued a fatwa condemning terrorist acts. It has been endorsed by 173 organisations throughout North America. There was no mention of any root cause in the text.
On July 6 in Amman, 170 leading Islamic scholars and Imams from the eight major schools of Islam (both Sunni and Shia) from 40 countries got together and issued a fatwa. The fatwa forbade issuance and validity of any fatwa from obscure clerics justifying any act. It was clearly aimed at terrorists who justify their acts by issuing fatwas particularly in Iraq. There was no mention of any root cause.
These condemnations are just increasing but had never been absent. Various leading Muslims scholars and Imams have spoken out against terrorism without linking any root cause to it. Shaikh Hamza Yusuf, a leading theologian, called the 9/11 attackers as 'mass murderers, pure and simple.'
Islam does not sanction indiscriminate violence. But it is also a truth that today some Muslims are doing exactly that. That too in the name of Islam. The Prophet said 'Toward the latter days of indiscriminate violence, be like the first and better of the two sons of Adam who said, 'If you raise your hand to kill me, I will not raise mine to kill you; surely I fear God, the Lord of the worlds.'
At another place he said, 'Never desire to meet anyone in battle, but if ever forced to do so, be virtuous.' There is a clear saying of the Prophet that calls suicide to be the gravest of the sins. The terrorists as well as the staunchest critics of Islam completely ignore these.
Many analysts today are attributing all the violence to a violent streak in Islam. Some even suggest that the 'root causes' which Muslims mention is just their 'grievance complex.' To an extent it is true but nowhere entirely.
Many Muslims have been guilty of not speaking out or bothering about what happened in Darfur. Many are also guilty of being sympathetic towards a despot like Saddam Hussein who was responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands. Many are also guilty of not speaking out against the unjust acts of Muslims done against non-Muslims.
Still it does not justify many other long lasting issues that have been there which Muslims as well as many non-Muslims have been concerned with. Clubbing even legitimate issues as 'grievance complex' speaks rather about the callous attitude of many.
When many of us are speaking against terrorists we are doing exactly that. We are speaking against their modus operandi, their despicable thoughts and their follow-up acts. We do so because they stand against the basic dignity and sanity of humanity. But that does not de-legitimise the issues.
Now what I have written below do not classify it as a 'grievance complex' otherwise it will be now my turn to question the credibility and sincerity of that critic. I hope we agreed above that killing of innocents is wrong. So let us remain agreed. It is in no way a justification of the barbaric acts of terror. In no way! Still the issues exist and we cannot do an ostrich act. Instead they need to be looked into point blank.
'Collateral damage' is a nice term coined to justify a brutal act. It is a modern phenomenon coined to justify civilian killings. You say that you do not intend to kill civilians but still every one knows that civilians are bound to be killed when you go and bomb a city.
By a very conservative estimate at least 25,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq, somewhat liberal estimates putting it at 1,00,000. The truth is that most of them have been killed in carpet bombings. Those who say there is a difference in a terrorist act and this one need to get a course in humanities. You cannot justify in anyway the killing of so many civilians who are innocents. Call it 'collateral damage' or whatever.
In Chechnya in the last decade the Russian army has killed around 10 per cent of its population; civilians. It has displaced another 20 per cent. Its acts have turned a sizeable portion of the country into wasteland. That was the last decade. Its history is thus; in 1862, after 45 years of resistance independent Chechnya was forced by the Tsar to become a part of Russia.
They became independent in 1918 but were occupied again by the Russians in 1920. When resistance continued, in 1944 Stalin deported half of its population to Siberia and destroyed their living places.
When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1990, the Chechens demanded independence again. The problem continues to exist. Are those civilians killed at least in the last decade -- 10 per cent of the population -- not innocents? Is this all justified?
Due to irresponsible politics between the First and Second World War the state of Israel was carved out of Palestine. The indigenous Palestinians were later reduced to either second-class citizens or as refugees. More than a million refugees are staying in sub-human conditions out of their traditional homeland for the last forty years!
Their situation is something like -- my land has been occupied, if I fight back I am killed and on top of that I am called an aggressor. Palestinian children have often been killed just because they threw stones at Israeli tanks! Where is the justice involved in this? But something at last has started to change there!
If Muslims as well as many non-Muslims raise these issues why are some callously terming it as 'grievance complex'? When such wrongs take place they make the people who have to face it extremely angry. When they cannot find a just system in place they become extremely desperate.
Anger coupled with desperation is a dangerous idea. The imperative is that the global community takes notice of these injustices and settles them. At least an acknowledgement of these wrongs would assuage a lot of people and concrete actions would assuage most. I know only those of us will agree who are sincere and true to their heart and respect human dignity to wherever it belongs.
An innocent life taken is the same wherever it is taken unless we have an urge of racism. And to repeat as Manmohan Singh said: 'There is no cause, root or branch, that can justify the killing of innocent people'.
The writer is a project manager at a leading Indian software company. He is based in Houston, Texas. The views expressed are his own.