Osama bin Laden
"Jihad Is an Individual Duty"The following is excerpted from the fatwa, or edict, of February 1998, issued by Osama bin Laden, whom U.S. National Security Advisor Samuel Berger calls the "most dangerous nonstate terrorist in the world." U.S. investigators have focused on Bin Laden as the most likely suspect behind the coordinated bombings of the U.S. Embassy buildings in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in August of 1998. At least 250 people --including 12 Americans -- and injured more than 5,000 in Nairobi. Ten people died in an almost simultaneous explosion at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam.
The best proof of this is the Americans' continuing aggression against the Iraqi people, using the peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless.
...These crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, his messenger and Muslims. And ulema [Muslim scholars] have throughout Islamic history unanimously agreed that the jihad [Holy War] is an individual duty if the enemy destroys the Muslim countries.
On that basis, and in compliance with God's order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims:
The ruling is to kill the Americans and their allies is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it, in order to liberate the Al Aqsa mosque [Jerusalem] and the Holy Mosque [Mecca]... This is in accordance with the words of Almighty God...
We call on every Muslim who believes in God and wished to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.
Two people help U.S. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell (middle) after
they were injured in the Nairobi Embassy bombing.
By Salam Al-Marayati
- - -
Salam Al-marayati Is Director
of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles
Hostility toward Islam is rising in light of speculation that Muslim groups comprise the main suspect list in the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings. Understanding the Islamic stand against terrorism is important in dealing with this potential backlash.
The Koran, the authoritative source of Islamic law, established that justice is the highest ethical value ordained by God and that harming innocent people for any end, political or otherwise, is an unjust act violating Koranic morality: "God enjoins justice and the doing of what is good and generosity toward one's fellow people, and he forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, in addition to aggression." The authenticated traditions of Prophet Muhammad, the second source of Islamic law, stipulated the limits in rules of engagement to combatants, disallowing the soldier from harming civilians or even plants and animals.
The devout Muslim adheres to these Islamic principles; cherishing life and respecting the lives of others, while those who deviate are anything but Islamic. Yet we are bombarded by messages of "Islamic terrorism" and "radical Islamic fundamentalism." Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam has no room for terrorism. And like Christianity and Judaism, Islam has followers who violate its code of ethics in its name. Because of the void of a clear American Muslim identity, one that is emerging in this fledgling community, stereotypes fill the vacuum.
Tagging terrorism with a religious label because culprits or suspects invoke Islam in their violent and mainly personal crusades against the U.S. government is troubling for the American public and for Muslims. In the case of the terrorist attacks in East Africa, the view that this disaster represents a religious conflict is wrong. Ironically, the bombers targeted Dar es Salaam--an Islamic name meaning House of Peace--and many Muslims were among the innocent civilian victims. Some of the rescue workers, such as Rizwan Khaliq who rushed U.S. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell to safety, were Muslim. Yet Islam is identified with the violent act and not with the victims or heroes of the tragedy.
Whoever planted the bombs had no regard for human life and did not act in accordance with any religion, even if they committed this atrocity in the name of religion. We make distinctions between Christianity and Christians who bomb abortion clinics or employ other methods of terrorism. We can measure Islam with the same yardstick.
When terrorism is prefaced with an Islamic adjective, we in America are bestowing on it the endorsement of a universal faith, inflating the prestige of terrorists. The world's 1 billion Muslims abhor violence and prefer to live in peace and security like any other community. The violent extremists, representing a fraction of this religious group, have caught the attention of the West with violence, gaining religious credibility because Islam's silent majority has no medium to articulate its perspectives.
Our inability to draw demarcations between fringe and mainstream, between populist and terrorist, between extremism and religious conviction, makes our struggle for nonviolence more difficult. In the case of the East Africa bombings and other violent acts, the criminals, not the religion, should be placed on trial.