They are arguing this
TO KILL OR NOT TO KILL
By AMIR TAHERI
June 10, 2005 – AN obscure Arabic word is making a comeback from centuries of oblivion to dominate the debate about whom Muslims are allowed to kill in the service of political goals.
The debate has been triggered by the killing of large numbers of Muslims, including women and children, by Islamist insurgents in Iraq. Are such acts permissible? Judging by fatwas (religious opinions) and articles by Muslim theologians and commentators, the Islamic ummah (community) is divided on the issue.
Those who believe that killing innocent people, including Muslims, is justified in certain cases, base their opinion on the principle of tattarrus. The word, which originally meant “dressing up,” was first used as a religious term in the book “Al-Mustasfa” (“The Place of Purification”) by Abu-Hamed al-Ghazali (d.1127), to mean “using ordinary Muslims as human shields for Islamic combatants against infidel fighters.”
In the 13th century, the theologian Ibn Tayimiah wove a whole doctrine around the term to justify the killing of Muslims while combating Mongol invaders. By century’s end, however, the concept had fallen into disuse and a new consensus developed against the killing of noncombatants.
But in 1995 Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian mentor of Osama bin Laden, used the concept in his book “The Rule for Suicide-Martyr Operations.” Arguing that the ends justify the means, al-Zawahiri insisted that the killing of Muslims, including women and children, was not a sinful act provided the combatants were fighting “the enemies of Islam.”
More recently, that view has been endorsed by Yussuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian sheik working in Qatar. Initially, al-Qaradawi had ruled that only three categories of unarmed individuals could be killed: apostates, who have turned their back to Islam; homosexuals, who “dirty” the pure society — and Israelis, including unborn children, who could grow up to join the Jewish army.
Now, however, al-Qaradawi has expanded his doctrine to allow for the killing of innocent Muslims in Iraq. His argument is stark: What matters is the broader interest of the Islamic ummah which could, under certain circumstances, necessitate operations in which Muslim civilians lose their lives.
That position is supported by several Saudi theologians, including Hammoud al-Uqalla, Ali al-Khudhair, Nasser al-Fahd, Ahmad al-Khalidi and Safar al-Hawali. Their argument is that the broader interest of the ummah requires the expulsion of the U.S.-led forces from Iraq and that the killing of innocent Iraqis in whatever numbers is of no concern to the combatants, whose place in paradise is assured.
Other Saudi theologians, including Abu-Muhammad al-Maqdasi and Abu-Basir al-Tartussi, go further and apply tattarrus to situations where no “infidel” troops are present. Thus they justify the killing of innocent Muslim Saudis in Saudi Arabia because, they claim, such actions could lead to the establishment of a “truly Islamic regime.”
The starkest defense of tattarrus in its new sense has come from Abu-Musaab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda mastermind in Iraq. “Islam establishes a hierarchy of values in all domains,” he wrote in a recent missive posted on Islamist Web sites. “In [that hierarchy], protecting the faith is more important than protecting the self. Killing the mutumarresoun * is necessary to prevent the faith of the infidel from striking root [in the land of Islam].”
The only point of dispute among supporters of tattarrus is related to procedural matters. Can Islamic combatants decide whom to kill and when or should they obtain a fatwa in every single case?
Showabel al-Zahrani, a Saudi militant and author of “Views of Theologians Concerning the Rules of Raids and Tattarrus” claims that what is needed is a “flexible understanding” of the concept. “To demand that a combatant get all his operations approved by a theologian in advance is a demand for inaction,” he writes. “The better rule is to allow the combatant to do as he sees fit and have his actions approved afterwards.”
Zarqawi, too, says there is no need for fatwas in each case: A fatwa issued by bin Laden in 1999 authorizing the killing of “enemies of Islam” is sufficient. It is up to the muqatelin (combatants) to decide who is an enemy of Islam.
Abu-Unus al-Shami, an insurgent leader killed in Baghdad last September, held a similar position. His claim was that the insurgents in Iraq had “permanent authority” to kill whomever they thought was necessary in order to “re-conquer Iraq for Islam.”
Abu-Hufus al-Masri, the mastermind of the 2004 Madrid massacre, also claimed that the combatants had had the authority to decide when and where and against whom to strike: “We are at war against the infidel and its apostate allies,” he wrote. “And in a war he who fights has the authority to decide what action is best, leaving the final judgment to The Most High.”*