Saturday, February 23, 2008

Palestinian Women and Children in the Throes of Islamikaze Terrorism Part I

by Raphael Israeli





Palestinian clerics and leaders have, of long date, and often with the support of radical and establishment clerics and columnists from other Arab countries, lent their support to Islamikaze, or what is popularly called "suicide bombing". That development has made room for the ever widening circle of participants in those horrific bombings: first, avowedly non-Islamist organizations, such as the Tanzim, the Aqsa Brigades and the Force 17 troops, began taking part in those attacks, in the process claiming for themselves the "benefits" in Paradise which accrue to the martyrs; then women joined in, against the established tradition of Muslim women participating in active hostilities and exposing themselves to "indecency"; and finally with children throwing in their lot, with the encouragement of their elders, among the Palestinians and elsewhere in the Islamic world.



Even prior to 11 September, and certainly much more so thereafter, Muslim clerics such as radical Sheikh Qaradhawi, the Egyptian exile in Qatar; the Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, Muhammed Tantawi, who is considered the highest authority to deliver Muslim verdicts; Sheikh 'Akrama Sabri, the hand-picked Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, and many others who took up residence in the West, such as sheikhs  al-Bakri and al-Masri, Muslim-Arab radicals pursued by the justice systems in their countries, who received political asylum in Britain and settled in London, pronounced themselves in favor of the Islamikaze killings for the sake of Islam, especially against Israelis.[1] Tantawi is perhaps the most duplicitous among them, for unlike others, who have been either clearly for (and this is the majority of those who articulated their thinking) or emphatically against, such as Sheikh al-Ansari from Qatar, Tantawi has both attended the  Alexandria Inter-faith Conference in early 2002, where those acts of terror were denounced, but then his position has constantly eroded. He came first to justify  the Wafa Idris act of terror, the first perpetrated by a Palestinian woman (in Jerusalem in early 2002), and then accepted in fact the indiscriminate attacks against civilians as legal. His position is particularly sensitive because while he responds to the Egyptian establishment and has to toe the official anti-terrorist line espoused by his government which appointed him, he is also in a responsible and prestigious enough location to heed the popular resentment of the masses against the US and Israel.

The involvement of women, first as victims of terror and then as its progenitors, was brought up by Syrian-born Sheikh 'Umar al-Bakri, who took refuge in London , advocated at some point that "all homosexuals there ought to throw themselves down from the Big Ben"[2], called the British MP's "monkeys"[3], and vowed that the flag of Islam would "fly high on Downing Street 10 and at the Elysee"[4]. He justified and defended the 11 September New York and Washington horrors, which for him came as a "compensation for the atrocities the US had committed against Islam", and exhorted Muslims to unite and fight, sacrifice themselves and their wealth in order to gain access to Paradise and to make the difference between "truth and falsehood, Belief and heresy, oppressors and oppressed, the alliance of Satan against the Alliance of Allah"[5]. After the American attack against Afghanistan was launched, he issued a fatwa against Pakistani President Musharraf and other Muslim leaders who let their territory be used by Americans against a fellow Muslim state. In that verdict, for what it is worth, he raised, inter alia, many aspects of the status of women in Islam and in general, in the context of what we call terrorism and he insists on dubbing  Jihad. For him, the Muslims who collaborated with the US, were murtaddun (apostates), if "at all they were Muslims to start with", and since they are involved in the war against Muslims, the sentence of murtadd harbi (an apostate who should be fought) applies to them, to wit :

1.      His blood becomes permissible and he must be killed;

2.      His marriage becomes invalid, as does his guardianship of his children and relatives[6];

3.      His property is permissible and he will no be able to bequeath it;

4.      He cannot be buried in a Muslim cemetery;

5.      He must be treated with animosity and hatred…;

6.      There is no difference between a man and a woman… The blood of a woman who is a heretic harbiyya is permissible, even if her fighting is limited to singing… Thus acted the Prophet against the fighting women of the Quraysh tribe. He permitted their blood and ordered them killed, although he generally  prohibited killing women[7].


This verdict, which allowed the killing of Muslim women under certain circumstances, appeared under the emblem of "The Shari'a Court of the United Kingdom", and was signed jointly by al-Bakri himself, under his title of "Shari'a Court Judge in London", and Muhammed al-Musa'ari, the Secretary General of the Committee  for Protection of Legitimate Rights in Saudi Arabia, which lends to it authority and respectability. Its English version, however, was slightly different and signed by "Muslim Jurists from Syria, Lebanon, Kuweit, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom", with the names of the original two signatories, Bakri and Musa'ari, appearing at the bottom, with their phone numbers for further inquiries. In this version, the Qur'anic verse was added which threatened that "the punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and strive to make mischief in the land, is only this – that they should be murdered or crucified, or their hands and feet should be cut-off  on opposing sides, or they should be imprisoned"[8]. And the section about the women of Quraysh who were killed by the Prophet, was replaced by a paragraph that reads :"Therefore we ask Muslims with the capability, especially the armies of Muslim countries, to move quickly and to capture those apostates and criminals involved in these crimes, especially the ruler of Pakistan [President Musharraf], King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and  [President] Rabbani of Afghanistan".[9]

The exposure of women to harrowing physical mutilation, on authority of the precedent set by the Prophet, though it was concealed in the English version, where women were omitted from those horrors, together with the determination to dissolve marriages of "apostate" men, naturally had an impact on the developing debate on the active participation of Muslim women (and by extension also children),  in the Islamikaze attacks as actors, or on suffering the consequences thereof as passive spectators. For once the taboo was lifted on involving women (and children) in the course of Muslim violence during this brand of Jihad, or in the hardships that resulted therefrom, no obstacles could be envisaged any longer for including them in that struggle. Here, we shall focus on Palestinian women and children, because their people, who have been engaged in a murderous battle against Israel, have become the chief model of Islamikaze in the Muslim world. The Palestinians have  emerged in effect, not only as the most active agents  in the implementation of the idea, but have also widened the circle of the participants beyond the few self-sacrificing radicals, into a legitimate and all-encompassing national form of struggle, in which women and children have taken the initiative, or were led, to partake. Unlike  al-Bakri and al-Masri's fantasies where they articulate their wishful thinking to confront the world, bring down the West, kindle a world Islamic revolution and subvert their western countries of exile from within, Palestinian clerics are unified by the theme of what they perceive as a concrete, daily and all-pervasive national struggle to which they are pushed to provide theological responses. And once they sanctified Islamikaze as a legitimate form of struggle, indeed encouraged it, they could not exclude women and children from it, nor refute them when they pressed for participation. Other Muslim clerics were also dragged into the debate, but let us first focus on the Palestinian clerics' stated positions on Islamikaze, which by necessity generated the inclusion, first of individuals who did not belong to the Islamists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but were members of the avowedly "secular" Fatah and Aqsa Brigades,  followed by women and then children, in those horrendous acts of terror.



The Role of Palestinian Doctors of the Holy Law


A pertinent place to start would be the Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh 'Akrama Sabri, who was appointed by Arafat (not by the Hamas or some other fanatic group). Just one week prior to the disastrous act of Islamikaze against the discotheque in Tel-Aviv, where 21 teenagers who were making merry were blown to pieces, in early June 2001, and as a sinister prophecy of things to come, he delivered a Friday sermon in the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. By legitimizing and even praising the killing of Israeli children, just as the killing of women in general was justified by Bakri, both Muslim Women and children would now become potential casualties for the sake of Islam. Sabri first praised the Islamikaze martyrs in general, criticized the Saudi Mufti who had prohibited these acts (in the meantime the said Mufti qualified his prohibition), and demanded that the Americans release the four Muslims who were convicted for the first attempt to blow up the Twin Towers in 1993. Then came the text of his sermon:

Oh Muslims!! Let me begin my sermon with a quote from the words of the Prophet's Companion… in a speech to his army before the battle of Mu'tah[10], where he said : Oh people, I swear by Allah that the thing you hate [meaning death] is what you are going out to seek today-, namely the shahada (martyrdom)…

 with a large army nor with force. We are fighting only with this religion of Islam with which we have been blessed by Allah. So, attack and you will gain one of two blessings: either victory or martyrdom. In the eighth [sic,  ought to be seventh) Century, the Muslim army consisted of 3000 fighters while the Romans [sic, ought to be Byzantines], had 100,000… Nevertheless the Muslim commanders decided to go into the battle…

Oh Muslims ! The first Commander of the Muslim Army sacrificed his life in Mu'tah…, so the command was taken over by another Companion until his right-hand palm was cut-off. He passed the banner to his left hand until that was severed too, so he continued to hold the banner with the two stumps of his severed hands until he was struck down…His body was cut in two, in his body there were 50 stabbings, but none of them entered in his back because he did not retreat… That is the nature of Believers who do not retreat at the time of assault. I am asking: was his breaking into the ranks of the enemy called "suicide"? No !! Allah Forbid!! That was martyrdom for the sake of Allah ! The Prophet then named him ja'far (the Flyer), because Allah granted him two wings when he reached Paradise, in place of his two hands lost in combat. He persisted in attacking the enemy until he attained martyrdom…We say this to those who think it is an act of "suicide"…Be careful with your rulings[11]

[Finally, after the pool of commanders was depleted], came along Khalid Ibn al-Walid [later a famous fighter in the conquests of Islam], fought fiercely and devised a brilliant plan for withdrawal, sustaining only minimal casualties. … Before the Prophet sent the army to Mu'tah he gave instructions not to kill innocent people, women or children, not to uproot a tree of destroy a house. This is our great Islamic religion. It encourages good ethics and high morale in peace and in war… On the other hand, our enemies destroy houses, kill children…and uproot trees. They prevent pregnant women from reaching hospitals…They use airplanes against defenseless civilians. Yes, they are occupiers and do not deserve any sovereignty.

We tell them that as much as you love life, the Muslim loves death and martyrdom. There is a great difference between he who loves the hereafter and he who loves this world. The Muslim loves death and strives for martyrdom. He does not fear the oppression of the arrogant or the weapons of the blood-letters. The blessed and sacred soil of Palestine has vomited all the invaders and all the colonialists throughout history, and it will soon vomit, with Allah's help, the present occupiers.[12]


This statement of the preference for death over life, citing the precedents of the Companions of the Prophet, not only sanctifies martyrdom and posits is as an ideal in itself, and not only as a necessity, but pushes Muslims to fight against all odds, even when they are certain to die, as it posits martyrdom as a worthy alternative to victory. What is interesting is that the venerable Sheikh skips over the logic of his own sermon by:

a.       Bringing up the precedents of the Prophet who spared the lives of the innocent, but at the same time pushing young people to die amidst indiscriminate killing, which is in the nature of Islamikaze attacks, where the maximization of civilian casualties is an ideal; and

b.      While he unremittingly praised the martyrs, who fought against all odds, he also lauded the brilliant act of withdrawal of Kahlid ibn al-Walid, which is exactly the reverse of martyrdom, namely the admission of the vanity of sacrifice in the face of reality, and the praiseworthy abandonment of it and the election of life over death.


If this was the official Palestinian attitude prior to September 11, how much more so subsequent to it, when the escalation of the Palestinian Intifadah and the total mobilization of the Palestinian people against Israel produced a stepped up resort to Islamikaze acts on a scale, with a frequency and  continuity, and with a zealotry and rage, never experienced before by Muslims anywhere, and  deserving of the comparison with the Japanese Kamikaze at the end of the Pacific War. But there was a difference: while the kamikaze aimed at military targets in order  to destroy the American fleet in the Pacific,  the Palestinian Islamikaze aim primarily at Israeli civilian targets in order to maximize casualties, terror, disarray  and demoralization among them, something akin to what the perpetrators of the Twin Tower horror had devised against the US. True, at first, Yasser Arafat tried to appear as negating acts of Islamikaze that the world had rejected with disgust after the New York disaster, and he declared his siding with the war against terrorism. His troops even killed three jubilating Hamas youth, who could not hide their delight at the sight of  terror-stricken America. But soon thereafter, not only the Hamas escalated their war of terror through martyrdom against Israel, but they were joined by Arafat's own forces, the Aqsa Brigades, Force 17 and the Tanzim. In fact, the Fatah, Arafat's movement within the PLO, embraced the Hamas concept that martyrdom operations had achieved a kind of balance of deterrence for the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israel., and they were in fact an "act of self-defense" against what they saw as "Israel's aggression[13]. Consequently, there was an intensification of the incitement to more Islamikaze attacks by Imams throughout the Palestinian Authority. Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, who incidentally doubles up as a lecturer in ecology at the local Aqsa University in Gaza, delivered a clear message to his Palestinian audience on a Friday service at a mosque in Gaza:

…We are convinced of the victory of Allah, we are convinced that one of these days we shall enter Jerusalem as conquerors, and to Jaffa, Haifa, Ramla… and all Palestine as conquerors…All those who did not gain martyrdom yet will wake up in the middle of the night and say : " My God! Why did you deprive me of martyrdom, for the shahid lives by Allah Our enemies now suffer more than we do, because we know that our dead go to Paradise while the Jewish dead go directly to Hell and to their cruel lot.…This is the reason for our steadfastness, out of obedience to Allah… The Jews are expecting their false Messiah, but we are waiting for our Mahdi and for Jesus, Blessed be He …He will kill with his own hands the Jewish false Messiah, in Lydda, Palestine. Palestine will then be, as in the past, the cemetery for the invaders, as it had been for the Tatar, Crusader and the old and new colonialist invaders…

A Hadith says that "The Jews will fight you, but you shall dominate them".  What could be more beautiful than this tradition? It will be Allah who would put the Muslim in a position of dominance over the Jew…until the Jew hides behind the rock and the tree. But the rock and the tree will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah!, a Jew hides behind me, come and kill him!' Except for the Gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews"… We believe in this hadith, we are also convinced that this hadith heralds the spread of Islam and its rule all over the land…

Oh beloved, look to the east of the earth, and you will find Japan and the Ocean. Be assured that these will be owned by the Muslim nation as the hadith says " from the Ocean to the Ocean"…

Oh Allah, accept our martyrs in the highest Heavens…

Oh Allah, show the Jews a black day…

Oh Allah, annihilate the Jews and their supporters…

Oh Allah, raise the flag of Jihad across the land

Oh Allah, forgive our sins…[14]


This incessant self-aggrandizement of the Muslims as the future rulers of the entire universe on the one hand, and the incitement for action and glorification of death, which have seeped down to all the crevices of the grassroots of Palestinian society on the other, impel the Palestinian populace to identify instinctively with their martyrs  and eo ipso to encourage more sacrifices among them. Thus, when visitors come to the homes of the martyrs to greet (not to bring condolences) to the "delighted" (not bereaved) families of the Islamikaze, the mothers declare to the gatherings that are well publicized in the official press and television, their vow to send in the rest of the boys too, some present some yet to be born, into Jihad and  acts of Iskamikaze.  Children from kindergarten age on, also appear on Palestinian television during their regular "educational" activities, brandishing weapons and vowing, with visible excitement and joy over something they ill-comprehend, their desire to be martyrs. The constant nurturing of the flames of the Intifadah by this never-ending, ever growing, enthusiasm for Jihad and martyrdom, which they say is well rooted in Islamic history, is the most revolutionary and lasting contribution of the Palestinian leadership, clerical and political, to the idea of the Palestinian struggle. So much so, that when Arafat was confined to his office by the Israeli siege around and in Ramallah in April 2002, his most cited declaration to the press was that he aspired to become a shahid (martyr) himself, among the million martyrs that he envisaged marching on Jerusalem.



[1] . See e.g. al-Jazeera Televison (Qatar), 16 September, 2001; Memri 227, 26 September,2001 , 4 April 2002; Memri 363, 7 April, 2002; Ak-Quds al'Arabi  (london),. 21 July, 2001.

[2] . The Times, 9 September, 1996; and The Guardian,  9 September, 1996.

[4] Le Monde, 9 September, 1998.

[5] .Agence France Press (Paris), 14 September, 2001.

[6] .Even in relatively moderate Egypt, whose regime is one of the closest to America in the Muslim world, a case became cause celebre recently, when an outspoken woman writer, Nawwal Sa'dawi, who criticized the Hajj to Mecca as an act of paganism, was declared heretic by Islamists, and her husband was ordered to divorce her. Previously, an academic from Cairo University, Dr Nasir Hamid abu-Zeid, who had been equally accused of heresy, was ordered to divorce his spouse and created a worldwide outrage. He exiled himself to the West rather than submit. For this note, I am indebted to my colleague, Dr Rivka Yadlin.

[7] .

[8] . Sura 5:33

[9] . See ftn. 8.

[10] .In the year of AD 629, after the reoccupation of Syria by the Byzantines, the Prophet sent  a 3,000 men expedition to Mut'ah in southern Syria which made a show of force there. For the general context, see Marshall Hodgson, The Venture of Islam,  Vol. I, University of Chicago, 1974, p. 194.

[11] . Reference is made, obviously, to the Saudi Mufti mentioned above, before retracting his fatwa by qualifying it very heavily.

[12] . Memri No. 226, 8 June 2001.

[13] .See the Announcement released by the Hamas,  commenting on Arafat 's speech of 17 December, 2001 which pledged to close the Hamas down  and put an end to terrorism.

[14] .Palestinian Authority Television, 12 April, 2002. Memri, 17 April, 2002.

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