By Prince Turki al-Faisal & Lord Carey
What makes a man take his own life and the lives of dozens of innocent people: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters—the heroes and heroines of everyday life? We should be clear upon one thing which is that it has nothing to do with any faith.
Good people of all faiths, or of none, are united in seeing the London bombings as a terrible act against humanity. Not to see this is to be inhuman. There is no faith that condones the taking of innocent life and that celebrates suicide. The killing of innocent people is prohibited by all faiths. ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is one of the 10 commandments passed down to us all from the Prophet Moses in the Holy Bible. ‘Whoever kills a person has killed the whole of humanity,’ says one of the best-known Koranic verses.
Suicide is a sign of an individual’s alienation from God and their alienation from the human family to which we all belong. This shared human bond, on which we are all so widely and clearly agreed is a bond that can transcend other divisions. Our deeply shared humanity unites us.
We serve as co-chair of the Council of One Hundred of the World Economic Forum. In this we are committed to building bridges and to overcoming divides. One of us has served as Christian leader in the Britain and the other as a Muslim diplomat, but we share a common goal, which is to build a vehicle and a dialogue that can address this great challenge of our time.
We do this in the belief that it is possible to construct a world built upon cooperation and harmony sustained by meaningful dialogue. We reject the inevitability of a ‘Clash of Civilizations’. We do not accept the concept of ‘Islam versus Christianity’, or of ‘the West versus Islam’. Differences are real and need to be acknowledged, but the bonds of common humanity, of common values, and of our being citizens together of one world are stronger. Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all Abrahamic faiths with the same core values.
Yet facts must be faced. There are those among our human family who are committing these deeds of horror and devastation and who do not see how evil and terrible they are. They claim to be faithful to Islam and faithful to God but they are not. This is not Islam and these acts are absolutely not the will of God. Their twisted vision is alien to the healthy body of the faith that holds the world’s Muslim community together. It is a wicked perversion of the common values of faith.
The misappropriation of religious labels for violent ends is not a new problem, as past conflicts and experiences in Northern Ireland have made clear, but it is a very urgent one. Politicisation of any faith can be extremely dangerous. In the Middle East, the separation between politics and religion has, by some, been confused, and it is a highly volatile and dangerous confusion that must end. The fact that the laws of Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, are Islamic laws and that their governance is guided by Islam, does not mean and never has meant that Islam can legitimately be used as a political tool.
Imams and teachers who have used Islam to bolster and preach their political beliefs have done so by perverting traditional Islamic texts. Declaring fatwas permitting suicide
bombings goes against everything at the heart of Islam. These so-called Muslim scholars must be and are condemned. They are violating the most dearly held principles of Islam. The terrorists who have been led to kill themselves are the victims of bad teaching, resulting from this twisted ideology subjecting religion to political ends.
Al Qaeda is not and never has been an Islamic force. The vast majority of imams in the Muslim world both since and well before 9/11 have consistently and widely condemned suicide bombings in particular and terrorism in general.
The West does need to understand that while some Islamic scholars, within Saudi Arabia and in the wider world, may seek to follow a path that goes back to a fundamental view of Islam and may wish to lead a more conservative life, they do not accept suicide bombings or the taking of innocent human life. No one can do this and be a true Muslim.
What then must be done? The Islamic world needs to acknowledge the cancer within its own community and to root it out. Muslim scholars must come out loudly and strongly against suicidal bombing regardless of where, when and why they have happened. We must undertake a global act of collective self-examination.
In Islamic terms this is a project of muhasaba, a quest for the authentic Muslim voice that can dissolve the dark forces of destruction and point towards our true human values that cherish life and can bring about true human flourishing. In the words of the Koran: ‘God does not change the condition of a people until they change the condition of their own selves’ (13:11).
This is happening: there is a deep significance in three declarations made immediately before and after the London bombings. First, more than 170 Muslim religious leaders met in Amman, Jordan, both Shi’ite and Sunni leaders as well as Ibadis and Ismailis.
They all agreed that only those trained within the traditional eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence have the authority to issue fatwas. This might seem an academic point, but it is fundamental to undermining the legitimacy of so-called Islamist (rather than Islamic) terrorism. This declaration makes clear that none of these supposed fatwas is legitimate or Islamic: Islam has united and declared the terrorists to be in breach of the Islamic faith.
Second, immediately after the bombing, the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Al-Sheikh, issued a statement condemning the terrorists. He has consis-tently condemned suicide bombings which have no basis in Shariah. This week, 500 British imams put out a fatwa prohibiting suicide bombings and the killing of innocent people.
For its part, the West needs to be supportive of the vast majority of Muslims who are peace-loving citizens seeking a full and constructive part in society. The West also needs to understand the dangers encompassed in the liberal society which it advocates. That liberalism is the very tool used by extremists to foster and spread their twisted ideology.
We appeal to the West and world of Islam not to generalise but to differentiate the minority from the majority. It is time for us all to realize that true freedom is the freedom to live a moral life in fellowship with all mankind as citizens of one precious world. In the name of God we invite everyone to help build it.
Prince Turki al-Faisal is the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Britain. Lord Carey is the former Archbishop of Canterbury