Sunday, 26 May 2013

A British Baha Mousa Murdered in Woolwich: Declaration of War and the Covenant of Security

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"   (Mahatma Ghandi)

Much has been said about the political dimension to this issue in terms of motive, and I will address that later, first I want to focus on the justification given behind the act, which may explain how these home-grown ‘terrorists’ arises in the first place, and help to bring forward a solution to the problem. Had this been debated ‘honestly’ post 7/7, this killing may well have been avoided. 

Like the 7/7 bombings in 2005, the killing of the British soldier (Lee Rigby) in Woolwich is a response to British foreign policy that has resulted in the killing of many innocent Muslims, not a day passes when we hear the deaths of innocent families killed by drones or some other military action. According to the words uttered by one of the two culprits, the motive was revenge, and clearly stated they took a life as an eye for an eye. There was no mention of religion, but the religious dimension of this case is palpable as they could only identify with the victims in Afghanistan on religious grounds 

For sure, Islam permits an eye for an eye for certain cases like murder, and the penal code can only be applied by a legal authority, after proving the allegation in a court of law.  Obviously this is not applicable here, as the culprits made no allegation against Lee Rigby. Thus, according to Islamic and British law the same maxim of:  innocent until proven guilty stands. Only other situation where one can take a life using the principle of an eye for an eye is in a war situation, but under such circumstance killing is sanctioned for both conflicting parties regardless. Both parties are British citizens, how could they be at war? For sure, in Lee Rigby’s mind he was not in the combat zone, he was going about his daily business at home; in contrast the two Nigerian Muslims considered they were at war, Lee Rigby was an enemy soldier, thus sufficient grounds to take his life. This implies, they considered themselves as part of the Afghan camp based on their religious affiliation, over riding their obligation as British citizens.    

This raises a more fundamental point about the conflict that arises out of religious affiliation and bonds of citizenship, where the Muslims are living in a non-Islamic country as a minority, which is in a state of conflict with another Muslim country. According to Islamic law, which takes precedence when there is a conflict in a matter for the scholars of Islamic law to answer, and please note that there will be differences depending on the case and the mindset of the scholar. The most radical interpretation (that is followed by the pro-JIhadi school like the group led by Anjem Choudary) which seems to have inspired the two culprits to take action is this: - they consider their identity solely on religious grounds, they are only Muslims and they are part of the global Muslim Ummah (community), living in a non-Islamic country temporarily and they keep the peace in return for the security given by the state. Implying there is a contract in place with the British government what is called the ‘covenant of security’ (aqd al-aman).

In Islamic law, the covenant of security for Muslims living in a non-Muslim society means they are under a contractual obligation to keep the peace and obey the laws of the state, thus all non-Muslim life, property, and honour are sacrosanct, unless the government violates this by committing acts of oppression against the Muslim citizens at home.  In this regard the British government has not violated the rights of the Muslims here in the UK in general and in particular the rights of the two culprits. In fact, compared to many other western countries, the UK has been most generous towards the Muslim community, this is a point that radical Muslims do not acknowledge or appreciate

Therefore, on what grounds did the two culprits consider the violation of the covenant of security? It has to be on the basis that war was waged in the Muslims countries (Iraq, Afghanistan) as expressed by their words referring to the events in the Muslim lands. Even if the two culprits have no notion of this, supporters of such actions tend to rely on this argument. However, rationale dictates that if one of the parties considers there is a breach of contract, this has to be communicated to the other party. The following points are implied if they considered that they were in a state of war.

  •  The individual must communicate his position to the government; it is an issue of life and death.  He must state that he is no longer a citizen of this country. The nation has no security from him, and he has no security from them, it is war.  

  •  The person should also state: he is only speaking for himself, as he has no authority to represent the Muslim community here. And rationally he cannot, because only he carries the conviction of this violation of the contract. 

  •  From the above it follows, he should not continue to live here as a citizen enjoying all of the benefits, the security and then launch an attack from behind; that is like attacking a trusted friend from the back. For Islam clearly does not permit treachery. There is consensus on fulfilling the contractual obligation and treachery is looked upon abhorrently. In one Hadith it clearly states: “for every person who betrays a covenant will have a flag at his back on the Day of Judgement, which will be raised according to the level of his treachery.” The associated verse of Quran says clearly, “Oh you believe! Fulfil your contractual obligations” (5:1).  The Prophet (peace be upon him), said: “The Muslims fulfil their contracts.” 
And the failure to do the above has put the entire Muslim community at risk; it reinforces the view of some non-Muslims of holding the wider Muslim community responsible, indeed they too could respond with an eye for an eye. I wonder if the two Muslim Nigerian attackers considered that their relatives have now been put at risk by their actions. Thankfully, the British public are much more tolerant and civilised than the minority EDL ilk; the vast majority have a far better sense of justice and knowledge of the situation than let’s say the American public, and profoundly better than the barbaric Buddhist nation of Burma that has recently unleashed ferocious attacks on their defenceless Muslim community. I wish these hyper internet Jihadists would take note of this.

In terms of the political aspect of this issue, the usual narrative from the politicians and the media commentators followed. The Muslims have a perceived notion of grievances against the West, and are radicalised by certain extreme preachers, it has nothing to do with the images emanating from the Muslim world that is euphemistically called foreign policy. These images are conveniently dismissed as the works of other Muslim groups.  In other words, it’s all in their head, all we need to do is change the narrative in their head; this reminds me of the movie Inception.  This does not set the basis for a solution, but prolongs the justification of perpetual war.

Of course, it is true that the actions of one person cannot be used to tarnish an entire community,  as the media often does with the Muslims. We did not see any reference to Christianity when Anders Breivik of Norway, who professed to be a Christian, committed the atrocities. Yet, the media demands, that Muslims stand up and condemn, assuming collective guilt, and concurrently also says - don’t ask about the motive. Because, by examining the motive it brings about uncomfortable truths as to who is really culpable. If we see this latest episode as part of a cycle of violence, the starting point has to be when Britain participated in the US-led adventure based on the fabrication of WMDs, which has been conveniently forgotten. Did the Iraqis attack the UK? Hence, Blair has the blood of this soldier on his hands.  Even a token apology would help, but only sheer arrogance prevents this.  It would also help if Guantanamo Bay was closed, if the Drone Strike War was halted (the use of drones has killed many very innocent people) and bring a solution to the Palestine issue. These are not perceived grievances but real issues.

But why be selective with condemnation? As many will draw parallels with the case of Baha Mousa, who was tortured and killed by the British army in a sadistic manner, and more gruesome than the recent case, most of the soldiers got away with it, only one person was convicted who served only a year of his sentence. There was no outrage then, no emotive words in the press, nor was there any outrage recently when the Muslim pensioner was stabbed to death in Birmingham or any outrage when the Afghan child stabbed by the drunken soldier.  Yet, the expectation is that the Muslims must not generate a violent reaction to the violence that is being inflicted upon them.  

Yamin Zakaria (
Published on 26/05/2013
London, UK

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