Times Square bomber wannabe Faisal Shahzad is not only a sociopath, but also an ignoramus. He needs a tutorial on the history and morals of the religion in whose name he claims to be acting.
“Blessed be” Osama bin Laden, “who will be known as no less than Saladin of the 21st-century crusade, and blessed be those who give him asylum,” he said during his rant before the courtroom while being sentenced Tuesday.
Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum interrupted him. Saladin “didn’t want to kill people,” Cedarbaum told him, adding that “he was a very moderate man.”
Cedarbaum is the one who has an accurate knowledge of history. To mention Saladin and bin Laden in the same breath is nonsensical. The Saladin I came across during research for my book on Islam and nonviolence was cut from a completely different cloth.
Saladin was a medieval Kurdish warrior who became famous throughout the Middle East and Europe for his chivalry and tolerance, qualities that have been immortalized in works of art ranging from Sir Walter Scott’s novel, “The Talisman,” to Ridley Scott’s 2005 blockbuster, “Kingdom of Heaven.”
Saladin’s conquest of Jerusalem on October 2, 1187, was almost without bloodshed. The conduct of the troops toward the conquered was exemplary. On Saladin’s retaking of the Al-Aqsa mosque in the city, the benediction given by the chief cleric of Aleppo invoked both Abraham and “the Word which entered into Mary and Jesus,” linking Islam to both Judaism and Christianity rather than pitting it against them.
Bin Laden represents the exact opposite of Saladin’s spirit of inclusiveness and concern for human life. In fact, much of the time, Saladin fought against Islamic extremists that were the Al Qaedas of their time, such as the cult of the Assassins.
Cedarbaum also displayed a better understanding of Islam’s holy book than Shahzad. After pronouncing her sentence, she told him, “I do hope that you will spend some of the time in prison thinking carefully about whether the Koran wants you to kill lots of people.”
She was right. Shahzad sees himself as a jihadist fighting for a just cause against U.S. aggression. There are rules for such warfare in Islam. The norms include the forbidding of “cheating, treachery, mutilation, and the killing of children,” writes comparative religion expert Professor John Kelsay. This, Kelsay says, is analogous to the Christian just war tradition. An eighth century Muslim theologian specifically cited the Prophet Muhammad’s injunction to always spare women, children and old men. The Koran advises giving clear warning to an opponent, and not attacking by stealth: “Surely, God loves not the treacherous.” [8:58]
Obviously, Shahzad’s plan to blow up a car in the middle of a densely crowded place in America’s most-populous city without prior notice would have violated all the above precepts. It is baffling how he thought he’d be doing Islam a service. The very notion of terrorism “is in opposition to the spirit of Islam, which holds human life sacred and personal culpability a matter for God alone to determine,” writes College of William and Mary Professor Tamara Sonn.
Shahzad needs to get a primer on the religion he so emphatically professes to defend.
If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "India Copes With Religious Tension."
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