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Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Islam 'hijacked' by terror
Muslims at prayer
Islam literally means "surrender" or "submission"
By BBC News Online's Kate Goldberg

The attacks on the US and the bombing of Afghanistan have focused the world's attention on Islam.

But the events have also generated confusion and misconceptions about Islam, which some experts argue could feed the cycle of violence and mistrust.

Islam - the basics
About 20% of world population is Muslim
Muslim: in Arabic "one who surrenders to the will of God", a follower of Islam
Allah: Arabic for God. Muslims believe this is same God worshipped by Christians and Jews
Jihad: usually means "spiritual struggle" or "struggle for perfection"
Mujahid: Literally means someone who is on "jihad" or struggling to improve themselves
Fatwa: A religious edict or opinion
Suicide is "haram", prohibited by Koran
Hamza Yusuf, a leading Islamic scholar in the US, said: "Islam has been hijacked by a discourse of anger and a rhetoric of rage."

As Taleban leaders appeal to Muslims around the world to take up arms, Mr Yusuf insists that this is not a war between Islam and the West.

Mr Yusuf, who has advised the White House on the current crisis and is director of the California-based Zaytuna Institute, says that the perpetrators of violence are falsely using Islam to justify their actions.

"There is nothing Islamic about terrorism. To use violence against civilians to create terror is one the greatest crimes of Islam," said Mr Yusuf.

He quoted the Prophet Mohammed, who said: "Beware of extremism, for it is that which killed the people before you."

He also reprimanded the media for focusing on extremists, rather than the moderate mainstream, whose voices he said were being drowned out by a more vocal minority.

"To give airspace to these people is irresponsible. It would be like Arab countries interviewing members of the [extreme right-wing] National Front in Britain, and saying this is what British people think," he said.

Muslims denounce violence

A leading Muslim scholar, Yusef al-Qaradawi, issued a fatwa - which is an opinion of an Islamic scholar, based on Islamic law - immediately after the attacks, saying Osama Bin Laden could not call himself a Muslim.

Terrorism has also been rejected by the conservative sect of Islam in Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, and the Saudi Government has issued an official fatwa rejecting suicide bombers, said Mr Yusuf.


Suicide is prohibited in Islam. It is an action of despair, and Muslims are not supposed to despair in God

Mahmud al-Rashid, Muslim Council of Britain
Prominent British Muslims have denounced al-Qaeda, and appealed to the media to separate the words "Islamic" and "terrorist".

"It is misguided to describe the attacks [on the World Trade Center] as Islamic," said Mahmud al-Rashid from the Muslim Council of Britain.

There are rules of engagement in Islamic law, and attacking both civilian and economic targets is illegal, he said.

"Suicide is also prohibited in Islam. It is an action of despair, and Muslims are not supposed to despair in God," he added.

In defence of the Taleban

However, Mr Yusuf believes that the West also has an obligation to recognise Muslim grievances, and recognise what he calls the "moral ambiguities" of the current situation.


The Taleban are by-products of the Cold War.. they are as much victims as the Twin Tower victims

Hamza Yusuf
"Portraying the Taleban as evil is very stupid," he said.

"They are by-products of the Cold War. They have been flooded with weapons from the West, and they're as much victims as the Twin Tower victims."

He describes Bin Laden as "frightening" but says "it is very real and understandable that such characters are emerging.

"There is a lot of humiliation and hurt pride in the Muslim world," he said.

In his video message, Osama Bin Laden himself said: "We've been living in humiliation for 80 years."

Mr Rashid believes that war with Afghanistan could have been avoided if the negotiations with the Taleban had continued for longer.

He argues that attacking Afghanistan will only increase the support for Bin Laden, and create a humanitarian crisis.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Hamza Yusuf on Radio 4's Thought for the Day
'We must understand a people before we can benefit'

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30 Sep 01 | Middle East
19 Sep 01 | Scotland
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19 Sep 01 | UK Politics
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