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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Violence in religion's name

Should Muslims make any distinction between how acceptable suicide bombings are in foreign countries - such as Palestine and Iraq - and how acceptable they are in the UK?

If you wish to add your view to the debate please use the form on the right of the page. The Panorama team will try to publish as many as possible but they may not be able to publish every comment.

Salma Yaqoob

Salma Yaqoob, Political activist, Birmingham

Yes, I think they should. The people of Iraq and Palestine are fighting wars to end brutal occupations. Suicide killings there are a symptom of the unevenness of forces and desperation of the people defending themselves against attacks by some of the most powerful military machines in the world. Even according to the UN people have the right to physically resist and defend themselves.

Nevertheless, there should always be a distinction between attacking military targets and civilians. Killing innocent civilians wherever they are is never justified. Suicide bombings in the British context have no political or religious justification - the victims are civilians.

Furthermore, the majority of British people oppose the unjust foreign policy so not only are suicide bombings in Britain 'anti-Islamic' and morally wrong - they are tactically counterproductive - as they help the government in bringing in repressive measures and help reduce dissent.

Mona Siddiqui

Mona Siddiqui, Head of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow

To put it starkly, suicide bombing is taking your own life as well as the lives of others indiscriminately. Theologically and ethically this is prohibited in Islam -- and it's indefensible because innocent lives are lost in the process, whatever the political cause or the political context.

Regimes and conditions do not change as a result of this kind of killing as violence tends to breed more violence and fear. Alienating yourself, your religion and your message cannot be the way forward.

Irfan Chishti

Irfan Chishti, Imam and RE teacher, Greater Manchester

Suicide bombings, wherever they are performed, are wrong if targeting innocent civilians -- regardless of location. The jurisdiction of the divine Shariah law is universal and distinctions should not be made on geography.

The human soul is sacred regardless of whether the carcass is British, Palestinian, American, Iraqi, Jewish, Muslim or Christian.

Dilwar Hussein

Dilwar Hussein, Researcher, Islamic Foundation, Leicester

No. Such acts are morally incomprehensible to me. They epitomise nihilism and a warped view of faith, life and struggle. Without in any way seeking to justify such acts, it also seems to me that one cannot get to the root of the problem without also condemning the context that leads people to this type of behaviour.

Let us try to solve the root causes, be they extreme interpretations of faith, the unrelenting pain of the oppressed and marginalised, or a total loss of hope in legitimate, peaceful protest and resistance.

Asim Siddiqui

Asim Siddiqui, Chair, The City Circle, London

Suicide bombing against innocent human life is unacceptable under any circumstances, anywhere in the world - whether it be Tel Aviv, London or Baghdad. Civilian life is sacred in Islam.

There can be no compromise on this. Islam has laid down such humane rules of engagement in the event of a war that it seems unbelievable that anyone could argue otherwise.

Extreme Muslim groups learnt the technique of suicide bombing from (non-Muslim) Tamil Tigers - who themselves were part inspired by Japanese "kamikaze" pilots. There is nothing Islamic about this non-Muslim invention.

Masud Ahmed Khan

Masud Ahmed Khan, traditional Muslim webmaster, Home Counties

Suicide bombings against civilians have no place in Islam. There is no justification for them in Islamic jurisprudence, either legally or morally. Therefore condemnation should be made of targetting civilians in any conflict wherever that may be.

Suicide bombings are a manifestation of underlying issues and the causes of such actions need to be looked at and addressed to prevent these illegal and immoral acts. In Islam the ends do not justify the means, noble ends require noble means.

Hasan As-Sumaalee, Salafi Muslim teacher, Cardiff

Suicide as used by extreme radical groups is a 20th century phenomenon with no foundation in Islamic texts. Our Lord and Creator has forbidden suicide in the Quran. Suicide is suicide, whether used in warfare, 'repelling oppression' or ending one's own suffering, whether in the UK or the Middle-east or anywhere in the world.

So Allah forbade taking ones own life and He did not make an exception for Palestine or Iraq, nor did He make it an exception for those who are in a state of desperation or oppression. In 1,400 years of Islamic jurisprudence, suicide is not, and has never been, a means of repelling oppression nor a form of warfare between warring armies.

Those who undertake suicide operations are not considered martyrs, regardless of whether they kill themselves in England, USA, Madrid, Riyadh, Iraq or Palestine.


Suicide is suicide and is not allowed in Islam. Period. To Allah a human life is the most scared thing so even if the palestinians are being killed they are doing themselves no favour by blowing themselves up and are certainly not going to heaven for spilling innocent blood no matter what faith it is from.
Saadia, Birmingham, England

Yes, definitely they should. The people of Iraq and Palestine are fighting wars to end brutal occupations.
Peter, Newcastle

Suicide bombings are wrong whether it is civilians or super powers. The Americans and British are trying to improve the lives of the Iraqis but, because of these bombings in Iraq, they cannot make a forward step of removing troops from Iraq and getting a great country started. The bombings are not acceptable in foreign conutries and the UK.
Thabo, Twickenham, UK

The weasel words 'innocent' and 'civilian' always appear when these people speak to denounce killing. This is the double standard subtext where they themselves consider those who are killed to be neither innocents or civilians by reason of their race or the actions taken in their name by their political leaders. Try getting them to say 'It is against Islam to kill people' and you will have no luck.
Matt Johnson, Luton, UK

Why is 'Israel' not mentioned in the title to this debate? Do the suicide bombs that murder Israeli civilians not occur in Israel? It concerns me greatly that only 'Palestine' and Iraq are mentioned.
Gaby Shaw, London

It is quite clear from these statements that Muslim RELIGIOUS opinion is sane and beneficial. The problem is this - those who would make Islam a POLITICAL ideology. Those who pratice Islam as a religion protect and nurture it. Those who make it into a Political vehicle endanger it. Make the separation of religion and politics before real damage is done.
Dave Reynolds,

Yes, Israel has declared a war on the Palestinians by invading them, therefore gives them tanks and bombs like the Israelis use against the Palestinians and I am sure they will not need to use, sucide bombings, as they use now in warefare.
Mohammed Ali-Hazim, Wembley

Of course it is different in Palestine. Look at the methods Churchill and the Americans used to defeat Germany and Japan. Did we not glory in our victory? Come on, if your going to have a debate on TV at least get your facts right.
P Burne, Newcastle

Where is the outrage when Muslims kill and target other Muslim civilians - why is only wrong for Westerners to kill? In Iraq recently they targeted a group of children and they targeted others at prayer. Their protestations of the Ummah would carry more weight if it wasn't tied to being either Sunni, or Shi'ite, and accepting that if you are the wrong sort of Muslim you also deserve to die.
Don Best, London

Yes, there should be a distinction. As a UK citizen, I am bound by a law in Islam which states that I should not engage in destruction of the country I reside in. In fact, I am bound to join in war efforts if this country was to be attacked.

However in countries such as Bosnia, Palestine, Iraq, it is permissible as it is for a just cause. Israelis are destroying Palestinian homes and killing civilians on a daily basis, why aren't they called terrorists? They are attacking Palestinian people on Palestinian land; wouldn't you call that injustice? Is the definition of "terrorism" different when it comes to non-Muslims? For example, how many people has the US killed? More than we can count and this includes attacks in non-Muslim countries. Why aren't they terrorists? Just because they are an official government, does that make it all OK? And when will the killing and occupation of other people's lands stop for the US and Israeli government? The UK shouldn't be supporting these acts because this could cause more havoc and greater bloodshed in the near future.
Anon, UK

There are some people here whom I do not believe, who undoubtedly say one thing to non-Muslims and another to Muslims. If Salma Yaqoob believes that occupations are a justification for suicide bombings, as in Palestine, then Tibetans should be targeting Chinese civilians whilst their country is under a very brutal oppressive regime. Non-Muslims, who have no connection with Palestine, are also being attacked by various Muslim groups across the globe. Should they also engage in the cult of the suicide bomb? How about sitting around a table and negotiating? The bottom line is that there is no justification for targeting civilians whether in London or in Tel Aviv, in Haifa or Baghdad.
John Norman, London, England

I am most distressed at how the agenda of justice and fairness for all human beings is being hijacked by certain elements in the West. The game now is that if anyone tries to understand the reasons for young people turning to suicide bombing, or if someone separates/justifies the tragedy of the Palestinian people and their last and only way of fighting the genocide of Israel, this is seen to condone terrorism. This is nonsense. So much for freedom of speech.

The reality is that it is fair game to target Muslims and all they believe in. Criticism of the UK/US foreign policy is apparently not acceptable in this climate - even less so is criticism of Israel. Palestinians are Freedom Fighters not terrorists. Refer to the UN Charter on Human Rights and the definition by the FBI. Yes, it is wrong in any shape or form to target or kill innocent civilians, but why is there a feeding frenzy when a young misguided Muslim does it, out of rage and desperation, but when an Army, a State, or extremists (e.g. Israeli settlers) do it - it is passed off as just a routine piece of news? Double Standards.

When a bunch of racist thugs axed to death a young black student in Liverpool recently did the British people and media label all the people of Liverpool as racist? No. Did the whole country begin a psychoanalysis of the Christain faith, because the murderers happened to be Christian? No. So why are 1.5 billion people round the world branded as terrorists and suicide bombers because of the actions of a few? Is this western justice? Right is right and wrong is wrong - and it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, powerful or weak.

Those that preach "democracy" and "freedom" should test their own compliance to this before they ram it down the throat of others at the barrel of a gun. What we are witnessing today is the death of Truth and Justice. Get rid of the causes of terrorism, oppression and stop powerful nations plundering weaker nations because of greed and globalisation - then there will not be any suicide bombings or terrorist attacks on civilians. But, I fear this is not fashionable speak at the moment among our governments.
Rauf Mirza, Stoke-on-Trent

What has to be realised is that we do not live in days of honour. There is no doubt that killing civilians is wrong, although it is acceptable to us all (mankind). Muslims have no legal, Islamic organization where they can channel the anger at the injustice they feel is being done to the Ummah. In Israel a person can join the army and make themself feel better. In the UK the same. In America the same. The only thing on offer from the Muslim perspective is suicide bombing (or sacrificial bombing as I have heard it called). Muslims seem too busy explaining it's wrong, or seen to be explaining it's wrong, rather than finding a cure. The most just knows best.
Mohammed, Birmingham, UK

Suicide bombings are suicide bombings wherever they occur. Killing of an innocent person is against every religion on earth. Overzealous Muslims often get very passionate about the subject of their brothers and sisters dying in other lands. This is understandable. However the youth should not let their feelings for their fellow Muslims lead them to listen and be brainwashed by vicious Jihadis who glorify evil acts such as the London attacks or the disco bombings in Israel. It is up to government to make it illegal the act of glorifying murder. They should have banned it long ago.
Z Hussain, Rochdale UK

The answer is a clear-cut no. Suicide bombing is not allowed. Period. Although the problems between Israelis and Palestinians started in 1948, suicide bombing is a recent phenomenon, started by the Tamil Tigers who killed Rajiv Ghandi. Why some Muslims followed their footsteps, only God knows. From an Islamic point of view, killing of civilians is wrong and Muhammad and his Companions are the best example of conduct during war, where women, children, old people and places of worship (whatever faith) cannot be touched. Muhammad made no distinction whatsoever between innocent people and did not target them, even though his people were tortured mercilessly. I would strongly urge Muslims, who support suicide bombing in Israel, to withdraw their views as they contradict the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet. Islamic justice is for all people and Muhammad (peace be with him) came as a mercy for Mankind.
Hasan Ali Imam, London, UK

As far as I am concerned, 'homicide/suicide bombings' wherever they occur are an almost exclusively Islamist terror weapon. Geography and circumstance really doesn't address this fundamental point. All such attacks should be stopped and Muslims in the UK must go further than hollow condemnation. Proactive response is required from the Muslim community to cease these atrocities. So the answer is, there should be no distinction because all such attacks are unacceptable.
Andrew Thomas, Cheshire, UK

I wonder why we don't have a much of a debate on what Israel is doing, why don't we make all Jews responsible for their action against innocent civilians. It's stupid that way, but it's still acceptable for Muslims. Israel have killed nearly three times as many children as the Palestinian side, but we still only hear about Palestinians killing innocent kids. It's a joke, I think people should look up the case of the Iraqi Jews, it make interesting reading, about how Israel is to even Jews.
Matt, Luton

The suicide missions in Iraq appear to be Muslim against Muslim, that is Sunni attacking Shi'ite. The acceptance of suicide bombing by many Muslims means that it is now used as a part of domestic politics within Iraq.
Matthew Jones, Guernsey, UK

In Islamic Jurisprudence there is no distinction between killing oneself in this land or any other land. As Muslims, we should believe that the Quran, the Prophetic tradition and the methodology of the earliest Juristic Scholars (known in the Arabic language as the 'Salaf') is the gauge by which we measure the correctness of an action. And you will find that suicide in any context is absolutely forbidden and can never be justified.

It was never practised by the 'Salaf' nor mentioned as a means of removing oppression. Likewise, forbidden is the taking of the lives of civilians: women, children, young and old, priests, monks and any non-combatants. The Quran, Prophetic tradition and the 'Salaf' forbade it all. There are no exceptions for Palestine, Iraq, or anywhere else, desperation or not. The Quranic texts forbid killing oneself out of 'desperation' or 'unevenness of forces'.
Abu Khadeejah, Birmingham, UK

They are not acceptable in the UK. However they are perfectly acceptable in Palestine and Iraq to repel the invaders and occupiers.
Bynoe, Birmingham

In reply to Matt Johnson's (Luton) e-mail, it is against Islam to kill people but then isn't it against all religions? The Bible says thou shalt not kill. Then how can you rationalise the government decision to go to war with Iraq and Afghanistan in which many civilian lives were lost? "Casualities of war" is the phrase Tony Blair used to justify his actions. In fact how can you justify any war?
Fatima Patel, Gloucestershire

Why do people automatically assume that suicide bombing involve the killing of civilians? What most people would agree with is that suicide bombings can be justified if its done to inflict maximum damage to the enemy, which cannot be achieved by conventional weapons, similar to what kamikaze pilots use to do. Suicide bombing is wrong and an act of terror when it is used indiscriminately and to kill civilians. I think when some Muslims justify suicide bombings, they have a blurred vision as to who the enemy is and believe civilians are enemies too, for standing by and allowing the governments to commit crimes.
Farooq Shah, Lancashire

Murderous suicide will never end as long as a clear message is not formulated. Words such as "civilian" and "legitimate" take the moral strength out of any statement. Especially telling is the comment "people have the right to physically resist and defend themselves." How can an individual protect himself by killing himself? The expressed ideology therein openly disregards individual life. Very sad.
Bill, Berlin, Germany

Muslims seem pathologically unable to take responsibility for their actions. It's like watching a child - everything that happens is 'someone else's fault'. The root cause of suicide bombing is not injustice, but preachers who incite hatred and glorify murder. Britain is full of Jews, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists who are alienated at home and persecuted abroad, yet none of them commit or condone suicide bombings. The question we should be asking is why Muslims seem so predisposed to murder?
Dan, Cardiff

My comment to Matt Johnson from Luton first. So Matt why don't you ask if it's OK for Christians, Jews, Hindus, Atheists, or the secular state to kill people. Ask yourself if, whatever you are, it is OK to kill people? If not, then I'm sure you will condemn and abhor all those who killed in the Second World War, Israelis for killing Palestinians, Christians for slaughtering Muslims during the crusades, Britain for killing Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Muslims killing others.

So Matt please have the sense not to isolate Islam. If you really want to come out of the bubble you are in, know that more people have been slaughtered in the 19th and 20th Centuries by so called secular democratic states, than religious wars of the past two millennia and they have been justified in the name of freedom, democracy etc. Actually why don't you carry out a quantitative analysis of people who have been killed in the name of Western democracy and Islamic ideals. Try to see if violence in the name of Islam exceeds 100 million.
Nas, London, UK

Religious leaders who send their children to certain death should blow themselves up first. It's always the old men of Islam who cling to life.
Brian M Keith, Ellesmere, England

As you all have heard millions of times, suicide bombing is not acceptable in any religion. So these people you see blowing themselves up in the name of Islam are wrong and bringing a bad name to Islam. If they want to commit suicide (not that I approve of it) then they should not get religions involved. In addition to the question, I think that the reason why Palestinians blow themselves up is probably because they have no military power and they have no weapons. When I watch the telly, I see most of the time Israeli Forces shooting and bombarding the streets, so the only thing Palestinians can do is blow themselves up.
Mohammed, England

I'm not in the UK but just wanted to say it is good to see so many positive messages from the British Muslims. Suicide bombs against civilian life are murder. There is no doubt about it. If Palestinians target Israeli forces, that is debatable. If Iraqis target American or British forces, that is debatable. But not civilian life. And to answer Matt Johnson's question, no it is not against Islam to kill some people. Neither is it against any other religion to kill some people. It is just that those people are not innocent, and that is the difference.
Afdhere Jama, San Francisco, USA

I would like to ask Salma why it is that, in Iraq, most targets for suicide bombings are other Iraqis and not Americans or British soldiers. How can this be justified politically or militarily unless there is a civil war within Iraq and or Islam?
Martin Smith, London

No. Muslims use Islam politically. At least some of the leaders have publicly presented the political aspect of Islam, by denouncing the secular constitution which we have adopted as British. Terrorism for the political cause of propagating Islam and imperialism in the form of Islam should be put down hard. Suicide bombings to kill civilians and strike terror are utterly deplorable. Americans have used political order in the Middle East to serve their whims and fancies. They have supported regimes of Saddam once are now supporting the totalitarian regime of Pakistan. Now when there is a resistance for these regimes to the American occupation, America uses its might to change the political order in Iraq and that to me is also terrorism.

What we need is a genuine effort to change our ways. Secularism today is the most logical form of government. We should facilitate more morality into the law: A law to prevent misuse of natural resources, laws to prevent aggression and occupation and well implemented. It's not power that should determine a ruling in a moral society but ethics. A British Muslim should never forget that he has lived his life here, eaten British food and used British values for his survival. If he thinks he has a reason to champion the political causes all over the world for Muslims, he needs to understand that he has more to be indebted to the secular values and imperialist policies of Britain which has won him the life that he is living. No double standards please.
Rameez, Birmingham

Extremism in the name of Islam is not a religious issue, but a social issue. In the same way BNP supporters blame all Asians for the wrongs in this country, similarly a few Muslims blame all western non-Muslims for the persecution of Muslims. Far right politics comes from despair and blinkered view of the problems in society.
Ajaz Mahmood, Stoke on Trent

What the hell is the matter with you people? Suicide bombings are not acceptable anywhere, under any circumstances. Blowing yourself to pieces and doing the same to people who you know nothing about is not defending yourself or your religion. Your religious beliefs are your own personal choice and should not be inflicted on those who choose another religion or none at all. The main question should be what is right and what is wrong - and suicide bombings are no more than cold-blooded murder - which is wrong in anybody's book.
Sue Woollard, Westcliff-on-Sea

No. The sole distinction should be between combatants and non-combatants. I am disgusted at the idea that a busload of British civilians somehow "has it coming" any less than a busload of Israeli or Iraqi civilians. Why is it any worse to murder people in victim Iraq than in aggressor Britain? All non-combatants are illegitimate targets to an equal extent.
Alex, Leicester, UK

For those who have agreed that suicide bombings are an acceptable form of violence, am I right to assume that you also applaud the concept of suicide bombings by other faiths in areas of the world where Islamic people are the brutal aggressor, for example Southern Sudan, Northern Nigeria, East Timor, the oppressed Coptic Christians of Egypt, The Zoroastrians or Northern Iran? The list is endless really. Or is it, as it appears to be, one set of rules for you, one set of rules for everyone else?
Phill, London, UK

Let me put it this way: "Do Christians and Jews have any idea of how acceptable their military actions are in Muslim countries such as Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan?"
Ahmad Farooq, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Islam does not condone suicide. Therefore committing suicide and, in addition, killing others with you is an extreme sin.
Rubina, London, UK

As a non-Muslim, I am frankly confused by the theological debate over this issue, with some Muslims saying that the Koran says violence can be acceptable and others disagreeing. But what I take issue with is the idea that man - even an Imam - can declare a Jihad, or say that it's OK to kill people in Israel. Where in the Koran does God give man this right? As in Northern Ireland, where there were two groups of Christians killing and hurting one another against the clear dictates of the Bible, the issue is political rather than theological.
John, Brighton, UK

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