Why is Islam such a violent religion? Does the Qur’an condone acts of terrorism? Why haven’t Muslims denounced the 9/11 attacks and suicide bombing?

Whether in the media or public discussions, these are common and persistent questions. But, in fact, major Muslim religious leaders and Muslim organizations have and do speak out. The media tends not to find these fatwas and statements newsworthy but they are available on the internet.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, for example, Muhammad Abdur-Rashid, the most senior Muslim chaplain in the American Armed forces, asked for a fatwa about whether American Muslim military could participate in the war in Afghanistan and in other Muslim countries. A group of prominent religious authorities concluded that “All Muslims ought to be united against all those who terrorize the innocents, and those who permit the killing of non-combatants without a justifiable reason” and that it was acceptable “to partake in the fighting in the upcoming battles, against whomever their country decides has perpetrated terrorism against them.”

Islam, like other religions, distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate acts of violence. The Qur’an does not advocate or condone illegitimate violence or terrorism. The Islamic tradition places extensive limits on the use of violence and rejects terrorism, hijackings, and hostage taking. However, Muslims are permitted, indeed at times required to defend their religion, their families, and the Islamic community from aggression.

What about suicide bombers? What about violence against non-combatants? Since the late twentieth century, these issues have resurfaced in Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, America and Europe as suicide-bombing has come to be equated with martyrdom, relinquishing one’s life for defense of Islam and the community.

Debates over legitimate vs. illegitimate violence have been highlighted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prophetic traditions (narrative stories about Muhammad’s words and deeds) clearly and absolutely prohibit suicide because only God has the right to take the life he has granted. Historically both Sunni and Shii Muslims have generally forbidden religious suicide and acts of terrorism.


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