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Is this the end of freedom movements?

By Abdul Malik Mujahid

"Mothers screamed at helpless policemen. One was shown on television saying: 'How long can this madness in the country continue? When will it end?' Another wailed: 'Exchange us for the children. What are our children guilty of?' Another said: 'This was my child's first day at school. He was so happy and told me: 'Mum, I will be a good student'. Please, take me, take me, instead.' " (The Guardian, September 2, 2004)

These were the mothers of Beslan who were begging for the lives of their children. Of the hostages from this massacre which ended last week, over 300 are dead. If you're a parent, it's impossible not to see your own child in the scenes emerging from the massacre: the small, dead bodies, and the crying, naked, and bloody survivors emerging from their school.

The depravity of this act disgusts me.

And then, we discover the child killers responsible for this: Chechen Muslims.

Will I justify this act because Muslims are behind it?

Never.

I will join Muslims around the world who have unequivocally condemned this despicable act.

But almost a week after the carnage, the Beslan tragedy brings to mind a broader issue: the future of freedom movements.

Before Beslan, many around the world recognized and roundly condemned Russian atrocities in Chechnya, which include the murder, torture and gang rape of Chechen men, women and children.

Many also recognized the need to grant Chechens the independence they have struggled for for over 200 years.

But after Beslan, those who acted in the name of Chechnya have lost their moral high ground. The plight of Chechens may have gotten more attention since the school siege, but it is unlikely to garner as much support. This beleaguered people and their cause for freedom and justice have now been smeared so systematically, they are unlikely to gain any form of legitimacy or constructive attention in the near future.

The same holds true in Palestine and Kashmir.

While many around the world, even in pro-Israel America, have and continue to support justice for the Palestinians, the bloodshed as a result of suicide bombings has done nothing to bring freedom and justice to this oppressed nation.

Suicide bombings play right into the hands of those who do not want Palestinians to be seen as victims of an ongoing occupation but as the perpetrators of all sorts of inhuman acts while a total of 3,214 Palestinians have died along with 919 Israelis in the last four years. The end of Israeli occupation, not suicide bombings, is the solution.

Kashmiris continue to suffer under a 700,000-strong armed occupation by India. The Kashmiri freedom movement has started losing its support in the world arena. A few years ago, former President Bill Clinton brought up the Kashmir conflict in the UN. Today, hardly anyone cares for it as India continues to declare any Kashmiri demanding freedom to be a terrorist. Asking the people of Kashmir to decide their future is the solution that Kashmiris and the UN want. But India does not agree.

There is no question that Russians, Israelis and Indians are the oppressors who are keeping people enslaved and imposing a regime of terror on the civilian populations of these three regions. But shouldn't freedom movements consider the irony of the situation that oppressors look like the victims when anyone terrorizes innocent children and civilians.

Of course it's easy for me to sit in Chicago in the comfort and security of my home and write about the suffering of Chechens, Kashmiris and Palestinians knowing full well that if these people had the Migs, F-16s and Mirages that the Russians, Israelis and Indians use to bomb them, they would not fail to defend themselves using these weapons. But the utter immorality of killing civilians, which only results in great public relations for the oppressor, makes this reality almost irrelevant.

What is the future of freedom movements? How can they understand the global context in which they are operating? Have they thoroughly considered the nonviolence option which won the hearts of supporters of Palestinians like Rachel Corrie, who was murdered by Israelis? Will the Israelis, Russians and Indians respond to nonviolent movements the way Bishop Desmond Tutu and Martin Luther King's foes responded to them? I don't have all the answers but today's freedom movement must consider hundreds of millions of human beings around the world who stood up for the peace and justice movement in opposition to the Iraq war. I ask those in the freedom movements: do you want to win over these hearts and souls or do you want to lose them?

Every act of terror that Muslims use to justify their freedom movements does two things. First, it violates Islamic principles that clearly condemn killing civilians. Second, it erodes support for and attention to the cause. It does not bring to light the suffering of the oppressed, nor does it open the door for a constructive end to the fighting. Instead, it has the opposite effect. Acts of terror lead to a positive portrayal of the state that is oppressing a freedom movement, since after every violent incident, the government is seen as a beleaguered nation trying to fight its own terrorists.

Although the UN Charter allows the legitimate right of peoples to resist foreign occupation, God demands Muslims to be just even towards the enemy. Freedom movements everywhere must realize how much they are losing in the world arena by taking civilian lives. This will neither help their cause, nor end the oppression they are suffering. Terrorism, as seen in Chechnya, Palestine, and Kashmir, has only discredited the nobility and legitimacy of these movements for freedom, peace and justice.

For a freedom movement to be considered a just cause by all, its moral position vis-à-vis civilian lives must be absolutely clear. There was no cause greater than the cause of Muhammad, peace be upon him. But when he heard that one of the Muslim commanders had killed noncombatants, he stood up with regret facing the Kaba and declared his innocence from this act, saying, 'God, I have nothing to do with this.' He uttered this three times to stress the gravity of the matter and ensured that the victims' families were compensated even for the dogs lost in the fighting.

"O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear God. For God is well-acquainted with all that you do." [Quran 5:8]


Your Comments

Arafath, India - wrote on 9/25/2004 2:12:30 PM
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Comment: This artice gave the wide idea about the chechen's and palestenian's freedom movements. Thanking you to giving good articles. Regards Arafath


Tariq Khan, London - wrote on 9/25/2004 12:14:55 AM
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Comment: I agree with other comments made that this article puts across the Islamic position of harming 'non-combatants very clearly and convincingly. I really feel the same thing but could not express it as well. However, I also agree with Br Muhammed who commented that the point about the plight of the opressed who resort to such terrible measures is also worth mentioning. Its like if someone murdered your child in front of your eyes, would you be blamed for murdering the family of the perpretrator. Obviously, the first act does not make the second act right, but we should understand how someone can be pushed over the limit. Maybe we should turn to the Quran which says "every soul will be tested to the limit of what it can bear" and in another ayat " verily with every difficulty comes relief, with every difficulty comes relief". We pray for the relief of the people suffering in Palestine, Chechnya and Kasmir, and other places. May Allah reward them for bearing the ultimate of tests with patience and faith in Allah


sofina, UK - wrote on 9/24/2004 5:39:26 AM
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Comment: Thank you very much, i have been needing to hear something like this, if only this was aired on the radio and TV channels all over the world. i have noticed how things arent getting any better for muslims around the world, and i think its because of actions like in Beslan, where truly innocent people are being killed.....i think we are loosing the sympathy for those muslims in Palistine, Chechnya and Kashmir, because what is being shown on TV's,isnt their suffering but dead childrens bodies coming out of schools. i think some people in the name of islam are acting just like eg Mr Bush in the name of..... i dont know. They are not making things better but worse. i just pray that with Allah SWT helps, things get better.


Ibrahim "Lanre Abayomi, Lagos,Nigeria, West Africa - wrote on 9/20/2004 7:52:58 AM
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Comment: This article is just great.It gladdens my heart because it explicitly expressed the Islamic perspective of what should be the modus operandi of the so called "Freedom Movement";especially with the example of the act of Prophet Muhammen during war and more explicitly, the quotaion of Quran 5.8. I pray people got to the read this article with utmost sense of reasoning


muhammad, uk - wrote on 9/19/2004 7:11:50 AM
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Comment: though the points this article highlights are valid, it fails to identify the reasons why freedom movements deviate from non violent methods. imagine a woman in palestine who had to give birth at an israeli checkpoint, the baby dies, her father and brother recently murdered in the latest isreali incursion. imagine the helplessness, remorse and desire for vengeance that must be going through her mind. it is this kind of person that is driven to killing whoever she can, even though this is unjustified. perhaps a similar rage caused us and british soldiers to commit depraved acts of sexual abuse on innocent iraqis,supposedly avenging 9/11.


syed, houston - wrote on 9/18/2004 9:59:28 AM
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Comment: Freedom movements need a new strategy which evolves around the sanctity of life and freedom to safeguard human life from the oppression they are sufferring at this moment. By killing innocent children and civilians they cannot succeed.


sharifa Ma, CA - wrote on 9/17/2004 11:28:32 AM
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Comment: Masha Allah. This is a very good article> I would like to add: every time the so called "freedom movement act" harms innocent lives, those innocent Muslim around the world also got the balmes from the rest of the world - for accusing Mulims are terrorists. "Peace" can only be achieved througha "peaceful" way.


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