Muslim own goal in bombing the Yazidis

This afternoon, with the family car to myself as my parents have gone to Crete for a holiday, I took a ride to the coast to visit a friend of mine who owns one of my favourite London restaurants, who has now branched out and runs a fish and chip shop and restaurant by the seaside. Somehow we got to talking about the recent incident in which extremists of some kind bombed Yazidi villages near Mosul in Iraq. His attitudes disturbed me somewhat; it seems that there are still a lot of Muslims willing to condone actions like this which kill innocent people in large numbers.

Something I had not realised about the bombing was that it may have been a revenge attack for the mob murder in April of a young girl who converted to Islam and married, or had been intending to marry, a Sunni Muslim. The murder was recorded on a mobile phone and circulated on the Internet, although I’ve not seen it and no doubt if it ends up on YouTube or Google Video it will get removed pretty quickly. My friend explained (though I don’t know what his sources are) that the girl had been “bought” by the Yazidis from corrupt officials in one of the big Kurdish cities where she had taken refuge. He seemed to think that the bombing was justifiable revenge for the murder of that young woman and told me stories of caliphs of the past who had invaded countries, or threatened to do so, in response to appeals from distressed women.

While I don’t dispute stories like those, I don’t believe that it’s Islamically acceptable to avenge a death by simply killing a large number of the community from which the murderers, even if there were many of them, came. We don’t know if those killed in the bombing included those principally involved in the “honour killing”. The bombers would have had no guarantee that it would have killed any of them, in fact. We can speculate that those killed in the bombing might well have been involved, and might well have agreed with it, and say we really don’t have any sympathy for them, but it still does not make the action justified.

From a purely strategic point of view, it’s a huge own goal for Muslims. Previously, the murder of the girl who converted to Islam had demonstrated that honour killings were a cultural issue, affecting Kurds and some other ethnic groups among whom there are large numbers of Muslims, not an Islamic issue. Furthermore, it was one of the most brutal such killings in recent recorded history. Now, the focus is once again on “Sunni” Muslims killing others, in huge numbers, for not being Sunni Muslims. They have once again gained the victim status they dramatically lost in April. My old friend hadn’t forgotten the young girl, but I had until he reminded me.

The bombing also demonstrates how modern extremists think themselves better than the Muslims of the past. The Yazidis have lived in that region for centuries, and may have been persecuted (from time to time) by the Ottomans, but still actually survive in the region, much as the Shi’a and the various Christian groups do. What gives anyone the right now to decide that they think that these people simply shouldn’t live? Similarly, when the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues, and then made a sacrifice to make up for not having done so before, they disregarded the fact that well-renowned Afghan Muslim rulers such as Mahmoud of Ghazni, who ruled the country according to Islam and even destroyed Buddhas elsewhere, did not touch the statues at Bamiyan. They were not being worshipped; they were one of the traces of a past civilisation, of the sort we are encouraged in the Qur’an to reflect on.

I was rather disappointed to see how some Muslims are unwilling to see the true colours of these extremists. People still see Osama bin Laden, for example, as the hero of Islam who helped drive the Russians out, rather than as someone who abused the Afghans’ hospitality, rather like someone who was given shelter by a friend while desperate, and used that shelter to carry out activities which result in his host’s house being fire-bombed. We cannot compare Muslim rulers of the past, who brought liberation (particularly compared to the alternatives available then), to these people, who bomb and kill indiscriminately in their campaign to impose an extreme and intolerant order on the Muslims. They have nothing to offer us except disgrace and destruction, and we should not make excuses for their destructive acts.

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