Dangerous logic used by Al-Shabaab to justify killing civilians

I watched two videos, each at least an hour long, released by Al-Shabaab and documenting the group’s attacks on the 10 biggest hotels in Mogadishu. These hotels include: Jazeera, Sahafi, Nasa-Hablod One and Nasa-Hablod Two, Dayah, SYL, Central, Ambassador, Doorbin, and Peace One. Also included was As-Asey Hotel in Kismayo. The videos detailed how the explosions were executed, those who executed it and their clans, the attackers’ last words, and the reasons why these hotels were attacked.

Al-Shabaab says it is because these hotels host members of the “apostate” government, foreign diplomats and foreign spies. It claims that these hotels serve as bases from which plans to sabotage the Islamic religion and weaken the Muslim people are hatched.

Some of the suicide bombers say they were carrying out the attacks in revenge for the injustices committed against Muslims across the globe, such as in Palestine. They also attempt to justify the terror and death of civilians killed in these attacks. They further boast that, to avoid shedding Muslim blood, that they had aborted many attacks on other installations.

They listed the names of officials killed in the attacks, including close friends whom I wept for as I heard their names. Al-Shabaab has two objectives for releasing the two high quality videos:

To justify attacks on hotels and also the countless innocent civilians who usually perish in these attacks, as well in other Al-Shabaab operations. They argue that, since the Somali government is an “apostate” administration, that the life of everyone working with it is forfeit. They claim that the reason they are killing us and themselves, is only to save us all in this life and in the hereafter. They alone are the arbitrators of this one-sided debate, and they vindicate themselves and give themselves high ground. Worse yet, the scholars they reference are Al-Shabaab members, among whom I recognized are Ahmed Godane and Mahad Karate, and foreign Al-Qaeda members such as Abu Yahya al-Libi and Ayman al- Zawahiri. They attempt to explain the deaths of civilians in their everyday attacks and explosions, saying that those civilians committed no crimes, but are only killed for their own good. They say, “Planned attacks and explosions targeting the government cannot be aborted simply because civilians might die. They will be killed not because they committed crimes, but because they live amongst criminals.”

The second objective is to create fear. It is a display of power, showing their ability to attack anywhere, the power of their intelligence, their skill at coordinating operations. The terrifying boom of explosions and billowing smoke, intermingled with intense gunfire, are repeatedly shown scenes. The message is that they spare none and that lessons should be learnt from their actions.

The pressing questions are: What forces them to start justifying their terror activities? Why now? Why do they suddenly need to carry favour with the public? Is it because there might be internal differences? Are they worried that they are losing public support? Or is it because they now aim to rule and are looking for legitimacy? There are other insights that can be drawn from the two videos, such as why majority of the suicide bombers are from one clan. It is possible to retrace their steps and find out what is forcing them into these terrible terror acts.

Not surprisingly, the religious references they use for their justifications are nullified by verse 25 of Surat al-Fathi. When the Qureish idol worshippers blocked our Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him, and his followers from entering Makkah for Umrah (minor pilgrimage), he signed the Hudeybiyah agreement, bitter as it was for the Muslims, after long negotiations. The agreement stipulated:

That (the Prophet and his followers) shall go back and forfeit that year’s Umrah.

That the Muslims shall handover any member of the idolaters who joins them, but that any Muslim who joins the idolaters shall not be returned to the Muslims.

That fighting shall cease for a 10-year period.

That the two sides shall be able to cooperate in a coalition.

The bitterest part for the Muslims was that at the signing, when the opening sentence “In the name of Allah, the Rahman (compassionate)…” were being written, Suhail bin Amr, who was representing the idolaters, rejected it. He insisted that he did not recognize the Rahman the Muslims were talking about, instead dictating that the opening should read “In your name, O Allah”. Again, when Ali bin Abi Talib, who was drafting the agreement, tried to follow it with “This agreement, signed between the messenger of Allah, Muhammad…” Suhail once again rejected this, and demanded that the words “messenger of Allah” be deleted, arguing that there would be no war if he recognized Muhammad as such. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said to Ali, “delete it and write what they want”.

Another painful episode unfolded after Suhail’s son, Abu Jandal, with his hands tied behind his back and bearing signs of torture, threw himself at the peace venue. When this happened, Suhail argued that the agreement’s implementation should start with the handing over of Jandal.  The Prophet ordered Jandal be handed over.

Omar bin al-Khattab is said to have commented about that day, that in all his days as a Muslim, it was the only day he doubted Islam. I am recounting this story to point out why the Muslims had to accept all that humiliation that day.

Allah told his messenger that it happened because there were vulnerable and innocent people, both men and women, who were in Makkah and could not escape. If there was to be fighting, the Prophet and his followers would have killed them all without knowing.

“They are the ones who denied Revelation and hindered you from the Sacred Mosque and the sacrificial animals, detained from reaching their place of sacrifice. Had there not been believing men and believing women whom ye did not know that ye were trampling down and on whose account a crime would have accrued to you without (your) knowledge, ((Allah) would have allowed you to force your way, but He held back your hands) that He may admit to His Mercy whom He will. If they had been apart, We should certainly have punished the Unbelievers among them with a grievous Punishment..” verse 25 of Surat al-Fath

Today, a man tells you, citing the words of some engineers or doctors to support his position, that he has to kill people to save them, While Allah says that the jihad and fighting should be stopped, even if that means accepting humiliations, just to avoid the death of innocent people.

‎Al-Shabaab is also unaware that the people they so proudly proclaim to have massacred, had children who are left with nothing but resentment and grieve.