A leading Saudi cleric issued a plea today for Muslims not to heed calls to wage terror attacks in the name of Islam. Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Sudeis, the state-appointed preacher at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, told pilgrims in a sermon marking the feast of Eid al-Adha that scholars must preach moderation to confront militants, who were using "misguided and void" interpretations to justify violence.
His sermon, dedicated to the 2.5 million Muslims performing the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, echoed comments made yesterday by Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al Sheik. The kingdom's grand mufti said the greatest test to the nation of Islam came from its sons who were "lured by the devil" to carry out acts of violence.
Sheikh al-Sudeis said militancy was not a valid interpretation of Islam. "Because Muslims have strayed from moderation, we are now suffering from this dangerous phenomenon of branding people infidels and inciting Muslims to rise against their leaders to cause instability," he said.
"The reason for this is a delinquent and void interpretation of Islam based on ignorance ... faith does not mean killing Muslims or non-Muslims who live among us, it does not mean shedding blood, terrorising or sending body parts flying."
The preacher warned that extremism would ruin the Muslim nation: "This phenomenon has expanded so much that scholars must confront it with concrete proof from Islam to protect our youth from its stench and putridity."
Laura points out (and Edward did not seem to notice this) that the speech was delivered not for the benefit of foreign media, but was a sermon directed to 2 million muslims performing the hajj.
Now, several commentators (notably Tacitus) pointed out that this particular sheikh has a history of saying things that are quite different in tone from the above rosy rhetoric:
O Allah, support our brother Mujahedeen for your sake and the oppressed everywhere. O Allah, support them in Palestine, Kashmir, and Chechnya. O Allah, we ask you to support our Palestinian brothers in Palestine against the aggressor Jews and usurper Zionists. O Allah, the Jews have oppressed, terrorized, and indulged in tyranny and corruption. O Allah, deal with them for they are within your power.
Such sentiments are expressed in his sermons at the Grand Mosque with a regular frequency.
However, looking at things from Al-Sudayyis' perspective, which is Qur'anically inept, it is clear that the statements are not contradictory. Within the particular world view of Al-Sudayyis, these facts are true: (1) The Jews are the root of all evils against Islam (directly inherited from Qutb), (2) Jihad in defense of religion is justified and worthy of praying to Allah for victory, and (3) Hirabah against innocents is not justified and will be the ruin of the Islamic politic entity (though, presumably, not Islam, see point 1).
Looking pragmatically at his statements, my assessment is that he is trying to insulate the Saudi regime from accusations of heresy, so that Al-Qaeda's renewed attention to toppling the Saudi dynasty via acts of terror against Saudi citizens is delegitimized. However, there is also a mainstream element here with regards to asserting that the struggles of Sunnis in Fallujah, Palestinians in Gaza, etc which he has cited in previous sermons as justified jihad are by definition not hirabah against innocents, but legitimate resistance to oppression.
Note that no less a thinker as Steven den Beste has pondered whether citizens of a democracy can really be considered civilians in an armed struggle, given that democracies uniquely give the citizen sovereign power over their government. From the perspective of a Palestinian father whose girl was killed by a tank, or an Iraqi girl with her father's blood on her face, the Israeli and American citizenry who voted to power those whose policies led to their tragedy are culpable. While I disagree with the idea that there is no such thing as a civilian (for other moral reasons), it is useless to deny that such an interpretation has been articulated by thinkers on both sides of these conflicts. While Al-Sudayyis' interpretations are contrary to mine, I think that he sees himself as acting out of a consistent set of principles with regards to justified war or not. Given that my own nation is engaged in "just war" of its own definition, I am content to agree to disagree with him. May the better ideology win.
Al-Sudayyis' statements are certainly self-serving, but having been articulated to a group of 2 million hajjis from around the globe, his personal agenda is also diluted (99.999% of those who heard his message about rejecting terror certainly will never have heard a sermon of his castigating Jews for perceived evils, either). The event therefore is notable and worth celebarting as a positive event. I fully agree with the assessment of the man in the ObWi thread, but those who seek to discredit this message against terror on the basis of his past (and assuredly present) anti-semitic rantings are missing the point.
And Edward's point about the motives of those specific anti-muslim zealots in American society, such as infest LGF and the conservative talk radio airwaves, also went unacknowledged in the fuss over Al-Sudayyis's credibility. That, for obvious reasons, is far more a concern of mine as what Al-Sudayyis spouts off in his sermons on Fridays.