A few hours ago, I heard the sad news of three people dead in the aftermath of almost 16-hour hostage siege at a Lindt Chocolate store in Sydney Australia where the alleged assailant, Man Haron Monis, took 17 civilians hostage in the shop, and briefly got them to wave a black Shahadah flag on the window. The deaths of Haron and two of the hostages appear to have happened when the police stormed the shop around 2am (Sydney time) using stun grenades and automatic weapons. One hostage had reportedly been shot and a number of hostages injured, while the second hostage fatality was reported to have died of a heart attack on the way to the hospital.
Before the siege was broken, Haron had made three demands: the first was he wanted to be given an ISIS flag (in exchange for a hostage) and the second was to communicate with the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott [I speculate that the third request seems to have been a ploy to ensure the media transmits his messages].
The attack appears to have been the act of a ‘lone wolf’ with no direct connection to any other group. A twitter account purporting to be ‘Sheikh Haron’ had tweets displaying sympathies with ISIS, but the fact that he had asked for an ISIS flag as one of his demands shows that the attack was most likely not planned out or prepared for – likely erratic, hasty and lacked any well thought out purpose. According to a number of sources, including his lawyer, Haron (an asylum seeker to Australia of Iranian origins) has been dedicated to protesting Australian wars in Afghanistan for many years- and had been under criminal charges for writing letters to the bereaved families of killed Australian soldiers allegedly telling them why the death of their loved ones was justified by the actions of Western foreign policy that these soldiers served. He has been described with a history of mental health problems, and was reported to have lost an appeal against his conviction at the Australian supreme court for writing his letters only three days before his attack. He had also been reported to have developed an obsession with the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
In light of Haron’s facebook and website being shutdown, it seems unclear whether he expressed any motivations for the attack. What his twitter makes clear is his anger against Australian foreign policy and its military help to US and UK in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some have suggested that his twitter reveals that he may have been abused or tortured while in Australian prison. We currently do not know the reasons for his taking hostages, whether or not he intended to kill them, and what he actually wanted to say to the Australian Prime Minister, or say to the media. But it is possible that through taking hostages, like most people who take hostages, Haron wanted attention. His actions certainly contradict his statement on media record where he seems to condemn terrorism and claim he wants ‘peace’. It would seem that the simplest explanation is that he suffered from mental health issues, which suggests that this entire sad episode could have been avoided had he received the appropriate medical help.
Anti-Islamic Opportunists Strike
During the Sydney Siege, another ‘hijacking’ occurred – but this time, by the counter-‘extremism’ pundits, like Maajid Nawaz, who disingenuously used the incident of Haron flashing a black Shahadah flag in the window of the shop, to not-so-subtly connect Haron’s actions to Islamic groups that operate peacefully amongst the australian community. The tactic seems to be designed to incriminate by association, peaceful Islamic political movements alongside terrorists.Of course Maajid’s objective was revealed in another tweet shortly after:
Maajid Nawaz wanted to compare the Black Shahadah flag – which Hizb ul Tahrir, a non-violent group established in 1953, report adopting based upon Islamic sources of the Prophet Muhammed’s banner – to the Nazi Swastika! It should be noted that the black (and white) Shahada flags predate Al Qaeda and ISIL and to ban them because of these two groups, is like saying its wrong for Christians to wear the cross because of the KKK using it! The reason Al Qaeda and ISIL use (variations of) these flags is to get legitimacy from the Muslim world – much like the English Nationalist, English Defence League (EDL) use the English flag to get legitimacy for their cause – there is nothing terrorist, or wrong about the flag in of itself.
Similarly, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has attempted to portray the Sydney Siege as an ‘ISIL attack’ to further his increasingly draconian security regime clamping down peaceful political dissent amongst the Muslim minority living in Australia.
An Important Reminder
It is important for all of us to remember, that even while thousands are being killed unjustly throughout the world, whether they are the many Afro-Americans killed by US Police, or the thousands of Muslim civilians killed by the military operations of Western governments – every life that is taken unjustly is a cause for sadness, no matter how small in comparison to other tragedies. The Quran says “If any one kills a person…it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” [5:32] Therefore, we should be sad at the loss of the people who were killed during the Australian police’s storming of the Sydney shop.
NEEDLESS to say, there is no justification for hostage-taking, terrorism, killing civilians or an individual breaking a covenant of peace with the land (s)he lives in (which comes under the contract of citizenship or holding a passport) or even acting treacherously. It saddens the Muslim to see someone killed in contravention of God’s grave prohibition to all mankind not to engage in blood letting and murder. It is also a tragedy to see people die who may have lived longer to experience life and reach greater understanding of truth – something we all constantly strive to pursue. But most of all, it saddens the Muslim to see the passing of a fellow human soul:
Two companions of the prophet, Sahl ibn Hunaif and Qais ibn Sa’d ibn Ubaidah were in Al-Qadisiyyah when a funeral passed by them, so they stood up and it was said to them, “It is one of the local people.” They both reported that: A funeral passed by the Messenger of Allah (s.a.a.w) and he stood up. It was said to him, “It is a Jew.” The Prophet said, “Was he not a soul?” [Sahih Bukhari 1250, Sahih Muslim 961]
When is a Hostage not a Hostage?
This post doesn’t end here – much that Western politicians and Islamophobes would wish all Muslims to make one-sided comments only apologising for Western tragedies where the criminals were incidentally Muslim – while forgetting about the much larger tragedies perpetrated under the guise of Western ‘foreign policy’. The unjust hostage taking was patently wrong – and when it occurred, people expected the police to deal with the perpetrator. But there is a greater hostage-taking that rather conspicuously hasn’t received the same decisive response from law enforcement agencies – namely, the revelations about the CIA’s global kidnapping and torture activities and the complicity of many Western governments in taking Muslim hostages, torturing them, renditioning them to Western puppet governments in the Muslim world for worse torture and the brutal conditions they were kept in. The scale and breadth of this was truly terrifying – and in a way, designed to be so (like terrorism?). Muslim hostages were detained and tortured on the slightest suspicion of involvement with terrorism, or any connection to those involved with terrorism. Some were beaten to death, others died of suffocation and exposure and some were made to stand for hours on broken legs. The ones remaining alive were tortured with simulated drowning, beatings, threats of rape against their wives, mothers and children, force-fed anally or just raped with foreign objects – and worse. Unlike the visible Lindt Chocolate shop, the CIA perpetrated their crimes holding hostages hidden from public view in so-called ‘black-sites’, as well as using the more (in)famous sites such as bagram or Guantanamo.
The questions we should ask ourselves is, when will the perpetrators be arrested? Are they still doing these renditions? and why haven’t the victims been called by the description Western politicians and Media use to describe Western journalists or civilians who are similarly captured by armed groups? Namely – Hostages. Does one only become called a Hostage when one is non-Muslim or linked to a Western governmental agency?
Of course, there are people who would counter ‘the two are not the same – Muslims ‘detained’ by CIA and other agencies are only those suspected with a connection to terrorism, and only subject to ‘enhanced’ interrogated if it would save lives!’. Really? That sounds like a very familiar argument, because that is exactly what Terrorists say in justification for their own crimes! They target civilians in Democracies, because they claim that the citizens there are complicit or connected to the crimes committed by their governments, after all [they say], governments do claim to act by the public Will. This of course is actually not true and is merely a facade of democracy – the government only want the votes of their people, not their opinions – but that is a different discussion. The argument of the terrorist then follows that in order to stop the Western military onslaught against innocent lives – as a result of Western military bombing, invasion or other military interference – hostages are taken or killed to deter future Western terrorism from happening again. This is exactly the argument said by the 7/7 bombers, the killers of Lee Rigby, and ISIS’s killing of journalists and aid workers.
The problem here is, these terrorists have been made in the image of the West, using the same justifications as Western politicians, security officials – and even Islamophobic/Neo-Conservative pundits. In fact, Terrorists are nothing but the mirror image of the West and its military philosophy, and a creation resulting from the West’s historical interference in the Muslim world – a demonstration of Newton’s third law of motion. These Terrorists hope to use Terrorism to deter Western militaries from pursuing their military foreign policies against the Middle East – claiming that by doing so, they’ll save many thousands of Muslim lives – BUT Islam condemns such terrorism under any circumstance – even if claimed to be done with noble intentions and even if it was efficacious at saving lives. While condemning the actions of these terrorists, Islam also – in the same breath – condemns with equal vigour, the actions of the Western foreign policy which has killed, maimed and caused suffering at far greater levels than anything terrorists could achieve. If all human life is equal, and if greater death is a greater tragedy than less death, than Western foreign policy – not counting its history – has caused vastly greater numbers of deaths, and therefore, tragedy, than Muslim terrorists ever have – yet the focus of Western politicians is hypocritically on the latter, not the former.
We should be alarmed by the excuse that ‘saving lives’ is apparently an acceptable justification for killing, kidnapping and torturing of innocent people by the West! I say INNOCENT people, for if there was evidence against the hostages of the CIA, they would be arrested and receive a trial – but of course, trials are not convenient for the CIA it would seem. But of course, the CIA use terms like ‘detainee’ to describe the hostages they take to give their practice a veneer of acceptability, but this is as absurd as if ISIL called their hostages ‘detainees’ too! This of course answers the question – When is a hostage not a hostage? When they are Muslim – it would seem. This leads us to the core of Western civilisation and its philosophy.
The Western Moral Philosophy of Convenience
Out of the Western ‘Enlightenment’ came the idea of Individualism and the protection of the Individual under ‘Rights’. The problem with this is, how do you justify respecting people’s rights? The first justification was that rights were ‘divinely ordained’, but this required people to believe in scriptural revelation – THEN prove that these scriptures gives rights that agree with ‘Individualism’ – which didn’t work out too well considering the ‘Enlightenment’ was about seeking ‘truth’ outside Revelation. Then there was (led by John Locke) the ‘Natural Rights’ doctrine, positing that somehow ‘nature’ gives humans rights. The problem with this is quite simple – nature doesn’t appear to care with you (or any living creature) lives or dies, let alone whether you have rights. This doctrine was refuted by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill who posited instead the doctrine of Utilitarianism – namely, to give people rights as long as it served the greater good (or produced the maximum amount of happiness). This became the predominant ‘justification’ for Rights to this day – however it contained a hidden, but fundamentally disastrous flaw – what happens when Rights become Inconvenient?
John Stuart Mill, the famous Liberal philosopher that popularised Utilitarianism, himself justified oppression, tyranny, brutality and killing against ‘barbarians’ for ‘their own good’ in order to ‘civilise them’. JS Mill consequently supported colonialism and all the measures taken by colonial Britain to suppress and ‘educate’ natives under the British Empire. Now, considering the current campaign of Western governments to suppress Islam rising in government in the Muslim world, they adopted the SAME methods they did against Communists (and as they’ve used throughout history against other ‘pariah minorities’ like Jews, Catholics, Irish and Blacks) – detention without trial, and the use of torture and killing. It should come as no surprise that a civilisation that believes Rights are given due to convenience, should be equally able to take them away when not convenient? Convenience giveth and [in]convenience taketh away.
The only real debate you’ll find popular in the West, is whether torture brings results or not, with a clear majority of Americans believing it justifiable due to ‘bringing results’! Of those decrying it, it is mostly because they believe: ‘its wrong to torture, as its not proven it can save lives’. That is the main reason the detractors think it wrong?! So what if torture does save some lives, do they agree with the majority that it becomes right then? What if the Muslim community’s main reason for rejecting Terrorism was: ‘It’s wrong only because it clearly doesn’t work, Western governments just keep bombing and killing Muslims whether we use Terrorism or not’ ?! Would Western pundits, media commentators, Islamophobes and politicians salute that reasoning the same way they accept the debate over torture to be centred almost exclusively around its efficacy?! No, they wouldn’t, they be alarmed of course – as alarmed as Muslims are when we hear them use the same arguments! It should be noticed too, that those who oppose Western invasions to impose democracy also argue that it is wrong ‘because a democracy imposed by an invasion doesn’t work’. What if it did? Would they start supporting more invasions? Probably…
Islam isn’t a materialistic worldview, nor does it believe that justice ends at one’s death. Islam believes that there is a greater world after death, and that Humans have a higher purpose than merely existing for their own sake, or serving the god of convenience & self-interest (i.e. Individualism). Islam forbids terrorism, hostage-taking, killing non-combatants, torture or breaking one’s covenant of peace WHETHER or NOT it is materially beneficial or proven to be convenient or cause a greater good. Liberalism (i.e. Political Individualism), no matter how highly it praises its ‘Rights’, is still only a materialistic worldview that only considers the earthly life for mankind, and excludes considerations of divine justice, or divine promise of justice. Consequently, it has no reassurance that ‘doing the right thing’ will led to a ‘happy ending’. Therefore, to achieve its goal it will do whatever it feels is necessary (despite humans only having limited understanding of the world, and no ability to predict the future).
As the renown Atheist philosopher and neuroscientist, Sam Harris says: “this appears to be a circumstance of forced choice: if we are willing to drop bombs, or even risk that rifle rounds might go astray, we should be willing to torture a certain class of criminal suspects and military prisoners; if we are unwilling to torture, we should be unwilling to wage modern war”
Islam doesn’t have this problem, because Muslims live not for results by ‘any means necessary’ but rather we live for God by following his necessary laws and instructed principles – which we are promised will deliver the right results and a righteous happy ending. The Prophet Muhammed (saaw) demonstrated this many a time, but (to use one example) he is reported to have said “To free someone criminal mistakenly is better than to punish someone innocent mistakenly.”
The problem that causes some Muslims to engage in Terrorism, is not to do with the interpretations of the commands of Islam, but rather the problem with terrorism is due to the fact that many Muslims have been so influenced by the West, they copy its ideology and methodology. Terrorists are therefore ‘modernists’ who adopt modern methods of military struggle from Western practices even those that blatantly run contrary to Islam. The problem is not Fundamentalism, but rather, these terrorists lack Fundamentalism. If they took from the fundamentals of their religion, they’d see that the fundamental and unchangeable laws of Islam must be adhered to. Muslims should not imitate the West’s moral philosophy (or political philosophies for that matter, like Secularism and Liberalism), but rather we should be a better example to the West, displaying to them, that even if their governments kidnap us, take us hostage, torture us, kill our women and children – we will NOT respond in kind – and to Allah (swt) alone do we depend ultimately for protection and justice. Muslims of course are commanded to protect each other from injustice, and this should be undertaken by unity, solidarity – by raising awareness with those who share our commitment to justice, and ultimately, we should work towards the re-establishment of a just and true Caliphate that will protect Muslim and non-Muslim lives from the predations of Western militancy.
There have been many questions raised due to the sad events in Sydney, but it is important that we use the plight of those hostages to draw attention to the on-going plight of hostages around the world – including those in the worst hostage situation (which is ongoing I might add) that is being perpetrated unchallenged and even openly justified by pundits who live within the powerfullest government in the Western world, with collusion of most of the Western governments now involved in the ‘war on terror’.
The sad events in Sydney where innocent hostages were held captive should be a cause for us to remember the problems of ALL innocent hostages in the world. If a afro-american dies at the hands of a U.S. police man, people rightly draw attention to how all afro-americans are treated by U.S. policemen, and we too should draw attention to all the other innocent hostages in the world too, Muslim or non-Muslim, of whatever race.
No one should ever be taken hostage outside of law, rights to a trial, and right to humane treatment irrespective of whether the context is terrorism, criminal law or war, and irrespective of whether the individuals are Muslim or non-Muslim. While we should not forget the people who died today in Sydney, let us not let Western politicians, Media or Islamophobes use the events in Sydney to conceal or hide the bigger injustices in the world – injustices that they continue to perpetrate with clear consciences.
In other news – last month, Devin Rogers a former US army soldier held two hostages at gun point for 5 hours in Norman, Oklahoma (USA) – no international media coverage ensued. He is also believed to be suffering from mental issues.