September 8, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 780

Arab and Muslim Reactions to the Terrorist Attack in Beslan, Russia

September 8, 2004
Special Dispatch No. 780

The attack on a school in Ossetia, Russia in early September 2004 which killed hundreds of people, many among them children, brought on a flurry of reactions in the Arab and Muslim media. Some columnists condemned the use of terror and the harming of innocent civilians, others criticized the Russian forces' failed rescue attempt, and a few even blamed Jewish elements of being involved in the affair. In addition, many articles argued that the terrorists do not represent Islam and that Islam does not endorse violence. They also aimed sharp criticism against Muslim leaders and clerics who incite against civilians in the name of Islam. The following are reactions to the attack:

Condemnation of Terrorist Actions

An editorial in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram said: "The events in the city of Beslan are an ugly crime against humanity. It is impossible that those who carried out the operation had a [legitimate] problem or that they [acted out of] religious belief. This is a group of criminal murderers, and everyone responsible for this crime must be hunted down and brought to trial in an international court. The time has come for everyone to accept as a first principle the sanctity of life and [the obligation] to avoid harming civilians…" [1]

Dr. Fahd Al-Fanek, a columnist for the Jordanian daily Al-Rai, wrote: "We understand that the Chechen people have a legitimate cause and that they have the right to self-determination and independence … however, it is impossible to serve the Chechen cause by means of terrorism. The abduction of children as hostages is an ugly act, is unfitting for someone with a nationalist cause, and does nothing to achieve national objectives; on the contrary, it only serves to unite world public opinion against this cause…

"The holding of hundreds of innocent children as hostages and the endangering of their lives is a lowly act, a suicide operation in the full sense of the word, which is liable to provoke the anger of the civilized world and to cause it to stop sympathizing with the Chechen [cause] and to change its view [of the Chechens] from freedom fighters worthy of support to terrorists worthy of punishment. [Past] terrorist actions in the world have only done damage to the causes of the peoples [involved] and furnished a moral pretext to the forces of evil and to the aggressors to subjugate peoples and countries and to destroy them… The occupation of Palestine, Chechnya, and Iraq are an evil that demands resistance, but the difference between resistance and terror is great and the confusion [of the two] serves [the interest] of the occupiers." [2]

Palestinian columnist Hasan Al-Batal wrote in the PA daily Al-Ayyam under the title "Arab Disgrace in Beslan:" "The day of horror in the school in Beslan, September 1, should be designated an international day for the condemnation of terror, as has been done with other international events… The Arab League Council should visit to show their sympathy with the Russian people and a delegation of Arab leaders should travel to Moscow…

"The participation of a portion of the Arab volunteers in the resistance to the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan is possible to understand. Less so the fighting on the side of the Chechen rebels in Chechnya. However, that some should participate in the abduction of Russian children in an elementary school? There are no mitigating circumstances for the inhuman horror and the height of barbarism that occurred in the children's school on the celebration of the opening [of the school year]." [3]

The Attackers in No Way Represent True Islam and We Must Disown Them

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, former editor of the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote in the daily under the title "The Painful Truth is that All of the Terrorists are Muslims:"

" Obviously not all Muslims are terrorists but, regrettably, the majority of the terrorists in the world are Muslims. The kidnappers of the students in Ossetia are Muslims. The kidnappers and killers of the Nepalese workers and cooks are also Muslims. Those who rape and murder in Darfour are Muslims, and their victims are Muslims as well. Those who blew up the residential complexes in Riyadh and Al-Khobar are Muslims. Those who kidnapped the two French journalists are Muslims. The two [women] who blew up the two planes [over Russia] a week ago are Muslims. Bin Laden is a Muslim and Al-Houthi [the head of a terrorist group in Yemen] is a Muslim. The majority of those who carried out suicide operations against buses, schools, houses, and buildings around the world in the last ten years are also Muslims.

"What a terrible record. Does this not say something about us, about our society and our culture? If we put all of these pictures together in one day, we will see that these pictures are difficult, embarrassing, and humiliating for us. However, instead of avoiding them and justifying them it is incumbent upon us first of all to recognize their authenticity rather than to compose eloquent articles and speeches proclaiming our innocence…

"Islam has suffered an injustice at the hands of the new Muslims… We will only be able to clear our reputation once we have admitted the clear and shameful fact that most of the terrorist acts in the world today are carried out by Muslims. We have to realize that we cannot correct the condition of our youth who carry out these disgraceful operations until we have treated the minds of our sheikhs who have turned themselves into pulpit revolutionaries who send the children of others to fight while they send their own children to European schools." [4]

'If the 'Heroes' of the Muslim Violence and Terrorism do not Represent True Islam, then Who does Represent it?'

Columnist Suleiman Al-Hatlan wrote in the Saudi government daily Al-Watan: "If the 'heroes' of the Muslim violence and terrorism do not represent true Islam, then who does represent it? The painful truth is that the acts of violence and barbarism occurring at present are nothing but the natural consequence of generations of Muslims having been misled and force-fed speeches [filled with] hostility and hatred for others over the course of decades, which deepened the backwardness and the ignorance in the Islamic world. There is no nation on the face of the earth that has not had to deal with oppression and war, but these nations have known how to defend their rights through the use of logic and knowledge … while in our Islamic world the voices of ignorance continue in their plans to develop the ignorance and backwardness so that backwardness, degeneracy, and lack of direction will reign even more [than they do now]." [5]

Under the title "Butchers in the Name of Allah," columnist Khaled Hamad Al-Suleiman wrote in the Saudi government daily Okaz: "The propagandists of Jihad succeeded in the span of a few years in distorting the image of Islam, while the enemies of Islam did not succeed in doing this [even] in the course of hundreds of years. They turned today's Islam into something having to do with decapitations, the slashing of throats, abducting innocent civilians and exploding people. They have fixed the image of Muslims in the eyes of the world as barbarians and savages who are not good for anything except slaughtering people…

"The time has come for Muslims to be the first to come out against those interested in abducting Islam in the same way they abducted innocent children. This is the true Jihad these days and this is our obligation, as believing Muslims, towards our monotheistic religion…" [6]

'The Arabs and the Muslims Today Contribute Nothing to Civilization and Progress Except for Blood, Severed Heads, Scorched Bodies, and the Abduction and Murder of Children'

Iraqi columnist Aziz Al-Hajj wrote on the progressive Internet site "What kind of national cause is this that uses children like gasoline for igniting a total war of destruction in the name of national and religious liberty?… The Islamic-Arab terrorism has turned into the greatest danger in the world, and threatens civilization, security, and life everywhere. It is today the symbol of evil, religious fanaticism, and moral degradation, and it is the essence of political crime in today's world… Islamic terrorism is the outcome of 'moderate' political Islam, as it is generally described. The latest proof of this is Sheikh [Yousef] Al-Qaradhawi's religious legal ruling [ fatwa ] calling for the killing of all Americans in Iraq…

"The Arabs and the Muslims today contribute nothing to civilization and progress except for blood, severed heads, scorched bodies, and the abduction and murder of children. The Jihad for religion and Arab chivalry have turned into the art of exploding, booby-trapping, and spilling blood. What an innovation and what a social contribution the Arabs have made in the 21st century!!" [7]

Faisal Al-Qina'i, a columnist for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyassa, wrote: "… These savages are not Muslims but rather … enemies of Islam. Their goal is to distort the image of the Islamic religion, to cause damage to Muslims, to slow the spread of Islam and to turn it into a hated pariah religion which the entire world opposes… It is saddening to read and to hear from those who are supposed to be Muslim clerics, like Yousef Al-Qaradhawi and others of his kind, that instead of defending true Islam they encourage these cruel actions and permit decapitation, murder, and hostage-taking … there is a true Islam and then there are those who stray from it and they are more dangerous than the Jews." [8]

Bater Wardam, a columnist for the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour, wrote: "It is always easy to flee to illusions and to place responsibility for the crimes of Arabic and Muslim terrorist organizations on the Mossad, the Zionists, and on American intelligence, but we all know that this is not the case and that those who murder innocent civilians in Iraq after having kidnapped them, those who turned civilian airplanes into destructive bombs, those who exploded trains crowded with innocent civilians and those who fired on children in a school in Ossetia – they came from our midst. They are Arabs and Muslims who pray, fast, grow beards, demand the wearing of veils, and call for the defense of Islamic causes. Therefore we all must raise our voices, disown them and oppose all of these crimes… Whoever remains silent when faced with the murder of children, he is an accomplice to the crime. Even worse, we are employing the same moral double standard regarding people's lives that the West uses." [9]

Criticism of Russia's Handling of the Affair

Columnist Fawwaz Al-Ajami wrote in the Qatari daily Al-Sharq: "It is impossible to correct a mistake with another mistake and it is impossible to treat terrorism with terrorism. There are many ways and methods with which it would have been possible to save these innocent children's lives. The barbaric Russian storming of this school was no less ugly and no less terrorist than the terrorism of these child-abductors. In this way state terrorism becomes the equivalent of individual terrorism with the victim being innocent civilians…" [10]

Iranian columnist Naser Imani wrote in the conservative Iranian daily Risalat an article under the title "The Russian Method of Solving the Problem of Terrorism:"

"Russia carried out a wide-scale attack on the school in which armed people had taken hostage a large number of pupils and innocent civilians. In so doing it [Russia] killed many of the hostages and the hostage-takers in order to end the affair. This event was similar to the hostage incident in the Moscow theater. There as well the Russian government conducted a wide-scale attack in order to end the affair at any cost without taking into consideration the number of killed.

"The American administration also sides with this logic in its struggle against terrorism, a logic which says that the number of helpless casualties is immaterial. But are these violent methods, which are being implemented in the harshest manner, not causing terrorism to become more firmly entrenched…?

"The fact must be noted that the political and economic inequality that exists in today's world is the major factor causing the creation of terrorism and its persistence. The world powers react to terrorism with violence in order to justify their international policies. They are well aware of the fact that the present violence will not at all bring about the uprooting of terrorism, but will rather cause the terrorists to be more dedicated to reaching their targets and to improve their methods." [11]

The Jews are Behind the Attack

In the Jordanian government daily Al-Dustour, columnist George Haddad wrote: "More than one Russian commentator and a number of journalists on the satellite channels pointed out that Russian intelligence had information concerning 'contributions' that some of the Chechen factions received from Jewish oligarchs from the fields of finance, communications, and oil… [These are] the owners of the corporations and billions which were stolen from the Russian people, that after Putin's rise to power and the establishment of his rule became wanted on charges of deceit, fraud, and tax evasion …

"The most important goal of the wanted Jewish gang was to distort Putin's [public] image and to present him as someone who is not in charge of the situation, [and who is incapable] of reining in the anarchy, and who is leading the country and its residents back to the days of repression, dictatorship, and state control." [12]

Columnist Ghassan Makhal wrote in the Qatari daily Al-Sharq: "Who stands behind the hostage-taking operation? The Russian government blamed the Chechens but to this day it has not divulged a single name of anyone involved in the operation - this despite the fact that it holds, by its own admission, the bodies of over thirty people. Chechen President and rebel Aslan Maskhadov also said that the Chechens have nothing to do with the operation…

"It is likely that the downing of the planes in Moscow [sic] and the operation against the school in Beslan were part of the struggle that the Putin government is waging against the [Russian] mafia, which has ties to Israel. Therefore it is possible that the Russian Foreign Minister is in Israel in order to negotiate and reach an agreement, or at least to obtain a promise from Sharon that he will mediate [between the government] and this mafia." [13]

[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), September 4, 2004.

[2] Al-Rai (Jordan), September 5, 2004.

[3] Al-Ayyam (PA), September 6, 2004.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 4, 2004.

[5] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), September 6, 2004.

[6] Okaz (Saudi Arabia), September 5, 2004.

[7], September 4, 2004.

[8] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), September 5, 2004.

[9] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 5, 2004.

[10] Al-Sharq (Qatar), September 6, 2004.

[11] Risalat (Iran), September 5, 2004. The Iranian newspapers criticized the actions of the Russian forces in the wake of the Chechen Moscow theater affair in September 2002, as well. The conservative newspaper Jomhouri Eslami, which is tied to Iran's leader Ali Khamenei, wrote: "Out of the many [possible] solutions to the hostage affair, the Russians chose the worst one [and] the one which causes the most casualties… Of course the Chechen people were left with no option but to make the voice of the oppressed heard in the world and to shake up its dormant conscience. The Russians … must also be aware of the fact that the killing of more than 30 armed Chechens provokes great anger among the younger generation of Chechens against the Russians and encourages thousands of Chechens to fight for every drop of blood spilt of those 30 people …" ( Jomhouri Eslami, Iran, October, 27, 2002). The daily Kayhan International, which is also tied to Iran's leader Ali Khamenei wrote that "a little bit of prudence on the part of Russian authorities would have averted the catastrophe and reduced the huge death toll of ordinary citizens. They could have been cautious at a time when Muscovites frustrated at having to pay with their life for the policies of their government in a far off land, were protesting with bold placards near the Kremlin for negotiating with the Chechens to end the unwanted war in the northern Caucasus." ( Kayhan International, Iran, October 28, 2002, as cited in IRNA (Iran), October 28, 2002).

[12] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 6, 2004.

[13] Al-Sharq (Qatar), September 6, 2004.

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