New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

The French Massacre: A Descent Into the Abyss

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2012-03-24

When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.
                                                          Friedrich Nietzsche

In the aftermath of the murderous spree in France, allegedly committed by a French “Jihadi,” Mohammed Merah, it should be clear to any observer that the so-called Jihad movement will never bring any good to Islam. Only a lunatic could believe that murdering school children in cold blood can somehow lead to a positive outcome for the cause he espouses. Only someone whose understanding of religion is totally void of any higher moral considerations can believe that maniacal slaughter can be a ticket to heaven. It is the height of delusion to believe that justifying mass murder in the name of “avenging” the excesses of anti-Muslim forces in place like Palestine, Iraq or Afghanistan can somehow point to a moral high ground.

“Jihadis,” who are victims of such delusional thinking are far removed from reality and from serving Islam either in the East or the West. Their nihilistic violence and wanton massacres in the Muslim countries they operate in only create fear and loathing among local populations. Their bloodthirsty tactics are used by anti-Muslim polemicists to misrepresent Islam and to discredit the heroic nature of popular resistance movements in Muslim countries that have been invaded and occupied by foreigners.

Here in the West, their heinous “operations” only serve to strengthen resentment towards Islam and to empower the most hawkish elements in these societies in their effort to garner expanded support for the wars on Muslim countries along with their assault on civil liberties here. Only a fool can believe that fostering an atmosphere of fear and distrust towards Islam and Muslims will do anything other than translate into growing efforts on the part of the fearful to eliminate the source of their distress.

In the face of these reoccurring atrocities, many Muslims are asking an obvious question, “Just who are these people working for?” It is obvious that they are not working for the best interest of Islam and Muslims. Is it a mere coincidence that the most well-publicized actions of the “Jihadis” come at the worst possible time for the Muslims?  Consider, by way of example, that the infamous 7/7 (June 7, 2005) attacks in Britain occurred at the height of the Edinburg Summit, which was dedicated to placing the eradication of hunger at the top of the international agenda. What was the immediate result of those senseless bombings? International headlines proclaiming that the fight against terrorism will remain the number one priority of the western powers and that the fight against global hunger will have to be put on the back-burner.

Similarly, in May 2004, at the height of the Abu Ghraib torture controversy, and the heated debate about the rogue nature of the United States war machine, the “Jihadis” decapitate Nicholas Berg and then circulate a video of their ghastly deed via the internet. What was the immediate result of that operation? The end of the growing debate on the legality and strategic efficacy of torture along with questioning the illegality and morally bankrupt nature of the war itself that was growing in the United States. There are many other incidents of this sort that we could mention to call into question the concern that the “shot-callers” of international “Jihad” have towards Islam or the best interest of the Muslim people.

Now, when the massacre of 17 Afghans, most of them women and children, by a member of the US Army is creating a wave of antipathy towards the war in Afghanistan, the “Jihadis” send out one of their minions to murder both Muslims and Jews in France. What is the immediate result of this latest “Jihadi” horror? The end of the outrage over the Afghan massacre, allegedly perpetrated by an American sniper, Robert Bales.

It is difficult for someone in the West to feel more disgust and revulsion towards atrocities committed in distant lands, no matter how repugnant, than they do towards atrocities committed in cities and towns they reside in or have intimate knowledge of. As the outrage towards what happens over “there” dissipates, a climate leading to the escalation or perpetuation of those faraway atrocities is fostered. Who are the biggest losers in the ensuing carnage? Innocent Muslims.

Innocent Muslims are also the biggest losers here in the West. It is ironic that the first three people Merah murdered were all Muslims: Imad Ibn Ziaten, Mohamed Legouad and Abel Chennouf. Like the French Jewish community, the Muslim community is forced to mourn the tragic loss of their loved ones. However, Muslims alone, both in France and elsewhere, will be left to deal with the backlash these attacks will precipitate. That backlash may include reprisal attacks and it will certainly include an escalation of anti-Muslim hate -in all of its manifestations.

Those of us who have been speaking out against the menace of so-called “Jihad” must redouble our efforts. “Jihad” is far more than a threat to the lives of unsuspecting innocent people, both here in the West and in Muslim countries. It is a threat to our religion, in terms of how Islam is being represented by the advocates of “Jihad” and how it is being perceived by others. Muslim scholars cannot remain silent and allow this misrepresentation to go unaddressed.

As for those youth who have been alienated by the systematic “othering” and “niggerizing” of Muslims in the post-9/11 anti-Muslim climate that is deepening here in the West, they would do well to consider a different set of religious teachings when studying Islam. True religion is not to be found in emotional and sensational reactions to current events and mind-numbing atrocities. True religion is not found in a self-glorying end brought on by a hail of bullets or a murderous act of suicide.

Rather, true religion provides the spiritual direction needed to find one’s self-worth and human value in ones relationship with God. True religion provides the solace and succor needed to find inner peace even when outer realities are crushing. True religion provides nobility that empowers its possessor to fearlessly challenge oppressors while mercifully protecting life, regardless of the race, religion, color or creed of the living. True religion provides a path to heaven that is paved with devotion, lofty morals, patience, and struggling in a dignified manner against the guiles of one’s ego, the vicissitudes of the world and the vagaries of both power and powerlessness.

As for those who are deceived into believing that wanton murder, mayhem, destruction, suicide and inviting war and hatred against one’s coreligionists represent an express road to paradise, they should think deeply before embarking on that path. Religion teaches and history demonstrates that such a path is a sinister, nefarious route that winds steadily, oftentimes irreversibly, into a deep, dark, cold abyss.



By Imam Zaid Shakir on March 27, 2012 at 8:15am

From Milad: Dear Imam Zaid, As salamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. I agree that there is no place for Muslims taking the law into their own hands and killing civilians - regardless of what scriptural basis they feel they may have for their actions. However, it seems that there are some problems with the official stories related to this event and the recent "assassination" of Osama bin Ladin. In the case of the recent events in France, eye witnesses stated that there was a medium-sized man of European descent having a tattoo on his face who committed the massacres - which doesn't fit the description of Mohamed Merah - the individual the government stated committed the crimes. And because nobody outside the French security establishment claimed to have actually witnessed Mohamed Merah bursting out of his apartment shooting wildly and then himself being shot and killed on the spot, we are forced to accept the official story. And in the case of the "assassination" of Osama bin Ladin, there were reports in the news 10 years earlier that he had been killed. And as they immediately "buried him at sea" we have no way to know if they had in fact found him alive and had killed him, or if the whole event was fabricated. We have no way of verifying the official stories, because rather than arresting the suspected criminals, taking them to court and having a proper court case with witnesses, etc. they said they had to simply kill them and that we have to accept that that was in the best interests of society to do so. Part of the problem here is that Barack Obama is now using the "assassination" as a way of trying to convince the American people that he deserves to be re-elected and Nicolas Sarkozy who was trailing in the public opinion polls in France seems to have benefited from this national crisis for his own re-election campaign. So as we take it upon ourselves as Muslims to live up to the highest standards of truth and justice and reject extremism and all actions that are unbecoming of Muslims, what we can we do to demand fairness and justice from the media and the powers that be? Because we shouldn't accept blame for actions that did not originate within our community. And if there are problems outside our community that lead to our continued stigmatization - it seems that our striving should include rectifying these injustices. I invite your comments.

By Ahmed on March 28, 2012 at 4:32pm

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate As-salamu 'alaikum Imam Zaid, Thank you for lucid comments on a sometimes confusing and always exasperating set of circumstances. You mentioned "popular resistance movements in Muslim countries that have been invaded and occupied by foreigners" that are "heroic" in nature. Do you believe that there any contemporary examples of this? Thank you for helping us to understand. Was-salamu 'alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu.

By Katharina Harlow on March 29, 2012 at 3:12am

Salaam alaikoum. Thank you, Imam Zaid. Beautifully written - especially the last two paragraphs.

By Ridhwan Saleem on March 29, 2012 at 8:48am

Jazak Allah khayr, Imam Zaid, for an insightful and intelligent article. You are right to question who these people are working for and whose interests are being served. It is hard to believe a Muslim would kill children in such a cold blooded manner, so similar to the actions of the US soldier in Afghanistan. If it is Muslims, they need their heads examined I'm afraid. Wassalam.

By Waleria Sawicka on March 29, 2012 at 1:56pm

tremendous issues here. I?

By Akanke on March 31, 2012 at 9:30am

As salaamu alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa baraktu. Thank you for this compelling article, Imam Zaid. I always appreciate your writings, wisdom and perspectives. You are greatly appreciated on many levels. Jazakallah khair! I agree that we must question who the alleged "Jihadis" really are and who they are working for. No true Muslim would be the perpetrator of mindless killings. I agree with Milad on a lot, including that we must question the official stories. And, we should question the agencies that investigate and issue findings, as well as the media that reports them. There is a long history of proven false flag operations committed by intelligence agencies not only in Muslims countries but around the world. Therefore, we cannot be blind to the deep web of malicious acts that have taken place by these hidden agents and blamed on others in order to advance geopolitical and imperial objectives of those who want more control around the world. Are there fanatical, misguided Muslims who are capable of heinous crimes? Definitely. However, more often the blame can be placed on the intelligence agencies and their operatives. This has been the case throughout history and has not stopped today, but has only gotten bolder. May Allah guide us and bring the light of truth to all and victory and honor to the righteous. Ameen

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By Mamadou on April 30, 2012 at 1:30pm

Thank you dear Imam for the excellent article. It is important that every time such actions are committed, respected Muslims stand up and speak in the name of Islam, lest its name will be hijacked by people with little spiritual and political awareness. Imam Zakir, knowing how sensitive you are to the craziness of these people who commit mischief in the name of Islam, I would like to ask you to learn about the behaviors of the so-called "Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad" or "Boko Haram" operating in Nigeria and to publicly speak against them. Because they kill people in Africa, nobody cares to denounce them.

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