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Yes to Bombs, No to Prayers! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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When the United States decided to sell a thousand bombs to Israel capable of killing and destruction, we did not hear any objection to that, and we did not see hundreds of Europeans travelling to demonstrate and express their fear of the bombs as they did to demonstrate their fear of the “spread of Islam”. No one also demonstrated against Israel cluster bombs in Lebanon which claimed the lives of innocent children, men and women and caused permanent handicap to many others. Yet, the decision to build a mosque in the city of Cologne in Germany for Muslims to pray in incited the antagonism and objections of thousands of the European right who travelled from Switzerland, Belgium and Hungary to demonstrate against the building of a place where Muslims will worship God. Many of them carried bill boards with “Stop Islam” on it, although it is highly likely that most of those do not have any real idea about Islam. In a similar scene, and since the first Friday in the holy month of Ramadan, we watch with great sorrow thousands of unarmed Palestinians crossing humiliating Israeli checkpoints, only to reach al Aqsa Mosque to do their prayers, while armed Israeli soldiers exercise all kinds of coercion on them. The irony is that the impression made and marked by Western media is that those unarmed Palestinians, who yearn only to pray and kneel to God, are seen as a source of danger and violence, whereas the armed soldiers, who knock them down, are seen as victims! What is no less ironic is that the Western world, that has been lecturing at Muslims for generations on how to treat their women decently, is actually treating both Muslim men and women in an ignoble manner. If the pretext for such a treatment is that some extremists have used places of worship to plan for dangerous acts, I would say that I find all extremist movements and acts dubious. Islam is the religion of love and forgiveness and no one should be allowed to perpetrate a crime or violent act in the name of Islam.

In fact, a close follow up of what has happened since 9/11 on the part of the extremist is quintessentially linked to anti-Islamic phenomena and measures. If we take into account the fact that today’s policies are carried out mostly through intelligence operations, we will not be surprised if we find out that this current wave of extremism is the result of an intelligence penetration in the ranks of Muslims that provides the pretext for harassing Muslims and undermining their religious, civil and human rights. Indeed, well before 9/11, extremist movements killed some of the best Arab thinkers and scholars and harassed many of them.

What is surprising for most Muslims is that they used to believe that the West is most democratic and tolerant with absolute freedom of belief and worship. Let’s imagine for a moment that a Muslim country refused to allow the building of a church, what is the kind of reaction that we would have seen in Western countries? In the seventh century, and for twenty years, 627 – 647 AC, Muslims and Christians were worshiping God in the same place for worship in Damascus. Muslims enter and turn right and Christians enter and turn left. When they both negotiated and agreed that this place will be a mosque (the current Omayyad Mosque in Damascus), they made the decision of building a church next to it. The head of John the Baptist is still buried inside the Omayyad mosque, and both Muslims and Christians pray in front of it. The holy sea, John Pope the second, visited the Omayyad mosque and the head of John the Baptist.

Yet, all the measures taken against Muslims are only instigating more curiosity about Islam and Muslims. That is how the Quran became the best selling book in Holland, where the cartoons against the prophet Muhammad appeared more than once. In the same context, they kill our best writers, poets and scholars, but the names of those invite a whole generation to follow in their footsteps. Despite all checkpoints, violence and humiliating measures, thousands of Muslims challenge everything to pray in al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem to cleanse themselves from the evils of their torturers. No matter how many bombs they make, or buy, or sell, the voices of prayers will finally triumph over the sounds of bullets and the horrors of cluster bombs. Only the best of human values will finally prevail.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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