The Egyptian Gamaa al Islamiya vehemently criticized groups that use violence against the state in Algeria; of course, this condemnation was aimed at the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. It followed the recent suicide attack that targeted a police training school in the Boumerdes province in a Kabayli region of Algeria. The attack left dozens of people dead and injured.
Gamaa al Islamiya described the executor of the Boumerdes attack as a “suicide bomber” and it is the first time that it has used this term. It said, “Whoever carries out bombings such as these is despicable and cowardly.” In its statement, the group also said discussions about Islamists, their call and their history in Algeria is now “coupled with sorrow, which has entered every home in Algeria.”
The statement added that “there is no courage or heroism in killing people who are unprovoked in a vicious manner as this is the method of juveniles; these bombings could only have been carried out by despicable and cowardly people.”
Without doubt, the statement issued by Gamaa al Islamiya is very important, not because it rejects suicide operations but because it is setting upon decreasing the value of suicide bombers and depicting their acts as “despicable” and “cowardly” behavior. This matter is just as important as the fatwas [religious rulings] that prohibit suicide operations, which have tarnished the reputation of Islam.
The problem is never the religious edicts that permit or prohibit suicide operations; rather, the problem lies in the growing image that has formed over many years from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the subsequent suicide operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Suicide operations give off an image of heroism on a popular level and even amongst the educated Arabs; how can it not when disregard of human life is considered a great thing without asking why a young man, or woman, sacrifices his/ herself and those whom he/she kills and for what benefit?
We were students at secondary school during the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan and I remember how some of our friends, after having returned from Afghanistan, would continuously try to convince us of the acts of heroism that they witnessed. Their stories were mythical and fiction-like yet they were able to convince some of our friends and thus paraded them towards the hellfire.
These mythical stories and this aura created over many years about suicide operations cannot be undone by religious rulings. Before the 9/11 attacks for example, when the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa ruling out suicide operations, there was uproar in our Arab world and even from some respected sheikhs. Today many fatwas against suicide operations have been issued yet these acts continue.
We still see suicide operations in Iraq, carried out by males and females who have been exploited, that is true; however many of them carry out the attacks based on the belief that they are acts of heroism. This is the case in Algeria and Pakistan where this brutal issue seems more horrific than in other Arab countries.
More important than the fatwas that forbid suicide operations is breaking down the idea that has been built up over several decades; that suicide operations are heroic acts and the sharpest weapon to confront the “enemy.” Sadly, the enemies have become our states and our societies.
Therefore the statement given by the Egyptian Gamaa al Islamiya about the Algerian suicide bomber and its description of the act as “despicable” and “cowardly” behavior is important in breaking the erroneous image that has been formed over decades. We are all paying the price for this, especially the reputation of the Islamic religion.