Event ReportsPublished on Mar 18, 2016
Killing of women, children, infirm prohibited in Islam even in ‘jihad’: Ex-Maldives President

Exploring the concept of jihad, former President of Maldives, Mr Abdul Gayoom, has said the definition and purpose of jihad had been maligned by Western media and general ignorance and prejudice against Muslims.

Delivering a lecture on “Islam – A religion of peace” at Observer Research Foundation on March 9, 2016, Mr Gayoom, now president of ruling partner Progress Party of Maldives, said Jihad is primarily a tool for self-defence – and even then, the killing of children, women and the infirm along with wanton destruction of property and animal life is prohibited even in a legitimate war. He drew parallels between the right to jihad and the right to self-defence as enshrined in the UN Charter and upheld in international law.

Mr Gayoom stressed the importance of the topic of the discussion in the context of increased terrorist attacks and Islamophobia in the world and questioned whether Islam should be held responsible for promoting the ideology of hate and violence. In addition, he asked whether calling oneself a Muslim necessarily meant being one. He held that one’s faith was professed by his/her actions – in effect claiming that so-called Muslim radical groups that promote terrorism are not holding true to the tenets of Islam. He also cited the examples of the LTTE, Red Army, IRA and the KKK in stating that history has proven that all extremist groups do not profess Islamic beliefs.

He went on to say that if the literature and history of Islam were studied, it would be evident that Islam was not a religion of warfare or terrorism – but one of peace, compassion, justice and magnanimity; one that upholds the dignity of man and calls for the pursuit of happiness, harmony and respect for all humankind. It also categorically forbids the killing and mistreatment of innocents – Muslim or otherwise. He quoted verses from the Quran to exemplify its strict abhorrence for the killing of innocents and its promulgation of peace, unity and social harmony among all mankind.

Mr Gayoom said Islam is centered on the idea of justice – no distinction should be made in terms of caste, creed, gender or color. It is just in that it upholds equality of all before law and believes that no Arab should be given  precedence over non-Arab and vice versa.

Tracing the development of Islam as a religion, Mr Gayoom said as a religion, Islam originally began as resurgence against the spread of intolerance, cruelty and other social evil, promoting mercy for all. He quoted examples from the Prophet’s life to demonstrate his kindness and mercy. Compassion is the primary trait expected whilst dealing with neighbors and friends, including non-Muslims. This also extends to war, while concluding treaties and peace – exemplified by the Prophet’s treatment of pagans in Mecca.

Discussing the reactions of the Muslim world to the 9/11 attacks, it was highlighted how Muslims from all over the world came together to condemn the attacks, demonstrating that Islam was indeed a religion of peace, spoiled by a few.

Mr Gayoom was asked to explain the rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban in becoming forceful factors to shape human history through violence and how have they had corrupted the tenets of Islam in their pursuit of violence. He replied that often nationalistic grievances lead to violence, if people perceived their rights not being granted. He cited the example of Palestinian struggle against Israel, stressing that it was important to note that many such groups did felt like their alienable rights could not be attained by pursuing peaceful means of agitation. However, he also claimed that they were blinded by ignorance, and did not know the Quran well enough, since it forbade the killing of innocents.

Further questions asked Mr Gayoom to state his views about the strategic independence of Maldives and the overtures made by China in forging a deeper imprint in his country and how the growing radicalism in Maldives may affect the peace, stability and the tourism industry of the country.

Mr Gayoom replied by starting to extol his personal and Maldives relationship with India, calling it “the most strategically important partner for Maldives”. Explaining that Maldives, being a small country, and located in a strategic position, it was tempting for the country to partner with other nations. He welcomed Chinese participation in Maldives, praising the economic initiatives launched by them and categorically denied ulterior motives and hidden designs by the former. On the question of radicalisation, he stated that reports were exaggerated and although there were some isolated incidents, they were a result of Maldivian residents visiting other countries and getting ‘brainwashed’. He said the government was taking immense measures to prevent further radicalisation.

In a response to a question regarding the concept of jihad-e-asghar and its distinction from jihad-e-akbar, Mr Gayoom said that jihad-e-asghar needed to be developed and interpreted in its right manner in order to enlighten Muslims about its true meaning.

The event was moderated by Mr. H. K. Dua, Adviser, ORF and former editor of many newspapers.

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