JULY 10 — On July 4 just after sundown and the breaking of fast, a suicide bomber believed to be affiliated with terror group Islamic State (IS) detonated himself outside one of Islam’s holiest sites in Medina, Saudi Arabia, killing four security officers and injuring five others.
Many forget the fact that the bomber only detonated himself after he was stopped by the security officers. Without their intervention, the bomber would have made his way into Masjid an-Nabawi also known as the Prophet’s Mosque, the second-holiest site in Islam. Many more would have perished in the always-open mosque, while the site itself would not have been left unscarred.
Instead of honouring the security officers, many have instead denounced the attack simply by disavowing the suicide bomber and IS — claiming that “no Muslim” would aimlessly kill during the holy month of Ramadan, and certainly not near to the mosque, which also houses the tomb of Prophet Muhammad himself.
At worst, some Muslims claimed that the brazen attack in Saudi Arabia was further proof that the IS is just a puppet allegedly used by the enemies of Islam the Jews, and the Americans. (After all, July 4 was the US Independence Day, they said.)
At best, the jihadist was labelled a psychopath, a monster.
But never a Muslim. As if it is unthinkable that a Muslim can be a psychopath, a monster, or a bomber looking to destroy the Prophet’s Mosque.
Of course, this argument is inane and gullible, to put it mildly.
Muslims have been killing other Muslims since the death of Muhammad, and sometimes were even lauded by fellow Muslims. Why did it only take deaths in Saudi to make the Muslim community recoil in horror?
Last year, Saudi Arabia’s Shariah courts executed at least 157 people, with more than half of them estimated to be Muslims. Advocacy groups revealed that beheadings reached its highest level in two decades there.
Just in January, 47 people were executed by Saudi in one day, including prominent Shiah cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a vocal protester against the discrimination of the minority group.
Year after year, hundreds of Muslims die during hajj due to negligence. In September last year, over 100 pilgrims died in a crane collapse.
Among them were 10 Malaysians. If their kin were waiting for compensation from the Saudis, they can just forget it, said Malaysia’s deputy minister in charge of Islamic affairs Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki this week.
A post in Medium by one Hamza Malik reminded me that in the aftermath of Muhammad’s death, the war of succession saw the Prophet’s family members and companions dying gruesome deaths.
The third caliph Uthman bin Affan, who ruled the Caliphate from 644 to 656, was killed after political rebels climbed over the wall of his house and repeatedly struck him with their swords. His body was nearly mutilated. He had to be buried in a Jewish graveyard after rioters denied him entry to the Muslim one.
Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali who ruled for five years after succeeding Uthman, was stabbed with a poisoned sword in the Great Mosque of Kufa in Iraq. His death further solidified the divide among Muslims, with his supporters carrying on the Shiah tradition. Ali’s assassin was a Khairijite, a sect that conveniently is not recognised by some as Muslims in modern times.
The bombing in Medina was neither aimless or random. The same day, two other suicide bombers targeted a Shiah mosque in Qatif, eastern Saudi. A fourth one blew himself up in front of the US consulate in Jeddah, at the west of the kingdom, injuring two police officers.
The attack on the Prophet’s Mosque followed the same spirit of demolition that saw holy, cultural and historical sites disappear in the expansion of Mecca and Medina.
Shiraz Maher, deputy director of King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, posited this week that IS saw the mosque as a shrine to Muhammad due to the presence of his tomb there, an act of idolatry that distracts Muslims from worshipping God alone.
The IS could afford to go this far, thanks to the apologists who keep denying them their Islamicity instead of dismantling and reforming the ideology that forms the core of its belief.
The IS could afford to go this far, because when they first started out, they were lauded as freedom fighters, who fought against tyranny, and punished the Shiites and the homosexuals. Their bravery was praised as exemplary, their goal to form a caliphate was admired.
Just as mainstream Muslims denounce IS from the religion, so do the militants view those who do not support their cause as infidels. To them, other Muslims are just simply “not Muslim enough” to not take up arms and go headfirst into martyrdom.
At the heart of it, is the concept of “takfirism” — the accusation that a fellow Muslim is an infidel and apostate. And in Malaysia, takfirism is wielded with such nonchalance.
Even in a modern Malaysia where every citizen is recognised as equals, some Islamists seek to divide the public in religious terms, especially when it comes to public policy — the believers, and the infidels.
Not only that, the archaic political concepts of kafir harbi and kafir dhimmi — belligerent infidels and protected infidels — used back when statehood and religion were one and the same, have always reared their heads when convenient.
It is easy to label non-Muslims, and fellow Muslim critics, as infidels who wish to wage war against Islam in debates concerning public policies and the implementation of Islamic laws. But the implication is huge: it instantly delegitimises and dehumanises the valid and rational arguments by a fellow citizen of the country.
When IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani called for its supporters to make Ramadan “a month of calamity” for non-believers, few expected that the holy month would be the bloodiest yet.
From an Orlando gay nightclub shooting, to Istanbul, Dhaka, and Baghdad where nearly 300 were killed, lone wolves across the world are answering the call of IS — regardless of how other Muslims are denouncing their Islamicity.
Because to them, Ramadan is a holy month of conquest, a tradition started by Prophet Muhammad himself with the Battle of Badr in 624 CE. Just as some Muslims fill up their Ramadan with religious obligations such as prayers and Quranic recitals, so do they — only their ritual is bloodshed.
With Ramadan over, we have one year to prepare ourselves for more potential despair. Will the next Ramadan be as bloody, and will it just end up as another month of killings?
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.