Saving Islam from suicide bombs

Saudi Arabia's leading Muslim cleric came out forcefully against suicide bombings. The Middle East, now roiling with such attacks, needs more Islamic scholars speaking out.

AP Photo
A Muslim prays during a three-day Islamic event on the banks of the River Turag near Dhaka, Bangladesh Jan. 13. The gathering, held each year since 1966, aims to revive the tenets of Islam and promote peace through prayer.

One of Islam’s leading religious figures, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, spoke out against suicide bombings Thursday. It was not the first time that Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh has done so. But his words were particularly strong and very general.

The possible reason? Suicide bombings – by Muslims against Muslims – are roiling the Middle East.

The Saudi cleric said these suicide killings of civilians are “great crimes” against Islamic teachings. But he distinguished between the bombings and the bombers, saying the latter were “robbed of their minds” and used as tools “to destroy themselves and societies.”

Many more prominent Muslim leaders like Mr. Abdulaziz need to assert, frequently and forcefully, that Islam is a religion of peace – especially now. From Pakistan to Libya, various political events, such as the Iran nuclear deal and the sputtering Arab Spring, as well as shifts in the Syrian and Afghanistan wars, help account for a sharp uptick in suicide bombings.

On Dec. 5, for example, suicide bombers, many from Saudi Arabia, killed 56 people in Yemen. Iraq has seen more than 8,000 people killed this year, mainly by bombings. Suicide bombings are becoming more frequent in Syria as jihadists join the fight against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

One particular attack on Nov. 19 shook the region. Two suicide bombers killed 18 people near Iran’s Embassy in Lebanon. The Al Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The attack was seen as not only the spread of the Syrian conflict outside Syria but as a possible escalation of the contest for power between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi leaders fear an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program may eventually give the Shiite clerics in Tehran more freedom to exert influence in the region. And the Iranian-backed regime in Damascus appears stronger in that country’s civil war.

Many things need to happen to curb the number of terrorists who abuse the name of Islam in murdering civilians. The Middle East needs more freedom, rights, and economic development. Force must be used to hit terrorist cells. Western troops must minimize their role in the region.

But the most effective tool lies with respected Muslim scholars who preach against suicide bombings.

Sheikh Maher Hammoud, a Sunni cleric in Lebanon, told Al-Akhbar news last month that Islamic clergy who justify suicide attacks “are pretenders who take bits and pieces of religious texts and issue fatwas that are suitable to them.” Other Muslim clerics, such as many in Yemen, are trying to reach young men who dream of being heroic martyrs for Islam. In Pakistan, prominent leaders of differing Muslim sects met Dec. 8 to promote interfaith harmony and tolerance. “The Holy Quran teaches the lesson of adopting the path of peace,” Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain told the group.

More Islamic leaders need to speak out.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Saving Islam from suicide bombs
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today