RUSSIA: An attack on civilization
Youssef M. Ibrahim

No parent, whatever their nationality, will ever forget, or forgive, the sight of those Russian schoolchildren, girls and boys, running with blood smeared on their bodies, tears in their eyes, and terror soiling their innocence, killed in cold blood by those calling themselves Muslim freedom fighters.

Nothing, not a single political cause, religious edict, or opinion by so-called ulemas (religious leaders) can excuse, let alone explain, the murder of more than 330 innocent hostages, including 156 children, as happened in Beslan, not least by Chechens indoctrinated, alas, by Muslim fundamentalists.

Let us not kid ourselves: this shall not pass. It is therefore imperative that all Muslims, and Arabs, understand that urgent action is needed to protect Russian children, as well as their own, from the poison in their midst. They can say Islam is a religion of tolerance from here to eternity, but at this point, they are whistling past the graveyards of children. Dear Muslims: no one is listening.

The crime of Beslan was carried out by a group of more than 30 including, allegedly, at least 10 Arabs. All were indoctrinated by extremist, demented, Muslim preachers, hundreds of whom appear on Arab television screens, in Arab schools, and in mosques, spreading their xenophobia and hatred.

The general manager of Al Arabiya satellite network, Abdel Rahman Al Rashed, a prominent Saudi intellectual, wrote a blunt article succinctly saying the problem here lies in Muslim hands.

“Not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is regrettable that all terrorists are Muslims,” Rashed said in Asharq Al Awsat, the London-based Arab daily of which he was editor in chief before joining Al Arabiya this year.

“Those who kidnapped the schoolchildren in North Ossetia were Muslims. Those who killed the Nepalese cooks in Iraq were Muslims. Those who are committing murder and rape in Darfur, Sudan, are Muslims, and those who kidnapped two French journalists are Muslims, as were the two suicide bombers who brought down Russian civilian airplanes a week ago.”

It hurts. But it is true. The question is, who is responsible and what are we going to do about it?

As Rashed and many other experts often point out, xenophobic and ignorant Muslim ulemas have for years preached the kind of thinking that produced the school massacre in Beslan, not to mention endless acts of terror in Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria. He singled out one prominent example, the famed religious television personality, Sheikh Youssef Al Qaradawi, who is watched by millions.

Rashed noted that Qaradawi issued a fatwa legitimizing the killing of Americans, civilians and military, in Iraq. And so it came to pass.

Rashed poignantly wondered in his article what Qaradawi would have to say to the mother of Nicholas Berg, the 26-year-old American beheaded in Iraq in May by some of the folks who listened to his fatwa? I heard Qaradawi opining that wife-beating is legitimate. This man is allowed weekly television time in Qatar.

Meanwhile, as Rashed points out, Qaradawi’s two daughters study in the United Kingdom amid the very ‘infidels’ whose killing he advocates. Such hypocrisy defies imagination.

“How can we believe Qaradawi when he says Islam is the religion of tolerance while he turns it into a religion of blood?” Rashed asks.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, and the massacre in Russia last week bracket what is a defining moment for Muslims.

From now on, 100 million Russians who were once friends will hate Muslims. Billions of people around the world will find justification in discriminating against Arabs and Muslims.

Visas will be impossible to obtain. Much of Europe will turn against its 35 million Arabs and Muslims living in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Holland, and Spain.

Turkey’s chances of ever joining the European Union are blown. Another 80 million Muslims is not what the Europeans desire at this moment.

The neoconservative administration of George W. Bush and Israel have gained greater latitude in pursuing their ethnic cleansing policies against Palestinians with total impunity.

This is why action is imperative. Religious schools that produce such monsters, be they in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, must be shut down immediately. Religious police, a factory that protects terrorists, must be abolished in every Muslim country.

The so-called ulemas, be they Saudi or Pakistani or Egyptians, such as Qaradawi, must be banned from preaching. The time for action is now.

The images of dead Russian children are deeply burned in popular memory, where they will remain. They have overtaken those of American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad, and those of Israelis killing Palestinians and bulldozing their homes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the murders of his children as “an attack on our country.”

Actually, it was an attack on everything that represents civilization, including Arab civilization. Arab and Muslim leaders should put an end to those advocating criminal behavior in the name of Islam.

Youssef M. Ibrahim, a former Middle East correspondent for The New York Times and Energy Editor of the Wall Street Journal, is managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group