Ramadan is a spiritually significant month for Muslims the world over. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God and self-control. It is a time when Muslims repent, ask for forgiveness for sins and spend their time in intense worship. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. We are to make peace with those who have wronged us, strengthen ties with family and friends and do away with bad habits and bad feelings. Fasting, reading the Quran, increasing charitable deeds, cleansing one’s behaviour and doing good are some of the ways Muslims use to draw themselves closer to God. This is what true Muslims believe in and do.
On June 26, an explosion rocked a mosque in Kuwait that killed 27 and wounded 227 worshippers. Worshippers had gathered for Friday prayers at the Al Imam Al Sadeq mosque in Kuwait City when a powerful bomb ripped through the courtyard of the heavily-congested mosque, causing much death and damage. The timing of the blast was significant as Friday noon prayers are generally the most crowded of the week and attendance increases multifold during Ramadan.
Investigations later revealed that the perpetrator was a Saudi male who, along with some Kuwaiti sympathisers, intended to stir up Sunni-Shiite divisions with his murderous act. This bearded individual from a village in Saudi Arabia had actually flown into Kuwait from Riyadh on the day of the bombings and left a trail of death and destruction among the faithful. He had stayed at a house owned by an extremist who subscribed to “extremist and deviant ideology” and was then driven to the mosque by an illegal resident to carry out this macabre plan.
On the same day, there were terror attacks in two different continents conducted by supposed sympathisers of the extreme doctrine followed by the Saudi suicide bomber. In Tunisia, a gunman wandered on to a popular beach at a seaside resort and gunned down guests with an automatic rifle. The death count was 38, while 36 people were wounded, according to Tunisian authorities. In France, a man with suspicious ties to violent groups blew up a factory, injuring two people. A decapitated body and the severed head was found nearby. Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) took immediate credit for these gruesome acts.
As a consolation, it was somewhat refreshing to note that leading Islamic institutions immediately denounced such dastardly acts. The leading Sunni institution based in Egypt, Al Azhar, released a statement saying that “the heinous shooting at a Tunisian coastal resort that killed 38 people, mostly Europeans, was a violation of all religious and humanitarian norms”. It also condemned the suicide bombing at the Kuwaiti Shiite mosque and the suspected militant attack in France. In a publicised statement, in reference to Daesh, Al Azhar called on “the international community to defeat this terrorist group through all available means”.
Delivering a message
In Kuwait, the ruling Emir, the government, parliamentary and political groups and clerics all said last Friday’s attack on the Shiite mosque was meant to stir up sectarian strife in the emirate. Terming the attack bluntly as one of “black terror” a statement said that “the objectives of the criminal act have failed. We want to deliver a message to Daesh that we are united brothers, the Sunnis and Shiites, and they cannot divide us”.
I am angry. As a Muslim, it maddens me when criminals use my religion to screen their immoral and murderous intentions.
It infuriates me that I have to justify my religion and myself to the non-Muslim world in the wake of such barbarity by individuals with no obvious morals. It angers me that a terrorist like the Saudi who flew into Kuwait tarnishes my religion and my nationality with his vicious actions.
It angers me to see how a peaceful religion has been manipulated by some to be a tool of terror against their perceived adversaries. It angers me that such people follow “extreme and deviant ideology” and yet call themselves Muslims.
It angers me to know that some clerics with their hardline views continue to promote sectarian divisions from both sides. It angers me to know that they are still being heard.
I am not a Sunni or a Shiite or an Ahmadi or a Khawani. I am a Muslim! I am not a Salafist or a Sufi, a Ja’afari or a Batini. I am a Muslim! I was raised by the Islamic tenets of peace and kindness ... And by God, I am angry that people in the name of Islam defile my religion.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.