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Disgusting. Unacceptable. Outrageous. Just as the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US and UK soldiers shocked and angered me, the merciless killing of Nicholas Berg has left me reeling. How can any human being do that to any other human being?
I am a Muslim and therefore, I can not accept that acts like these are done in the name of Islam. Even animals are treated better in Islam!
In the video the people who perpetrated this crime say that it is Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi who slayed Berg. If it really was him, I wish I could ask Abu Musab one question: Who gave him the authority to act and speak on behalf of Islam and more than one billion Muslims?
I am no scholar, but I am a Muslim, and I do know that Islam does not condone this kind of behavior. Don’t get me wrong - I am opposed to the US occupation of Iraq and I support the people of Iraq in their fight to expel the occupation forces. But at the same time, does a brutal and illegal occupation really justify such behavior?
Iraqis themselves are condemning the killing. Deputy Head of the Islamic Party Iyaad Samarrai said the abhorrent treatment of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers should never give an excuse for treating US prisoners the same way.
At the same time, Berg’s story raises important questions. According to CNN, Berg went to Iraq in December 2003 and returned home in February 2004. He then returned to Iraq in March. On March 24 all contact between him and his family was stopped. A few days later, “the FBI showed up at the family home in Pennsylvania and told the Bergs their son had been picked up by Iraqi police in Mosul and transferred to US authority. That was all the information the family received.” He was released April 6.
Why was Berg arrested by Iraqi police? What did the Americans do with him when he was transferred to them? Why did he spend 13 days in US custody without being charged with any crime?
And why did his killers release the news of his death now in the midst of the uproar around Iraqi POW abuse? How relieved is Rumsfeld by the news of Berg’s death?
Unfortunately, these questions will most probably remain unanswered. Those who know the truth can mock them and smirk in their knowledge, or maybe suffer silently with their personal nightmares. For the rest of us, all we see is injustice and suffering.
I fear that the victim of crimes like the slaying of Berg inevitably becomes Islam and the Muslims. It’s a sad state of affairs, because this unspoken system of collective punishment does great injustice to both Islam as a religion of humanity and mercy and to Muslims as human beings. It’s hard to try to balance the picture. The media obviously gives more attention to the crimes of a few - be they Muslim or not - and little or not attention whatsoever to more positive examples.
Case in point: a few weeks ago, the British activist Jo Wilding, was captured by Iraqi fighters in Fallujah . In her web-diary, she talks of the incident and how one of her friends, who was taken sick at the time was treated by their captors:
Billie’s not well, hot and sick. She lies down on the cushions, head on her arm. The fighter brings a pillow and gently lifts her head onto it, takes all the stuff off the cushions so he can fold the blanket over her. The other one brings a cotton sheet and unfolds the blanket, covers her with the sheet and then replaces the blanket around her: tucked in by the Mujahedin.
Jo’s account of her capture was not picked up by the media - not enough blood and gore, perhaps? Or maybe the Muslims in this case didn’t fit the “bad guy” stereotype the media has created and maintained.
Whatever the reason, the violence continues, and we will keep pointing fingers at each other, each of us claiming that the other is responsible as if this is some child’s tag game gone grotesquely wrong. I just wonder if it will one day be safe to read the newspaper or watch the news without worrying about being bombarded with images of inhumanity and suffering.
Marwa Elnaggar is staff writer and editor of IslamOnline’s Introducing Islam page. She holds an MA in English and Comparative Literature and occasionally writes poetry. She can be reached at [email protected]
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