Last week, Mohammed Merah, a Muslim-Frenchman killed three Jewish children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. Merah reportedly held one little girl, Myriam Monsonego, by her hair to shoot her in the head. Three days before that, Merah shot dead three French soldiers of North African heritage. Under siege in his apartment by French counter-terrorism squad, France 24 reported Merah told negotiators he was connected to al Qaeda and what he had done was "only the beginning". He said that he was motivated by France's ban on wearing the burqa and that "the Jews have killed our brothers and sisters in Palestine." According to French officials, Merah expressed only one regret: "Not having claimed more victims," and said he was proud of having "brought France to its knees."
As Merah himself confirmed it was "only the beginning," it might be worth wondering: Why did Merah, born and raised in France to Algerian-French parents, commit such a ruthless massacre? Was he just an extreme fundamentalist who has taken Islamic teachings to the extreme, or is it basic Islamic fundamentals themselves that lead him to that? As a Muslim, and in an attempt to answer that question, I thought looked to the factual teaching of Islam on Jihad or "Holly war.".
Sahih Muslim, for example is a historically renowned book that gathers teachings of Prophet Muhammad that are considered "Sahih," as in "confirmed" and "authentic."
In Sahih Muslim, for example, and in the Book of Jihad, the first chapter is entitled: "Regarding Permission to Make A Raid, Without An Ultimatum, Upon The Disbelievers Who Have Already Been Invited to Accept Islam", Book 19, Number 4292:
"Ibn 'Aun reported: I wrote to Nafi' inquiring from him whether it was necessary to extend (to the disbelievers) an invitation to accept (Islam) before meeting them in fight. He wrote (in reply) to me that it was necessary in the early days of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) made a raid upon Banu Mustaliq while they were unaware and their cattle were having a drink at the water. He killed those who fought and imprisoned others. On that very day, he captured Juwairiya bint al-Harith. Nafi' said that this tradition was related to him by Abdullah b. Umar who (himself) was among the raiding troops."
Merah's un-alerted and un-provoked attack therefore is perfect in line with the Prophet's teachings.
Nonetheless, where does Merah's cold-blooded murder of children stand within the teachings of the prophet?
Chapter two of Sahih Muslim's book of Jihad speaks about Muhammad's advice to his military commanders sent on expeditions, Book 19, Number 4294:
"It has been reported from Sulaiman b. Buraid through his father that when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and to be good to the Muslims who were with him. He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children..."
The prophet's teachings of not killing women and children are re-enforced in another chapter, Chapter 8: "Prohibition of Killing Women and Children in War"; Book 19, Number 4319:
"It is narrated on the authority of 'Abdullah that a woman was found killed in one of the battles fought by the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). He disapproved of the killing of women and children."
Sounds humane, right? Not so fast. Right after Chapter 8 comes Chapter 9, which reads: "Permissibility of Killing Women and Children in the Night Raids Provided It Is Not Deliberate," Book 19, Number 4321:
"It is reported on the authority of Sa'b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: They are from them."
Merah killed three Jewish children who were "from them," the "evil Jews." As Merah explained to the France 24 news channel -- while he was under siege by French counter-terrorism police -- that it had not been his original plan to kill those children, that he was originally planning to kill another French soldier but missed him, so he took the next possible target. Was Merah thinking that this made the murders "Not deliberate"?
While Merah fulfilled his wish by taking away the lives of infidels and their children, and was killed himself after that, he still succeeded in executing an equally noble goal in Islamic warfare: creating "'Terror,' which is more far-reaching than the actual body count."
In a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad said he was given things that no other prophet has been given before including "I was supported with terror."
The concept of what Islamists terrorists do, therefore, is simple: create fear and terror -- which far surpass the size of the actually committed terrorist act. The expense of counter-terrorism, fr instance, is far beyond the cost of terrorist acts, and has created huge US expenses to counter terrorism, and which is now facing cuts as a result of the US economic crisis, despite threats still being present.
On a social level, the BBC reported that since the shootings,many Jewish children in France have been afraid to go to school; and Jewish teenagers have reported fears of being recognized as Jews by the way they dress.
Merah's claim-- that he had not planned in advance to attack the Jewish school — is disturbing, even if it were true. As he said, he wanted to kill a French soldier, but when his plan to kill a French soldier failed, he chose the next available target. In other words, the Jews in Toulouse were a soft target, like fish in a pond, for Merah. It does matter what the fish do: the fish do not need to do anything to "provoke" the fisherman; they are simply there for him. The fish may think that if swims more slowly or with prettier loops, that these actions might not "inflame" the fisherman, but of course there is nothing that he can do to influence the fisherman or to change how the fisherman will view him.
The image of Jews being "a soft target" seems evident in the UK as well, at least according to one British Jewish mother writing in the British newspaper, the Daily Mail, last week. In her account of anti-Semitism in the UK, she says, "In the end, I'm afraid I believe that our children are a target because no one fears a Jewish reprisal. Or, as the comedian Jackie Mason once said, "Nobody ever crossed the street to avoid a group of Jewish accountants." She then adds significantly, "We (Jews) don't make excessive demands for the State to absorb our culture. We just want to live a peaceful coexistence." Ironically, unlike the Islamists to which Mohammad Merah belonged, Jews accept the culture of the nations they live in and do not try to impose their ways, yet it is people like Merah who get acceptance and tolerance.
More alarming were the comments made by the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last week. At an event in Brussels on Monday organized for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees -- a UN entity, known as UNRWA, with an appetite for supporting anti-Zionism — Ashton paid tribute to children around the world, including a coach crash in Switzerland which killed more than 20 Belgian children, the Syrian conflict, the Toulouse shooting and "what's happened in Gaza." Ashton's comparison of children under ten years of age dragged by the hair and then killed at point-blank range in their school merely for being Jewish, to children killed in the conflict in Gaza, displays the most staggering duplicity. she knows, or should know, perfectly well that the children in Gaza are not targeted by the Israeli army, but, on the contrary, that Hamas, in deliberate violation the Geneva conventions as well as all universal norms of human rights, places the children near ammunition depots and the like, so that the children will be human shields, and appear to the world as victims of Israel instead of Hamas, where the blame actually belongs, while Israel tries to defend itself from literally thousands of rocket attacks launched by Islamist militants in densely-populated areas.
Later, Ashton said she "unreservedly" condemned the murders and said she drew no parallel between the shooting in Toulouse and the situation in Gaza. Still, the damage had done: Ashton had put the deliberate crime in Toulouse at the same level as the deaths of Palestinian children manipulated by Hamas's malignity toward its own young people; and she had put Israel on the same immoral level Merah and Hamas. Ashton nevertheless received stout support from many European parliamentarians who claimed that her comments "were taken out of context"! – a claim that should probably tell you all you need to know about many European Parliamentarians.
Looking farther into Mohamed Merah's role in fundamentalism and eventually terrorist acts, connections to other European courtiers emerge, particularly in the UK and Belgium. Mohammad Merah's brother, Abdelkader, now in the custody of French authorities, may have met radicals in the UK; and both Scotland Yard and the British internal intelligence, the MI5, seem to believe he was in the UK to meet British Muslim radicals.
Mohammad Merah and his brother were also both known to the French authorities as members of the radical group, Forsane Alizza, ["The Knights of Pride"], a radical organization associated with the fundamentalist groups Sharia4UK and Sharia4Belgium, indicating that Merah was probably right when said his attacks were "only the beginning.
In the wake of Mohammad Merah's killing spree, French intelligence authorities have come under pressure for failing to detect such an active Islamists who have been to Pakistan and Afghanistan and other training centers. Further, Merah was a suspect of the first murder of a French soldier days before he went on butchering Jewish children; nevertheless he was not detained, or even questioned.
The question is, Was these oversights a mere intelligence failure which even the best of intelligence entities might encounter? Or was the fact that Mohammad Merah was a Muslim a major factor in causing French authorities to be reluctant to point a finger at him? Is the world reluctant at pointing the finger at Islamic terrorism and Islamist fundamentalist in Europe simply because to some, it might seem politically incorrect in the eyes of some? Should we come to accept that the followers of one particular religion get a free pass? When Mohammad Merah started his attacks by killing three French soldiers who were Muslims, the French authorities suspected three former French soldiers who had been dishonorably discharged because of their affiliation with neo-Nazi groups.
Far-right French presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, commenting on the massacre, said, "Entire districts are in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists and the danger is underestimated.". She is right about the threat of Islamists in Europe being underestimated, especially when entire British towns are becoming Islamic fundamentalist strongholds.
Europe would do well to start calling things by their right names; start recognizing that Islamist ideology is spreading throughout Europe and is a threat to the European way of life. acknowledging that many Muslims in Europe are falling to integrate or accept their adoptive countries, and that anti-Semitism is still a problem in Europe today.