Who are the ‘martyrs’? An open letter to Al Jazeera

Vanessa Tomassini for The Times of Israel, JULY 15, 2017 


Al Jazeera’ described as martyrs the three terrorists who killed two Israeli soldiers, both 25 years old, and injured a third.  The Temple Mount – known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary- in the Old City of Jerusalem, is the holiest site for Jews and Muslims and focal point of the Israeli-Arab conflict.  Few hours later, the attack was celebrated by Abdel Latif Qanou Hamas and Islamic Jihad, without real claim. The attack took place during Friday’s Arabic prayers while the three policemen were carrying out their daily job. Al Jazeera, however, has strange concept of martyr.

In the West, martyrdom means abnegation, sacrifice, testimony and fidelity to God, but also heroism. We don’t know what Al Jazeera means for heroism, probably they give the same value by terrorists. The bloodshed of Palestinian terror against Israel is well documented, but it is the first time that sacred sites are targeted, above all, on Friday. «The police identified the slain officers as Advanced Staff Sgt. Maj. Hayil Satawi, 30, who was married with a 3-week-old son; and Advanced Staff Sgt. Maj. Kamil Shnaan, 22, the son of a former parliamentarian. Both officers were members of the country’s small Druze community and came from towns in northern Israel», wrote ‘The New York Times’.

Who are the true martyrs? Martyrs are the innocent who, taking a bus going to the University are blown up, martyrs are the employees of the Twin Towers on September 11 or Osama Bin Laden and his staff? Are martyrs the boys of Orlando or Omar Mateen? Are martyrs the journalists of Charlie Ebdo or their killer Saïd Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly? Maybe are martyrs the young boys and girls in Bataclanof in Paris or Salah Abdeslam? Martyrs the families overwhelmed by a Truck in Cannes or the arab driver? The children at Ariana Grande’s concert or Ashem Abedi?

We try to find answer to this question with the choice of the 185 British imams who, after the London massacre, refused to perform the funeral prayer (al-‘Aliāh al-Janāzah) on the bodies of the responsible terrorists. “This certainly offers a different perspective on the issue, since in Islam the use of violence does not have the same meaning that it gives to Christianity. A religious funeral may suggest that religious authorities – or the religion itself – support the actions of the deceased. Denying a funeral prayer is a way of declaring that the aggressor is not shahīd (martyr-witness of God) ”

But idea that suicide bombers can be called ‘martyrs’ is also repugnant for Christian community. Pope Francis, during the catechesis in general audience in St. Peter’s Square last Sunday, did meditation on martyrdom and his connection with hope. Francis emphasized that  early Christians had “many possibilities” of vocabulary to define “loyalty in style of Jesus” to death, heroism, self-sacrifice and instead chose martyrdom, which means testimony.

Dear al-Jazeera’s authors, the assassination of three young soldiers what means for you? The assassination of innocent people who carries out their life, you believe is a right sacrifice for a cruel God? Maybe the editorial is wrong, in the editorial staff sometimes happen… Or come to explain: how can you call ‘martyrs’ tree assassins, without spend a word for victims?


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