Omar al-Abed murdered three members of a Jewish family recently: Yosef Salomon, his daughter Chaya and his son Elad. The murders took place in the settlement of Halamish, land disputed by Israelis and “Palestinians” since the War of 1967.
After reading that the murderer had survived and had been taken to hospital, I wanted to speak to him — in part, just to tell him how counterproductive and futile his action had been. But I also thought it worth trying to address him in language he would understand, by referring to Islamic matters, by quoting the Qur’an and sacred Traditions known as Hadith. The letter below might be translated into Arabic and shared with other young men. In it, there is mention of my background as a teacher of Islamic Studies, in the hope he and others might see I am not coming out of antagonism for either him or his faith — a faith that he and they are committed to following. I wanted to raise moral questions that seldom if ever occur to Palestinian Muslims, especially when they are roused by false rumors about al-Aqsa or other sites they consider sacred.
It is important to stress that Jews are the only religious people alongside Muslims who believe in the absolute unity of God. After all, it was from the Jews that Muhammad learned to preach that “there is no god but God”. I write to Omar al-Abed that he had no right to proclaim jihad, for an individual may not do that. Even though there are provisions in shari’a law that permit an individual to use violence if he believes Islam is under attack. I wanted him to know that the individuals he murdered had not attacked him and that the Israelis actually protect al-Aqsa and that it is not even slightly under attack. I quote Qur’anic verses about loving one’s enemies, even though many later verses say the opposite. But if the Qur’an for him is the Word of God, surely he cannot simply ignore the earlier verses.
The letter is just a way to try to open some eyes by speaking in terms that someone who regards you as an enemy, especially if you are not one, may grasp, and that may serve as an outreaching of hands. ‘Umar al-‘Abed will only change if, over the long life he will spend in prison, he has time to reflect and to use those parts of his religion that call for peace. Who knows what can happen in a lifetime?
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