Statement to the People of Mauritania
| Sheikh `Abd Allah b. Bayyih |
Sheikh `Abd Allah Mahfûz b. Bayyih is one of Mauritania's foremost Islamic scholars. In the following statement, he speaks about the recent slaying of four French tourists in the small Mauritanian town of Aleg.
The ugly crimes that took place in eastern Mauritania on 24 December which took the lives of four innocent French tourists – people who came to visit Mauritania legally out of their love for the country and its people – are a cause of sorrow for Mauritanians both at home and abroad. The Mauritanian people are shocked and appalled that this has taken place in their country. Indeed, all those who are acquainted with the people of Mauritania have been shocked and surprised.
Mauritanians are traditionally loath to use violence for two reasons:
1. Mauritanians have a generally strong grounding in Islamic knowledge. They understand that Islam is a religion embodying the principles of tolerance, forgiveness, coexistence, and peace.
2. Mauritanian society is an open one that also enjoys strong community ties. The social environment is one wherein people are ashamed of criminal behavior. It is seen as an embarrassment for the whole family and clan for any of its members to be guilty of committing a crime. This is a great sociological deterrent to violence.
The crimes that were perpetrated against these French tourists were – first and foremost – contrary to the teachings of Islam. The religion of Islam expressly forbids the taking of human life. It is even more appalling that this murder of innocents took place during the sacred month of the Hajj. The declaration of war upon human beings in the name of some specious "jihad" is opposed to the dictates of religion as well as common sense. It is a defamation of Islam. The religion of Islam is not only innocent of such atrocities, but it brings teachings that would never allow such atrocities to take place. These killings are also a gross misrepresentation of the real meaning of jihad, distorting it into an excuse for organized crime and murder.
Not only are these crimes contrary to Islam's moral teachings, they are diametrically opposed to the interests of the country and its people. These ugly deeds come at the very time that Mauritania's government, political parties, and citizens are all making a concerted effort to improve the lives of the people. They come at the very time that the world is showing its willingness and support to help Mauritania emerge from its backward state, and at the very time that the people of Mauritania have started to enjoy unprecedented freedom to express themselves and to actively propagate their religion.
We have here a gang of criminals who are ignorant of the teachings of their faith and who have turned against the values of their society and its welfare. They have acted in complete disregard to the consequences of their deeds. They do not even care that their despicable actions have put fear in the hearts of their people and have exposed their country to the possibility of foreign intervention. The reputation of Mauritania has been tarnished and investment in the country, which is contingent on the country's stability and security, is bound to be hurt.
It is the duty of all Mauritanians, from the leaders to the politicians to the average citizen, to combat the deviant ideology behind those crimes. It is the duty of Muslims scholars – particularly those who are experts in Islamic Law – to expose the shamefulness of that ideology that seeks to plunge society into a state of chaos, and the Muslim people into a perpetual state of fear and anxiety.
We appeal to Allah to protect us, our country, the Muslims, and humanity as a whole from the evil of such trials.
The crimes that have been committed are alien to the Mauritanian spirit, which has been throughout history one of tolerance and clemency. Those crimes are equally alien to the way Mauritanians understand their faith.
It is therefore the duty of all Mauritanians, at home and abroad, to condemn these crimes. They must also, through their words and deeds, teach their children about the dangers of the deviant ideologies that are infiltrating our society from outside. They are ideologies that have no basis in the teachings of Islam, that are opposed to our moral values, and that bring harm to our country's welfare and security.
This article was originally published by Shaykh Salman al-Oadah's Islamtoday website.