An Open Letter To All Those Bemoaning The Use Of The French Flag Overlay On Facebbook

I know what I am about to write may well be controversial but, hey, that’s me.

I live in Aldershot, in the UK. On the 22nd February 1972, a bomb exploded outside the Officers Mess of the 16th Brigade, Parachute Regiment. The targets were soldiers of the Parachute Regiment, the reason was retaliation for ‘Bloody Sunday’. Instead, seven civilians were killed and nineteen injured. It was to be first of such attacks over the years. Growing up as army children in the town my friends and I  learned to be wary of anything that looked out of place: a package lying by the road, a car parked where it shouldn’t be, strange boxes outside shops. We were also taught to be aware of anyone with an Irish accent asking about our parents, the army or police. Looking back on it, it was a strange way to grow up. We had no real concept of terrorism, of the war between the English and the Northern Irish. No knowledge of why we were taught these things. It just was. The targets were allegedly military but then, in 1974, came the bombings of a pub in Guildford in which one civilian died along with four soldiers, the Birmingham bombing which killed twenty-one civilians and the M62 coach bombing, which killed twelve people.

It was a scary time. There were further bomb attempts, most of which were disarmed due to intelligence received, but still caused some of the terror that was intended.

This recent attack in Paris, along with 9/11 in the US, 7/7 in London, Bali, and various others has made me think. Yes, I lived in a town under the threat of imminent destruction by terrorism, but the targets were all military. To the IRA, civilian deaths were regrettable but were considered collateral damage. The same could be said of the civilian deaths in the Middle East. Casualties of a war that should not be happening. Unfortunately, groups like ISIS don’t see things the way we do. They are true terrorists.

Their targets are the one’s that will cause maximum terror. The ones that will cause the most deaths. In military terms, they only go after ‘soft targets’. I suspect that this passage from the Quran is one that they use to justify what they do:

“And do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, and whoever is slain
unjustly, We have indeed given to his heir authority, so let him not exceed the just limits in
slaying; surely he is aided (Quran 17:33).”

[In other words, killing is permitted only when it is justified, such as in a war to end persecution, or to seek retribution as long as it does not exceed the limits prescribed by God. The Prophet Muhammad also forbade the killing of women and children (Bukhari V. 4, Book 52, 257 & 258). And these are the instructions that were given to Muslim armies by Caliph Abu Bakr who succeeded the Prophet Muhammad:

“When you gain victory over your enemies do not kill their children, old people nor women. Do not go even closer to their date palms nor burn the harvest nor cut the trees bearing fruits. Do not break the promise once you have made it and do not break the terms of a treaty once you have entered into it. You will find some people in the monasteries, monks engaged in the worship of God, leave them alone with what they are pleased with. Do not destroy their monasteries and do not kill them.”

In addition to this…

A detailed treatise on this subject was also written by Abul Hasan al-Mawardi in the 11th century in his book “al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah” (The Laws of Islamic Governance). According to him, “It is not permitted to kill women and children in battle, nor elsewhere, as long as they are not fighting because of the prohibition of the Messenger of Allah, may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, against killing them. The Prophet, may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, forbade the killing of those employed as servants and mamlouks, that is young slaves. If women and children fight, then they are fought and killed, but only face to face, not from behind while fleeing. If they use their women and children as shields in battle, then one must avoid killing them and aim only at killing the men; if, however, it is impossible to kill them except by killing the women and children, then it is permitted. If they are shielding themselves with Muslim captives, and it is not possible to kill them except by killing these captives, it is not permitted to kill them. If desisting them from attacking them leads to the Muslims being encircled, then the latter must attempt to free themselves as best they can, but while taking care not to kill any Muslim deliberately by their hands. If one is killed, then the killer must pay blood money and make expiation if he knew that he was a Muslim; he becomes liable for expiation alone if he did not know.”

It is noteworthy that even if women and children are to be killed in a war, when they are combatants or are being used as a shield by the enemy to launch an attack, they are to be facing a Muslim army and not retreating or turning away to protect themselves. Furthermore, it is hoped that facing women and children would put sympathy in the mind of a soldier and who would desist from taking such a drastic action. Such rules and respect for non-combatants were recognized in Western countries not until the Geneva Convention of 1949. Even so, most of the countries, including Islamic ones, continue to bomb civilians. Even the United States allow some “collateral damage” to occur in its wars. Therefore, one can argue that the Islamic rules of war were way ahead of their times almost 1400 years ago, and in many respects they still are.]

The words in italics come from Contraversial Islam  and I think it would be a nice idea if the members of ISIS sat down and contemplated them.

So, to all those who decry the use of the French flag on Facebook, I say:

This is the latest in a series of attacks. There will be more. We can change flags. We can support all of the countries, all of the time. All we have done is supported the latest one. Its not the flag that matters, its the empathy. The knowledge that we stand against terrorism in all it’s forms and that we do it together.

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