Economist: IMAGES of jihadists sanctifying God with their bloodshed are so rife on the internet and in the media that for many detractors of Islam the religion and indiscriminate violence have come to seem synonymous. Inspire, al-Qaeda’s e-magazine, offers would-be lone wolves instructions on how to assemble grenades from bits of plumbing pipe and Christmas fairy-lights. Dabiq, the official journal of Islamic State (IS), praises jihadists for “honouring the Prophet” by killing “French mushrikīn (pagans) gathered for a music concert” and hundreds of other crusader-types. If Muslims are also killed in the process, they are merely “legitimate collateral damage”, insists Abu Qatada Al-Filistini, a mentor to contemporary jihadists; provided they have not lived reprobate lives, they will be fast-tracked to heaven. But what has Islam traditionally had to say about killing civilians?
The Koran itself says surprisingly little. Far from being a military manual, as some jihadists would present it, the Muslims’ central scripture treats holy war only peripherally. Of its 6,346 verses, some 109—fewer than 2%—invoke the concept of jihad. It is like other holy books in that it contains injunctions to make both peace and war with kuffar, or unbelievers. In the Old Testament for instance, chapter 20 of Deuteronomy details the Torah’s rules of war and sanctions genocide. Chapter 19 of Luke, in the New Testament, quotes Jesus as saying that anyone who refuses his reign should be killed. And like other scriptures, the Koran is filled with apparent contradictions. A favourite verse of jihadists—“Fight them wherever you find them, and expel them from where they have expelled you”—is preceded by another which prohibits “transgressing the limits”. Muhammad the Prophet calls for churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and men in monasteries to be safeguarded, even though the Koran demands in verse 47:4 that “when you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks”. He calls for generosity towards captives on one hand, but also allows the capture of women—which has been used by IS to justify their rape.