TOPICS: Kidnapping foreigners: Islamic perspective

Anyone who is familiar with the Koran and the traditions of prophet Muhammad knows that kidnapping civilians and harming them is absolutely prohibited. Those who kidnap civilians defy the Islamic code of ethics. This ethos applies to every kidnapped civilian, including Jill Carroll, the freelance journalist on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor, who worked in Iraq until she was kidnapped last month.

Every now and then, we hear about the kidnapping of “foreign” nationals in Islamic countries. Recently the family of a former German minister was kidnapped in Yemen. In Gaza, Kate Burton, a British human rights activist, and her parents were kidnapped.

It is well known that the kidnappers’ demands, in cases like these, usually have nothing to do directly with the kidnapped persons or their countries. This does not mean that it is permissible to kidnap innocent civilians should conflicts exist. The two European families were kidnapped because they were easy targets. The same applies to Carroll.

Many of those captured foreigners carried the burden of working for our causes and, for that, they endured hardships and paid a high price. I have chosen to present the Islamic position regarding kidnapping, which opposes it. We must get rid of this negative phenomenon that does not serve us in any way.

From the perspective of the Islamic sharia, the al-Mustamin is “the foreign person whose safety is guaranteed.” Such a person is protected, even if his or her native country is in a state of animosity with Muslims. Animosity is a temporary state, and, further, not all Western citizens necessarily support the foreign policies of their governments. We have seen foreign visitors support our political rights and defend Islam. Indeed, despite being non-Muslims themselves, they have come to the defence of Muslims in their own countries when the need arose.

The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) declared its position on kidnapping and the taking of hostages in their communiqué which was published in September 2004. In what follows, I paraphrase and summarise their statement, which draws on verses and examples in the Koran prohibiting kidnapping: Kidnapping is an assault on another, whether a Muslim or non-Muslim. It is an unjust act that God forbids.

It is clear that the message of the IUMS calls for the prohibition of harming civilians in any way, including kidnapping, even in a state of war. We should not allow frustration to drive us to the use of violence, or to solve problems, regarding issues of internal change, through the use of arms. And we have to give non-violent resistance a general chance to prove whether it is a valid or invalid method. This is only possible through experimentation. We should see in every foreigner a potential friend whom we can bring to actuality through kindness and benevolence. This is a path strewn with the thorns of ignorance; it can be cleared with tools of patience. — The Christian Science Monitor