On Wednesday, al Qaeda released a video
featuring Nasr Ibn Ali al-Ansi, one of its top commanders in Yemen, claiming responsibility for the horrific attack last week on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. He gave two reasons for the attack.
First, he claimed it was in revenge for Charlie Hebdo's printing of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammed. Al-Ansi then went on to state
in much greater detail that the attack was in response to France and the West killing Muslims: "We will tell you once again ... stop spilling our blood." And then he urged Muslims across the world to "take vengeance for Muslim blood spilled."
Well, if spilling Muslim blood is the deciding factor for us Muslims to decide who we should take vengeance against, then al-Ansi and others in al Qaeda should immediately go into hiding. Simply put, al Qaeda has been slaughtering Muslims for years. Islamic clerics, doctors, nurses, women, children, etc. -- you name any type of Muslim, and al Qaeda has butchered them.
In fact, a report released in 2009 by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
documented the people killed by al Qaeda between 2004 and 2008. It found that only 12% of the victims of al Qaeda were Westerners. That suggests that al Qaeda has killed seven times as many Muslims as non-Muslims
. And these attacks were just the ones for which al Qaeda had publicly claimed responsibility.
And since that report, al Qaeda in Yemen has engaged in even more vicious attacks on Muslims. Keep in mind that 99% of the population of Yemen is Muslim
(65% Sunni and 35% Shia) so with a few exceptions, virtually every person the group kills there is a Muslim.
In December 2014, for example, an al Qaeda bomb killed 15 children and 10 adults
when the bus they were on was blown up by an al Qaeda car bomb intended for a competing militia leader in the area.
This attack followed another in which al Qaeda sent a suicide bomber
into a crowd of protesters in the nation's capital, killing 47 people and injuring 140.
And back in December 2013, al Qaeda launched an attack on a hospital
, killing 52 people and wounding 167 with two car bombs before gruesomely shooting patients and doctors in the hospital.
The list goes on, but al Qaeda is not alone in killing Muslims who stand in its way. ISIS has done the same in Iraq and Syria.
A U.N. report
released late last year found that ISIS had killed thousands of Muslims -- both Sunni and Shia -- between July and September of that year. This includes the slayings of three nurses in Mosul, Iraq, because they refused to provide medical care to ISIS fighters. ISIS also killed numerous Sunni imams for refusing to swear allegiance to ISIS, and beheaded another Sunni leader for refusing to support the group.
And the reality is that that's truly what al Qaeda and ISIS are about. They are not about the concept of "submit to Islam or die," as some have claimed. It's submit to ISIS/al Qaeda or die. Both organizations clearly don't care how many Muslims they kill. Yet at the same time they will both claim they are carrying out their actions in the name of Islam. In fact, al-Ansi stated in Wednesday's video
that the terrorist brothers who carried out the attack on the Charlie Hebdo officers were "two heroes of Islam."
He couldn't be more wrong.
But that isn't to say there weren't heroes of Islam in Paris that day -- it's just that they are two quite different people.
Ahmed Merabet was the French police officer shot in cold blood while lying on the sidewalk by the so-called "heroes of Islam." As his brother stated at a press conference
, Merabet was a proud Muslim who gave his life defending French values of "liberty, equality and fraternity."
And there was Lassana Bathily, the Muslim employee at the kosher deli in Paris who reportedly saved the lives
of seven Jewish patrons by helping them hide when Amedy Coulibaly entered the store with guns blazing. Bathily's actions exemplified the famous Quranic verse, "Whoever saves one -- it is as if he had saved mankind entirely."
Obviously, calling out the hypocrisy of al Qaeda and ISIS won't change these organizations' goals -- they will continue to invoke Islam as cover for their political ambitions because it helps them entice new recruits and raise funds which are vital for their continued existence.
But maybe if their hypocrisy is consistently laid bare then it might help all understand the true motivation of these terrorist groups and hopefully even give pause to any Muslims thinking of joining their un-Islamic cause. After all, al Qaeda and ISIS aren't interested in upholding the principles of Islam. They are focused only on power, however many Muslim lives they take.