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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Global terror: Extremists, big powers both at fault

Dec 8, 2007
Global terror: Extremists, big powers both at fault, says scholar
But no faith will tolerate an act of terror, says Syrian university rector
By Jeremy Au Yong

MUSLIM terrorists and global powers must both take responsibility for the tense global political climate, a leading Syrian academic said yesterday.
Sheikh Hussam Eddin Farfour made the point in an interview, where he denounced - in equal measure - terrorists who carry out attacks in the name of Islam, the United States-led war in Iraq, and the actions of the West in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

'We should be equal in judging. As much as we denounce terrorism, we should also be aware of the destruction caused by the world powers,' the rector of the Al-Fath University in Syria said through an interpreter.

Speaking in Arabic, he criticised terrorists for perverting the faith: 'There is a big difference between a Muslim practising Islam as faith, as a neutral religion, and the terrorists. They are not people practising the faith the correct way.'

But he then posed his own questions, asking reporters: 'How do we describe the destruction that has been caused by world powers to countries such as Iraq and Palestine? How do we term what has been done there? Isn't that a form of terrorism, attacking other people's rights and taking from them?'

His bottom line, though, was that an act of terror could never be justified: 'It will never be tolerated in any faith.'

'However, anybody who is attacked upon on his wealth, his land, his rights, the international law permits him to seek what is right. Every community will defend itself - of course, in a proper way.'

Sheikh Farfour, a regular commentator on Muslim issues in the Middle East, has been here since Tuesday at the invitation of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

He has met politicians, community and religious leaders, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who was here.

At yesterday's interview, Sheikh Farfour lauded Singapore for being a country where people of different faiths could live together in harmony.

'From my short visit, I notice that Singapore is an open country, which gives respect to all the various religious groups. And I am able to see the cooperation, bonding and rapport between the different groups. This is a good example of a plural community.'

He also urged Muslims to be good 'ambassadors of the religion'.

'You should practise openness. You should help each other, be it Muslims or non-Muslims. You should defend the country, be contributing citizens, and preserve the social harmony in Singapore. This is what Islam is all about and what Islam asks of its followers,' he said.

Sheikh Farfour will today deliver a keynote address at the Asatizah Seminar 2007, an annual gathering of Islamic religious teachers. He leaves Singapore on Monday.

jeremyau@sph.com.sg

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