The Beheading of Nick Berg in Iraq: A Muslim Perspective
By Sam Hamod
Al-Jazeerah, May 13, 2004
All human beings must give their condolences to the family of Nick Berg who was ignominously beheaded. This is a heinous and brutal crime, and anyone who would do this is a sinner, an animal, a brute; if captured and proven guilty, those who perpetrated this crime should be punished to the full extent of the law.
If it was Muslims in Iraq, or wherever, because we actually don't know if he was beheaded in Iraq or elsewhere, we as Muslims condemn such behavior by whoever did it. Mr. Berg, from my understanding, was a person who was working on communications towers for the good of the Iraqi people; he was not a combatant or a mercenary who might have killed or hurt anyone. Islam makes clear, you do not kill innocent people. The Qur'an states, "To kill one innocent man or woman is to kill all of humanity; to save one human is to save all of humanity."
I say, "If it was Muslims" because there are many other players in Iraq at this time, and we can't be sure it was Muslims or Arabs. There are elements of the slaying that make it appear it may not have been Muslims. When Muslims execute a person, it must be after a proper trial, with credible witnesses, and the person who does the execution must say a prayer for the person being killed and to ask forgiveness for doing the killing. None of this was done. Also, a proper way of killing in this situation is to cut the throat in one swoop, not to hack at a person's neck. Muslims do not often cut off the head, but do execute by law, but not by revenge as in this case, though some Middle Easterners may do it by culture and tradition (that is still not allowed in Islam)
I say this because it may have been Muslims in Iraq who were taking revenge for the torture at Abu Ghraib as was alleged in the tape, but if it was, then they were acting as part of the culture of the middle east and not as Muslims. There is a long tradition, practiced by the Arabs (Muslims and Christians) and Jews of revenge for a misdeed against one's family or people; but this is against Islamic law.
There is another strange matter to this situation that troubles me. Why was Mr. Berg picked up by coalition forces and imprisoned, so much so that his family sued Donald Rumsfeld for his release and information on him. The military says it released him, but suddenly then, he disappeared becausse when people went to see him at the hotel he was allegedly registered at, he wasn't there and no one there knew of him. Very strange point number two is, why was Mr. Berg in an American issued orange jump suit--the kind Americans put prisoners in, when he was photographed and killed? The Iraqis or other Arabs would have had him in Arab clothing so as not to draw suspicion to him of his being a prisoner--not an orange jump suit. Also, the way the men were standing, and their size, as a person experienced in the middle east, most Arabs don't stand that way and most Iraqis are not that tall--the men stand more like Westerners of some sort, or even Israelis, but not like Arabs or Iraqis.
As to the Arabic, there are many Americans and Israelis who speak excellent Arabic. But, no Muslim would do that awkward "Allahu Ahkbar" --it was strained, it was not a natural voicing of that phrase, "God is great." I don't know who did this heinous crime, and it could have been bad Muslims or Arabs, but I am now wondering more and more who actually did it because of so many strange things surrounding this heinous deed.
But, it may also be that this was perpetrated by Israeli agents, who have been operating in Iraq since the American invasion and have been advisors and combatants for Blackwater, and for the U.S. military, especially in interrogation techniques. I do not know if it was Israelis, but I do remember in the early 1980s when the Mossad of Israel shot Israel's own ambassador to London to help justify the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. You may recall the general who led the brutal assault was none other than Ariel Sharon; the present brutal prime minister of Israel.
We must also ask the question intelligence agencies use, "Who would most benefit from this act?" In this case, if not Israel, then Bush and America to take the heat off of America for the brutality of the torture in Iraq and Guantanamo. This terrible act also took a lot of pressure off the U.S. Thus, it is also possible, since the killers were hooded, and thus we can't know who they were, that it could have been American counter-insurgency agents, CIA or mercenaries who did this heinous at a time when the glare of anger toward the U.S. was growing in the world. I don't know that this is true, but having worked in intelligence situations, I know it has been done in the past. Remember, also that the Nazis blew up the Bundestag to blame it on the Jews and others who they wanted to punish. America also used the boiler explosion on the U.S.S. Maine as a pretext for the Spanish American War by blaming it on Spain (even though it our intelligence knew it was simply a result of the boiler blowing up). We pushed into Viet Nam after our false report of the attack on one of our ships in the Bay of Tonkin. Our nation has not always been lilly-white in matters of truth when we wanted to take an action--we found ways to justify matters, or to lie to our advantage. We even allowed our own navy men to be killed on the U.S. S. Liberty in order to allow the Israelis freedom to do a sneak attack on Egypt --not allowing our own airplanes to go to the rescue of the Liberty when Israeli planes and torpedo boats were attacking it. To this dayh, the U.S. government has not allowed the Liberty case to be opened, or the men to be compensated, even though Admirals and others have asked for an open naval inquiry as to what happened and why President Johnson or someone in the Pentagon called back American planes that were going to the rescue of the Liberty. Israel has never been reprimanded for the attack, though clearly the ship had American flags, gave American signals and did not look like any Egyptian or Arab vessels. Unfortunately, our hands have been dirty before; it is possible they have dirtied themselves again for the sake of Bush's policies in the "war on terror"--and what better way than to turn the spotlight on the victims and make them "terrorists" through such an act. There are just too many questions here, to many odd things about this savage act.
With all these possibilities, and with the dirty politics and lies that have been told by so many in the world, the Americans, the Israelis, Al Qa'eda, angry Iraqis, just who did this is unclear. As I said, as a Muslim leader, I condemn this act by whoever did it; if it was an alleged "Muslim", then they are condemned to hell; but it may have been others from some other country who did it in order to put blame on the Muslims of Iraq. Remember also, many Israelis speak Arabic as well as Arabs themselves--so we can't take the Arabic on the tape as being from Arabs. We also know that some of the mercenaries and American military speak Arabic. The problem is that the criminals who killed Nick Berg were hooded, so we can't truly know who did this dirty deed.
At this point, we don't know who did this; nor do we know that the alleged Al Zarkawi's website is actually put forth by Al Zarkawi or any of his colleagues. This is all very murky and none of us will know for some time.
Sadly, President Bush said, "We'll hunt these people down." The problem is that he doesn't know who did it and it is my hope that he will not punish innocent people because we don't know, and may never know if this heinous act was perpetrated by Arabs, Muslims, Israelis or American counter-insurgency operatives or even mercenaries who work for Halliburton, Brown & Root or Bechtel or Blackwater Security.
I think we have to keep an open mind on exactly who did this; because, as I said earlier, we don't really know because there are so many angles to this deed and the people it hurts most are the family of Nick Berg, but America and Israel benefit from this the most because it makes the Arabs and Muslims (if they are blamed for it) look like savages and brutes. If these were Arabs or Muslims, then these men are brutes and should be punished if they can be captured and proven guilty of this terrible deed.
We all pray to God that the killers will be found and brought to justice and proper punishment for this inhuman, murderous deed.
Prof. Sam Hamod is the former Director of The Islamic Center of Washington, DC; editor of 3rd World News (DC); he was born and raised in Gary, Indiana; he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org