09/17/2004, 00.00
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Slaughter of Beslan children done as murderers shouted "God is Great", says theologian

According to deacon Kuraev, Islam must not let itself be used by terrorists.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Beslan was a "religious" crime, a "ritual murder" carried out by people shouting Allah Akbar (God is great), this according to Orthodox theologian Andrei Kuraev, professor at the Moscow Orthodox Theological Academy.

In "How to perceive Islam after Beslan?", an article published on September 15 in the Moscow daily Izvestia, deacon Kuraev writes: "What happened in Beslan is not just a crime. It was a religious crime. It was ritual murder, the murder of children with prayers in the background. The terrorists killed in the name of their faith. They killed people shouting Allah Akbar and sacrificed innocent children on the altar of their religious ideas."

Kuraev goes further: "They were not just gangsters who killed. They were people of one faith who killed Christians in the name of their creed." One episode, he believes, makes this point clear. Sacha, a 13-year-old boy, was among the children taken hostage in the school. He wore a cross around his neck. When one of the terrorist saw it, the man turned his gun towards the boy and shouted: "Pray!" Sacha reacted by shouting "Christ is risen!" and escaped through a window.

In his message of condolences to President Putin, Patriarch Aleksij II said that "terrorism showed its satanic face" in Beslan. For Kuraev terrorism is "satanic", not Islam as a whole. For this reason, he considers the Beslan terrorists satanic. "When I speak of Satanism in relation to the terrorists," the theologian writes, "I am not defining Islam as a satanic religion. The Beslan terrorists killed many Muslims as well because they saw them as evil Muslims".

Deacon Kuraev is certain that the fate of the world in the 21st century is in the hands of Muslim theologians. Someone like Mullah Omar (an Afghan spiritual leader linked to Osama bin Laden) supported the 9/11 attacks in New York. By contrast, other Muslim religious leaders strongly disapproved of them. Similarly, he adds, "whilst Saudi Wahabi ulema (legal scholars) have recommended sending women as shahida (martyrs) to Russia, Russian Muslim leaders have repeatedly stated that terrorism in the name of Islam violates Islam's own principles."

Kuraev suggests the Russian government create the appropriate conditions for the national media to serve as a forum for those who can offer a peaceful interpretation of Islam and curtail the sermonising by firebrand Muslim radicals.

"Even if the Islamic world refuses to admit it, it is responsible for Muslim terrorism," Kuraev claims. "Its major fault lies in the fact that it allows itself to be used." However, the Russian theologian believes the West, too, has to bear some of the responsibility. Deacon Kuraev is in fact convinced that there is anti-Muslim and anti-Christian terrorist plan concocted in the West that seeks to set up a "new global order". For this reason, he berates those who are "are trying to confuse us and pit us one against the other." For him, Russia has already become the bulwark "that protects Europe against an aggressive Islamic world".

In the nineties, Russia opted for a hedonistic culture in lieu of the Christian faith. For deacon Kuraev, the war on terrorism can drive her back into the fold of religion. (AF)

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