Vittorio, Jihad, and So Many Question Marks!

Photos from Gaza. Mourning the loss of our Brother Vittorio, and protests condemning his murder.

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Written By: Jehan Alfarra

Last Friday (April, 8th) was another tribulation in the interminable, life-long list of our tragedies here in Gaza. It wasn’t anything unusual really, but it was still agonizing and I could not help but write something brief about it. This Friday (April, 15th), however, was a tragedy of a different sort. Palestine has lost a jewel. A sparkling, precious jewel and a loved son. All Palestinians have lost a dear brother- Vittorio Arrigoni.

“In my DNA, my blood, there are particles that push me to struggle for freedom and human rights.” Vittorio

It stings to recall how I playfully greeted Vik with ‘Shalom’ (Hebrew for hi, or more precisely: peace) the first time I ever saw him, and the many times I teased him with it, and how he’d flip rejecting what he called ‘Hebrew Zionist bullshit’. It stings to remember his unceasing wide smile drawn perfectly on his calm face whenever I accidently saw him in the street, or having a meal at one of my favourite fast-food restaurants, and apparently one of his, in Tal Al-Hawa in Gaza called ‘Al-Dar’ (Arabic for home), and playing with the little kids who come up to him to say hi. Or occasionally seeing him at the Gallery (Now his mourning house) which he frequently visited.

What stings even more is reading his now-so-bitterly-ironic comment on Ahmad Alsafadi’s photo (Ahmed was one of Vik’s best friends in Gaza)…😥

The reports of his kidnap came as a loathsome SHOCK to everyone in Gaza. Waking up to the tweets and Facebook pages and statuses demanding the release of a KIDNAPPED Vittorio was well-beyond predictable, dislocating any sense of reality! The YouTube video of Vik, blindfolded and beaten, and the demands of exchanging Vik with ALL Salafi prisoners arrested by Hamas in Gaza claimed that it was done by a Salafi group. The YouTube video gave Hamas 30 hours to release all Salafi prisoners or else they would kill Vittorio. Meanwhile, all salafi groups had denied any involvement or responsibility: “We strongly deny any responsibility for or connection to the kidnapping of the Italian (Vittorio Arrogani)… Our statement are distributed exclusively through Shoumoukh al-Islam, Attahadi Netwrok, and the Ansar al-Mujahedeen Network… Any statement attributed to us that are not released through these channels, has nothing to do with us, even if they are published on Jihadi websites.”

Over Twitter, none of us even dared to expect that we were to never see Vittorio ever again… In one lengthy conversation, we were discussing who could be behind this and we talked about it feeling that it was only a matter of time that Vik will be out and will be laughing at our jokes and what had happened as he always does even in the worst situations. And then all of a sudden and in one venomous moment, Reuters reported that Vittorio’s body was FOUND- he was DEAD!!!! None of us believed it! We kept arguing that they must be mistaken! Then Al Arabiya reported it! Soon, Twitter was swarming with the most heart-wrecking tweets ever! A new hash-tag found its way to our forcibly-tweeted tweets- #RIPvittorio !!!<<<<<!!! Then contradicting tweets said BBC denied that he was killed! Yet, more tweets confirming the death and the area kept coming up!! That hour was most torturous- heart thumping like a drum and air tearing into lungs, is he dead? Yes? No? WHAT!!! NO!  It cannot be! Oh, but he is… :s

This horrendous, senseless murder could not have been committed by Palestinians! Holding a Palestinian passport does not mean that they are! Vittorio was.

There are so many great exclamation marks and question marks about this whole thing. It stinks to high heaven.

For one, Vik was killed only hours from when he was kidnapped; meaning that the intention was to kill and not to trade prisoners.

Secondly, it’s VITTORIO!!! What does that mean? It means a big, muscled-up man! Of all the ISM activists and internationals in Gaza, they chose the one physically most challenging! Kidnapping a female or a male of a smaller size would have definitely been a whole lot easier and more effortless, and would have had the same effect still had the intention really been a ‘kufor’ matter or a prisoner-exchange! And on this note, it is worthy to note that Vittorio was the #1 ISM activist on Israeli hit list!

Thirdly, the timing! This is  the first an international (A GREAT SOLIDARITY FIGURE FOR THAT MATTER) is kidnapped and killed in Gaza, and it happens only 10 days after the Juliano Mer Khamis murder~! I find this too much to be a mere coincidence! Not only that, but it is happening at a time when Israel is doing its utmost to prevent the next Flotilla sailing to Gaza in attempts to break the siege, and to end this growing momentum of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Such ‘security’ concerns would intimidate potential passengers coming with the next flotilla “those unsure of the exceptional good will and generosity of the people there. A good will Vik would tell you about. If he were still here.“, as Lauren Booth writes, but would they?

Booth adds: “Both men [Juliano & Vittorio] were part of a new uprising, arguably, the most successful yet. The uprising that hurts Israel where it hurts most – in the TV studios of Europe and the US, right in the intelligentsia. Their impact on the Israel ‘fascisti’ [as Vik calls it] machine was a phenomenon in the expanding worlds of twitter and facebook. They had voices like no others in this movement.
More though. Vik was pivotal in the reformation of the ISM Gaza Group, the non violent resistance team, put on hold after the murders of two of its members by Israeli forces ; Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie. After it became clear that Israel’s leaders had taken the decision not only not to ignore the human rights of internationals in the West Bank and Gaza (thus putting them on a par with Palestinians), but to actively target them. “

To top it all off, the three suspects involved in the kidnap and the murder are Abdul Rahman Breizat, Jordanian, and two Palestinians, Belal Al Omari and Mohammed Al Salfiti. So a freaking Jordanian ‘salafi’ is involved!! And this guy has apparently entered Gaza with the Viva Palestina Convoy, and is an agent for 3 countries! Smelling some filthy rotten rat, eh?
Hamas has managed to find the three suspects and surround them in a building in Nuseirat Camp. Hamas tried to negotiate, and one of the suspects’, Belal’s, mother came and tried to talk him out. This only resulted in clashes, and then this Jordanian proclaimed ‘salafi’ SHOT HIMSELF, and threw a grenade on his fellow suspects, critically wounding Belal, who died of his wounds, and lightly injuring Al Salfiti, who is now under arrest and taken to hospital.

Now, the ‘salafi’ committed suicide. Haha, what a joke. Anyone who knows a tiny speck of Islam knows that a true salafi would not, under any circumstance, commit suicide. It is Un-Islamic and it is an intervention with God’s well. It is also evident that this Jordanian did not just want to end his life in fear of torture or the like, but he wanted to make sure that all of them are! Thoughts?

I want to take this opportunity to address what the word ‘Jihad’ means and what it has come to mean. It infuriates me how it is attached to every terrorist, or extremist act or group!!!! This is NOT what JIHAD is!! This is not ISLAM!

Tallha Abdulrazaq writes about this in his essay on Al-Qaeda:

“As al-Qaeda’s primary target audience for gaining popular support is the Muslim world, one may then begin to question the religious justification of such terrorist acts. Firstly, a brief definition of jihad is necessary to dispel frequent misconceptions. Jihad literally means in Arabic to expend effort and energy.[1] Abdel-Kareem Zaydan, former professor of religious studies at Baghdad University, then goes on to refine the word jihad in its religious context. He states that, in the Islamic lexicon, jihad means to struggle in the way of God; against oneself and the propensity to sin, against poverty in society, against evil by arguing against it, and against aggressors who wish to do harm unto Muslims or even others, no matter the faith.[2] In fact, this is supported by the verse in the Quran that states, ‘There is no compulsion in religion’[3], which means man is free to peacefully follow whatever religion he chooses, and also, ‘Why should you not fight in God’s cause for those oppressed men, women and children who cry out; “Lord! Rescue us from this town of oppressors and by Your Grace, send us a protector and helper”’.[4] Indeed, Sayed Qutb, a man frequently demonised as the ideological father of so-called extreme Islam, comments on the preceding verse and implores Muslims to protect the weak and those who are being oppressed.[5] These verses also may indicate Islamic military rules for international intervention in other states suffering from repression, but they certainly do not indicate that Muslims ought to butcher whomsoever they please, as is al-Qaeda’s method.

Verses from the Quran that are pointed out by extremists and Islamophobes alike in support of arguments for and against “aggressive” Islam are, ‘Kill them [enemies] wherever you find them….’[6] and also, ‘When the forbidden months have elapsed, kill them [idolaters], seize them, besiege them and wait for them….’[7] Although this may appear to be damning evidence to the layman ignorant of Islamic teachings, these verses have been grossly taken out of context. Indeed, the former verse is preceded by another that specifies that permission is granted to kill those who kill you, and the verse in question itself is completed by, ‘….and drive them out from where they have driven you out, for persecution is a greater evil than killing’,[8] which clearly demonstrates that the verse is giving permission to fight defensively. The latter verse cited by al-Qaeda and critics of Islam is actually in reference to those aggressive polytheists in the Prophet Muhammad’s day who regularly killed innocent Muslims, broke treaties with them, and attempted to forcibly convert Muslims back to idolatry and paganism. It is not, as it often is erroneously claimed to be, a mandate for the killing of any non-Muslim. Indeed, the verses directly preceding and succeeding this instruct Muslims to not harm those who have maintained their peaceful ties and treaties with the Muslims,[9] and to grant safe passage and protection to those who seek peace and good relations, even if they are idolaters.[10] Although there are many more examples of verses that have been misused by religious fanatics and anti-Islamic bigots, the aforementioned examples should aptly demonstrate that while Islam is a religion of peace, it is not the peace of the meek and the weak, but rather the just, strong and the able.”

Shariah law is formulated by correct interpretation of the Quran, sound exegesis, and also the hadeeth, traditions and sayings, of the Prophet Muhammad that have an accurate isnad, or chain of narration, that verifies its legitimacy. If the hadeeth is accurate and it conforms to Quranic verses, then this can be taken as a guiding legal principle, and not an inflexible law, which is then subject to interpretation dependant on the time, place, and context of the society or state in question. Some verses from the Quran have already been assessed, and it remains to give a few examples where the Prophet Muhammad himself forbade the killing of innocents. Although the terms of civilian and non-combatant are modern in usage, in case of war Muslims are still prohibited from killing what would be defined as non-combatants and civilians. This is demonstrated by a hadeeth which narrates how the Prophet was grieved after he saw the corpse of a woman after a battle because a non-combatant was killed, and therefore forbade such acts in future engagements.[11] The hadeeth following the previous one specifically mentions that no woman or child is to be killed,[12] and this can be interpreted as being an instruction to target only combatants. Many more hadeeth’s prohibit the killing of merchants, clergymen, hired labour, and even give specific instructions that the trees and livestock of the enemy should not be wantonly destroyed, and this in accordance with the aforementioned Quranic verses thereby giving the conclusion that Shariah dictates that no acts of senseless destruction can be justified, particularly if it means the deaths of innocents and non-combatants.”

Vik may not have been a Muslim, but he sure gained our FULL respect, love, and appreciation. He was a human. And he has won. He left this world a beautiful symbol for humanity and freedom. While this Jordanian bastard has a left a hated, cursed bigot; so to hell he may go.

Whatever their motives were, they FAILED, and FAILED MISERABILY. Vic is alive inside every Muslim and every compassionate true Palestinian. His soul will always be in Gaza and he shall never be forgotten. From the fishermen in the sea, to the farmers in the buffer zones. From the restaurant and shop owners who knew him, to every child in Gaza whom he drew a smile on their faces. From every Real Madrid lover, to every Barca brother.

And the next flotilla is coming with even greater determination- STAY HUMAN. Vik, you have been our unknown soldier all along and the world is coming to realize it. I salute you. Gaza loved you and will always continue to do.


[1] Zaydan (1986), p.262
[2] Ibid.
[3] Quran, 2:256
[4] Quran, 4:75
[5] Qutb (1985), p.616
[6] Quran, 2:191
[7] Quran, 9:5
[8] Quran, 2:191
[9] Quran, 9:4
[10] Quran, 9:6
[11] Bukhari (1979), v.4 p.21
[12] Ibid.

2 responses

  1. now that explains something.

    brb to read more and comment

    April 24, 2011 at 11:15 am

  2. Rafi

    Dear Jehan,
    You nailed it really well. I really admire it. Vik was indeed an amazing human being. A role model for every activist. Every Muslim should learn from his example too if we call our selves Muslims. Many thanks for clearing many misconceptions about the Jihad issue too.
    Keep up your beautiful works dear sister. May Allah bless you.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:20 am

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