Al-Tatarrus: al-Qaeda’s Justification for Killing Muslim Civilians

The Jamestown Foundation has recently published (Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 34) an interesting paper by Jack Barclay on the notion of ‘al-Tatarrus’ and its use by the global Salafi-Jihadist movement as a justification for killing muslim civilians.

It is well known that thousands of Muslim civilians died as a result of armed assaults and suicide bombings jihadist conflict zones from Chechnya to Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. Most of the times, the jihadists have denied responsibility or have sought to blame security forces. At other times, the jihadists have used conspiracy theories to shift blame.

However, there are cases when jihadists have claimed responsibility for attacks killing Muslims, justifying them on the basis of theological legitimacy. One of the concepts most used is “Hukm al-Tatarrus”, a notion which has its roots in classical Islamic jurisprudence and was traditionally used to establish the permissibility of a Muslim army attacking a non-Muslim enemy in particular situations.

More specifically,  al-Tatarrus describes circumstances in which the obligation to fight Islam’s enemies – and in so doing protect the wider Muslim populace – outweighs the threat to those Muslim civilians unfortunate enough to be caught between the two sides.

Barclay describes in his paper how this ancient notion is in fact  being reinterpreted among Jihadist ideologues, with the aim of eventually convincing the Muslim world to accept that modern Jihad by its nature will result in a high civilian casualty toll.

Read more here.

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