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Muslim Experts Disagree On Suicide Missions - 2001-08-10

Some Islamic leaders say that suicide bombers - like the young man responsible for the bombing Thursday in Jerusalem, Izz el-Din al-Masri - are martyrs for Islam. But other Islamic scholars disagree, saying their religion does not sanction such acts.

Some Muslims believe that if you kill yourself in the process of killing Israelis, your place with God is secure. But does Islam say that?

Over the past several years, the Islamic community has been debating the issue of suicide bombings. Some Islamic leaders have gone so far as to suggest those who commit suicide, for whatever reason, do not deserve to be buried among other Muslims and will not gain admission to heaven.

Mohammad Saleem Elowa, a professor of comparative Islamic law in Cairo, Egypt says the law of Islam, regarding the issue of suicide, is very strict. "Self-killing is not allowed in Islam. That's all. Suicide is illegal," he says.

If so, then why are there Islamic suicide bombers? Professor Elowa says many Muslims believe it is not suicide when carried out in the name of human rights. "When you kill those who are killing you and you are killing them in order to liberate your country and to liberate your countrymen and give them the human rights, then this is an action of heroism, it's not an action of suicide." Mr. Elowa explains. "They think they are killing themselves for the cause of God and they are having a certain and assured place in heaven."

And some Islamic scholars say whether a suicide bombing is right or wrong depends on who is killed. For example, some scholars believe the killing of Israeli soldiers will secure a place in heaven, while the killing of civilians will not.

Professor Elowa says as long as some Muslims believe suicide bombing is not in conflict with Islam, there will be men willing to follow in the footsteps of Izz el-Din al-Masri.