Leaving Islam



My Son’s Teacher was an Irhabi (Terrorist)

By Jacob Thomas


On Sunday, 2 October 2005 , two days before the beginning of the Islamic month of Ramadan, the online Arabic daily, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, published an article with a very eye-catching title. In the original, the title consisted of three words. Translated into English, it required six words: “My Son’s Teacher was an Irhabi,” i.e. a terrorist.

The writer is a Saudi lady who was terribly shocked and disturbed by discovering that one of the men involved in a terrorist attack on a government building in the capital had actually been her son’s teacher. She was outraged, and wrote a brief article. I would like to share it with the readers, and follow with some comments.  

“Once, I wrote an article with the above title for the daily newspaper “Al-Riyad.” Having gone through a horrible experience, these words should be regarded as my clarion call for all to hear. My blood almost froze on my face as I read the terrorist’s name, and saw his photo.”  

“Let me explain. In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Ministry of the Interior building, several newspapers published photos of those who had participated in the operation. My son, having glanced at the newspaper, pointed to the face of one of the terrorists and said in an agitated manner: Mother, this man was my teacher!”  

“Two months prior to the attack, this same teacher stood just a short distance from my son’s desk and talked to him. Actually, only one inch separated him from my son’s mind and heart. Like all young students at the school, my son used to praise and love all his teachers. His little mind tended to receive and accept spontaneously his teachers’ instruction. Unfortunately, not all teachers at the school were careful, or observed a proper attitude vis-à-vis their young and sensitive students. Some spouted out their ideological views. Their vision and outlook on life had been formed by the myths they imbibed, as they sat and watched for hours one television channel: “Al-Jazeera.” After all, we all know that this television station broadcasts just one point of view, and quite often it is in the service of Irhab.”  

“I must add that I have become weary of going several times to the school principal to remind him of the duty of teachers to keep their personal opinions to themselves. They were not supposed to share them with their young students, most of them being only ten years old! Some teachers may admire Usama bin Laden for having forsaken the world and gone to live in caves. But they should voice such thoughts among their friends as they meet them at their favorite cafes. There should be no room for any such propaganda at the school. Also, it is not the job of school teachers to issue fatwas that forbid their students from viewing certain television channels.”  

“Yesterday, my son shared with me an incident that took place at his school. A teacher inquired from a student about his brother who had recently graduated from secondary school. The boy proudly informed him that his brother was very fortunate as he had received a government scholarship to study in America . The teacher responded angrily: “ America , may Allah guide him to any place but America !”  

“I happen to know exactly where the teacher would have wanted this student to go for his university education; however, this is not the purpose for writing the column. My point is: how are we to confront this Irhabi (terrorist) mentality, when we notice that all our efforts to spread a spirit of tolerance and an acceptance of the ‘Akhar’ (the Other) is being thwarted in the classrooms?”  

“Recently I learned that a book advocating a positive and tolerant attitude toward the ‘Other’ was pulled out of circulation. It was scheduled to be distributed among our teachers and educators! However, some voiced certain reservations about the contents of the book. So the project was dropped. I wonder what those reservations were! What was wrong with a book that advocated tolerance, and the need for a proper approach in our dialogue with the ‘Akhar?’ Or are we supposed rather to tolerate extremists and radicals? Why do we seem to be oblivious of the existence of ideological ticking bombs in our society? Should we not be shocked to learn that some of our teachers were on the wanted lists, and had actually participated in terrorist attacks? I am sure that most of us were aware that several of the men who planned their suicidal attacks, were not among the unemployed. Some were teachers in our schools; others have even served as imams in our mosques, or worked in our security agencies. In other words, these Irhabis were right there, all around us, in the very heart of our society, and busy influencing the minds of our youth.”  

Thus far the words of this distraught mother. I have commented before that any translation from Arabic into a Western language loses some of the full meaning of the original text. Actually, the mother’s words were brimming with an intensity of feelings, and with powerful allusions to a very disturbing phenomenon, not only in Saudi Arabia , but all over the Islamic world. She was pointing to a shocking disconnect with reality that pervades the world of Islam today. Globalism is here to stay; our world has become more interdependent than ever. While many Muslims are aware of this fact, yet they persist to ignore it, and continue to hate and vilify the “Akhar.”  

Only one week after reading this article, I woke up to the news of a massive earthquake that hit Pakistan and some of the surrounding areas. Reports indicate that Pakistan has endured its worst natural catastrophe since its birth in 1947. President Pervez Musharraf appealed for international aid. By noon , President Bush promised to help the stricken country. I mention this to underline the obvious fact that tolerance and the acceptance of the ‘Other’ as a fellow-human being is absolutely necessary in our world today. But radical Islamists never cease to hurl their insults at the Infidels; but how do they explain the fact that when calamities strike Islamic lands, suddenly these same “Infidels” rush to help. The despised “Others” never reciprocate with insults or indifference. On the contrary, the common bonds of humanity transcend all inherited prejudices and insults; and so we watch people from all over the world, rush with help for the stricken Pakistanis.   








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