Arabic media appeals for hostages’ release

From Al-Jazeera TV in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 9:

[…] Meanwhile, appeals were made to release the four [members of the] Christian Peacemakers Team [CPT] held hostage by the Jama’at Saraya Suyuf al-Haq [Brigades of the Swords of Right Group].

[Shaykh Abd-al-Salam al-Kubaysi from the Association of Muslim Scholars] I would say that the fate of those [hostages] identifies you [kidnappers] because they should be shown hospitality instead of being taken hostage. If you do not know these facts [about the hostages’ mission], then you should listen.

[Correspondent] The statements of Al-Kubaysi coincided with the visit of the representative of Canada’s Muslims Union, who called on the kidnappers to release the hostages in order to spend Christmas day with their families and to convey the facts about what is taking place in Iraq to the world. [End of recoding] [Video shows Iraqi preachers delivering sermons; US scorched truck; US helicopter; AMS official speaking]

Text of report by Iraqi Al-Sharqiyah TV on 10 December:

An envoy of the Muslim Canadian Congress who arrived in Baghdad on Friday [9 December] in an attempt to free the four hostages working for a humanitarian organization has announced that he did not manage to establish contact with the abductors.

At a news conference, he urged the release of the hostages without delay so that they can spend the Christmas holidays with their families.

[Ihab Latif, envoy of the Muslim Canadian Congress] We appeal to the whole word, to whoever is holding them now, to release them without any delay. We as Muslims know the importance of gathering together during our holidays, and of being among our relatives during the holidays. For example, whenever I plan a visit to my motherland, Egypt, I try to make it towards the end of Ramadan so that I can spend the holidays with my relatives in Egypt.

They are about to start their holidays. We really wish they would spend the holidays with their families and relatives.

[Presenter] In a related development, the imam and preacher of Al-Imam al-A’zam Abu-Hanifah al-Nu’man Mosque has called on the abductors of the Western hostages who work for the Christian Peacemaker Team to free them. Following the Friday sermon, Shaykh Ahmad Hasan al-Samarra’i said that Iraq does not want to lose the support of people when it is experiencing misery and hardship. He called on those with influence to help free these four hostages, noting that he knows that they are being held by a group that is defending Iraq and Islam.

For her part, Cindy Sheehan, a US antiwar figure who staged a 26-day sit-in near the ranch of US President George Bush in Texas following the death of her son in Iraq, announced that the Christian hostages were trying to help the Iraqi people. She added that the killing of the hostages would be an inhumane act, noting that people across the world are trying to bring pressure to bear on their governments to bring about a pullout from Iraq. [Video shows Ihab Latif addressing a news conference]

Text of report by Iraqi Al-Sharqiyah TV on 9 December:

Four colleagues of the humanitarian organization workers appealed to their kidnappers for their release, stressing that their work in Iraq was for justice and human rights.

Peggy Gish, an activist in the Christian Peacemakers Team who is currently in Jordan, said she thought that there must be a force present to stand in the face of anger, fear and intimidation, which the Iraqi people felt.

She added that we try to be that force and speak in the name of justice, and call for the respect of the human rights of Iraqis.

Gish, together with Shiela Provencher, were two of the first Christian Peacemakers Team volunteers to go to Iraq in October 2002 to launch a campaign against the war which the United States launched in March 2003.

The Arab and international campaign for the release of the foreign hostages has intensified as they were on a humanitarian mission in Iraq.

The following editorial “Kidnapping hostages does not serve Islam” was published by London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi on Dec. 10:

More appeals have been made in various parts of the Muslim world to release the four Western hostages that an unknown group calling itself the Swords of Right Brigades announced it kidnapped in Iraq. The appeals have apparently succeeded in persuading the kidnappers to extend for few days the deadline they had set for executing them, especially the appeal by Abu-Qatadah who is considered one of Al-Qa’idah organization’s ideologues in Europe.

Kidnapping innocent people who went to Iraq to carry out a humanitarian role, help its people overcome the tribulations, and soften their pains under the acts of murder, destruction, and ruptures resulting from the occupation cannot serve Islam and its just causes but inflicts damage on them and its image of tolerance in the minds of many of other religions’ followers.

The occupation is unacceptable and condemned and its resistance by all means and ways is a duty. But this resistance has rules and morals and we do not believe that kidnapping innocent people in the way we saw in Iraq is part of them.

It is true that some Western countries, among them the British government, are detaining Muslims without trials and without specific charges. It is also true that Muslims in Iraq are being killed daily by the US aircraft raids. But this does not justify at all the kidnappings and killings, especially of peoples who disagree totally with their governments’ policies, oppose them, and express solidarity with the victims of aggression and occupation.

The British government’s willingness to abandon its former arrogant stands of refusing to talk to the kidnappers, which was clearly expressed by Prime Minister Tony Blair when he appealed to them to open the door to communications with his government, is a positive step that might help create better atmospheres for dialogue and save the hostages’ lives.

Its agreement, that is the British government, to let Abu-Qatadah record a videotape appealing to the kidnappers to release the hostages and allowing him to air it on one of the Arab satellite channels are a development in the British government’s stand that reflects a flexibility in its position, whether towards the kidnappers or the Islamists detained in its prisons.

The former hard-line stands of the British government and its representatives did not help save other British hostages like Margaret Hasan and Tom [as published] Bigley, which subjected them to strong criticisms from public opinion and the media. The latter compared their government’s hard-line stands to those of other countries like the French one that made big efforts to open channels of communications with the kidnappers so as to save its citizens.

Finally, we say that Islam is the religion of mercy, tolerance, respect for human rights and in particular for the followers of other religions and we therefore join our voice to all the other voices to release these hostages as quickly as possible so that they can return to their families and relatives safely.

[via BBC monitoring]

See our last post on Iraq.