Sheikh Muhammad Sharif Odeh, a leader of the Ahmadiyya branch of Islam in Israel, condemned the recent wave of Arab terrorism in the Jewish state committed in the name of Islam, and claimed the attacks are a perversion of the religion.
In an op-ed this Monday in the private Palestinian Arab Ma'an News Agency translated by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), Odeh wrote "when Allah, exalted be He, gave permission for the Muslims to fight, he did so in order that they might defend complete freedom of religion. He emphasized to them that it was their duty to defend, first of all, the churches, houses of worship and monasteries of their fellow men, even before their own mosques."
Speaking about the Har Nof synagogue massacre in which Arab terrorists murdered four Jews at prayer in addition to a Druze police officer, Odeh wrote "I visited the synagogue that was attacked in Jerusalem, and from the first moment, I felt a sense of anger because of this shameful act, which does not conform to our glorious Islam and contradicts its principles of tolerance."
"My condemnation of this crime arises from my understanding of and belief in glorious Islam; my religion, of which I am proud, and which the above individuals are attempting to stain with their ideas and behavior," wrote Odeh. "I assert that those people who are attempting to sanction this crime or incite to similar acts in the name of religion have no backing from the Koran."
Unfortunately Odeh can not be said to be speaking for mainstream Islam, as his Ahmadiyya branch has been ostracized and persecuted by other Muslims.
Founded at the end of the 19th century, Ahmadiyya Islam has between ten and 20 million followers, but practitioners are considered heretics and non-Muslims by many mainstream Muslims.
Pakistan amended its Constitution to classify Ahmadis as non-Muslims, and the religionists have been the target of riots and murders in various Muslim countries for their "heretic beliefs."
However, regarding the recent spate of terror attacks, Odeh is not the only Muslim leader to condemn the slaughter.
Sheikh Samir Assi, the Imam of Akko, was an initiator of an interfaith meeting of religious leaders to condemn the Har Nof synagogue attack. Shortly afterwards, anonymous vandals dumped acid on Assi's car, with police suspecting the attack was the work of Muslim extremists.
The families of the two terrorist who committed the synagogue attack passed out candy when they learned of the brutal murders, with one relative saying of the attack in contradiction to Odeh's assertion that it was "a normal thing that can be expected from every man who has courage and a feeling of belonging to his people and to Islam."
The Palestinian Authority (PA) for its part has embraced the attacks, going as far as twisting the events on official PA TV by calling the terrorist attacks "Israeli attacks."
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas made a perfunctory condemnation of the Har Nof attack, which included a smear of Israel, although his Fatah faction has clarified that it was a diplomatic statement he was forced to make. The PA and Fatah have praised the synagogue massacre as a "heroic operation," and PA and Hamas officials have justified the murder of "rabbi terrorists."