In the battle against unbelievers, can one also kill Muslims? Even the terror network al-Qaida is troubled by this question.
Even the Iraqi affiliates of Osama bin Laden's terror group, who are known to be particularly bloodthirsty, claim that they too consider this question. For instance, in a message claiming responsibility for an August attack in Baghdad, the group wished those Sunnis injured in the "operation" a speedy recovery and expressed their hope that those killed would be accepted by God as "martyrs."
But even as such apologetic communiqués from al-Qaida show the terror network stylizing itself as a defender of the true faith wrestling with religious concepts, they also make it look as though any dead Muslims are regretful but isolated cases. The facts, though, tell a different story.
Between 2004 and 2008, for example, al-Qaida claimed responsibility for 313 attacks, resulting in the deaths of 3,010 people. And even though these attacks include terrorist incidents in the West -- in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005 -- only 12 percent of those killed (371 deaths) were Westerners.
It is, of course, no surprise that al-Qaida kills more Muslims than non-Muslims -- particularly for people in the Islamic world.
But aby the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the United States' Military Academy at West Point in New York -- which has gathered together these and other relevant figures in one report ("Deadly Vanguards: A Study Of al-Qaida's Violence Against Muslims "), spells out the discrepancy in black and white.
The authors of the study admit that their report likely omits a number of Muslim victims. But that was the price of their rigorous methodology, used in an effort to avoid accusations of partisanship.
The researchers only counted the attacks for which al-Qaida claimed responsibility, thus preventing accusations that they were seeking to make al-Qaida look even worse than it is. Still, it is well known that al-Qaida does not claim responsibility for every attack perpetrated, meaning that many victims are likely left out of the report.
Furthermore, the researchers only included attacks reported on by the Arab media and relied on the numbers they reported -- out of a conviction that the Arab media is more highly regarded in the Muslim world than the Western media. That, though, is not always the case.