Sunday, January 04, 2009

"My father raised us all to love martyrdom"

The Maan News Agency, a Palestinian news service (see here for a longer description of who they are) has an interview with one of the surviving daughters of Nizar Rayyan, who was killed with most of his family last week by the Israeli bombing of Gaza. I found what she said so appalling that I'm copying the whole story here.

Date: 04 / 01 / 2009 Time: 12:15

Gaza – Ma’an – One of the surviving daughters of slain Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan, Walaa, spoke to Ma’an Saturday.

She is married with two young daughters, but hopes for a son so she can name him after her dead father. Three of her nephews already go by the nickname “Abu Nizar,” though their names are Bilal, Baraa and Muhammad.

Walaa’s mother, father, ten brothers and sisters and Rayyan’s three other wives were killed during an Israeli airstrike on the family home.

“My father raised us all to love martyrdom,” Walaa said. “If you had the chance to ask my 4-year-old sister Aaysha, who died in the attack, she would have told you that she preferred to die martyr.”

In the days before the attack that killed most of the family Walaa said “My father couldn’t sleep…after a woman came to him complaining that she had nothing with which to feed her children and had to soak days-old bread and give it to them. “Oh my God! We reached a point that a woman doesn’t have anything to feed her children?” she remembers her father saying.

Walaa recalls her father with great emotion, and tells the story of how he used to introduce himself as Nizar Abd Al-Qadir Rayyan Al-Asqalani An-Na’lawani Al-Filistiniy, or Nizar Abd Al-Qadir Rayyan from the villages of An-Na’lawani (a destroyed Palestinian village in Israel) and Asqalani (the current Ashkelon) of Palestine.

She says he told many stories about the village of Na’lawa, and would remember the village as long as she lived.

In the days following his death Rayyan’s elderly mother has received hundreds of women who have come bearing condolences. She tells them all, “May God save you from the evil of the Jews.”

Also at the mourning area was Eyman, who is the daughter of Rayyan’s brother, said that Rayyan used to say, “I want to die martyr and go immediately into paradise.” One of his children once replied to Rayyan, that people do not go directly to paradise; they first go to the morgue. Rayyan replied, “I don’t want to feel cold in the morgue, and there will be no room for my huge body there anyways, so, I want to be buried immediately and go to paradise.”

One hour before he was killed Rayyan’s daughter in law Eyman Asfora went to visit him. Walaa remembers that Eyman, wife to Rayyan’s eldest son Bilal, was received with a smile. He asked her if she would like to die a martyr with him, and she said “yes.” But she left seconds before the missile struck the four-storey home.

The one ton Israeli missile that fell on the building leveled the home and damaged several adjacent houses. When the dust cleared neighbors and media members rushed to the scene to see what happened, and found only piles of concrete.

According to one of his four wives, Rayyan would tease his children in the days before his death, and ask them: “Who wants to die martyr with me?” and all his children used to answer, “Yes daddy, we all want to be with you alive or dead.” His youngest son said, “I can’t imagine that you die martyr and leave me behind unable to see you. I want to die with you.

Dr Rayyan, who held a PHD in Hadith (the profit [sic] Muhammad’s narrated teachings), was killed along with his four wives, Hayam Timraz, Nawal Kahlout, Eyman Kassab, Sherin Udwan, and ten of his children, Ghassan, Abdul-Qadir, Ayah, Maryam, Zaynab, Abdul-Rahman, Aysha, Halima, Osama and Reem who were between four and 17-years-old.
I am not sure how to react to what Walaa said. When a four-year-old would say that she preferred to die a martyr - does she even know what she is saying? Does she really understand what death is? All of the children who died were 17 and under. What if any of them had doubts about what their father had taught them? Could they even have formulated them in their own minds? I feel that this is a deep tragedy. If the father wanted to endanger his own life, fine, he is an adult - but the lives of his own young children? Of course, it is the Israelis who killed the children together with their parents - but if he had sent them away from him, they would have been at far less risk of dying.

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote about Rayyan a couple of days in his blog for the Atlantic. What Rayyan says reveals his deep attachment to theological anti-semitism

There was no flexibility with Rayyan. This is what he said when I asked him if he could envision a 50-year hudna (or cease-fire) with Israel: "The only reason to have a hudna is to prepare yourself for the final battle. We don't need 50 years to prepare ourselves for the final battle with Israel." There is no chance, he said, that true Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East. "Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God."

I asked him if he believed, as some Hamas theologians do (and certainly as many Hezbollah leaders do) that Jews are the "sons of pigs and apes." He gave me an interesting answer that reflects a myopic reading of the Koran. "Allah changed disobedient Jews into apes and pigs, it is true, but he specifically said these apes and pigs did not have the ability to reproduce. So it is not literally true that Jews today are descended from pigs and apes, but it is true that some of the ancestors of Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and it is true that Allah continually makes the Jews pay for their crimes in many different ways. They are a cursed people."

What are our crimes? I asked Rayyan. "You are murderers of the prophets and you have closed your ears to the Messenger of Allah," he said. "Jews tried to kill the Prophet, peace be unto him. All throughout history, you have stood in opposition to the word of God."
And his devotion to his principles led to the death of most of his family.

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