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We believe that the question you raise in your letter as to whether the concept of ‘defensive jihad’ is antithetical to human rights, and your categorical statement that the response of Amnesty International to this question is ‘NO’, raises very serious concerns.

We are dismayed by this statement. Our considered opinion is that this is a highly contentious issue and not one which can be answered as firmly as you have done. The call for ‘defensive jihad’ is a thread running through many fundamentalist and specifically ‘salafi jihadi’ texts. It is mentioned by Abdullah Azzam, mentor of Osama bin Laden, and founder of Lashkar e Tayyaba.It is the argument of ‘defensive jihad’ that the Taleban uses to legitimise its anti human rights actions such as the beheading of dissidents, including members of minority communities, and the public lashing of women. It is a similar logic of ‘defence of religion’ that is used by Christian groups to justify the killing of doctors providing abortion services as well as by Hindutva organisations seeking to justify their actions to ‘liquidate’ Muslims and Christians in India.In your own organization, research done by Gita Sahgal and others for the last two years into the complex intersection between the preservation of the universality of human rights, terrorism and counter-terrorism in general as well as in relation to this specific case provides enough evidence of doubt and hence the need to proceed with caution. This is essential in order to maintain the integrity of human rights and indeed of the organisation in each and every campaign as well as in each region it works.It has been shown that ‘defensive jihad’ results in indiscriminate attacks on civilians, attacks which are disproportionate and attacks which are targeted for the purpose of discrimination such as those on schools, shrines and religious processions. As you know, international humanitarian law prohibits all such attacks under Common Article of the Geneva Conventions. Given this it is shocking to us that in your letter you appear to endorse ‘defensive jihad’ as a public position of Amnesty International position.

Any human rights defender or organisation, which pledges commitment to the universality of human rights cannot confuse resistance against oppression with espousal of a political ideology committed to indiscriminate use of violence. Endorsement of the concept of ‘defensive jihad’ by an organization such as Amnesty International would call into question its commitment to research the ideological underpinnings of acts of terrorism and its commitment to the eradication of discrimination on the basis of sex/gender and religion.

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