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Reporters on the Job

Condemning Attacks: While staff writer Dan Murphy was working on today's story about the lack of influence that mainstream Muslim scholars have on radical Islamists (page 1), the first taping of an unusual new talk show was going on elsewhere in Egypt. Coincidentally, the show explored the nature of jihad and the question of when fighting for Islam and killing of civilians is not allowed. Unfortunately, Dan wasn't able to attend the taping (because he was reporting and writing today's story) but an Arabic-speaking colleague filled him in afterward.

Essentially, the conclusion of the panel, which included a number of leading Muslim scholars, was that attacks like last Thursday's in London or the frequent targeting of civilians in Iraq are impermissible, while more or less anything goes in Israel.

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But why the distinction?

"Apparently, there's a belief among even mainstream scholars that the severity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict allows what are considered to be extreme and illegal tactics elsewhere," Dan says. It's also argued that since Israeli military service is compulsory for every adult, every civilian is, was, or will be, a "soldier."

"Unfortunately, this gives the most extreme militants an opening - they'll say, 'If you support attacks on civilians in one conflict, how can you oppose it in another?' "

David Clark Scott
World editor