Torture Report Scandal – How the CIA could learn from Islam

Newspaper reports on CIA torture scandal
I am often discouraged from writing political posts here on the virtualmosque and I can understand why. Issues can often be extremely complex and more often than not we do not have the complete picture of something to make a truthful, honest assesment of it.

On this occassion though I feel it is correct that we post something. As many (if not all) of you are aware the Senate Intelligence Committee in America has released a long awaited report on the actions of the CIA in relation to the Guantanamo Bay prison and the way the CIA went about gathering intelligence information from the people incarcerated there.

The report was damning – It painted a picture of brutality, obfuscation and mismanagement through the entire organisation.

I am not going to go into detail, as tens of thousands of words in hundreds of publications have already been written, but here is a list of some of the disgusting things to emerge;

  • CIA agents threatened to cut the throat of a detainee mothers.
  • Handcuffed CIA prisoner hanging from a bar for 22 hours a day for two days. He was made to wear a diaper.
  • Sleep deprivation involved keeping detainess awake for up to 180 hours
  • At least one officer played ‘Russian Roulette’ with a prisoner
  • A full section of the report talks about how religion was used a part of the torture techniques.
  • One CIA offer literally killed a prisoner during a torture session and was not punished by his superiors.
  • The CIA continually lied to the Senate about its activities and techniques.
  • Many of the confessions of the prisoners were made up to stop the torture including the Heathrow bomb plot.
  • $180 million was paid to ‘shrinks’ to mentally torture the inmates with no useful information coming from it.

These are just a few of the things experts have mentioned as they go through the full report in realtime. Hundreds of bits of further information will come to light in the next few days.

President Obama’s comments

President Obama went on record to say that the report ‘documents a troubling program’ and ‘did significant damage to America’s standing in the World’. He was also careful to call these mistakes and not crimes. The UN special rapporteur on terrorism has called for criminal prosecutions but it remains to be seen if that will ever happen.


Now Islam has been labelled in the West by some as a violent religion which was spread by war. So with this accusation in mind what does the Holy Quran say and how did the Prophet Muhammad (s) treat prisoners of war?

For a start the Holy Quran says ‘And they give food, out of love for Him, to the poor and the orphan and the captive’ [76:8], and Islam gives great emphasis on manners during battle and there are many Hadith which urge Muslims not to kill others.

Instructions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)

During battles the Holy Prophet (pbuh) gave his soldiers strict instructions to follow including;

  • Not to kill any child, woman, or elderly or sick persons
  • Not to practise treachery or mutiliation.
  • Not to uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees.
  • Not to kill animals, except for food.
  • Not to kill those sitting in places of worship.
  • Not to destroy the villages and towns, not to spoil the cultivated fields and gardens.

We are told in Sahih Bukari that as Muslims we should not wish for an encounter with the enemy, but to Pray to Allah to grant us security and if we forced to fight the enemy then to exercise patience.

Prisoners of War freed

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) also gave clear instructions for the good and proper treatment of prisoners of war. The first group of prisoners ever taken captive in the history of Islam was during the Battle of Badr, which was fought betwen the Muslims and the pagans of Makkah in 642AD.

Almost all the seventy Makkans who were captured in that war were set free with or out without ransom, even those who still rejected the message of Islam were freed without fear of punishment.

However, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had ordered the execution of a few prisoners of war because of the serious crimes they had committed. Even though Muslim jurisprudents are not unanimous in the permissibility of killing prisoners of war, they agree that a prisoner could not be killed without a valid reason such as being guilty of a crime that warranted capital punishment.

The Islamic way

Muslims are ordered to treat prisoners of war kindly. Prisoners cannot be abused on account of the fact that they were fighting against Muslims. There is no Islamic law that permits punishment for a prisoner because of his faith. Imam Malik said he had never come across any teachings of Islam that sanctions torture of a prisoner of war to extract information.

Rather than spending considerable time and money on trying to stop this reporting being (firstly) commissioned and then published, the CIA could have learnt these lessons from Islam on how to treat those they have captured. We could even argue that the West would be safer now if they had.

One thought on “Torture Report Scandal – How the CIA could learn from Islam

  1. Many people who call themselves Muslims who are currently in some sort of armed battle should also be looking at this article and learning from the teachings of Islam on conduct during battle.

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