There can be little doubt that the timing on the eve of Eid for a suicide bomb attack on the second holiest site in Islam was deliberate. But even more so than the other terror attacks during the holy month in Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq, the decision to target the faithful at the Prophet's Mosque in Medina puts into stark relief the yawning gap between the attackers' twisted misinterpretation of Islam and the true message of the faith.
As we all know, Ramadan is a time for reflection, for being mindful of our blessings and the plight of the less fortunate, and for bringing ourselves closer to the values for which Islam stands. Eid in particular is supposed to be a time of celebration and family. None of those values can be found in the decision to attack the Prophet’s Mosque just as the faithful broke their fasts. A Shiite mosque in Qatif in eastern Saudi Arabia was also attacked as the maghrib prayer was called, while in the early hours of the same day another suicide bomber blew himself up outside the United States consulate compound in Jeddah.
It was only through the zealousness of the security that the attackers’ goal of a high death toll was thwarted. Four members of the security staff in Medina paid with their lives to keep the bulk of the worshippers safe, while two Saudi policemen were injured in the attack in Jeddah.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, was quick to denounce the attacks in Saudi Arabia as also being an attack on us because the goals were to "spread fear, takfir [brand others as infidels] and incite strife". One could extend that point to other recent attacks, such as on Istanbul's main airport and on the Baghdad market where up to 200 were killed in total. For Eid in Iraq this year to be a time of mourning and burials instead of celebration exposes as a lie the attackers' supposed religious justifications.
The goal behind this attack in Medina and those that preceded it was wanton carnage, cynically intended to provoke more bloodshed because that aids the attackers’ agenda. Just as that philosophy is anathema to Islam, so too our response needs to pursue the opposite of the attackers’ goals. If they seek discord and violence in our communities, we should favour dialogue and tolerance. Achieving that will be the true repudiation of their agenda and spread the real message of the faith.