Sunday, July 24, 2005

Al-Qaradawi’s condemnation of London and Sharm El-Sheikh terrorist acts

Contrary to what people like T. Friedman try to convey, mainstream Muslim scholars or leaders did condemn terrorist attacks like 9-11. Following last attacks in London and more recently in Sharm El-Sheikh, many new condemnations have been issued. Chief among them is the recent one by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. What is striking in this new “fatwa”, in my view, is its comprehensiveness, and the place it gives to details by answering some ambiguous questions. The main points raised by Al-Qaradawi here, are:

1. Total condemnation of terrorists acts all over the world like those having taken place recently in London, Turkey, and Sharm El-Sheikh.
2. Stressing that Islam prohibits the killing of people, except those in the fighting, which is restricted to face to face confrontation between the Muslims and the aggressors.
3. Explaining that not only Islam but "All divine religions in general and Islam in particular assert the sanctity of human life and strongly prohibit aggression against it". And that "all divine religions clearly state the blood of all human beings is sacred and unlawful to shed unless the human being himself committed a criminal act or caused corruption in the land or transgressed against the lives of others".
4. Warning that "Such heinous sin and abominable crime lead to Allah’s curse in this world and His severe punishment in the Hereafter." And that "Shari`ah has nothing to do with the acts of those few deviated people who follow its teachings but change them from their proper contexts. They claim to punish people because of injustices done by their rulers."
5. Stating that "Islam considers the act of issuing an entrance visa to a tourist to be a pledge of security given to this tourist, and hence it categorically prohibits transgressing the security given to tourist". The same applies to anybody who enters Islamic territories trough state authorities or any recognized body such as travel agencies.
6. And finally, saying that "the condemnation of such bombings and devastating acts doesn't mean a justification of the injustices and tragedies against Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim countries". And that "It is not permissible to take the occurrence of such injustices as a pretext to perpetrate criminal acts."

Let’s see now what the implications of every point above are:

1. Such a condemnation at least makes life difficult to opportunists who try to conceal anything positive, that is taken place in the Muslim world, in order to nurture and perpetuate misunderstanding between the west and Islam.
2. The value of this point lies in its technical aspect, since it explicitly shows the situation in which fighting is permitted, which according to Al-Qaradawi, is only possible in case of direct confrontation. Such a stance rules out, not only terrorism and killing of civilians like those of London or Sharm El-Sheikh, but also killing anybody who is not taking part in battles or wars like most of the hostages in Iraq. It includes also, in my view, the killing of civilians, lawmakers, police, etc in Iraq for instance and dismisses Zarkaoui’s ideas as heretical.
3. This point is also very important. If mainstream Muslims get to know that all religions, not only Islam, condemn the killing of innocent lives, they should, in the same way they ask others to distinguish between Islam and Extremists acting in the name Islam, understand that Christianity or Judaism are not the driving forces behind some aggressions on the Muslim world. Therefore, we should continue promoting dialogue between religions for a better future for all of us.
4. This is one of the most efficient ways of fighting terrorism rhetoric and weapon: promising martyrdom and paradise to frustrated and hopeless people and would-be terrorists. The strong warning of Al-Qaradawi that such acts rather lead to God’s curse and punishment, is a means of fighting Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers on their own ground and can make these people question their beliefs and hopefully return to the “straight path”.
5. The technical aspect here is also most welcome. It gives explicit answer and leaves no ambiguity as far as dealing with tourists and any foreigner that enters Islamic territories with no intention to fight is concerned. I guess this was a hint from Al-Qaradawi to Sharm El-Sheikh massacre, but it applies to everywhere.
6. Any scholar that wants to avoid alienation from muslim masses and be heard must not forget to recall that all these condemnations do not condone at all injustices against Muslims in some parts of the world such as Palestine or Iraq. Failing to do so is a warranty that his condemnations will be rejected from mainstream people and dismissed as apologetical of the "west".

To conclude, I would say this is a good attitude that should be spread and extensively followed by all scholars, each dwelling on some details that close the door to wrong interpretations for which innocents pay the price. What is interesting also is that many points raised are not only mere and passive condemnations of terrorism, but provide offensive arguments to counter terrorism doctrine and rhetoric. One must be aware, however, that this should be complemented by other strategies that should be undertaken if we want to defeat terrorism. Apart from these kinds of fatwas, debate should be encouraged and should take place more frequently on the issue of terrorism and conflicts. It should gather scholars and non-scholars of antagonist views if we want to avoid the current somewhat deaf dialogue. Strong emphasis should be put on promoting ethics and justice whatever the ethnicity and the background of the protagonists or aggressors, Muslims or not Muslims, Arabs or not Arabs; only ethics and justice should prevail. The “west”, needless to say, should also play its part by isolating the “clash of civilizations” proponents and seeking genuine and fair solutions to conflicts in Palestine, Iraq and other parts of the world. Only then, we may dream of getting rid of the roots of terrorism.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A much awaited reaction to the anarchy of fatwas

A couple of months ago, we had a heated debate on the role high profile religious leaders should play in denouncing and dismissing some fatwas by the likes of Bin Laden and Zarkaoui, which, despite lacking any Islamic soundness whatsoever, have been condoning and calling for all kinds of violence and atrocity one may think of, even if they are directed against civilians.

Today, Al-Jazira website run an article about a meeting hosted by Jordan, which gathered around 180 scholars representing eight Sunni and Shia Muslim schools of thoughts, chief among them such prominent figures as Egypt’s Sheikh Al-Azhar Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi and Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The meeting aimed at finding means to stop unjustified violence committed in the name of Islam. One of the main steps in this direction was the issuance of the statement that it is forbidden and impossible to declare apostate anybody belonging to one of these eight schools, in a clear hint to the takfir and other fanatical movements who don’t think twice before declaring renegade Islamic minorities or people not sharing the same thoughts with them. Another stance adopted was this statement: "The issuance of religious edicts is limited to qualified Muslim clerics in the eight schools of jurisprudence.", in a clear reaction to the profusion of ill-founded fatwas in these times of crisis and hardship.

We cannot but praise such an initiative, and hopefully, this kind of meetings will take place on a regular basis. It must be clear, however, that the statements mentioned above, as much sincere they might be, won’t have the desired effect if they are not followed by systematic reactions by this group of eight schools, each time some “crazy” fatwa is issued or a terrorist act (in Iraq and elsewhere) is perpetrated in the name of Islam. General statements without any explicit verbal confrontation with terrorists’ rhetoric would be no more than yet another statement. It is time to call a spade a spade!