October 6, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2554

Fatwa by Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi: Iraqis Must Not Become U.S. Citizens

October 6, 2009
Iraq, Qatar, The Gulf | Special Dispatch No. 2554

Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, head of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS), recently issued a fatwa stating that an Iraqi exile may not become a U.S. citizen; the fatwa came in response to a question from a viewer during his Ramadan television special. Al-Qaradhawi explained that a Muslim must not become a citizen of a country that is occupying his homeland - and that the ruling was inspired by similar rulings issued by Muslim clerics during France's occupation of Tunisia.

Al-Qaradhawi qualified his pronouncement by saying that it did not apply to Iraqis who had fled Iraq at the beginning of the occupation and had already taken foreign citizenship in the U.S. or Europe, but only from this day forward. [1] It also applied to Afghan exiles, he said. [2]

Al-Qaradhawi's position sparked disagreement among clerics in Al-Azhar. Dr. Sayyed Al-Sili, lecturer in Islamic law at Al-Azhar University, said that Al-Qaradhawi's ruling was correct and appropriate for the current circumstances, since an Iraqi who takes U.S. citizenship today is legitimizing the occupation. [3] Al-Azhar Academy of Islamic Research member Dr. Mustafa Al-Shak'a stated that a Muslim must not be a citizen of an enemy country that invades his land, and that "the Americans are not the enemies of Iraq alone, but of the entire Islamic nation, because they are fighting Islam in several locations [around the world]." [4]

In contrast, Al-Azhar Academy of Islamic Research member Dr. 'Abd Al-Mu'ti Bayoumi took issue with Al-Qaradhawi's pronouncement, saying clerics once feared that Muslims would join the occupying army, but that circumstances are different nowadays, since Iraqi exiles do not renounce their Iraqi citizenship and do not act against their own country. [5]

Al-Azhar University lecturer Dr. Ahmad Al-Sayeh also objected to Al-Qaradhawi's view, saying: "As long as a Muslim preserves his Islamic faith, and is free to fulfill the rituals of his religion, he may accept U.S. or any other citizenship. This is useful to Islam and to the Muslims, because it helps to spread Islam in the West..." [6]

Another member of the Al-Azhar Academy of Islamic Research, Dr. Hamed Abu Taleb, stated that a Muslim is free to choose whatever citizenship he wants. He explained that Muslims are ordered, particularly in these days, to immigrate to where they can live with dignity, instead of living deprived and needy in their own countries. He also said: "As far as I know, the U.S. forces in Iraq, Qatar, and the other Arab and Islamic countries are not an occupation; they entered [those countries] in accordance with a responsible request... in order to rescue them." [7]

Al-Arabiya TV director 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed wrote an op-ed in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat criticizing Al-Qaradhawi's ruling. The following are excerpts from the English version of his article, as it appeared in the English edition of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: [8]

"This Fatwa Contains More Political Absurdity Than It Does Religious Guidance"

"I do not know if what has been attributed to Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi is true; in any case, we have become accustomed to the politicization of religious fatwas. A news item reported in the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper revealed that Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi issued a fatwa prohibiting Iraqis from acquiring U.S. citizenship on the grounds that this is the nationality of an occupier nation.

"However, this fatwa has nothing to do with the reality on the ground, and contains more political absurdity then it does religious guidance. Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi himself is an Egyptian who has Qatari citizenship - given to him after he opposed the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. However, when an Israeli office was opened in Doha, Al-Qaradhawi did not renounce his Qatari nationality. This is a personal issue that does not concern us as much as we are concerned with the usage of religion, especially the weapon of the fatwa, in highly politicized cases."

Obtaining U.S. Citizenship Is Not as Easy as Al-Qaradhawi Imagines

"Perhaps Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi would be right to resort to the dangerous weapon of fatwas if a large number of citizens were being naturalized, or if they were being forcibly relocated to America, or if Iraqi nationality was being revoked - but none of this is happening. In fact, the opposite is true, for of the thousands of Iraqi citizens who line up to apply for visas to Western countries, only a few are granted. Therefore, obtaining U.S. or European citizenship is not easy, as Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi imagines; rather, is a difficult process that is rarely granted to applicants. It is even more difficult for Iraqis, due to the large number of Iraqi refugees, including those seeking asylum abroad. The British Foreign Ministry raised the issue of repatriating its Iraqi refugees, as did the majority of Western countries. This is the opposite of what Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi seems to think [is happening vis-à-vis Western countries desiring to naturalize Iraqi citizens]. These countries are full of refugees and immigrants, and they are offered financial incentives to return to their countries of origin.

"After the U.S. announced its withdrawal from the Iraqi cities earlier this year, a group of Iraqi interpreters [employed by the U.S. military] asked for visas and employment in the U.S., on the grounds that they feared reprisal attacks following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. But only a few interpreters were granted visas. Similarly, the international organizations that seek to aid Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan by helping them to secure asylum in foreign countries have failed to do the same with regard to the U.S.

"Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi, and many of the religious figures... live in a world that is far from reality, and are unaware of the complete picture. There are over a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, and every country around the world has refused to allow them entry, while another million Iraqi refugees in Jordan line up outside consulates and are repeatedly refused visas of any kind. So where did Dr. Al-Qaradhawi conceive of this horror with regards to the U.S. [freely] granting citizenship to Iraqis and others?"

"The Truth Is That the Fear is From the Opposite Side"

"The truth is that the fear is from the opposite side. In the U.S. there is a strong lobby opposed to the naturalization of Muslims and Arabs, for racist and political reasons. Immigration to the U.S. eventually results in citizenship, and the granting of full citizens' rights - something not granted to Arab refugees in any Arab country, regardless of the humanitarian situation.

"Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi should ask about the Palestinian refugees who live a tough life and are treated like animals in many Arab countries. They are forbidden from working and earning a livelihood - and some are even forbidden from traveling and visiting their families.

"In the future, before speaking, Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi should ask any Arab immigrant who has been lucky enough to gain citizenship in the [country of the] infidel, in order to find out the difference between myth and reality."


[1] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), September 11, 2009. Al-Qaradhawi's fatwa advisor Sheikh 'Ali Abu Al-Hassan clarified that if the situation changed and the war ended, "the U.S. would become dar silm (i.e. a region in which non-Muslims reside and non-Islamic law applies, but which must not be attacked under international agreements). Its rights will be like those of other countries" - that is, Muslims will be allowed to become citizens. Al-Haqiqa Al-Dawliyya (Jordan), September 13, 2009.

[2], September 9, 2009.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 13, 2009.

[4] Al-Haqiqa Al-Dawliyya (Jordan), September 13, 2009.

[5] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), September 11, 2009.

[6] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 13, 2009.

[7] Al-Haqiqa Al-Dawliyya (Jordan), September 13, 2009.

[8] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 15, 2009.

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