January 18, 2002 Special Dispatch No. 333

The Role of Fatwas in Incitement to Terrorism

January 18, 2002
North Africa, Tunisia | Special Dispatch No. 333

Liberal Tunisian columnist Lafif Lakhdar discusses the role of Islamic religious rulings [fatwas] in incitement to terrorism in an article published in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat, titled "Is There A Response to a Fatwa Inciting to Crime?" Following are excerpts from the article:

Fatwas Permit Murder

"In the bin Laden video [released by the Pentagon], his unidentified guest informed him that Sheikh Salman Al-'Alwan had ruled that bin Laden's attack on the U.S. was in line with Shari'ah [Islamic religious law]."

"In the book Fatwa Against the West, [terrorism expert]… Roland Jacquard, presents an arsenal of fatwas that incite to murder, and with absurd rationales."

"For example, after Pakistan got its hands on a nuclear bomb, Abu Hamza [Al-Masri, who resides in London] ruled: 'If nuclear war is a means of defending Muslims, we must wage it. Islam permits it, as it permits a man to eat pork if he is starving.'"

"In Abdallah 'Amami's book Terrorist Organizations in the Islamic World: The Al-Nhdhah Model, [1] we read that [Tunisian] military personnel who belonged [secretly] to the Islamist Al-Nhdhah movement refused to participate in a coup against [then-Tunisian president] Bourguiba before obtaining a fatwa permitting them to kill their fellow soldiers and, if necessary, even Bourguiba himself... 'The fatwa, issued by Sheikh Saleh Karkar, the deputy of Rashed Al-'Ghanushi who was in prison at that time, permitted the killing of anyone who resisted the coup. It also permitted the killing of Bourguiba if he resisted [the coup]...'"

"The connection between the fatwa and terrorism lies in the fact that the religious ruling unleashes the terrorist's sadism and instinct for murder. It frees him from all moral restraints and shrivels what remains of his conscience. [It releases him] from any healthy sense of guilt."

Retroactive Fatwas

"The fatwas of the last two decades of the 20th century were secret, like the organizations that issued them. In contrast, fatwas today are issued by well-known sheikhs, most of who are recognized. They are made public in the press, on television, and on the Internet, as if [they were] a religious duty... Religious authorities compete amongst themselves, issuing fatwas permitting the killing of people, groups, and nations…"

"Murder fatwas have appeared after the murder... as a Machiavellian ploy to prevent the slain from defending himself. Thus, for example, Ghanushi'sfatwa stating that Sadat's assassination was in line with the Shari'ah Islamic religious law] was issued 12 years after his assassination; the fatwa permitting… the killing of [the Moroccan opposition leader] Bin Barkah [was] issued by Abd Al-Bari Al-Zamzami 36 years after the murder."

Saudi Fatwa Justifying September 11

"[Saudi] Sheikh Safar Abd Al-Rahman Al-Hawali,who prefers to use the Internet to publish his religious rulings permitting the killing of groups and nations, ruled that the Northern Alliance [in Afghanistan] are unbelievers because they support the Americans against the Islamic government of the Taliban. The fatwa read: 'Support of any kind for the unbelievers against the Muslims, even if only verbal, constitutes blatant heresy and hypocrisy, and anyone doing so goes against Islam... Members of the Afghan opposition or others who do so must repent, recant this loathsome deed, and support their Muslim brothers…' The fatwa said, that the September 11 tragedy is strictly an act of 'measure for measure.' Namely, 'a response to Clinton's missile aggression against Al-Qa'ida following the bombing of the American Embassy in Nairobi.' Sheikh Al-Hawali offered religious justification for the attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center as follows: 'The enemy directed a psychological war at us, and found among us those who would listen and disseminate its concepts. Besides that, since when is the Pentagon 'innocent'? The famous American intellectual Gore Vidal himself called it 'Hell and a nest of Satans'... a den of spies and a Mafia nest, [not to mention] the center of usury and money laundering… the World Trade Center...'"

" Sheikh Ali bin Khdheir Al-Khdheir also posts his fatwas on the Internet. He presented his fatwas concerning September 11 as a response for his students in Yemen... 'The weeping, the sorrow, and the pain over the [American] victims among those termed 'innocent' are strange. Those victims were... unbelieving Americans who must not be sorrowed over, because the unbelieving American is considered a combatant due to his connection to his government, or because he supports it with money or opinion or counsel, as is customary in their political regime, may Allah not multiply such regimes... It is permissible to kill the combatants among them, as well as those who are non-combatants, for example the aged man, the blind man, and the dhimmi, as the clerics agree.'"

This [fatwa] permits the blood of all Americans, without exception, and was endorsed by Sheikh Yussef Al-Qaradhawi and the leaders of the Islamic movements who joined him in his religious ruling that encouraged Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to kill Israeli civilians. Why? Because fanaticism, as hatred for everyone who is different, removes the lobe of logic from the brain of the fanatic…"

Islam Prohibits Killing of Women and Children

"In addition to the verses prohibiting tribal blood vengeance, punishing an innocent person for the deed of a guilty person, and killing innocents, all the clerics of terrorism have dismissed out of hand the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad that utterly prohibit the killing of [those] whom we call in our modern language 'civilians.' In one of his invasions, the Prophet of Islam found a woman who had been killed, and condemned the deed. He sent an emissary to Khaled [Ibn Al-Walid], the commander of the Muslim Army: 'Tell Khaled that a woman or a hired worker must not be killed.' The compilation of religious laws known as 'Sunan Abu Dawood' state that when the Prophet Muhhamed sent an army out he would tell them: 'Go forth in the name of Allah, [but] do not kill... a small child or a woman, and do not be excessive,' that is, do not go too far with killing..."

How to Stop Fatwas to Murder

"What can be done to put an end to religious rulings that incite to murder? Two judges at the Saudi Supreme Court, Ibrahim bin Saleh Al-Khdheir and Muhammad bin Abdallah Al-Jar Allah, stated: 'It is forbidden for any man, whoever he may be, even if he is among the clerics and the religious authorities, to oppose a regime by means of permitting the blood of a man or a group of people...'"

"It is essential that punitive rulings remain strictly in the hands of courts, as the two judges demanded... This is a condition for preserving people's freedoms, rights, and lives. But this is not enough, because the military-political-religious fatwas are creating a danger of civil war in the Islamic world, and of religious war in the international arena."

"What is necessary is this:

1. "To define fatwas that incite to murder and hatred of others as a crime... and try those responsible for them.

2. "To stop medieval religious studies hostile to women, to children, to the 'other,' to man, to the mind, and to life.

"In addition, comparative history of religions, humanism, human rights, and modern law… must be taught."

"Implementing these two is a huge task, which requires local and international cooperation by human rights organizations... and by international diplomacy. These fatwas are dangerous not only because there is a possibility that they will be implemented – but also because they instill hatred for the other and contempt for life in the collective Islamic consciousness... We have no other option: Either we will be modern, or we will not be at all." [2]

[1] Tunisia's Islamist movement.

[2] Al-Hayat (London), January 13, 2002.

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