Dallas Morning News Editorial - July 31, 2005
American Fatwa: A welcome statement
against Islamist terror
It would be premature to hail a religious statement from American Muslim leaders condemning terrorism as a seminal moment against Islamist terrorism. But we certainly hope historians one day will say just that.
On Thursday, an association of Muslim jurists who interpret Islamic law and more than 100 Muslim organizations, mosques and leaders stood behind a religious declaration to denounce people who commit terrorism in the name of Islam as "criminals, not martyrs." Called fatwa, the judicial ruling also bars Muslims from helping anyone "involved in any act of terrorism or violence" and obligates the faithful to cooperate with law enforcement officials.
This is much more than an expression of regret or sympathy. It is a potentially powerful interpretation of the tenets of Islam and a compelling spiritual counterweight to the corrupt extremist doctrines that inspire terrorists.
With each passing day, it becomes clear that Muslims who abhor terror are linchpins in the battle against Islamist terror. Religious declarations confront terrorist ideology, refute its justifications and reclaim hijacked teachings. Authoritative words like these that denounce terror for the inhuman crime it is must be spoken repeatedly and with commitment in the mosques, schools and Muslim communities worldwide…..
Los Angeles Times Editorial - August 2, 2005
A welcome fatwa
For most of the last two decades, the West knew the word fatwa through the death sentence laid by Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on author Salman Rushdie for his novel "The Satanic Verses," which rather mildly satirized his own Muslim religion. The novelist survived (though his Japanese translator was killed in 1991), but had to spend some of those years in fearful, heavily guarded hiding.
Fatwa arose again, though to less notice, after Sept. 11, 2001. Fundamentalist preachers in some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, declared the thousands of victims to be culpable infidels.
Now the fatwa is headed for rehabilitation, this time used in a vigorous backlash against the brand of terrorism that has struck Britain, Spain, Morocco, Egypt and, over and over again, the civilians of Iraq. A broad group of U.S. and Canadian Muslim scholars and religious leaders last week issued a fatwa that is as unequivocally anti-violence as those of Khomeini or Osama bin Laden were pro-murder:
"All acts of terrorism are haram, forbidden by Islam. It is haram, forbidden, to cooperate or associate with … any act of terrorism or violence." The declaration then went beyond familiar condemnations to demand action: It is the "civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of civilians."
Similar, if less sweeping, edicts have been issued by British and Spanish clerics in the wake of the attacks in those countries. Even in Iraq, conservative Sunni clergy issued a ruling in April that encouraged followers' participation in the beleaguered Iraqi army and police. The clerics, however, forbade cooperation with U.S. forces "at the expense of Iraqis," leaving a lot of room for insurgent interpretation.
The U.S. and Canadian demand for active Muslim prevention of terrorism is new to most Americans, but a message long stressed by moderate U.S. Muslim groups, including the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council. The council, while also focused on Muslim civil rights, is adamant that Muslims in the United States should be robust participants in politics and society. It has offered help to the FBI and other agencies in anti-terrorism efforts…..
St. Petersburg Times editorial - August 3, 2005
Muslims speak out against terror
Last week's religious declaration by a group of U.S. and Canadian Muslim leaders condemning terrorism sends an important message: Muslims cannot support or tolerate terrorism and be true to the teachings of Islam.
North America's leading Islamic scholars and jurists who interpret Islamic law condemned terrorism in language that was direct and unequivocal: "Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram - or forbidden. And those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not "martyrs' . . . It is haram, forbidden, for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence." The statement was endorsed by leaders of more than 120 U.S. Muslim groups.
At a time when the London bombings have the world on edge, Muslims have begun taking a clear stand against terror. And unlike the Islamic religious ruling, or fatwa, issued against terrorism by clerics in London, the North American group made no exception for suicide bombings against an occupying power.
This may be the tip of an encouraging trend: A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found significant drops in support for violence to defend Islam in Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan and other largely Muslim countries in recent years. And a Pew poll taken after the July 7 bombings in London found an 8 percent drop in the percentage of Americans who believed Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence, compared to two years ago.
Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is airing radio and TV ads distancing Islam from extremist violence, with moderate Muslims declaring they "will not allow our faith to be hijacked by criminals." Given the number of Muslim civilians killed by suicide bombers in places like Iraq, the efforts of groups such as CAIR to marginalize support for martyrdom is an important counterweight to Islamic extremism.
Some naysayers are noting that such fatwas are often limited in impact, and U.S. involvement in Iraq continues to incite deep hatred for America in many Muslim countries. But those who question whether American Muslims have sufficiently condemned terrorism should welcome last week's statement. Now comes the hard part - matching their words with actions to rid the mosques and communities of Islamic extremists who have hijacked their religion.
Long Island Press – August 4, 2005
Fatwa speaks louder than press releases
By Lauren Wolfe
A fatwa against terrorism issued by American Muslim clerics after the recent London bombings has been roundly applauded across the country. Yet, along with the applause comes a nagging question: Why has it taken so long for Muslim leaders to speak out?
Muslims say it hasn't; they just haven't been heard.
"From what I've seen, everybody has been involved and engaged and we're all trying to grapple with this issue," says Faroque Ahmad Khan, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, in Westbury. Khan says that he and his colleagues discuss terrorism—as they discuss any major world issue—with their congregations.
The time since 9/11 has been "a double tragedy for Muslims," he says. Besides the impact the Muslim community felt when hundreds of their own died in the World Trade Center, there is the cloud of suspicion all Muslims live under today.
"The purpose of the fatwa is to put on record once and for all where we stand on this issue," Khan says.
Until now, there has been little in the news of such condemnations of terrorism by American Muslim groups. Rabiah Ahmed of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy group, puts the blame for the silence partly on the media and partly on her own community's ignorance of PR.
"These are things that have been said since 9/11," Ahmed explains, "but the community was not media savvy before. We've had to make up for lost time." Illustrating the spotty understanding of public outreach, Ahmed Yuceturk, an imam at the United American Muslim Association of N.Y., in Dix Hills professed complete ignorance of the fatwa.
CAIR's Ahmed says the fatwa was inspired by a similar one issued by British clerics. Previously, groups like hers issued press releases against terrorism, often weekly. A fatwa, which is a legal opinion culled from Islamic law, however, carries a religious and moral weight that a press release clearly doesn't.
Issued by a group of 18 Islamic scholars known as the Fiqh Council of North America, the new fatwa makes clear that anyone who murders innocents is a criminal, not a martyr, and that acts of terrorism are forbidden in Islam—as is cooperating with anyone involved in terrorism…
Unfortunately, says Ahmed, the killing gets the media attention, casting a pall on an otherwise peace-loving community. She points to under-recognized efforts like her group's "Not in the Name of Islam" petition, which has received nearly 700,000 signatures, and rallies to denounce terrorism organized by CAIR after 9/11 in cities such as Dallas….
The Seattle Times editorial - August 4, 2005
Welcome news from Muslims
The fatwa — a formal message — issued by an association of North American Islamic scholars last week is welcome clarification in the ongoing battle to fight terrorism.
Not only does it clearly state Islam denounces the terrorism that killed more than 3,000 people in the 9/11 attacks, but it helps clarify the societal debate for non-Muslims tempted to jump to conclusions. Almost four years after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and a month after the four London bombings that killed dozens, the enemy in the war on terrorism still remains murky. It is too easy to define the enemy by what we know about the culprits: the 9/11 attackers and the London bombers all are Muslim men.
But they are more than that. They are fundamentalist radicals, an aberration, but a formidable one. They do not represent Muslims in general. That has been the consistent message of many American Muslims and Islamic scholars.
Last week, the Fiqh Council of North America issued a ruling formalizing that view. The fatwa carries the weight of an opinion issued by a recognized religious authority. The ruling reads, in part:
"Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram — or forbidden — and those who commit these barbaric attacks are criminals not 'martyrs.' "
The fatwa further forbids Muslims from cooperating with terrorists and affirms it is their duty to cooperate with law enforcement to protect innocent civilians. As of Thursday, 163 imams, mosques and Muslim organizations endorsed the fatwa.
This is not a new position for the council, or most Muslims. It follows a similar ruling by the Muslim Council of Britain. But it is an important and responsible affirmation of their faith's principles, which have been obscured by the terrorists who insist they are something different.
Orange County Register - August 4, 2005
Muslim council takes a stand
By Benjamin J. Hubbard
To some it may seem as too late in coming, but the Muslim Fiqh Council of North America, under the leadership of Muzammil Siddiqi, took a significant step July 28 when it declared that "all acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam."
Siddiqi heads the 18-member Council, which decides judicial matters for Muslims. He is also the longtime spiritual leader of the Islamic Society of Orange County, and a part-time lecturer in Islamic studies at Cal State Fullerton, where I teach, and at Chapman University.
The council issued a fatwa or legal ruling that - along with condemning terrorism and extremism - said it is forbidden "to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence," and it is "the civil and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians."
Siddiqi's prominent role in the issuance of the fatwa is typical of his careful but courageous work in the field of interfaith relations over the last quarter century.
He has been a board member of the Academy for Judaic, Christian and Islamic Studies for most of that time where he has participated in numerous three-way dialogues with Jewish and Christian scholars and co-authored "The Abraham Connection: A Jew, Christian and Muslim in Dialogue." He has participated in dialogue lectures with Jewish scholars such as Rabbi Stuart Altshuler of Temple Eilat in Mission Viejo.
His efforts have not been without risk.
He nearly lost his position at the O.C. Islamic Society some years back because of complaints about his interfaith outreach, especially to the Jewish community. I will never forget an interfaith event I attended in the late 1980s at his mosque where a few congregants were clearly not happy with his outreach work.
Nor is the fatwa the first time Siddiqi has unequivocally condemned suicide terror. He and I spoke jointly to students and faculty at Cal State not long after 9/11, and he condemned terror in the name of God. He made similar comments in an address at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. last year.
Siddiqi has been critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians but has always sought non-violent means of ending the dispute.
Some in my own Jewish community, along with evangelical Christians, may still see Siddiqi as too cautious in approach. But one must appreciate his delicate role as the leader of a much-misunderstood and maligned religious community that is still finding its way in the United States.
Islam in America has the potential to influence in positive ways Islam in Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Pakistan and even Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Though some U.S .Muslims are uncomfortable with certain aspects of our open society, they admire immensely our First Amendment freedoms (especially religion), our vigorous democracy and our spirit of philanthropy.
These are highly exportable values.
Non-Muslim Americans might learn important lessons from Islam as well: about modesty, reverence and prayerfulness, for example. I will never forget the sight of four Muslim men kneeling and praying at sundown behind a gas station on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa.
The fatwa condemning terror should give non-Muslims renewed respect for Islam and give the huge majority of moderate Muslims in this country, Canada and elsewhere renewed hope for greater respect and tolerance towards their distinguished faith.
Benjamin J. Hubbard is Professor in the Department of Comparative Religion at Cal State Fullerton