City of Brass

City of Brass


Canadian and American Imams issue fatwa against terrorist attacks

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Last week, a group of twenty Imams from across the United States and Canada, all affiliated with the Islamic Supremem Council of Canada, issued a fatwa (religious edict) declaring that any attack on America or Canada is equivalent to an attack on the millions of muslims living in these nations. The goal of this fatwa is to delegitimize terrorist atacks by attempting to strip them of their religious camoflauge, and represents a sincere and noble niyat (intention) of loyalty and love for our homelands. The language of the fatwa itself makes an argument that I have made any times myself, that muslims are freer to practice their faith in the West (well, the US and Canada anyway) than anywhere in the muslim majority nations:

There is no single city in Canada and the United States where MASAJIDS (Mosques) are not built. In all major cities Islamic schools provide education to Muslim children about Qur’an and the Islamic traditions. Thousands of Muslims perform Hajj every year and travel to Saudi Arabia with complete freedom and respect. In the month of Ramadan, both Canadian and the United States governments recognize the occasion and greet all Muslim citizens. Muslims pray five daily prayers in mosques without any fear or restrictions. Muslims have complete freedom to pay Zakat (poor due) to the charity or a person of their choice. Muslims have complete freedom to celebrate their festivals openly, publicly and Islamically. Muslims enjoy freedom of religion just like Christians, Jews and others. No one stops us from obeying Allah and His Messenger (Peace be upon him). No one stops us from preaching Islam and practicing Islam. In many cases, Muslims have more freedom to practice Islam here in Canada and the United States than many Muslim countries.

In fact, the constitutions of the United States and Canada are very close to the Islamic guiding principles of human rights and freedom. There is no conflict between the Islamic values of freedom and justice and the Canadian /US values of freedom and justice.

As I’ve often said – America is the greatest Islamic country in the world, and President Obama made a similar point as well during his Cairo speech.

However, I do have some issues with the fatwa in a general sense, namely the packaging of it as a fatwa itself. A fatwa is a religious ruling, one that should be supported by Qur’an, hadith and jurisprudence. There are indeed some Qur’an verses quoted in the fatwa text, but these are general verses about taking a stand against wrongdoing. That’s supportive of the Imam’s intentions, but these verses are not really relevant to the (novel) theological argument being made that an attack on a nation is considered an attack on its muslim residents, directly correlated to those residents’ freedom to practice the faith. The problem with a fatwa is that it is legal; as such it opens the door to questions such as, if America were oppressive of its muslim population would it then be permissible to attack America? Does the minaret ban in Switzerland now invite attack? What about attacks on Afghanistan? The problem here is that the fatwa – if treated as a fatwa, and not as a statement of principle – can actually be used as Islamic cover by the very people it seeks to denounce.

I think the imams – whose sincere intentions I do not question – would have better served their aims by making this a press release or general statement, rather than further diluting the term fatwa. Obviously, the fatwa has absolutely zero relevance to those extremists abroad who are planning atacks on the West anyway; none of those will be swayed by the fatwa in any way. The fatwa is really aimed at the muslims in the US and Canada itself, a prophylactic against domestic extremism – but again, those like Major Malik Hasan who are infected by the jihadi meme are exposed to it online and from foreign sources, and again are thus unlikely to be swayed by the argument. The vast majority of muslims in the US and Canada are already vigilant against extremism, so the fatwa is pretty much redundant and preaching to the choir. So what then does it really achieve?

Still, it’s better for the Imams to be making this argument publically, then not making it. The more that we, the western muslim community, can advertise our freedom to be muslim here to muslims elsewhere, the safer all Americans wil indeed be. But we need to think more strategically about how best to get that message out there, than copying the Fatwa of the Day methodology used by our enemies.

Related – discussion of the fatwa at Talk Islam. In particular this comment by Abu Noor really makes the case for why the labeling of the statement as a fatwa is so problematic.



  • http://sites.google.com/site/introductiontoideas/ Bill

    This North American fatwa is encouraging and needed. Unfortunately, much of the North American press and population will probably not see it. They will continue to obsess over the small numbers of radicals who carry out terroristic attacks that are very destructive and effective in spreading fear, anger, and reductions in democracy. There should be a balance between information about radical terrorists and Islam in general such as is presented in this thoughtful blog.
    Your comments about America being the greatest Islamic country reminded me of an experience I had in while traveling in Spain in 1990. I shared a hostel room with two Algerians who were very friendly and polite. I remember them telling me that the Algerian government of that time was like the Mafia. They insisted that I have some dates and milk with them. They looked shocked and surprised when I demonstrated some knowledge of Islam and told them that there are Mosques and Muslims freely practicing Islam in the United States.

  • Ron

    While a nice gesture and a step in the right direction, I find myself wondering if in doing so, these individuals will now be considered an issue with their more fundamentalist brothers? I appreciate the move but i hope they do not become a target for doing so.

  • Teed Rockwell

    Your concerns about the fatwa are interesting, and may be valid, but I still think issuing their denunciation is a Fatwa is a very good idea. If their public statement was not a fatwa people would wonder why, and any reason given would be interpreted as implying that Islam somehow supported Terrorism. Some people would think “Terrorists can issue fatwas justifying terrorism, but anti-terrorists can’t, therefore Islam supports terrorism” I know that’s ridiculous, but it’s par for the course for media interpretation.

  • Teed Rockwell

    “if America were oppressive of its muslim population would it then be permissible to attack America?”
    That inference is a fallacy called affirming the consequent.
    If America does not oppress Muslims, It should not be attacked
    Therefore if America does oppress Muslims, It should be attacked.
    This has the same logical form as:
    If Napoleon was killed in a plane crash, then Napolean would be dead. (true)
    Therefore, if Napolean was not killed in a plane crash, Napolean would not be dead. (false)
    Terrorists of course are likely to embrace fallacious arguments. But you can accuse these Imams of making a statement that would give them logical justication for attacking America.
    Let us be grateful that all the Abrahamic Faiths have been influenced by Aristotle.

  • Teed Rockwell

    Oops. I meant to say, of course, that you CAN’T accuse these Imams of making a statement that would give them logical justification for attacking America.
    muslimbuddhist.blogspot.com

  • http://002evolves.blogspot.com 4b
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