Last week's anti-terror fatwa (or legal pronouncement) issued by 18 leading American Muslim scholars was more interesting for its omissions than for what it supposedly said. Normally when Westerners read of an announced fatwa -- such as that proclaimed by Osama bin Laden against Jews and "Crusaders," or that by Ayatollah Khomeini against novelist Salman Rushdie -- there is a rather substantial price placed on someone's scalp. Not so here. In fact no leading terrorist or terrorist group was mentioned. Nowhere was there a denunciation of Islamic jihad or its ultimate goal of a return of the Islamic Caliphate. In fact, last week's fatwa was about as sincere as a snake oil salesman's pitch. It was a useless feel-good measure intended to convince Americans that the leaders of America's largest Islamic groups oppose the goals of the extremists.
But do they?
You wouldn't know it from the mainstream media's reportage, but a significant number of the Muslim "scholars" behind the anti-terrorist fatwa may well pose more of a security risk to the U.S. than all of the inmates at Guantanamo Bay combined. Numerous officials from the Fiqh Council of North America, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) -- the organizations responsible for the fatwa -- have openly threatened the U.S. or else have proven ties to terrorist organizations.
Beginning with Fiqh Council spokesman Muzammil Siddiqi, who announced the fatwa at last week's press conference. "There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism," read Siddiqi. "Targeting civilian life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attacks is 'haram' -- prohibited in Islam -- and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not martyrs." During the reading of the fatwa, Siddiqi also labeled as criminals those who associate with terrorists. In that case nearly everyone involved in last week's fatwa should be locked up, or at the very least deported.
This was the same Muzammil Siddiqi who on October 28, 2000, at an anti-Israel rally outside the White House, explicitly threatened the U.S.: "America has to learn -- if you remain on the side of injustice (Israel), the wrath of God will come!" Earlier, in a 1995 speech reported by the Kansas City Star, Siddiqi enthusiastically praised suicide bombers: "Those who die on the part of justice are alive, and their place is with the Lord, and they receive the highest position, because this is the highest honor." Not surprisingly, he has also called for a wider application of the medieval and misogynistic Sharia law in the U.S.
The government has also accused Fiqh Council Chairman Taha Jaber Al-Alwani of maintaining links to terrorist financiers in Northern Virginia. (Recent court documents indicate that Alwani also funded Islamic Jihad front groups in Tampa.) Another former trustee of the Fiqh Council, Abdurrahman Alamoudi, now serving a 23-year prison sentence, has confessed to his part in a plot to assassinate the Saudi Crown Prince, and was recently named by the Treasury Department as having been a financier for al Qaeda.
In 1998, Fiqh Council member Sheikh Muhammad al-Hanooti delivered a speech calling for jihad against the U.S. and Britain, saying that "Allah will curse the Americans and British" and "the curse of Allah will become true on the infidel Jews and on the tyrannical Americans." That's just for starters.
The mainstream press was far too busy uncritically scribbling down the harmonious utterances of CAIR's executive director, Nihad Awad, to bother much with figuring out who these people really are or what they stand for. Awad told reporters that Muslims have been trying for more than a decade to demonstrate to their fellow Americans that they should not condemn all Muslims because of the actions of the very few. The folks from CAIR have an interesting of way of doing that, to say the least.
This is the same Nihad Awad who once praised Ayatollah Khomeini and told a Barry University forum in 1994: "I am in support of the Hamas [Palestinian terrorist] movement."
What do we really know about Awad's organization? Andrew Whitehead, who runs a group called Anti-CAIR, has documented how CAIR was founded by Islamic terrorists. CAIR has sued Whitehead for libel, but is no longer challenging Whitehead's allegation. In fact, five current or former CAIR affiliates have been arrested, convicted, or deported on terrorism-related charges. Two years ago the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security heard compelling evidence that CAIR is one of many defenders, financiers, and front groups for international terrorists. Even Sen. Chuck Schumer has said, "We know [CAIR] has ties to terrorism."
Another of the fatwa's signatories, CAIR's Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, has defended Saudi Arabia's financial aid to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Hooper also told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on April 4, 1993: "I wouldn't want to create the impression that I wouldn't like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future." The instances of anti-Americanism among CAIR members is too long to document in this space, but interested parties can find much more here and here.
So what does CAIR really believe? Here is co-founder Omar Ahmad as quoted in a Fremont, California newspaper: "Those who stay in America should be open to society without melting... Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faiths, but to become dominant. The Koran should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth." (Ahmad now denies making the statement.) His sentiments were echoed by one Ihsan Bagby, a future CAIR board member, who insisted that Muslims "can never be full citizens of this country [the U.S.], because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country."
Another signatory, the Muslim American Society, is a known front for the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S., whose publications have repeatedly supported suicide bombings, notes the Investigative Project on Terrorism's Steven Emerson.
And on and on...
How serious should Americans take a fatwa issued by organizations that seem to loathe everything about American democracy save their ability to speak freely? The mainstream media accepted the fatwa without comment and Fiqh and CAIR both gained a wonderful PR opportunity. Happily the American public is less likely to be so gullible.
Christopher Orlet, a frequent contributor, runs the Existential Journalism blog.