The Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Fiqh Council of North America held a press conference in Washington today at which they declared that they had refuted the religious ideology of the Islamic State. They issued this lengthy “Open Letter” (not, interestingly enough, a fatwa) addressed to the Islamic State’s caliph Ibrahim, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, explaining how he was misunderstanding Islam. Is this an Islamic case against the Islamic State’s jihad terror that will move Islamic State fighters to lay down their arms? Or is it a deceptive piece designed to fool gullible non-Muslim Westerners into thinking that the case for “moderate Islam” has been made, but which will not change a single jihadi’s mind? Unfortunately, it is the latter.
To be sure, Hamas-linked CAIR and the Fiqh Council and all the signers of this Open Letter really do oppose the Islamic State. But they don’t oppose it because it is transgressing against the commands of what they believe to be a Religion of Peace. They oppose it because they want to establish a caliphate under the auspices of or led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Islamic State constitutes competition. This is clear from their sly endorsements in this document of jihad, the Sharia, and the concept of the caliphate.
It begins with an “Executive Summary” which is then filled out in greater detail. I will intersperse commentary below, first in general terms on the Executive Summary, and then taking up the arguments on each point in detail.
1- It is forbidden in Islam to issue fatwas without all the necessary learning requirements. Even then fatwas must follow Islamic legal theory as defined in the Classical texts. It is also forbidden to cite a portion of a verse from the Qur’an—or part of a verse—to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Qur’an and Hadith teach related to that matter. In other words, there are strict subjective and objective prerequisites for fatwas, and one cannot ‘cherry- pick’ Qur’anic verses for legal arguments without considering the entire Qur’an and Hadith.
This is a null argument designed to appeal to non-Muslims who don’t know what is in the Qur’an. For unless one quotes the entire Qur’an and Hadith, this argument can be leveled against anyone: anyone can be accused of leaving out important points and ignoring contradictory material. Whether or not one has actually done so, however, is another matter.
2- It is forbidden in Islam to issue legal rulings about anything without mastery of the Arabic language.
Red herring. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of the Islamic State, is a native Arabic speaker with a Ph.D in Islamic Studies.
3- It is forbidden in Islam to oversimplify Shari’ah matters and ignore established Islamic sciences.
Again, this is an empty charge, as it can be leveled against anyone.
4- It is permissible in Islam [for scholars] to differ on any matter, except those fundamentals of religion that all Muslims must know.
No doubt the caliph would agree with Hamas-linked CAIR and the Fiqh Council on this. He might differ with them on what exactly constitutes “fundamentals of religion that all Muslims must know.”
5- It is forbidden in Islam to ignore the reality of contemporary times when deriving legal rulings.
This one is quite telling. It suggests that there is a certain accommodation Muslim believers must make to the times and to circumstance, without changing core principles — i.e., the problem with the Islamic State is not its beliefs, but their application, and the time may be right for the application of those beliefs at some other time, but not now.
6- It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent.
Indeed, but who is innocent? The Islamic State jihadis don’t believe they are killing the innocent.
7- It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers.
None of these are blanket prohibitions; infidels considered to be at war with Islam can be killed and, according to Islamic law, must be killed.
8- Jihad in Islam is defensive war. It is not permissible without the right cause, the right purpose and without the right rules of conduct.
Disingenuous. Islamic law holds that the caliph alone has the authority to wage offensive jihad. The Islamic State considers itself to be the caliphate, and thus considers its caliph to have that privilege and responsibility.
9- It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares disbelief.
What constitutes an open declaration of disbelief? The Sudanese government executed Mahmoud Mohammed Taha for heresy after he said that the Qur’an’s Meccan suras, which are more peaceful, should supersede the Medinan suras, which are more violent. He wasn’t expressing disbelief in Islam, but was nonetheless executed as someone who had departed from the faith of Islam.
10- It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat—in any way—Christians or any ‘People of the Scripture’.
The Qur’an says to fight against and subjugate them (9:29). Once they submit, they should not be harmed or mistreated. But if they are considered to be in rebellion or war against the Muslims, they must be fought.
11- It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as People of the Scripture.
Here again, in a hadith, Muhammad instructs Muslims to invite the unbelievers to Islam, and subjugate them or go to war with them if they refuse. If the Yazidis refused the invitation to convert, they could lawfully be fought.
12- The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.
This is flatly false. Slavery is still widely practiced in North Africa, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere because it is sanctioned in Islam.
13- It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.
True, but the laws of dhimmitude are designed essentially to make life miserable for non-Muslims until they opt to convert as their only means to a better existence. Thus the boundaries of what constitutes coercion are somewhat blurred.
14- It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.
Indeed. But what are those rights?
15- It is forbidden in Islam to deny children their rights.
Indeed. But what are those rights?
16- It is forbidden in Islam to enact legal punishments (hudud) without following the correct procedures that ensure justice and mercy.
This one is noteworthy, for by it Hamas-linked CAIR and the Fiqh Council and all these scholars affirm that hudud punishments — stoning for adultery, amputation for theft, death for leaving Islam, etc. — can be enacted as long as one is following the correct procedures.
17- It is forbidden in Islam to torture people.
At Khaybar, Muhammad ordered that a fire be lit upon Kinana’s chest until he told the Muslims where the Jews’ treasury was hidden. So what constitutes “torture” is, like so many things in Islam, subject to interpretation.
18- It is forbidden in Islam to disfigure the dead.
“When the prophet ordered that the corpses of the polytheists be dropped in to a well… He stood over the bodies of twenty-four leaders of Quraish, who had been thrown into one of the wells and started call them by name and by the names of their fathers…” (Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum, The Battle of Badr, p. 271)
19- It is forbidden in Islam to attribute evil acts to God.
Once again, a subjective and empty argument — no doubt the Islamic State would deny doing this.
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