July 14, 2005

Tom Friedman and "Deaf" Americans

This post is a culmination of several articles I've read over the past few days. The impetus for this post was the article, "Muslim leaders condemning terror to deaf?" In the article, Mark Woods asked the question, "Why don't we hear Muslim leaders condemning terrorism?" His answer was, they do condemn terrorism. "Maybe we're not listening." Ameen!

Woods also referred to a recent article by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Friedman wrote, "To this day, no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden." Now, I like Tom Friedman as a writer. I've read tons of his columns and all of his books with the exception of his most recent effort (I'm waiting for it to come out in paperback, insha'allah). Anyone who's familiar with Friedman knows that he's knowledgeable about Islam. But this was a really stupid statement on Tom's part, and I'm rather surprised that he wrote it. He's not the kind of right-wing idiot (like "fill in your favorite neo-con redneck blowhard here") who normally writes or speaks first and considers the facts later (if at all). So it was with great pleasure to see that Woods had rebutted Friedman's statement with the work of University of Michigan History Professor, Dr. Juan Cole. Cole's blog, Informed Comment, has a somewhat lengthy post in which he cites numerous "major Muslim clerics and religious bodies" that have all issued fatawa against OBL. And (hoping that Dr. Cole doesn't mind), I'm republishing that post below because, in part, I know that my Muslim brothers and sisters can use this information against those "deaf" Americans (like Friedman) who are (and remain) ill-informed about our resistance against the likes of OBL.

Friedman Wrong About Muslims Again
And the Amman Statement on Ecumenism

Tom Friedman is a Middle East expert who knows a lot about Islam. Why, then, does he keep saying misleading things? He wrote in his latest column, "To this day - to this day - no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden."

A "fatwa" is simply a considered opinion of a Muslim jurisconsult. Such opinions are numerous. First of all, almost all the major Shiite Grand Ayatollahs have condemned Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. You could say that is easy, since Shiites don't generally like Wahhabis. But they are the leaders of 120 million Muslims (some ten percent of the 1.2 billion). So that is one. Tracking these things down is time-consuming, but this should do:
Ayatollah Muhammad Husain Fadlallah of Lebanon condemns Osama Bin Laden.

So then what about the Sunni world? The leading moral authority for Sunnis is the rector or Grand Imam of the al-Azhar Seminary/ University in Cairo, Egypt. Al-Azhar is perhaps the world's oldest continuous university and has been since the time of Saladin a major center of Sunni religious authority. The current incumbent is Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi. So what about Tantawi and Bin Laden?

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar seminary, Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, condemns Osamah Bin Laden. And:

The Grand Imam of al-Azhar Seminary, Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, condemns Osamah Bin Laden.

What about Pakistan? Admittedly, it has some clerics who are fans of Bin Laden, or at least who would avoid condemning him. But the allegation Friedman is making is that no major cleric has condemned him. Try this: Prominent Pakistani Cleric Tahir ul Qadri condemns Bin Laden.

I don't personally care for Yusuf al-Qaradawi. He is an old-time Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood preacher who fled to Qatar and now has a perch at al-Jazeera. But he does have some virtues. He is enormously popular among Muslim fundamentalists. And, he absolutely despises Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Al-Qaradawi has repeatedly condemned the latter. He even gave a fatwa that it was a duty of Muslims to fight alongside the US in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda! See also:
Yusuf al-Qaradawi condemns al-Qaeda.

There are also substantial Muslim communities in Europe with leaderships that have explicitly condemned Bin Laden. E.g.:

Spanish Muslim Clerical authorities Issue Fatwa against Osamah Bin Laden. There are on the order of 250,000 Muslims in Spain.

High Mufti of Russian Muslims calls for Extradition of Bin Laden. The Russian Muslim community is about 20 million strong, or 15 percent of Russia's 143 million population, and is growing rapidly, so that in a century Russia may be 50 percent Muslim. So this is not a pro forma thing here.

A good round-up on this sort of issue has been put up by al-Muhajabah.

See also Charles Kurzman's page.

Friedman also does refer to a major conference of Muslim clerics, thinkers and notables wound up just Wednesday that made a powerful statement about religious tolerance and condemned everything Osama Bin Laden stands for. But he seems oddly unaware of the significance of having Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Grand Imam of al-Azhar Seminary Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, and many other great Muslim authorities sign off on this epochal statement of Muslim ecumenism.

The statement forbids one Muslim to declare another "not a Muslim" if the believer adheres to any of the mainstream legal rites of Sunnism and Shiism. The whole basis of al-Qaeda is to call the Muslim leaders of countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as Shiites, "not Muslims." The statement also demands that engineers should please stop pretending to issue fatwas, which should be left to trained clerical jurisconsults. This para. is also a slam at Bin Laden.

PS As for Friedman's main point, that Muslims haven't done a good job of fighting jihadi ideology and terrorism, it is bizarre. The Algerian government fought a virtual civil war to put down political Islam, in which over 100,000 persons died. The Egyptians jailed 20,000 or 30,000 radicals for thought crimes and killed 1500 in running street battles in the 1990s and early zeroes. Al-Qaeda can't easily strike in the Middle East precisely because Syria, Egypt, Algeria, etc. have their number and have undertaken massive actions against them. What does Friedman want? And, besides, he is wrong that this is only a Muslim problem. In the global age all problems are everybody's. That's part of flat world, too, Tom.

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