Theodore Edgar Cardinal McCarrick and several interfaith leaders accepted with open arms another Fiqh Council of North America fatwa against terrorism on November 30th. McCarrick, who also announced the launch of the "Uniting To Protect" campaign before an interreligious audience at the National Press Club, called the event historical. Uniting to Protect deemed the event the "first Christian and Jewish community recognition of an Islamic authority issuance of a Fatwa against terrorists."
Citing the faulty premise that previous fatawa* issued by the Fiqh Council have been largely ignored, McCarrick encouraged widespread acceptance of the edict through the grassroots interfaith alliance Uniting to Protect.
Unfortunately, in his determination to find Muslim partners for peace, McCarrick seems have ignored at least some of the reasons behind the lack of popular acceptance of past Fiqh Council fatawa.
The statements and affiliations of the Fiqh Council's leadership reveal why people of all faiths should be slow to accept these rulings as authentic or representative of moderate Muslims. While the premise of the Fiqh Council's edict appears to be a welcome sign of moderation, a deeper look at the Fiqh Council raises serious questions about the integrity of the ruling.
First, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Fiqh Council Chairman and presenter of the fatwa, has a colorful history of doublespeak which clouds any reputation as a Muslim moderate leader interested in peace.
In fact, his pro-jihad statements are well documented. In a video recording made roughly 15 years ago in California, Siddiqi lectured on violent jihad, proclaiming:
When people really carry on Jihad, they carry on the Islam in its peak in its totality. And that's why in the hadith the Prophet (SAS) said (Arabic), ‘No people have ever neglected Jihad except they became humiliated.' And people leave, renounce Jihad, they became humiliated. That means in order to gain the honor, Jihad is the path, Jihad is the way to receive the honor.
I can see that there is already some impact after Jihad in Afghanistan in the Intifada movement in Palestine. With this, more courage, more strength, more confidence and shall I even say that in a few years we will be celebrating with each other the victory of Islam in Palestine. Insh'allah, we shall be celebrating the coming of the Masjid al-Aqsa under the Islamic rule. We shall be celebrating insh'allah the coming of Jerusalem and the whole land of Palestine insh'allah and the establishment of the Islamic State throughout that area.
He has never repudiated these comments, even after they were exposed to the world.
And again, at the Jerusalem Day Rally in Washington DC, October 28, 2000, Siddiqi endorsed Palestinian terrorists' absolutist claim to Jerusalem – denying any Christian or Jewish claim to the city – and then seemed to threaten America with the wrath of God:
The land of Aqsa, the land of Jerusalem, is the land that belongs to Muslims.
And al-Aqsa, my brothers and sisters, is our sacred mosque. It belongs to Islam. It belongs to all the Muslims of the world, 1.5 billion Muslims of the world, it belongs to them. We cannot accept any type to the al-Aqsa mosque. We cannot give up Jerusalem. Jerusalem belongs to Islam.
America has to learn that because if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Please! Please all Americans, do you remember that, that Allah is watching everyone. God is watching everyone. If you continue doing injustice, and tolerating injustice, the wrath of God will come.
Even more disturbing is Siddiqi's own admission of the ulterior motives driving his activism in this country – a sentiment that belies his dedication to Uniting to Protect's goals of protecting America and its values first and foremost. As quoted in an October 18, 1996 issue of the newspaper Pakistan Link, Siddiqi revealed his support for Sharia rule in the United States:
We must not forget that Allah's rules have to be established in all lands, and all our efforts should lead to that direction.
As if this is not enough to raise series questions about Siddiqi's loyalties, in 1992 Siddiqi paid the militant Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman – the "Blind Sheikh" now serving a life sentence for his role in a plot to bomb New York City tunnels and landmarks - the honor of translating his lecture – in real time - about jihad, according to The New Yorker. In this lecture, as relayed though the mouth of Siddiqi himself, Abdel Rahman dismissed nonviolent definitions of jihad as weak. He stressed that a number of unspecified enemies had "united themselves against Muslims" and that fighting them was obligatory. "If you are not going to the jihad, then you are neglecting the rules of Allah," he said. The opportunities for jihad were virtually everywhere, ranging from apostate Middle Eastern regimes to "those who are taking the wealth of Muslims from petrol or from oil."
And Siddiqi is not the only Fiqh Council representative with questionable allegiances.
In 1998, Fiqh Council member Sheikh Muhammad al-Hanooti gave a speech cursing the United States, United Kingdom, and Jews at Dar al Hijrah, a mosque in North Virginia where he was imam.
Even more telling is Hanooti's links to Hamas. Hanooti served as president of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) from 1984 to 1986 – the propaganda arm of Hamas in the U.S. In fact, in December 2004, a federal magistrate judge held the IAP civilly liable in the 1996 shooting of an American citizen by a Hamas member in the West Bank.
And fellow Fiqh Council member Salah Sultan has demonstrated an equally questionable commitment to non-violence. As he wrote it in his own resume and posted on his personal website, Sultan said his "vision" is "To live happily. To die as a martyr."
Further, the Middle East Media Research Institute reported that on May 17, 2006 on Al-Risala TV in Saudi Arabia, Sultan praised Yemenite religious scholar Abd-al-Majid Al-Zindani. Al-Zindani was named a specially designated global terrorist by the U.S. State Department two years earlier due to his "long history of working with [Osama] bin Laden, notably serving as one of his spiritual leaders. In this leadership capacity, he has been able to influence and support many terrorist causes, including actively recruiting for al-Qaeda training camps. Most recently, he played a key role in the purchase of weapons on behalf of al-Qaeda and other terrorists."
Sultan ridiculed this terrorist designation of Zindani, whom he described as "known worldwide for his refinement, virtue, and broad horizons."
Certainly these statements – praise of violent Jihad, glorification of martyrdom, absolutist Muslim claims to Jerusalem, designation of America as "tyrannical" and an "infidel" nation, support for designated terrorists and terrorist groups - reflect an ideology antithetical to the peace and reconciliation McCarrick, interfaith leaders, and Uniting to Protect came together to endorse.
Perhaps McCarrick and Uniting to Protect are so eager to build bridges with American Muslims that they are willing to ignore such statements and embrace Muslim leaders with unreliable stances on violence. This sort of alliance, though, is not the sort of partnership that will produce authentic results, and it may in fact prove to be quite dangerous. McCarrick and Uniting to Protect - if truly interested in promoting unity, cooperation and security - can and must seek out genuine partners for peace – not militants passing themselves off as moderates – and endorse true moderate Muslim leaders whose agendas are aligned with protecting America.
* plural form of "fatwa"
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