Friday, December 01, 2006

Pay No Attention To That Ayatollah Behind The Curtain

"How can I help being a humbug," he said, "when all these people make me do things that everyone knows can't be done?"
The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Another author has a price on his head after allegedly ridiculing Islam--claiming that Christianity is superior to Islam and that Europe is superior to the Middle East.
One of Iran's most senior clergymen has issued a fatwa on an Azeri writer said to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

The call on Muslims to murder Rafiq Tagi, who writes for Azerbaijan's Senet newspaper, echoes the Iranian fatwa against Indian writer Salman Rushdie.

It was issued by the conservative Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani.
With a little bit of hindsight, it probably would not be all that difficult to have predicted the response of someone like Lankarani. The real question is whether Lankarani is actually following Islamic law in calling for Tagi's death.

According to Bernard Lewis--he is not.

In The Crisis of Islam, Lewis writes about the brand of Islamic extremism preached by Al Qaida, Saudi Arabia--and Iran.
All of these are, in a sense, Islamic in origin, but some of them have deviated very far from their origins.

All these different extremist groups sanctify their action through pious references to Islamic texts, notably the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet, and all three claim to represent a truer, purer, and more authentic Islam than that currently practiced by the vast majority of Muslims and endorsed by most though not all of the religious leadership. They are, however, highly selective in their choice and interpretation of sacred texts. (p. 138) [emphasis added]
To illustrate his point, Lewis examines Islamic law as it pertains to the treatment of someone like Salman Rushdie. Recall that at the time, the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, offering a bounty for the one who killed the author of the Satanic Verses--just as Lankarani has done.

On this issue, Bernard Lewis points out that contrary to the impression given by men like Khomeini and Lankarani, a fatwa is not the Islamic equivalent of 'putting out a contract'. Instead:
Fatwa is a technical term in Islamic jurisprudence for a legal opinion or ruling on a point of law...The Islamic jurisconsult who is authorized to issue a fatwa is called a mufti, an active participle from the same root. In using a fatwa to pronounce a death sentence and recruit an assassin, the ayatollah was deviating very considerably from standard Islamic practice. (p. 140) [emphasis added]
For Grand Ayatollah Lankarani to issue a fatwa calling for the death of Tagi--and of the person responsible for publishing his articles--or for another Iranian cleric to offer his house as a reward to anyone who killed the writer, is not normative practice.

'Insulting the Prophet' was the general charge brought against Rushdie--but that is punishable by flogging and imprisonment. This is not the impression you got from the signs at the riots which called for his death, beheading, and extermination. Flogging and imprisonment is also a far cry from what Lankarani and other clerics are sanctioning and encouraging.

In Rushdie's case, as a Moslem his supposed crime would be apostasy--which according to Islamic law requires a trial by judge. Lewis admits that a minority opinion states that when the crime is so great that a formal trial is not needed, but nevertheless some sort of procedure or authorization is required. Without such a procedure, the execution is itself considered murder--and punishable as such. There is another opinion according to which the immediate execution of the apostate is obligatory and one who does not carry out the sentence is himself committing an offense--but Lewis points out:
Even the most rigorous and extreme of the classical jurists only require a Muslim to kill anyone who insults the Prophet in his hearing and in his presence. They say nothing about a hired killing for a reported insult in a distant country. [emphasis added]
In Tagi's case, he was in fact tried in an Azerbaijani court. However the sentence he and his publisher received was two months in jail for an article which was illustrated by the same cartoons of the Muhammad which were originally published in Denmark.

There are those who would claim that Islam is undergoing a renaissance, a reawakening as it reclaims its place in the world.

Maybe not.

In an editorial about the case of the 6 Imams who were removed from a plane after acting suspiciously, the Investor's Business Daily notes the activities of other Imams:
Omar Abdul-Rahman, a blind sheikh, is serving a life term for plotting to blow up several New York landmarks. Imam Ali al-Timimi, a native Washingtonian, is also behind bars for soliciting local Muslims to kill fellow Americans. Imams in New York were recently busted for buying shoulder-fired missiles. Another in Lodi, Calif., planned an al-Qaida terror camp there.
MEMRI has videos of Islamic holy men who include in their sermons various derogatory comments about Israel and Jews in general.

There is something very wrong when Islamic holy men turn to murder--however they themselves may choose to label it--or feel they must inspire their flock by comparing Jews to apes. It is past time for the media to stop turning a blind eye to what is being ignored under the guise of free speech and what is being covered up under the guise of Moslem-bashing.

Whatever you call it, Islamist extremism is a danger that must be clearly and consistently called by its name if moderate Moslems are truly going to get the respect they are entitled to.

Update: Thanks to Memeorandum for the link.
Also check out about emailing the Ayatollah who issued the fatwa.

Crossposted at Israpundit

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