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Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 2001 / 5 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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The fatuous fatwa -- IS this the sound of a coalition coalescing?

"Muslim Ruling Endorses U.S. Action," reports the Associated Press. "Cleric trumps Osama with a reverse fatwa," explains The New York Post. "'Swing' Cleric in Qatar Shows How Middle Road Can Still Be Taken," elaborates The Wall Street Journal.

Certainly, the swirl of headlines around the "fatwa," or religious opinion, issued by five Muslim scholars in the Middle East last week seems to promise to heal the rupture between many Islamic nations and the West on Islamist terrorism. In response to an inquiry by a Muslim chaplain in the U.S. Army, some bona fide Muslim authorities were actually saying it was all right for the roughly 15,000 American Muslims in our armed forces to serve the country by making war on Muslims in other countries. "To sum up," the clerics wrote, "it's acceptable - G-d willing -- for the Muslim-American military personnel to partake in the fighting in the upcoming battles, against whomever their country decides has perpetrated terrorism against them."

A smallish point, perhaps, but one with potentially larger ramifications. Sure, the clerics said that American Muslims - sorry, "Muslim-Americans" -- should "serve in back lines" if possible, but only if by doing so it wasn't a detriment to them or their American co-religionists. And sure, they were adamant that the "true perpetrators" (never actually named) of the "terrorist acts that took place in the United States" be "brought to justice in an impartial court," as if the colossal acts of war we have suffered are merely infractions of the law.

OK, so this fatwa doesn't have teeth. But as far as Muslim hearts and minds go, it's progress, right? "The fatwa could have a broad impact beyond the United States," declared The New York Times, echoing the Western consensus, "by providing religious justification for Muslim nations to cooperate with the American military effort." In other words, this could be just what we're waiting for to put the final (or even first) touches on that international coalition we keep hearing about. Why, Saudi Arabia might even let us use that airfield we built someday.

What a blow, then, to discover that even after this fatwa was written, its most prominent author, Yusef Qaradawi, was back in Qatar calling for "negotiations," and exhorting Muslim worshippers to remember that "Muslims cannot be used as tools to kill brother Muslims." What happened to all the "religious justification for Muslim cooperation" with the U.S. military his fatwa was supposed to generate? Are we back to Square One, or did we just never leave it?

While Qaradawi has not offered any explanations, it's worth noting that this leading Islamist theologian and spiritual adviser to the militant Muslim Brotherhood is not quite the budding middle-of-the-roader some of his recent clippings say he is. "A Muslim is forbidden from entering into an alliance with a non-Muslim," he said on Sept. 16 on the Arabic-language network Al Jazeera. He also called on Muslims to "fight the American military if we can, and if we cannot, we should fight the U.S. economically and politically."

There's more. As someone who sanctions suicide bombings as "heroic martyrdom operations," Qaradawi made a rather sulfurous splash at a recent Muslim-Christian conference in Rome by denouncing the Sept. 11 attacks with a slanderous swipe at Israel. "We Arabs are among the most sensitive to this because of the evil inflicted on us by arrogant Zionists. We go to sleep at night and get up in the morning in a Palestine transformed into a continuous funeral. We refuse terrorism, but don't consider it terrorism to defend one's home."

This language, harsh as it is, was actually gussied up for Western ears. Before Muslim audiences, Qaradawi is, shall we say, more himself. "On the hour of judgment," he said in 1989 at an Islamist conference in, of all places, Kansas City, "Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them." Or take his 1997 assessment of Arab-Israeli relations: "There is no dialogue between us other than in one language -- the language of the sword and force."

Such talk may have earned him the oxymoronic moniker of the "moderate Islamist" from The Wall Street Journal news department, but Qaradawi is anything but. And at least one of his fellow fatwa authors, Egyptian journalist Fahmi Houaydi, is perhaps even more extreme. Following the Palestinian suicide bombing of a crowded Israeli pizzeria in August, he penned an op-ed for the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram with a title that says it all: "I Cannot Hide My Happiness about the Martyrdom Operation that Took Place in Jerusalem."

Nice. Makes you wonder whether this fatwa is really good news -- or just good propaganda.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


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10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West