Attention, fatwa shoppers: Bomb-belt special on Aisle 6! “Muslim students seek clerics’ jihad advice,” by Richard Kerbaj for The Australian:
AUSTRALIAN Muslim university students eager to become jihadis are regularly seeking advice from Islamic spiritual leaders in the hope of winning religious approval to travel overseas and fight.
Leaders have warned that the obsession among some young Muslims to become holy warriors was also driving them to “shop around” for fatwas – religious rulings – should their initial request be turned down.
Moderate Sydney-based Islamic cleric Khalil Shami said young Muslims, “predominantly university students”, frequently asked his advice on travelling to war-torn countries to fight in the name of Islam.
Sheik Shami said he always warned aspiring Islamists against fighting because he believed Muslim countries were being run by corrupt leaders who were more interested in making money and advancing their political profiles than liberating their people.
“There are some people who would like to go and perform jihad,” he told The Australian in an Arabic and English interview.
“I say don’t go. Because those fighting aren’t truly fighting in the path of God. I’ve been asked numerous times and I’ve advised against going,” added Sheik Shami, an imam at Penshurst Mosque in Sydney’s southwest.
It’s good that there are clerics advising against traveling abroad to wage jihad, but what is the broader Muslim community doing to address what is generating “demand” among the fatwa-shoppers? And for good measure, what methods and goals constitute “fighting in the path of God” for Sheik Shami?
He said young Muslims interested in jihad either called him anonymously to ask his advice or approached him at the mosque.
Sheik Shami, who is also an Australian Federal Police chaplain, said he had not notified authorities about Muslims interested in jihad because he did not want to betray the trust of people making the inquiries.
“If you come to me and tell me about something, it’s not nice for me to go and tell the authorities about you because you trust me and I have to just keep your secret,” he said.
“I know I have enough faith in myself. I’m not going to hurt the person or hurt the authorities.”
The federal Attorney-General’s department last night said clerics were not obligated under common law to pass on national security information.
“A Muslim cleric would have the same obligations as any other member of the community,” a department spokesman said. “The Government would expect that any person in receipt of such information, whatever their religious beliefs, would have a duty to prevent terrorist activity and pass the information on.”
Sheik Shami’s comments follow revelations in The Australian last week that Muslims were refusing to give national security authorities counter-terrorism tip-offs, fearing they might implicate themselves or be labelled traitors by fellow community members.
Sheik Shami said young men often became more enthused about seeking advice on jihad after seeing horrific images of fellow Muslims caught up in conflict.
Islamic Friendship Association of Australia president Keysar Trad admitted hearing young Muslims asking their cleric for advice on going to fight jihad overseas. He said some even went to more than one imam in the hope of getting a green light for joining the battle.
“Some people will shop around, what you might term as fatwa shopping, and I am yet to meet an imam who would say yes, go,” Mr Trad said. “My personal assessment of these kind of people is they want the imam to reassure them that staying here in luxury and comfort is OK, that’s all they’re doing. But then they go (and say), ‘I would’ve gone only if the imam let me’.”
Some may be looking to deflect personal responsibility for their actions: If the imam said to go fight, a jihadist who finds himself in trouble might claim he was “only following orders.”