While this is certainly refreshing, it still begs the question: who knows what Islam demands more accurately: the average Muslim, who may denounce such fatwas, or “top” clerics, who have been studying Islam all their lives? Muslims can denounce this or that, the question still remains: is it Islamic or not?
“Arabs denounce cleric’s fatwa on ‘immoral,’ TV” by Donna Abu-Nasr for AP, September 19 (thanks to JCB):
Arabs across the ideological spectrum, from secular-minded liberals to Muslim hard-liners, are denouncing a top Saudi cleric’s edict that it was permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV stations that show “immoral” content.
Many expressed worry the recent comments by Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan “” chief of the kingdom’s highest tribunal, the Supreme Judiciary Council “” would fuel terrorism, encouraging attacks on station employees and owners.
“Our religion prevents Muslims from watching films that provide seduction, obscenity and vulgarity,” said Sheik Hazim Awad, an Iraqi cleric, who, like al-Lihedan, is Sunni Muslim.
But “the real Muslim can just cancel (subscriptions to) these channels,” he said.
Many conservatives frown on the Arab world’s numerous satellite networks for airing music videos “” often with scantily clad women singers “” or Western movies and TV shows like “Sex and the City,” from which nude scenes are sometimes but not always cut.
Obscenity isn’t the only thing that disturbs some. On Tuesday, another Saudi cleric, Sheik Mohammed Munajjid, said the cartoon character Mickey Mouse should be killed. Munajjid said in an interview with a religious Web site that under Islamic law, rats and mice are considered “repulsive” and as “soldiers of Satan.”
Note, another cleric: obviously, then, al-Lihedan is not alone in these views.
“For children they’ve become something great and beloved. Like this Mickey Mouse, who is seen as a great figure, even though under Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed,” said Munajjid, who is a well-known cleric but does not hold a government position.
The controversy over al-Lihedan’s fatwa began a week ago, when the cleric was answering questions from callers to the daily “Light in the Path” religious program on Saudi state radio. One caller asked about Islam’s view of the owners of satellite TV channels that show “bad programs” during the holy month of Ramadan, which began more than two weeks ago.
“I want to advise the owners of these channels, who broadcast calls for such indecency and impudence … and I warn them of the consequences,” al-Lihedan said in the program. “Those calling for corrupt beliefs, certainly it’s permissible to kill them.”
The remarks were especially surprising because many of the most popular Arab satellite networks are owned by Saudi princes and well-connected Saudi and Gulf businessmen.
He said his “advice” was aimed at owners who broadcast witchcraft, indecent programs, shows mocking Islamic scholars or religious police and comedies inappropriate for Ramadan.
The edict chilled managers of satellite networks. Several channels based in Dubai declined comment. One network representative said the staff was taking the fatwa very seriously, but he did not want his name or channel revealed. “Why select yourself as a target by commenting on it?” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s judiciary is a bastion of hard-line clerics implementing Islamic law under the strict Wahhabi interpretation. Judges are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council and have complete discretion to set sentences, except in cases where Islamic law outlines a punishment, such as capital crimes.
By now, the world should know that “Wahhabi interpretation” simply means literally following the practice (sunna) of Muhammad and the first few generations of Muslims close to him and the righteous caliphs — which is why the Saudis never call it “Wahhabi” but rather Islam.
King Abdullah has said reforming the legal system is one of his priorities, but so far few changes have been announced “” a sign of wariness in confronting the powerful clerics.
Yes, a few days after the Saudi king was reaching out to non-Muslims for dialogue, it was revealed that Saudi textbooks for children still teach that the true Muslim must hate all non-Muslims.
One Saudi cleric challenged al-Lihedan, telling the Saudi Al-Jazirah newspaper that the new edict would “lend support to terrorism.”
Around the Arab world, many said el-Lihedan was out of line.
“He shouldn’t give such a judgment because he’s not God,” said Noora Baker, a 27-year-old folkloric dancer from the Palestinian city of Ramallah. “I am against religion interfering with the matters of society.”
That may be, but the fact remains: “commanding the good and forbidding the wrong” — that is, very much “interfering with the matters of society” — is a central tenet of Islam.