Expert: Saudi fatwa not a threat

Wakf chairman slams Gaza attacks, calls on government to talk with Hamas.

Sheikh Al-Qarni 88 (photo credit: )
Sheikh Al-Qarni 88
(photo credit: )
A religious edict issued Sunday by a prominent Saudi cleric calling on Muslims everywhere to target Israel does not hold much weight, according to a Ben-Gurion University expert on Saudi Islamic scholars. "All Israeli interests, and anything else related to Israel, are a permitted target for Muslims everywhere," wrote Sheikh al-Qarni in a fatwa issued on an Internet site. "They [Israelis] should become targets. Their blood should be shed as the blood of our brothers in Palestine has been shed. They should feel pain more than our brothers," he continued. "This is a fatwa for which I am responsible before Allah." Professor Muhammad al-Atawneh of Ben-Gurion University said Tuesday that Qarni was an influential nonagenarian scholar who belonged to the Wahabi school of Islam. However, he doubted that Qarni's comments would have direct ramifications. "Unlike Shi'ites, in the Sunni world there is no equivalent of a Pope," said Atawneh. "There is no clear definition of the role of the cleric and the obligation of Muslims to adhere to his fatwa." He also pointed out that Palestinians were more influenced by Egyptian Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, presently based in Qatar and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has strong ties with Hamas. Atawneh added that the extreme reaction by Qarni, who is normally considered relatively moderate, was fueled by emotion, not Islamic jurisprudence. "The pictures from Gaza being relayed across the Muslim world right now are sparking emotional reactions," he said. Meanwhile, Wakf chairman Sheikh Rayan Kamal, a member of the more moderate southern wing of the Islamic Movement, called the attack on Gaza "disproportionate" and "murder." "Every day we are outraged by the gruesome, on-line pictures of murder being perpetrated by Israel," said Kamal. "I am a law-abiding Israeli citizen, so I feel betrayed as I watch my state attack my brethren, my people, my coreligionists. I have sympathy for the residents of the South. I am against hurting innocent people. But there is no proportion to this attack." Kamal called on Israel to talk with the Hamas leadership in Gaza. "We all know that sooner or later, Israel will talk with them. How much longer can it keep 1.5 million [people] in prison?" Dr. Yitzhak Reiter, an expert on the Islamic Movement who is affiliated with the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and is Schusterman visiting professor at Minnesota University, said that Arab Israelis like Kamal have undergone a deep process of "Palestinization." "The attack on Palestinians in Gaza is seen as a direct attack on them," said Reiter. "Arab Israelis, although they are a minority in Israel, see themselves as part of the larger Muslim majority in the Middle East." He said that one of the causes that united Arab Israelis with the larger Muslim world was the struggle for control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. "The more extremist northern wing of the Islamic Movement, headed by Raed Salah, has successfully rallied worldwide Muslim support for maintaining control over the Temple Mount. He has found a particularly sympathetic ear in the Muslim world for his claims that Israel plans on building the Third Temple," Reitner said. Both Reiter and Atawneh will take part next week in a conference on contemporary fatwas and their impact on the Muslim world at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. At the conference, Reiter will launch the release of his new book, War, Peace and International Relations in Islam: Muslim Scholars on Peace With Israel. In the book, he shows that there are opinions among prominent Muslim scholars that support a peace agreement with Israel.