The most prestigious group of Sunni Islamic scholars and jurists in the world called on American Muslims to “immediately start legal action to prosecute those who offend Islam” and called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to wage lawfare against those who insult Islam and its prophet.
The statement–issued in Arabic this past weekend on the website of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), and signed by the Arab world’s leading shariah authority, Yusuf al-Qaradawi–sheds light on the cause of riots around the Muslim world, and illustrates the importance of mainstream Islamic law as a cause of the rancor generated by the YouTube video “Innocence of Muslims.”
The IUMS’s statement, as well as Qaradawi’s influential imprimatur, is a significant escalation in the Islamic world’s offensive to institute shariah globally and criminalize criticism of Islam.
The Islamic governments of Egypt, and Iran–as well as Muslim clerics both abroad and in the United States–have since echoed the essence of the IUMS statement, and called for legal action against those responsible for the video which, “should be considered a violation of the rights of Muslims and an attack on Islamic symbols and holy sites.”
Understanding the Islamic legal reasoning on which this statement is based is essential. In the context of Islamic law, Innocence of Muslims constitutes an encroachment on shariah’s clear prohibition against blasphemy or slander against Islam, its prophet or on shariah itself. Furthermore, the phrase “violation of the rights of Muslims” is a 20th Century Islamic legal convention; according to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (served at the UN in 1990), “human rights” is understood as shariah only. According to that definition, the video is a violation of “human rights.”
The statement also urges the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation–which has already taken steps to implement a Ten Year Programme to curtail speech considered blasphemous toward Islam through international law–to “adopt lawsuits” aimed at circumscribing free speech rights in non-Muslim countries. Alarmingly, the Obama State Department has already indicated its willingness to participate in discussions along these lines, in a series of high-level meetings called the “Istanbul Process.”
Wednesday, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the OIC, pressed again for what would, in effect, be shariah anti-blasphemy laws, calling on the international community to “come out of hiding from behind the excuse of freedom of expression” and adopt “an international code of conduct for media and social media to disallow the dissemination of incitement material.”
The 86-year-old Qaradawi, whose notorious exhortations to jihadist violence against Jews and Americans are widely available on YouTube, is an international Islamic phenomenon; he is known as the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief jurist and, as the host of al Jazeera’s “Shariah and Life,” his sermons reach an estimated 60 million viewers worldwide.
The full text of the IUMS statement is below.