The fatwa reads:

“There is no doubt that President Assad’s regime in Syria is oppressive, unjust and brutal, and has committed numerous atrocities against its own people. The same is true of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) or self-styled ‘Caliphate', formerly known as ‘The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’: it is an oppressive and tyrannical group. The IS persecution and massacres of Shia Muslims, Christians and Yazidis is abhorrent and opposed to Islamic teachings and the Islamic tolerance displayed by great empires such as the Mughals and Ottomans. [Islamic State] is a heretical, extremist organisation and it is religiously prohibited (haram) to support or join it; furthermore, it is an obligation on British Muslims to actively oppose its poisonous ideology, especially when this is promoted within Britain. British and other EU citizens are bound by their duties to their home countries according to Islamic theology and jurisprudence: it is therefore prohibited (haram) to travel to fight with any side in Syria, including non-state actors, since this is forbidden by laws in EU countries.” See here. (The reason I have had to use the Times of Israel is that it is the only online source I've seen that actually quotes the fatwa.)

Authored by Sheik Usama Hasan, a former imam from east London, the imams, from Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Leicester and London, included Sheik Qamaruzzaman Azmi, secretary general of the World Islamic Mission; and Sheik Muhammad Shahid Raza, executive secretary of the UK Muslim Law Shariah Council and head imam at Leicester Central Mosque. “We oppose Isis [Islamic State], and anybody who is supporting Isis will see our position,” said Mufti Abdul Kadir Barakatullah, a member of the UK Shariah Council.

Let me start by saying that I welcome such a fatwa (even though I have severe reservations about their use).

But there are other reservations that must be aired:

“Islamic tolerance displayed by ... the Mughuls”. Does that include all the massacres of Hindus in India? If so, then IS is also quite “tolerant”. If, when IS cones a-calling, you are willing to convert to Islam then you do get to keep your head on your shoulders. You may even be allowed to keep your head if you pay the Jizya (not that you will be able to pay it for long of course), or if you flee for your life with just the clothes on your back. And let's be fair: non-Muslims have kept their lives (though nothing else) by doing just that.

The most tolerant of the Mughul emperors was “Ackbar the great” (though many Indians might challenge the idea that he was truly “tolerant” or “great” at all). Akbar earned the soubriquet “the apostate” after his death because he deviated from Islamic orthodoxy. The Moghul emperors who were highly thought of (at least in Muslim circles) were generally those who were most oppressive and tyrannical.

“Islamic tolerance displayed by ... the Ottomans”. Things like Devshirme (which “taxed” Christian families of their sons - for forced conversion, training as soldiers and used them to oppress non-Muslim minorities - and their daughters for sex-slaves) and the near genocide of the Armenian Christians perchance?

Again, if these are included in the “tolerance” of truly Islamic societies, then IS ain't so bad, or perhaps I should say “is no worse” - it has, for example, (so far) failed to exterminate the Yazidis despite a pretty determined effort and has taken non-Muslim women as sex-slaves, both perfectly reflecting the “Islamic tolerance displayed by the Mughuls and the Ottomans”.

According to Christian and Yazidi survivors of IS massacres, it was not the IS “soldiers” who were carrying out the massacres but the “moderate Muslims” amongst whom the victims had lived for decades. And in case anyone thinks that this was done unwillingly, I have to add that their reports indicate that their murderers were gleefully screaming “Allahu Akbar!” at the tops of their voices whilst committing these atrocities; thus not the actions of those forced to do something utterly repulsive to them.

What bothers me most is that the fatwa does not make a single reference to the Islamic sources, all we have are some vague allusions:

IS “is a heretical, extremist organisation and it is religiously prohibited (haram) to support or join it”; okay, but WHY is it heretical and/or extremist? Nothing it has done has been that different to the actions “displayed by the Mughuls and Ottomans” from time to time. And, importantly, those periods of tolerance occurred well after those empires were set up.

As the Koran says: “It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he had made a great slaughter in the land.” (K.8:67) and what is good enough for ol'Mo is good enough for his faithful followers in IS whilst they are in the process of carving out their own mini-empire. I am sure that IS could, would and does quote many more proof-texts to fully justify their position as entirely Islamic.

“... furthermore, it is an obligation on British Muslims to actively oppose its poisonous ideology, especially when this is promoted within Britain.” Why especially within Britain? Could it be that promoting this ideology in Britain runs the risk (minuscule though it may be) of a violent back-lash against Muslims (i.e. the sort of murderous backlash that Muslims regularly enact against any 'insult' to Islam in most Muslim majority Countries) – “Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you.” (K.2:185 and doctrine of Tayseer). Perhaps, therefore IS's ideology could prove “poisonous” for U.K. Muslims and so should be opposed (at least in words).

“British and other EU citizens are bound by their duties to their home countries according to Islamic theology and jurisprudence:”. What Country do many U.K. Muslims (for example) think of as their home? Some certainly do see it as the U.K., but others do not, rather regarding their “home country” as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, etc. So to which Country will those Muslims feel “bound by their duties”? And since many of these countries actively persecute followers of other faiths, what level of duty to others are we really considering here for those who think of themselves as “Pakistani-British” for example? The duty they showed to white girls in Rochdale, Rotherham, Oxford and some 27 other towns and cities perhaps?

“ it is therefore prohibited (haram) to travel to fight with any side in Syria...” What about Iraq where most of the worst atrocities have been committed? From this it is NOT banned to travel there to assist IS (remember that this is a legal ruling and the words have to be used and meant precisely) – for all that IS is “poisonous”, “heretical” etc.

“...this is forbidden by laws in EU countries.” Muslims are always telling us kafirs that Sharia law is “Allah's law” and as such stands above the “man-made” laws of mere Countries – yet now the Imams are appealing to EU law and not Sharia?

Unless they are claiming “Darura” (necessity) then this is, in and of itself, heresy. If sharia law bans such actions, there is no need to appeal to EU law and if sharia law doesn't ban such actions, then EU law, which by definition does not run in the Middle East, is irrelevant. So why appeal to a man-made and largely irrelevant law when you claim to have “Allah's law” on your side?

Still, when all is said and done, one has to welcome this assertion that IS is un-Islamic. I call it an assertion because there are absolutely NO concrete references to the Koran, the ahadith (which IS etc. use a lot, let's not forget), the Sunnah or Sharia.

IS and other “Islamic terrorist groups” do use the Koran, Hadith, Sunnah and Sharia to justify their positions on the other hand.

Now call me cynical if you wish; but were I a Muslim I would be more inclined to believe those who could quote the foundational documents of my religion in support of their position than I would by those who were just saying (in effect) “in my opinion...”.

Thus I find it deeply worrying that “moderate Muslims” seem unable to reply in kind. We are assured that the writers and signatories to this fatwa are well-educated in “Islamic theology and jurisprudence” so surely they must know all those wonderful verses of peace, tolerance, the brotherhood of all mankind that Muslims tell us kafirs abound in the Islamic canon, so why do they not quote any?

It is a crowning irony when the only objection to IS that is rooted in that canon comes from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's leader. According to reports he stated that IS was not an Islamic state because it is “defective” in terms of Sharia-compliance.

That al-Baghdadi had declared himself and not Zawahiri “Caliph” had nothing to do with Zawahiri's statement of course – but at least Zawahiri (apparently) based his repudiation on Sharia, thus it carries at least some weight with other orthodox Muslims, unlike the “leading Muslims” who issued a fatwa – an Islamic religious ruling - that ignores both Islamic law and the Islamic canon.

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