This article was originally published in the Norwegian daily Vårt Land 2005.01.17



Theology of Terror in The Islamic Federation (“Det islamske forbundet”)


By Jens Tomas Anfindsen, editor, HonestThinking



One of Norway’s most influential Muslim leaders, Basim Ghozlan, Director of Det Islamske Forbundet (DIF), was the object of some attention last fall after having publicly supported suicide attacks on civilian Jews in Palestine. The home page of the organization he is leading features articles of Ghozlan justifying the suicide operations of Palestinian terror organizations such as Hamas. Ghozlan maintains that he is against any form of violence directed towards innocent civilians, but supports armed resistance against adult settlers. However, Ghozlan’s employment of the term “settler” is evidently such that it refers to all Jews living in Palestine, i.e., including those living in the State of Israel.


Ghozlan’s position on suicide bombers is in agreement with that of a majority of Sunni-Muslim leaders world wide. The position is a result of theological-political deliberations, not just emotions and rage, and it is well worth having a closer look at its ideological foundation.


Yusuf al-Qaradawi is widely considered to be the single most powerful Islamic ideologist in the world, and at any rate he is the most influential person in Sunni-Islam when it comes to questions of Islamic jurisdiction. He was born in Egypt in 1926, as a young man he experienced persecution as member of The Muslim Brotherhood, fled his homeland and settled in Qatar in 1961, where he still lives. In Europe Qaradawi exerts considerable formal influence as Director of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, an organization which seeks to become the official mouthpiece of Islam in Europe. Further, Qaradawi is the chief professional leader of the European Institute of Human Sciences, Europe’s largest educational centre for imams, located in France. Above all Qaradawi’s importance stem from the enormous authority and respect conferred upon him by ordinary Muslims world wide, and it is fair to say that his weekly, 1½ hours Sunday talk shows on Al Jazzeera, provides him with goods means of communicating to them. 


The Director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, Dr. Azzam al Tamimi (recently seen on BBC’s “Hard Talk”), pertinently expressed the importance of Qaradawi:


When you talk about Sheikh Qaradawi, you talk about an audience of hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world, someone who really creates public opinion. …  Whenever Mr. Qaradawi issues a Fatwa, that Fatwa is recognized in hundreds of places around the world the next day.


Qaradawi has issued something in the order of 150 Fatwas, and some of these are particularly relevant to suicide bombers.


Suicide is really strictly forbidden within Islam. The Quran promises eternal hell for the person committing suicide. Killing innocent civilians is also forbidden within Islam. In Islamic theories of just war, we can find detailed instructions on just when civilian casualties are acceptable. This is restricted to situations where loss of civilian lives is an undesirable but unavoidable consequence of hitting military targets (e.g. civilians inside a military compound which is being stormed). It is, therefore, puzzling that organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizes and executes suicide operations against civilian Jews and, in addition, claim that the suicide bombers will reap particularly pleasant rewards for their deeds. To highlight the paradox in this situation it is worth stressing that these organizations are not run by rabid illiterates, but by well educated Islamists with an ideological basis in traditional, Islamic law. One of the main architects behind the ideology of suicide bombings is even a highly learned scholar with a doctor’s degree of Islamic law from the Al Azhar University of Cairo, namely Yusuf al-Qaradawi.     


Qaradawi has issued several Fatwas which define all adult Jews living in Palestine as “occupants” and “combatants”, and therefore legitimate targets of war. These Fatwas contend that suicide bombers really do not commit suicide, but die as an accidental consequence of carrying out their operations, something which counts as a glorious sacrifice in holy war (Jihad), qualifying for martyrdom.


The rationale for considering all adult Jews in Palestine as combatants is the fact that adult Israelis, men and women, are registered in the Israeli Defense Force as reservists, even in their civilian life. With reference to Jewish children, Qaradawi makes clear that even if these cannot be killed as combatants, it is acceptable that some Jewish children be killed in vengeance for Arab children having been killed by Jews. At this point one must add that Qaradawi condemns the killing or persecution of Jews which are not participating in the “occupation of Palestine”. 


Concerning the meaning of his saying that Jews ”occupy Palestine”, this must be understood on the rationale of Islamic Law, not that of the United Nations. Firstly, Qaradawi is referring to the geographical Palestine, i.e., today’s Jordan, the West Bank, Israel, and Gaza. So not only settlements or land seized in 1967 war and since held by Israel, is considered occupied, but also the State of Israel herself. According to a standard interpretation of Islamic law, Israeli territory counts as occupied land for the simple reason that it has been under Islamic jurisprudence previously, something which makes it waqf, that is, eternal Islamic property. The situation is thus somewhat analogue to what we would have seen if Christian leaders were organizing suicide operations in Turkey in order to liberate Istanbul, which fell from Christianity in 1453. 


Qaradawi’s Fatwas have had a pivotal role in furnishing world wide Muslim opinion with a sense of theological justification for the Palestinian suicide bombings. Two important Fatwas in this regard are: “Amalyat Hamas Jihad Waqatalaha Shuhada” (Hamas Operations are Jihad and those who die [in carrying them out] are martyrs) and “El-amalijat al-istishadiya a’zam suwar al-jihad” (Martyr operations are the highest form of Jihad). A comprehensive explanation of Qaradawi’s theological legitimization of suicide bombings can also be found in a report in the London-based newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat of July 19th 2003, as well as in the Conference Report from the European Council of Fatwa and Research’s meeting in Dublin, September 2000. For web references directly to these sources and additional information on Qaradawi, the reader is invited to visit


Returning now to the local arena in Norway: In his capacity as Director of the DIF, Basim Ghozlan has repeatedly characterized Qaradawi as being one of Islam’s most eminent scholars. He routinely refers to Qaradawi with honorific titles such as “Sheikh”, “The learned and most respected”, and the like. In several articles found on the DIF’s web pages, Ghozlan employs statements from Qaradawi as source for theological-judicial argumentation, and in a debate with Walid al-Kubaisi in Dagbladet last year, Ghozlan could even inform us that DIF has received a special recommendation from Qaradawi concerning the building of a mosque in Oslo (apparently a sort of certificate aimed at attracting foreign donors). Also, Ghozlan sees no objections to the fact that the Oslo-based Imam Meboub ur-Rahman is a member of The European Caouncil for Fatwa and Research, an organization headed by Qaradawi himself. That Ghozlan also acknowledges Qaradawi’s Fatwas on ”martyr operations” is a highly natural assumption which Ghozlan should be promptly pushed to confirm or deny.


At any rate, it is quite thought provoking (to use a careful expression) that a Norwegian Muslim leader close ranks with Muslim leaders world wide in giving moral support and religious legitimacy to Palestinians blowing up Jewish civilians as well as themselves, all for the purpose of liberating Jerusalem and Israel from “Zionist occupation”. Simultaneously it is extremely frustrating that Islamsk Råd Norge (The Islamic Council of Norway), an umbrella organization for 25 Norwegian, Muslim member organizations, refuses to distance itself from Ghozlan’s public statements on the issue. This causes a rather troubled situation in which Norwegian politicians face some tough dilemmas concerning the limits of the freedoms of religion and expression. Our Secretary of Justice, Odd Einar Dørum, carries a heavy responsibility here.   


Ghozlan’s support of suicide bombers is a warning as well as a forceful reminder of some extremely difficult problems related to Norway’s impoverished means of coping with radical Islamist elements in a rapidly growing Muslim population. Until further these problems can be freely debated and handled democratically. Yet we see that the debate over these issues is consistently choked for fear that it might stigmatize Muslims and obstruct integration, and a clammy hand of self-censorship and political correctness is still largely suppressing an open discussion about Islam in our society(*). Consequently, the most fundamental of democratic processes, a free and truth-seeking debate, is severely obstructed with regard to an issue which is commonly recognized as the single greatest challenge to our society, nation and civilization as a whole. It is a fair assumption that such a debate, if it ever comes, will not present us with quick and easy answers. But we can be certain that suppressing problems will not take us anywhere. 



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* This was largely true in January of 2005. No longer so. Not only did the year 2005 see HonestThinking achieve some groundbreaking results with respect to tearing down the “wall of silence” surrounding the entire immigration/integration/Islam-issue (for which we received the predictable garbage pail of verbal abuse). But the Muhammed cartoon-crisis at the break of 2006, however unfortunate, brought about the positive result of opening the Norwegian media to an hitherto unseen degree of public debating over Islam. Nowadays there hardly passes a day without an op. ed., feature article, reader’s letter, or the equivalent, delivering thought provoking news and analysis with respect to Islam-related topics. The times they are indeed a-changing!