The Sheikh and the Fatwa – Partners in Terror

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is the founder of Hamas, the Palestinian social movement, political party and terrorist organization responsible for bomb attacks and suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis.

In 1989, during the first Palestinian Intifada, Hamas kidnapped and killed two Israeli soldiers. Israel arrested Yassin, and a military court sentenced him to life in prison. Then, in 1997, Israel decided to free the partially paralyzed Sheikh whose health was on the wane.

The military wing of Hamas is known as Izzedine al-Quassam. Sheikh Yassin claims he has nothing to do with Izzedine al-Quassam, but within Hamas the line between “social” and “military” is very fuzzy. Economic support is funneled through Hamas to the family of every “martyr” who dies in an attack on Israel . According to Yassin, Saudi Arabia provides $5,500, Iraq supplies $10,000, the Palestinian Authority $2,000, and Hamas supplies $2,000 directly. And recently, the West learned that Saddam is now supplying as much as $25,000 per suicide death.

On Feb. 17, 2003 , the line got even fuzzier. In an interview on Fox News Channel with Jennifer Griffin, Sheikh Yassin threw down the gauntlet to the American “invaders of Iraq .” In the past, Hamas had not specifically targeted Americans. In this interview, however, which took place shortly after an Israeli tank was destroyed by a 200-pound Hamas bomb, killing its four crewmen, Sheikh Yassin issued a Fatwa wherein he ordered all Muslims to kill Americans wherever they are found, if America sets one foot on Iraqi soil.

When Fox reporter Griffin , who had to dress in featureless Muslim garb complete with head covering in order to conduct the interview, asked him about his ties to Saddam Hussein, an apparent apostate to Islam, Yassin proclaimed that the United States was trying to overthrow a democratic regime by force, against its own principles. That was the point where he issued the Fatwa.

Let us divert for a moment to discuss exactly what a Fatwa is, and what it means when a Muslim cleric issues one.

Islam is based on two writings, the Qur’an, revealed by Allah to Mohammad during the 7th century, and the Sunnah, which records the Prophet’s life. Taken together, the Qur’an and Sunnah form the basis for Islamic jurisprudence, very much like our Constitution forms the basis for our secular laws.

The Shari’ah, which is analogous to codified law in Western society, consists of the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and a constantly evolving collection of Fatwas or rulings that deal with every aspect of Islamic life from ideology to practical daily matters. Throughout Islamic history, Imams and Mullahs have issued Fatwas, which have the force of law among Muslims, similar to a ruling by a Western court. As in the West, these rulings can be confirmed or overturned by a higher authority, by issuing a Fiqh.

This is the gist of why the Osama bin Laden tape that was released to the world on Dec. 21, 2001 , remains so important. The tape contained several significant Fatwas, and made reference to several well-established Fiqhs, in effect linking them to the Fatwas. Because these Fatwas have gone unchallenged by higher Islamic authority, they are now part of Islamic law, and must be observed by all Muslims.

And this is also why Palestinian mothers so willingly sacrifice their sons. Not only do they receive between $25,000 and $50,000 funneled through Hamas, they have been told with absolute authority that by taking this action, a suicide bomber is guaranteed an exalted position in Paradise – no ifs, ands, or buts. A Fatwa not only unchallenged by a Fiqh, but reinforced by one, is better than money in the bank.

And in this case, they get both.

Another element that determines the “strength” or ultimate authority of a Fatwa, is who issues it. Bin Laden has established serious credibility in the Muslim world since 9/11. Several other militant Sheikhs share his exalted plane, including Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman (the blind Egyptian cleric convicted in the first World Trade Center bombing who still manages to get his Fatwas into the hands of militant Muslims), and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the subject of this article.

To summarize, what we have is a highly respected Muslim cleric on live, worldwide television, issuing a Fatwa directing all Muslims to kill Americans wherever they be found, if America sets one foot into Iraq .

This is not idle talk, saber-rattling rhetoric. This is a serious threat to every individual American citizen. This is a threat every bit as real as that posed by a terrorist strolling down Broadway in New York City with explosives strapped to his middle. More than a day has passed, and not one Muslim cleric has stepped forward with a Fiqh canceling Yassin’s Fatwa. In my book, this puts every Muslim cleric in the same boat as Yassin.

America cannot let this challenge pass without consequences. By issuing this Fatwa, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin has put himself in the same league as bin Laden. The difference is, we know exactly where to find Yassin. And we know exactly where to find the thousands of other Muslim clerics who have decided to let Yasim’s Fatwa stand, who have decided, by not issuing a canceling Fiqh, to lend their tacit support to this horrific command that must be followed by all faithful Muslims.

President Bush said it best when, shortly after 9/11 he said: “If you are not with us, you are with them.”

Sheikh Yassin called for your death, for my death, for our family’s deaths. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out how to prevent this from happening. I trust the Bush administration understands this clearly, and that it knows what to do about it.

(For further information on how Islam functions in the modern world, see the DefenseWatch articles “War and Religion – Islam’s Embrace of Violence,” Dec. 5, 2001; “Battle Still Raging for Islamic World Support,” Dec. 26, 2001; “Violence and Terror – Fundamental to all Islam,” March 20, 2002; “Bid the Little Ones Come Unto Me – Forbid them Not,” Apr. 3, 2002; and “Did Bin Laden Motivate the D.C. Serial Shooter?” Oct. 30, 2002 .)

Robert G. Williscroft is DefenseWatch Navy Editor

Submariner, diver, scientist, author & adventurer. 22 mos underwater, a yr in the equatorial Pacific, 3 yrs in the Arctic, and a yr at the South Pole. BS Marine Physics & Meteorology, PhD in Engineering. Authors non-fiction, Cold War thrillers, and hard science fiction. Lives in Centennial, CO.

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