Friday, September 19, 2008

Chief Saudi Judge: Death to Network Owners!

Okay, you've heard about 'death to the mice! Death to the great Satan Mickey!' (No, Saudi Arabia's Sheikh Muhammad Munajid didn't say that, but he did identify Mickey Mouse as "one of Satan's soldiers.")

Followers of Islam now have the go-ahead to kill television network owners: immoral ones, that is.

It's Okay to Kill Network Owners, Says Saudi Cleric and Judge

"Riyadh: Saudi cleric Saleh al-Luhaidan, Chairman of the Saudi Supreme Judicial Council, has issued a fatwa permitting the murder of the owners of Arabic satellite TV channels which broadcast programmes that encourage immorality, media reports said on Friday." ("Saudi fatwa on 'immoral' satellite channels" Sify news (September 13, 2008).)

After the head of Saudi Arabia's highest tribunal declared open season on network owners, an unnamed cleric said that al Lihedan's edict wasn't a good idea. This other cleric said that it encouraged terrorism and, as the Associated Press put it, "allows 'the enemies of Islam' to portray the faith as one that favors murder."

It's hard to say whether that reality check made a difference, but last Sunday the Saudi cleric/judge clarified his position:

"RIYADH, Saudi Arabia: A senior Saudi official said Sunday that owners of satellite TV networks that show "immoral" content should be brought to trial and sentenced to death if other penalties don't deter them from airing such broadcasts.

"The comments by Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan, the chief of the kingdom's highest tribunal, the Supreme Judiciary Council, were an attempt to explain a fatwa, or decree, he issued last week, in which he said just that it was permissible to kill the network's owners." ("Saudi official: Death for 'immoral' network owners" International Herald Tribune (September 14, 2008).)

That's a slight improvement. At least Sheik Saleh al Lihedan thinks that erring owners should be given a fair trial before being executed. On the other hand, since various flavors of Islam regard everything from teddy bears to trousers as "immoral," I'd say that anyone who owns or runs a television network in the Middle East would be well-advised to leave, fast.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Sheik Saleh al Lihedan made his 'go ahead, waste on a daily radio program, "Light in the Path," where he and others pass rulings on what is permissible under Islamic law.

Excerpt from the International Herald Tribune, September 14, 2008:
  • "...Al-Lihedan's edict was broadcast Thursday during the daily "Light in the Path" radio program in which he and others pass rulings on what is permissible under Islamic law.
  • "One caller asked about Islam's view of the owners of satellite TV channels that show 'bad programs' during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which began two weeks ago.
  • " 'I want to advise the owners of these channels, who broadcast calls for such indecency and impudence ... and I warn them of the consequences,' al-Lihedan said. 'What does the owner of these networks think, when he provides seduction, obscenity and vulgarity?'
  • " 'Those calling for corrupt beliefs, certainly it's permissible to kill them,' al-Lihedan added. 'Those calling for sedition, those who are able to prevent it but don't, it is permissible to kill them.'
  • "Al-Lihedan, 79, did not name a particular TV channel or programs in the radio show, which was taped a couple of months ago.
  • "On Sunday, he said his 'advice' was aimed at owners who broadcast witchcraft, indecent programs, shows that mock scholars or the religious police and comedies that are not appropriate for Ramadan...."
That "indecent programs" and "not appropriate for Ramadan" still leaves many opportunities for offing offending owners.

Speaking Out in the Middle East

That unnamed cleric who said that the 'death to network owners' fatwa wasn't good for public relations isn't alone. An article in Middle East Online (September 19, 2008), "Mideasterners fed up with unreasonable edicts," reported:
  • "Observers say harsh religious views are increasingly annoying Middle Easterners, and although Muslim clerics usually get the lion's share of scrutiny in the media, Christian and Jewish liberals are equally unhappy with their own communities' religious figures.
  • "Israeli women had expressed anger at discrimination by rabbis in issues relating to divorce, their seating in certain bus lines, and even their careers...."
Two things struck me about that article.
  1. The allegation that people at street level in the Middle East are "fed up" with "unreasonable edicts" from Islamic leaders. There's an implication that Muslims in that part of the world are starting to think about what they're being told
  2. What seems to me to be an invocation of moral equivalence. 'Sure, Muslim leaders tell us it's okay to kill network owners: but those Jews discriminate against women. And homosexuals'
Middle East Online isn't the only outfit expressing concern about the Saudi Sheikh's fatwa. The National, published in Dubai, ran an op-ed by Ayman Safadi: "Sheikh's TV fatwa is a symptom of the cancer of extremism." The author identifies Middle Eastern governments' typical policies toward the wacky side of Islam as "appeasement." And, doesn't use the 'Jews and Christians are just as bad' argument.

I was impressed by this insight: "...The lightness with which the Sheikh views human life is shocking. But equally disturbing is that a man who does not blink at issuing what could amount to death sentences against a large number of people remains in a position of power – and in a country whose leadership has recently launched a global effort to promote moderate and tolerant Islam...."

Oddly, Ayman Safadi wrote that "the Sheikh retracted his statement," which may be true. On the other hand, Sheikh Saleh al Lihedan's Sunday statement, as translated, didn't seem so much a retraction as a clarification.

Maybe the Sheikh made another statement, that was a retraction.

Crisis in the Kasbah?

I get the impression that Islam, at least the sort practiced in the Middle East, has been coasting along for centuries with a comfortable mix of tradition and antique scholarship.

Customs that were ancient when Abraham was born have worked quite well. For men. Who didn't wear trousers. And didn't tick off the local imam.

When a speedy camel was the fastest communication medium available, and the pronouncements were in a language that very few outsiders knew, or were interested in, it was possible to pass every 'death to the mice,' 'death to the network owners,' 'death to whoever I don't like' fatwa as true Islam.

Provided that enough of the locals agreed with the imam.

That was then.

This is the Information Age. Words travel fast and far: and get translated into more widely-understood languages.

That spells trouble for people who like the good old days, when a man could be executed for wearing trousers.

On the other hand, I think this is a great opportunity for serious Muslims, who may want to re-evaluate just what Islam is.

In the news: Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.

6 comments:

John Maszka said...

The War on Terrorism is a Lie

The war on terrorism is a lie because terrorism is not an enemy, it is a strategy.

Terrorism is a strategy employed by weaker states and non-state actors when fighting an asymmetric war against a more powerful opponent.

No state or non-state actor fights a conventional war against an enemy it has no chance of defeating conventionally; hence it fights asymmetrically. In other words, it employs the tactic of terrorism.

Since the U.S. has declared that it will maintain military superiority without challenge, it has done everything in its power to do just that. The US defense budget for 2008 is some $700 billion. There is no single state or non-state actor on this planet that can defeat the United States in a conventional war.

Therefore, any single state or non-state actor that will not accept American hegemony will be forced to fight an asymmetric war with the United States. That is, it will be forced to employ terrorism. The war on terrorism is a war against any state or non-state actor not willing to accept US hegemony. It is not a war on terrorism at all, but a war to promote and defend US imperialism.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

John Maszka,

You're consistent, I'll give you credit for that. This is essentially the same comment you left on "Anthrax Letters: Dotting the 'I's, Crossing the 'T's."

As I've said before, if one assumes that America is an imperialistic warmonger oppressor, then you're right.

I don't think that assumption is accurate, but I do recognize that a great many people cling to it very tightly.

dave100 said...

To bad we can't cough kill cough the US media's news directors.

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Brigid said...

Terrorism is a strategy. A vile, despicable strategy that depends on the killing of those who can't easily fight back.

It is a cowardly strategy and one that should be stomped out when possible.

If the leadership of the USA was the militant megalomaniac that it's so often depicted as this war would actually have gone a lot faster. Because there wouldn't be much of the Middle East left for terrorists to hide in.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

dave100,

I think I understand the sentiment.

I do not believe that most of America's traditional information gatekeepers, including those controlling news media, lie, or even intentionally distort the truth.

I do, however, think that they have a well-defined idea of what the world is supposed to be like, and tend to ignore data that contradicts that view.

About wanting to kill news directors: America doesn't work that way.

One way that America is different from many other places in the world is that people can criticize and even challenge the government, big companies, small companies, and models who break umbrellas, with relative impunity, if not guaranteed success.

Americans, by and large, don't kill people we don't agree with. And, given the mythology which liberal enthusiasts have created about people who don't agree with them, I don't think it's a good idea to even joke about assassination.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

As you said, actually being a warmonger imperialistic running dog would be so much easier.

Not as effective in the long run, I think, but easier.

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Blogroll

Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.