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...."
Speaking Out in the Middle EastThat 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...."
- 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
- 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'
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:
- "Mideasterners fed up with unreasonable edicts"
Middle East Online (September 19, 2008)
- "Arabs Denounce Cleric's Edict to Kill Satellite TV Station Owners"
FOXNews (September 19, 2008)
- "Sheikh's TV fatwa is a symptom of the cancer of extremism"
The National (September 17, 2008)
- "Surveying the Arab World for Ramadan's Best and Worst"
About.com (September 16, 2008) Mickey Mouse must die: Saudi Arabian cleric"
- "Mickey Mouse must die, says Saudi Arabian cleric"
Daily Telegraph (September 15, 2008)
- "Cleric issues fatwa against TV networks"
AME (United Arab Emirates) (September 14, 2008)
- "Saudi official: Death for 'immoral' network owners"
International Herald Tribune (September 14, 2008)
- "Saudi fatwa on 'immoral' satellite channels"
Sify news (September 13, 2008)
DNA (Daily News & Analysis) (September 16, 2008)