Seemingly Moderate Jordanian Cleric not so Moderate After all
A year ago a Jordanian cleric, Ali Hassan Al-Halabi, was asked whether it was always permissible to kill Jews in Palestine. The Sheikh responded, “Someone who provides you with protection, electricity, and water, who transfers you money, and you work for him, taking his money – and then you kill him?! Even if he’s a Jew?!” He went on “This killing is permissible during a declared war, but if you both pledge for the safety of one another, you are not allowed to betray and kill him…There are Shari’a agreements that protect people’s rights and lives.”
He was then asked by another person whether the Shari’a agreement also applied to Jewish soldiers. The Sheikh made no distinction between a Jewish civilian and a soldier, arguing that a Jewish soldier will only kill a Palestinian if the latter attacks him and if unthreatened will not harm a Palestinian.
This fatwa was just recently translated and reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) most likely because it provides an example of a Muslim cleric who was advocating for peaceful relations between Jews and Palestinians based on Shari’a law. Such a Muslim advocate would be greatly welcomed to help pacify the “knife intifada” currently occurring in the West Bank and Jerusalem where Palestinians have been frequently attacking Jews with knives and firearms, killing at least 19 Israelis, with at least 70 Palestinians being killed by Israeli security forces.
While a Muslim cleric ostensibly promoting peace between Muslims and Jews is to be greatly welcomed, when one investigates further into Al-Halabi’s fatwa we learn that it is not inspired by a love of peace or tolerance. In a second video that has just been translated and released by MEMRI, Al-Halabi clarifies his fatwa.
On November 3 the Sheikh was asked by a caller “when was the Israeli soldier ever not ready [for war]?” His response started with pointing out that “the Jews are occupiers and plunderers. They are people [prone to] betrayal, fraud, cunning, and deceit. They are the slayers of the prophets and the messengers.” Then he spoke of the reality of the situation in Palestine, in which Palestinians were not currently strong enough to fight against the Israelis and how many of the former were economically dependent upon the latter.
He then went on, “I am not saying this [economic dependence of Palestinians on the Jews], as some people mistakenly understood it, as praise for the Jews, who deserve nothing but more and more curses. I am talking about the reality. What will be the outcome of such an asymmetric war, if not, sadly, total defeat?” Thus Al-Halabi’s fatwa for prohibiting Palestinians from attacking Israelis is not born out of a desire of goodwill towards the Jews, or with the intention of a lasting peace with them, but out of pragmatic considerations.
To illustrate Al-Halabi’s contempt for the Jews, who he refers to as “the brothers of apes and pigs,” he states, “Yes, we are happy when the Jews are humiliated and defeated…By God, a Muslim’s fingernail is worth more to us than the heads of a thousand Jews.” He also gave a description of Jihad pertaining to the Jews. “The Jihad against the Jews,” which involves fighting against them and liberating Palestine from them, “is a mandatory Jihad, incumbent upon any Muslim country, as upon any Muslim who accepts Allah as the Lord and Islam as his religion.”
So it is the duty of all Muslims where and when capable to wage Jihad against the Jews, but Al-Halabi being rather pragmatic and realistic argues that the Palestinians are not strong enough to successfully resist and defeat the Jews, partly due to their own weakness, partly because “America has Israel’s back,” and partly because the Muslim umma is disunited. In such a situation it is more prudent to abide by the Shari’a agreement then to indiscriminately murder Jews.
Upon hearing Al-Halabi’s fatwa presented in the first MEMRI video, many were undoubtedly glad to hear a moderate Muslim voice advocating for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. After all this is what most want to hear. They want to believe that inherently Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, notwithstanding the daily killing conducted in the name of Islam. So anytime they hear a Muslim cleric say something peaceful, they blindly believe it for it validates their preconceived notions.
But unfortunately initial appearances can be deceiving as the second video shows, from which we learn that Al-Halabi issued a fatwa condemning Palestinians from killing Jews for pragmatic reasons, as the Palestinians are too weak to successfully fight against Israel. This indicates that in the future, if the Palestinians are stronger and the umma united, that Al-Halabi would support war against Israel if it was ‘legally’ declared.
The most revealing aspect of these videos is that they help to illustrate why many Palestinians have a hatred for Israel and the Jews. Lets be clear, Israel is not perfect, and while many Christians, particularly evangelicals in America, believe the Jews in Israel to be God’s chosen people, we should remember that God did not chose them because they were perfect. The Palestinians have cause for ill will towards the Israelis and vice versa. But the problem is not that the Palestinians have ill will towards the Israelis, but that they have complete hatred towards them.
This hatred is largely a product of the views propagated by at the very least certain elements of Islam as shown by Al-Halabi’s stinging characterizations of Jews. If you are a Palestinian and from youth have heard that the Jews are “accursed,” or “the brothers of apes and pigs,” or that “a Muslim’s fingernail is worth more to us than the heads of a thousand Jews” is it little wonder that you will grow up to hate Jews? If you are repeatedly told that it is an obligatory duty to wage Jihad against Jews, that you being a good Muslim depends on it, then will you not when you get the chance violently strike out at Jew?
Many people lament the situation in the Gaza and the West Bank and hope that somehow peace can be achieved between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They want the enactment of UN decrees and resolutions, they call for the end of violence, they condemn the Israeli government and propose the establishment of a two state solution. But sadly none of this will lead to peace. Regardless of what Israel should do to treat the Palestinians better, until the latter lose their hatred for the Jews, there will not be peace in the Holy Land. This hatred is not a product of mistreatment and victimization, although they undoubtedly may play a role, it is predominantly a product of Islamic religious teaching, such as those of Al-Halabi. It is only when the imams and clerics of Palestine and the Islamic world cease their vitriol and calumny towards the Jews that we will even have only the possibility of peace in Israel and Palestine.
 The video of the question and answer session can be found at http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5143.htm while a transcript of the video can be found at http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/5143.htm
 A fatwa is an official religious ruling on matters of Islamic law. In a sense it can be thought of as an answer given by an imam or cleric to a question asked a Muslim.
 It should be noted that many Muslims associate Jews with apes and pigs based on passages in the Koran and in the Hadith. For more information on this subject see http://www.memri.org/report/en/print754.htm
 We should realize that regardless of Al-Halabi’s own views on Islamic law and jihad at least one other Muslim cleric, a Palestinian named Imad Hamatu, disagreed with his fatwa arguing that Jews do not have any Shari’a rights. See http://www.memri.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5161.htm