Last week, one of the most respected clerics in Shia Islam, Lebanon’s grand ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, condemned the perpetrators of an attack against pilgrims in Iraq as “murderers and animals” and called for the repudiation of a school of thought that it was permissible to spill the blood of Muslims “who embrace another doctrine, or believe in alternative political views”.
While in this case the victims – as well as the attackers – were Muslim, Fadlullah, one of the Muslim world’s few Grand Ayatollahs (they have the authority to make legal decisions within the confines of Islamic law for followers and lower-rank clerics) was condemning the phenomenon of “takfir”, which sees some militant Muslims regard non-believers as a legitimate target.
If you do not remember reading or hearing about his comments that is probably because you did not. His words, reported by Reuters, might have been expected to be picked up by the same media which regularly feature writers bemoaning a lack of moderate Muslims. But there was no mention of his strong words in the British papers, their websites or that of the BBC.
Admittedly, Fadlallah’s comments were made in reference to an attack that would not have raised much of a stir outside of Iraq, immune as we have become to the violence still blighting the country.
But can you remember such a senior figure in Islam, especially one who has called for a boycott of Israeli and US goods, ever hitting out at “silence in the Islamic world over these criminal operations which annihilate children, women and the elderly, from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq”?
The intention of this post is not to hurl wild allegations of Islamophobia at the press – a number of media organisations picked up on Turkey’s attempt to create a modern interpretation of Islam, and it even made it on to the Sun’s discussion board.
But if a leading Muslim cleric had called for a holy war against moderates, would the media not have told us about that?