Fatwas, fatwas everywhere

Fatwas, fatwas everywhere — cartoons, quiz shows and now the pharaos of Egypt. Fatwahs against Salman Rushdie, yes. Fatwahs declaring it the duty of all devout Muslims to kill the 12 Danish cartoonists, yes. But fatwas against watching solar eclipses? Against King Tut and Queen Nefertiti? Against 'Who wants to be a millionaire?'

Well, the Grant Mufti of Egypt has just declared all statues to be un—Islamic and forbidden. The Grand Mufti is Egypt's top Islamic jurist, something like our Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

According to AFP

"Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country's top Islamic jurist, issued the religious edict which declared as un—Islamic the exhibition of statues in homes, basing the decision on texts in the hadith (sayings of the prophet). [....]

The fatwa did not specifically mention statues in museums or public places, but it condemned sculptors and their work.

... many fear the edict could prod Islamic fundamentalists to attack Egypt's thousands of ancient and pharaonic statues on show at tourist sites across the country.

"We don't rule out that someone will enter the Karnak temple in Luxor or any other pharaonic temple and blow it up on the basis of the fatwa," Gamal al—Ghitani, editor of the literary Akhbar al—Adab magazine, told AFP.

Gomaa had pointed to a passage from the hadith that stated: "Sculptors would be tormented most on Judgment Day," saying the text left no doubt that sculpting was "sinful" and using statues for decorating homes forbidden."

... the controversial Qatar—based Islamic scholar, Yussef al—Qaradawi, ... joined Gomaa in declaring that statues used for decoration are "haram" or un—Islamic.

"Islam proscribed statues, as long as they symbolise living entities such as human beings and animals," Qaradawi said on an Islamic website.

"Islam proscribed all that leads to paganism or smells of it, statues of ancient Egyptians included," he added.

The only exception, he said, was "children's toys."

A previous Grand Mufti Wasel "stirred a controversy in July 2001 for issuing a fatwa against a popular television show, the Arab version of "Who wants to be a millionaire?" that was airing on Egyptian television, saying it was forbidden by Islam.

"These contests are a modern form of betting," Wasel had said.

The show was eventually cancelled, although it was not clear if the move was related to the fatwa.

In another fatwa in May 2001, Wasel ruled that beauty pageants in which women appear half—naked in front of panels of male judges are haram. The authorities played deaf and Egypt continues to host them.

Wasel slapped a fatwa on watching solar eclipses and another on bullfights, but refused to support rights activists in their campaign to outlaw female genital mutilation."

But the fatwa against statues has roused a wave of criticism from Egyptians, including those who depend on the tourist industry.

"The wave of criticisms against the fatwa has put clerics on a collision course with intellectuals and artists, who say that such edicts only reinforce claims that Islam is against progress."

James Lewis

Fatwas, fatwas everywhere — cartoons, quiz shows and now the pharaos of Egypt. Fatwahs against Salman Rushdie, yes. Fatwahs declaring it the duty of all devout Muslims to kill the 12 Danish cartoonists, yes. But fatwas against watching solar eclipses? Against King Tut and Queen Nefertiti? Against 'Who wants to be a millionaire?'

Well, the Grant Mufti of Egypt has just declared all statues to be un—Islamic and forbidden. The Grand Mufti is Egypt's top Islamic jurist, something like our Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

According to AFP

"Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country's top Islamic jurist, issued the religious edict which declared as un—Islamic the exhibition of statues in homes, basing the decision on texts in the hadith (sayings of the prophet). [....]

The fatwa did not specifically mention statues in museums or public places, but it condemned sculptors and their work.

... many fear the edict could prod Islamic fundamentalists to attack Egypt's thousands of ancient and pharaonic statues on show at tourist sites across the country.

"We don't rule out that someone will enter the Karnak temple in Luxor or any other pharaonic temple and blow it up on the basis of the fatwa," Gamal al—Ghitani, editor of the literary Akhbar al—Adab magazine, told AFP.

Gomaa had pointed to a passage from the hadith that stated: "Sculptors would be tormented most on Judgment Day," saying the text left no doubt that sculpting was "sinful" and using statues for decorating homes forbidden."

... the controversial Qatar—based Islamic scholar, Yussef al—Qaradawi, ... joined Gomaa in declaring that statues used for decoration are "haram" or un—Islamic.

"Islam proscribed statues, as long as they symbolise living entities such as human beings and animals," Qaradawi said on an Islamic website.

"Islam proscribed all that leads to paganism or smells of it, statues of ancient Egyptians included," he added.

The only exception, he said, was "children's toys."

A previous Grand Mufti Wasel "stirred a controversy in July 2001 for issuing a fatwa against a popular television show, the Arab version of "Who wants to be a millionaire?" that was airing on Egyptian television, saying it was forbidden by Islam.

"These contests are a modern form of betting," Wasel had said.

The show was eventually cancelled, although it was not clear if the move was related to the fatwa.

In another fatwa in May 2001, Wasel ruled that beauty pageants in which women appear half—naked in front of panels of male judges are haram. The authorities played deaf and Egypt continues to host them.

Wasel slapped a fatwa on watching solar eclipses and another on bullfights, but refused to support rights activists in their campaign to outlaw female genital mutilation."

But the fatwa against statues has roused a wave of criticism from Egyptians, including those who depend on the tourist industry.

"The wave of criticisms against the fatwa has put clerics on a collision course with intellectuals and artists, who say that such edicts only reinforce claims that Islam is against progress."

James Lewis