Crucifixions in Egypt & Al Azhar Fatwas Encouraging Violence?: More Islamophobic Nonsense

Crucifixions in Egypt & Al Azhar Fatwas Encouraging Violence?: More Islamophobic Nonsense

by Sheila Musaji

Raymond Ibrahim on the algemeiner wrote an article making two allegations.  The first allegation was that the Muslim Brotherhood was crucifying people in Cairo.  In the article he used a quote he said he had translated from Arab media sources, and referenced a Sky News Arabic article as the original source of the claim.  The second allegation was that Far from condemning these terrorists, Al Azhar, Egypt’s most authoritative Islamic institution, has just issued a fatwa calling for more violence and oppression, saying that “fighting participants in anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations planned for 24 August is a religious obligation.”

The Crucifixion claim

Michael Carl on WMD wrote about this supposed incident referencing Raymond Ibrahim as his source.  Carl quoted Ibrahim with more “specifics”.  He also quoted Clare Lopez, a Senior Fellow at Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy who gave “chapter and verse from the Quran to explain that crucifixions are not simply normal for Islam, they’re demanded.”  And, to cinch his argument he quoted Pamela Geller whom he called “an analyst of the Middle East and Islam as “fully agreeing” with Clare Lopez.

There you have it - Raymond Ibrahim of the Middle East Forum, Clare Lopez of the Center for Security Policy, and Pamela Geller of the hate groups AFDI and SIOA verify this story.  Geller even posted Michael Carl’s story with the lurid title ‘Brotherhood’ starts crucifixions: Opponents of Egypt’s Muslim president executed ‘naked on trees’  Geller’s partner, Robert Spencer, posted Raymond Ibrahim’s article on his Jihad Watch site.  Bonnie of Bare Naked Islam, Walid Shoebat, and the rest of the Islamophobic crazies also picked up, reposted, and added their own comments to this story.

I was very suspicious that this was yet another false story as the only sources were individuals and organizations who have backgrounders on our Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry.

Even Rick Moran on the American Thinker questioned the validity of this particular story, and mentioned that he could find no story on Sky News about such an event, and no reliable source that could confirm the story by “the usually reliable Raymond Ibrahim”.  Then in an update he added that Patrick Poole had emailed him and supplied a link to the Sky News Arab language article Raymond Ibrahim had quoted from.  Here is the link that is given in the update and if you click on the link, it says that the requested url was not found on this server.

I was attempting to find any information that would provide insight on whether or not there was any story here at all, but thankfully, Jonathan Kay in the article Egypt’s “crucifixion” hoax becomes an instant Internet myth did the necessary investigative reporting and debunked the entire hoax.  He reported that

... WorldNetDaily, and other sites that are reporting the story, all trace the claim of multiple Arabic sources to a Jewish web site called algemeiner, which has published its own highly-trafficked article on the subject. Algemeiner, like the cited Arabic sources, in turn bases its claims on reports from Sky News Arabic — a recently formed joint venture between BSkyB and Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp. Sky is supposedly the original source on the story, everyone agrees. Yet neither algemeiner nor WND nor any of the other sources supply the original Sky reporting that purportedly outlines the facts.
That’s because there is no Sky report on the subject.

Yesterday I contacted the management of Sky News Arabic, and asked them about the crucifixions. According to Fares Ghneim, a Sky communications official, the crucifixion claim was first reported in social media a week ago, and then somehow found its way onto a Sky web forum. No Sky reporter confirmed the allegation, or even commented on it, Ghneim told me. And the claim was deleted from the Sky site after only a few minutes. But by that time, web surfers already were sourcing the story to Sky, at which point it went viral in portions of the Arabic media, and then on U.S. Christian web sites, and pro-Israel blogs. And thus was born an Internet urban legend.

Enter the terms Brotherhood crucifying 2012 into Google and you get more than half a million hits, the most prominent being the articles I have discussed in this column. Every single one of them swallows this made-up story whole. Indeed, some are even more emphatic than the original WorldNetDaily story, such as a well-trafficked Free Republic headline that claims, plainly, “Muslim Brotherhood Are Crucifying People.”

Such sites also have carried other nonsense articles about the Muslim Brotherhood, such as that it plans to blow up the pyramids — which the New York Times thankfully took pains to debunk back in July. Yet till now, no one (that I can tell) has taken the time to investigate or debunk the crucifixion tale, even though it only took a few emails to Sky to show that it was bunk.

Why do so many people believe this made up story? For the same reason that people believe all urban legends — because they play to some deeply held narrative that resides in our deepest fears. In this case, the narrative is that the Arab Spring is part of an orchestrated Islamist plot to destroy Western civilization (beginning with Israel). Believers in this narrative (who are especially numerous in America’s right-wing Evangelical circles) are so hungry for news items that purport to offer confirmation that they ignore the credibility of the messengers. If they had checked out the credibility of WorldNetDaily, for instance, they would have found that the site’s past “scoops” have included the claim that drinking soy milk makes you gay, and that Barack Obama himself is gay (presumably from aforesaid soy milk). ...

The bottom line is that someone posted a comment on a Sky News public forum that was removed by the site administrator because it was not credible.  Before the comment was removed it was picked up and reported on by some news sites as if it was an actual story about a real event.  Other sites took that information, expanded on it, and literally created a story out of thin air.

The Al Azhar Fatwa claim

The same Islamophobic sites also reported on the claim about the supposed fatwa, most quoting from Ibrahim’s article. According to Raymond Ibrahim, even after this terrible crucifixion event: Far from condemning these terrorists, Al Azhar, Egypt’s most authoritative Islamic institution, has just issued a fatwa calling for more violence and oppression, saying that “fighting participants in anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations planned for 24 August is a religious obligation.”

Sheikh Musa Furber, is an American Muslim scholar who is a research fellow at the Tabah Foundation and a qualified issuer of verdicts. He received his license to deliver legal edicts or fatwas from senior scholars at the Egyptian House of Edicts including the Grand Mufti of Egypt.

He wrote an important article What is a fatwa? Who can give one? on The Washington Post in which he dealt with this false claim. 

About this particular fatwa, he said

Recently at a conference in Cairo, Imam Hashem Islam issued a fatwa (religious edict) to the people of Egypt. His edict was that an upcoming protest, aimed at criticizing Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, was illegitimate, as the newly elected president was, in fact, the legitimate lawful president. Furthermore, that the protest was to be considered as one that was “apostasy” (riddah) from democracy and freedom, and that those who participated in it should be considered as engaging in the crime of plunder (hirabah) and high treason (khiyana al-uzma).

Thus, the “people of Egypt” should confront them, and if the protesters resisted by force, then the “people of Egypt” should respond with force. If the ‘people of Egypt’ were killed, they would be in paradise, while if the protesters resisted, no one would be held liable for their deaths or have to pay compensation to their families.

There was a public outcry. The preacher had claimed he was a part of al-Azhar University’s official institution for issuing religious verdicts, which presumably gave his opinions weight. In the aftermath of his statements, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, as well as the al-Azhar University , came out in full force, contradicting the preacher’s claim that he had any connection to the al-Azhar University, beyond the fact that he is a graduate, and that his opinion was not to be given attention. Even the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Morsi belongs, rejected the fatwa.

Clearly, the mainstream religious establishment rejects this fatwa: however, the episode raised a number of points. What is a fatwa? Who can give one? What are the repercussions of a fatwa in general? And what was the meaning of this “fatwa” in particular?

As with any legal system, not anyone is competent to deliver a fatwa, which refers, simply, to a non-binding verdict of Islamic jurisprudence. Competency comes from a rigorous legal education from within the tradition of Islamic jurisprudence, with a mastery of a particular school of law, and training in the practical application of that school on contemporary issues. There is a whole science, entitled the etiquette of verdict (adab al-fatwa), that the prospective issuer of fatwas (or someone known as a mufti) needs to learn, in order to ensure all verdicts are clear, accurate and valid.

Fatwas might be issued by a number of different jurists in any given time or place – but those jurists may find that their verdicts only get followed by those who voluntarily choose to do so. In Egypt, the most famous institution that individual Egyptians will visit to receive one of these non-binding verdicts is that of the Grand Mufti of Egypt: Dar Al Ifta Al Misriyyah, or the Egyptian House of Edicts. I know that institution well – it is where I underwent my own training in delivering legal verdicts, and on a daily basis, hundreds of verdicts were delivered. That institution itself, even though it is a part of the Ministry of Justice (and thus a state institution), does not have the ability to enforce its decisions. The ability to enforce verdicts in Egypt is rightfully accorded to the state authorities – i.e., the legal system.

This recent “fatwa” was particularly problematic in a number of different ways related to the procedure of issuing a fatwa. The details that were provided were sketchy, and appear based on a rather biased political reading of the situation. This alone is a basis for repudiating the “fatwa” as the conditions of a fatwa include that it be unbiased and impartial. That the issuer of a fatwa is for or against a particular political force – whether that force is former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Morsi, or former U.S. president George W. Bush – must never influence a fatwa he or she issues.

There are conditions to be fulfilled before someone might be considered, within Islamic law, a brigand or guilty of high treason – conditions which are clearly laid out in different books of Islamic law. Those books do not indicate that participation in protests or voicing disagreement with rulers, in and of themselves, can be considered as acts of banditry or high treason.

Even if they did meet the legal criteria for high treason or banditry (which protests do not), only the state authorities responsible for maintaining law and order have authority to consider such a verdict as it falls within the remit of the judicial system – not individual religious personalities and fatwa committees. This, on the other hand, involved an individual operating in a private capacity, and was delivered publicly to the “Egyptian people” – not an official judge to an appropriate government body. The imam’s “fatwa” is, in effect, a call to vigilantism, something in complete defiance of Islamic law.

It is compulsory upon any mufti to ponder the likely consequences of their ruling and to weigh whether their ruling obtains or denies the ultimate purposes of Islam. While it is not normally necessary for a mufti to always provide evidence for his opinion, it is incumbent upon him to give details where details are needed, such as where failure to do so can result in the misapplication of his words. This statement, on the other hand, was, essentially, a press release given over the course of a few minutes, with virtually no details. Moreover, it does not appear that the issuer gave any forethought to the consequences of people following his opinion – with bloodshed being an obvious likely consequence of its application. In issuing a statement in this fashion, he is encouraging less law and order, not more, and moreover, increasing the possibility of civil strife.

In addition to the previous major procedural issues, there are two others. Firstly, the idea that there is ‘apostasy’ from democracy and freedom, while likely a rhetorical tool void of any real meaning, it is a tool that no jurist would ever use. It’s a baseless polemic, nothing more – and has no place in a legal argument of any sort. Moreover: it was widely reported that the imam claimed to be a member of al-Azhar University’s official fatwa committee, a claim al-Azhar University itself rejects. The imam’s claim and his association with al-Azhar’s Fatwa Commitee are objective facts that can be verified. If the claim proves to be false – as opposed to being simply misrepresented by the press, which is not uncommon – this alone is sufficient to disqualify the imam from issuing fatwas as a fraud. Frankly, it would be advisable for al-Azhar University to investigate this imam, and any others who display such recklessness, lest the name of al-Azhar and religion in the public sphere be brought into disrepute.

Yet, this discussion goes far beyond the particulars concerning this preacher and his “fatwa”, and the qualifications of muftis and fatwas. The point here is the role of the religious establishment: and how seriously its members perceive that role. The religious establishment of Egypt needs to be more vigilant in ensuring that standards do not drop against the backdrop of a political space that is more infused with religious imagery. Standards cannot be allowed to drop, or weaken – rather, they have to raised, and strengthened. The participation of the religious establishment must always be a source of wisdom and insight, and never one of confusion and strife.

Both of the allegations made are false. 

Even after all of this, none of the sites who are spreading this nonsense has published a clarification or an apology, or corrected the false information.  It is difficult to understand how anyone can continue to listen to people who so regularly engage in promoting such hateful lies.

UPDATE 9/19/2012

Geller & Spencer Create “Muslim Cat Crucifixion” Lie to Inflame Hatred.  Read the full article for all the details of this lie.  The summary is that this photo is from a couple of years ago in Ghana, and whoever the young men are, they are probably not Muslims.  Geller and Spencer must have been having a slow day studying police blotters around the world, so they both published articles using this photo and making up a story to go along with it.

And, now in yet another display of Islamophobic madness, both Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer posted this same photograph on their sites with appropriately dramatic titles - Spencer: Nigeria: Muslims Crucify a Cat to Protest Muhammad Video ( ); Geller: Muslims in Nigeria Crucify a Cat on the Cross to Protest Freedom of Speech ( ).

I left the url’s open so you can see that they did exist, and these articles still come up on a google search, but they have been scrubbed.  If you click on the links, there is nothing there.  ...  Geller and Spencer did their dirty work, and promoted a totally false story, and after it was picked up by many other Islamophobic sites, deleted the evidence of their involvement.



The Islamophobia Industry exists and is engaged in an anti-Muslim Crusade.  They have a manifesto for spreading their propaganda, and which states their goal of “destroying Islam — as a culture, a political ideology, and a religion.” They produce anti-Muslim films.  They are forming new organizations and coalitions of organizations at a dizzying speed, not only nationally, but also internationally.   They have formed an International Leadership Team “which will function as a mobile, proactive, reactive on-the-ground team developing and executing confidential action plans that strike at the heart of the global anti-freedom agenda.”

Currently, the Islamophobia Industry is engaged in a full-scale, coordinated,  demonization campaign against American Muslims and Arabs. In just the past few months we have seen a series of inflammatory provocations:    There was the Innocence of Muslims film Titanic, a German satire magazine plans an “Islam” cover article to be published later this month.   Charlie Hebdo, a French satire magazine published an issue with inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.   Newsweek published their ‘Muslim Rage’ cover.  Terry Jones held a “trial of Prophet Muhammad”.  SION held a “global” gathering in NYC to plan propaganda strategy.  A group in Toronto publicized a “walk your dog at the mosque” day.   AFDI/SIOA has run a series of anti-Muslim ads on public transportation across the country.   AFDI/SIOA are planning to run 8 more anti-Muslim ads.  There are three more films on Prophet Muhammad in the works by Ali Sina, Mosab Hassan Yousef and Imran Farasat.   They are even bringing their hate messages into public schools.

Daniel Pipes is encouraging publication of “A Muhammad cartoon a day”, and says “So, this is my plea to all Western editors and producers: Display the Muhammad cartoon daily, until the Islamists become accustomed to the fact that we turn sacred cows into hamburger.”.  Pipes joins Daniel Greenfield (aka Sultan Knish) who published an appeal on David Horowitz’ Front Page Magazine Is It Time for ‘Make Your Own Mohammed Movie Month’?.  And, both are following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Pamela Geller, who promoted just such a plan back in 2010 with her promotion of Draw Muhammad Day, even after the cartoonist who drew the first cartoon and suggested the idea, Molly Norris apologized to Muslims and asked for the day to be called off, and American Muslims had issued a defense of free speech.    None of this is surprising as one of the Islamophobes laid out their strategy as “The Muslims themselves have shown us their most vulnerable spot, which is the questionable (though unquestioned) character of the ‘Prophet’ himself. We need to satirise and ridicule baby-bonking Mo until the Muslims fly into uncontrollable tantrums, then ridicule them even more for their tantrums, and repeat the process until they froth at the mouth and steam comes out of their ears.”

The Islamophobia of these folks is very real, it is also strikingly similar to a previous generations’ anti-Semitism, and it has predictable consequences.   The reason that this is so obvious to so many is that rational people can tell the difference between legitimate concerns and bigoted stereotypes.

Sadly, the Islamophobic echo chamber has been aided by some in the Jewish and Christian clergy, and even by some of our elected representatives, particularly in the GOP.

The claim that the Islamophobes are “truth-tellers” and “defenders of freedom” who actually “love Muslims” and have never engaged in “broadbrush demonization” or “advocated violence”, or that nothing that they say could have had anything to do with any act of violence,  are nonsense.  The claim that they are falsely being accused of Islamophobia for no reason other than their legitimate concerns about real issues and that in fact there is not even such a thing as Islamophobia, or their claim that the fact that there are fewer hate crimes against Muslims than against Jews or that some Muslims have fabricated such crimes “proves” that Islamophobia doesn’t exist,  or that the term Islamophobia was made up by Muslims in order to stifle their freedom of speech, or that anti-Muslim bigotry is “not Islamophobia but Islamorealism” are all nonsense

These individuals and organizations consistently promote the false what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims (including distorting the meaning of Qur’anic verses, and distorting the meaning of Islamic terms such as taqiyya, jihad, sharia, etc.).  Islamophobes falsely claim to see “JIHAD” PLOTS everywhere, particularly where they don’t exist.   They, like Muslim extremists, don’t understand the true meaning of the term jihad.  The Islamophobes have uncovered countless examples of “shocking”, non-existent Muslim jihad plots.

Islamophobes generalize specific incidents to reflect on all Muslims or all of Islam.    Islamophobes consistently push demonstrably false memes such as:  - we are in danger from creeping Sharia, - the Muslim population is increasing at an alarming rate, - 80% of American Mosques are radicalized,  -  There have been 270 million victims of “jihad”  -  There have been 17,000+ “Islamic terrorist” attacks since 9/11    - Muslims in government are accused of being Muslim Brotherhood plants, stealth jihadists, and creeping Sharia proponents and should be MARGINALIZED or excluded.  Muslim and Arab organizations and individuals are connected to the infamous Muslim Brotherhood document or the unindicted co-conspirator label, or accused of not condemning Hamas, telling American Muslims not to talk to the FBI, of being “Jew haters”, etc.

When Islamophobes are caught in the act of making up or distorting claims they engage in devious methods to attempt to conceal the evidence. 

When Islamophobes are caught in the act of making up or distorting claims they engage in devious methods to attempt to conceal the evidence. 

There is a reason that many, even outside of the Muslim community see such demonization of Muslims as Islamophobic.  There is a reason that the ADL has stated that Brigitte Gabriel’s Act for America, Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), David Yerushalmi’s Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE)  are “groups that promote an extreme anti-Muslim agenda”.  There is a reason that The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated SIOA as a hate group, and that these individuals are featured in the SPLC reports Jihad Against Islam and The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle.  There is a reason that these individuals and organizations are featured prominently in: — the Center for American Progress reports “Fear Inc.” on the Islamophobia network in America and Understanding Sharia Law: Conservatives skewed interpretation needs debunking. — the People for the American Way Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism.  — the NYCLU report Religious Freedom Under Attack:  The Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State.  — the Political Research Associates report Manufacturing the Muslim menace: Private firms, public servants, and the threat to rights and security.  — The ACLU report Nothing to Fear: Debunking the Mythical “Sharia Threat” to Our Judicial System — in The American Muslim TAM Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry.   There is a reason that the SIOA’s trademark patent was denied by the U.S. government due to its anti-Muslim nature.   There is a reason that these individuals and organizations are featured in just about every legitimate report on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred. 

See Resources for dealing with Islamophobes for many more reasons that these people cannot be trusted.

Sheila Musaji is the founding editor of The American Muslim (TAM), published since 1989.  Sheila received the Council on American-Islamic Relations 2007 Islamic Community Service Award for Journalism,  and the Loonwatch Anti-Loons of 2011: Profiles in Courage Award for her work in fighting Islamophobia.  Sheila was selected for inclusion in the 2012 edition of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims published since 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan.    Biography  You can follow her on twitter @sheilamusaji ( )