A group of imams from across Canada issued a fatwa Friday to label attacks by extremists against Canada or the United States as attacks against the 10 million Muslims living in North America.  In a joint statement issued by the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, the imams state: “We, the undersigned Imams, are issuing the following Fatwa in order to guide the Muslims of North America regarding the attacks on Canada and the United States by the terrorists and the extremists. In our view, these attacks are evil and Islam requires Muslims to stand up against this evil.” 

The fatwa, a non-binding religious edict that is given to guide Muslims in their daily lives, is a response to the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S.-bound plane by a Nigerian with ties to Islamic militants in Yemen.  In their statement, the imams cite quotes from the Qur’an that call on followers to “enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong,” and to “protect our friends.”

Iman Syed Soharwardy, who is organizing support across North America for this fatwa, goes on to say that “We have an obligation to inform Muslims around the world that North American Muslims practice their religion, pray five times daily and attend mosques and celebrate religious festivals in complete freedom. In many cases, Muslims have more freedom to practice Islam here in Canada and the United States than many Muslim countries.”

 The imams say that the Canadian and American constitutions are similar to the principles of Islam that protect human rights and justice. “Therefore, any attack on Canada and the United States is an attack on the freedom of Canadian and American Muslims. Any attack on Canada and the United States is an attack on thousands of mosques across North America.”

Many Muslims we have met during our time in Malaysia share the imans’ view that these acts of terrorism show contempt not only for the values of those they attack, but complete contempt for Islam as well. I am very much encouraged by this initiative, and I would be delighted to see Canadians leading the way in this world to a more moderate understanding of what it means to be Muslim.