The European fatwa council: touches everything, except Sharia!

Ian Hamel (*)

Can a Muslim put wine vinegar in his salad? Can a Muslim woman ride a bicycle? Or can she open to the postman when her husband is not at home? The European Council for Fatwa and Research (CEFR), created in March 1997 in Dublin by the Qatari of Egyptian origin Youssef al-Qaradhawi remarks, at least in theory, a good intention. It’s about providing wise advice to Muslims living in Europe so that they can integrate while reconciling Islamic law. 

As it is pointed out in the first collection of fatwas published in French in 2002: “It belongs to Muslim scholars to provide them with clear, consistent and realistic answers who do not make of them, throughout their lives, foreigners in power, Muslims living in Europe inhabited by discomfort and perpetual rips”.

To the question of whether a woman should seek permission from her husband if she wants to shorten the length of her hair, the answer depends on the importance of the scissor cut. According to CEFR, she can, without asking authorization, cut them imperceptibly. On the other hand, if the cut is visible, this “requires a prior agreement between the spouses before his execution, so that affection and harmony between them remain”. The European Council on Fatwa and Research takes the opportunity to recall that “The Muslim woman does not discover her hair outside, nor in front of men who are unknown to her. So that the husband is the first to have the right to enjoy the beauty of the hair of his wife”.

When a Muslim writes that he is employed at McDonald’s, a building that sells pork meat, scholars ask him to look for another means of support. However, they tolerate that the person can continue the current job “if there is no other income to guarantee his livelihood”. Nevertheless, it is necessary to deploy “efforts in order to obtain a new job, which is not illicit”.

This foundation, composed by thirty scholars, living in Europe, but also in Africa and Asia, do not try to throw gasoline on a fire. So, according to the fatwa 19, if a man finds right after the marriage that his wife is no more virgin, he must not repudiate her automatically. Indeed, the CEFR recognizes that a young woman may lose her virginity “during sports activities especially if she does not exercise caution and restraint, this is totally possible and the husband is required to believe it”. Shortly, at first sight, it is only an assembly of scholars who are content to express occasionally simple and harmless legal advice to good believers.

A few years ago, I could follow a European Council of fatwa and research, which took place in Istanbul, at the invitation of Yousouf Ibram, then imam of the Geneva mosque. The latter raised the delicate problem of repudiation. Yousouf Ibram proposed that this repudiation had to be done in front of witnesses. The approach would then become more complex because the husband would be in the obligation to give serious explanations. We can also imagine that the witnesses will put all their energy to reconcile the couple. “ The divorce is the worst permitted thing for God, it is not allowed for a Muslim to resort to it for the slightest pretext” recalled the imam of the mosque of Geneva. His suggestion, very little revolutionary, had not had unanimous acceptance in the European Council for Fatwa and Research.

In fact, the foundation is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. And in terms of innovation, the “scholars” chosen by Youssef al-Qaradhawi want to negotiate on the details, but no question of touching the essential, meaning sharia. It must remain the absolute norm for all Muslims living in Europe. And this is so true that the CEFR does not want to give up the … polygamy! 

He considers that it is a “right”, which must be tolerated without encouraging it. A snake that Muslims of France had trouble to swallow.

Result: the Tawhid editions, which had published the first collection of fatwas in 2002, prefaced by Tariq Ramadan, have renounced later to publish the following editions.

Moreover, the personality of the president-founder of CEFR, Youssef al-Qaradhawi, does not really give the image of a “tolerant” Islam and of a “good balance”. On the Al-Jazeera channel, the latter justified the attacks suicides, called to kill all Alawi in Syria and explained that the elimination of Jews during the Second World War was, after all, a divine punishment. 

Throughout history, Allah has imposed on [the Jews], people who punished them for their corruption. The last punishment was administered by Hitler (…) It was a divine punishment. If Allah wants, next time, this will be by the hands of believers” he declared on January 30, 2009.

Because of his very old age (92 years), Youssef al-Qaradhawi was replaced, in November 2018, at the head of the CEFR, by a British man of Iraqi origin,  Doctor Abdullah al-Judai, 61, who teaches the fundamentals of Jurisprudence at the European Institute of Human Sciences, Wales.

But, in reality, this change of facade takes nothing away from the influence exerted by the Qatari-Egyptian preacher, in his capacity as leader of the Tanzim al-Dawli, the international branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, on the CEFR and on the “Muslims of Europe”, the former Union of islamic Organizations in Europe, of which the Council is the emanation.  

*Journalist and writer, specialist of the Muslim Brotherhood