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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What did the Syrian Mufti tell the EU parliament?

The Syrian Grand Mufti addressed the EU parliament on Tuesday and said some pretty moderate things. According to the EU report:
The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, yesterday (15 January) told Parliament's Strasbourg plenary that perceived clashes of culture were instead conflicts of "ignorance, terrorism and backwardness".

He stressed that although religion gave culture its moral values, "it is we who build civilisation", arguing that "we must create states on a civil basis" rather than a religious one. Moreover, he said there was "no such thing" as a holy war [but only a "holy peace"].

MEMRI translates an article from champress.com that goes much further:
In a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Syrian Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun came out with a surprising call: "May Allah curse anyone who kills a Palestinian, Israeli, or Iraqi child or man, because he is killing a person whom Allah honored without connection to his religious belief."

The mufti added that if the Ka'ba, the Church of the Nativity, or the Al-Aqsa Mosque were to be destroyed, someone would rise up to rebuild them, but when a person was killed no one could bring them back to life.

The autotranslation of the champress.com report indicates that the speech was unusually moderate:
«We must rearing of our children and future generations on the basis of human values and the dignity of each individual and we must start here Palestine, the land of peace, if we could objectively, Israelis and Palestinians together, will live peacefully», recalling the words of the late Pope John Paul II,« instead of building the wall, Build trust and understanding with you »...

However, the Brussels Journal quotes a Dutch blogger, translating an article in a Dutch news site that says that when the Syrian Mufti addressed the EU parliament, he said (among other things):
Should it come to riots, bloodshed and violence after broadcating the Quran movie by PVV-leader Geert Wilders, then Wilders will be responsible.

This was said by the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, Tuesday in teh European Parliament, where he gave a speech at the invitation of the fraction presidents.

If Wilders tears up or burn a Quran in his film 'this will simply mean he is inciting wars and bloodshed. And he will be responsible', according to te Grand Mufti.

Al Hassoun thinks it is 'the responsibility of the Dutch people to stop Wilders'.
So we have the Arabic press and the EU stressing the Mufti's moderate tone, and a Dutch newspaper saying otherwise - that the Mufti made an implicit threat against the Netherlands if they don't stop Wilders' anti-Muslim film. I could not find any media outlet that reported that part of his speech outside this reference to the Dutch-language site. (The Champress site mentions the Danish cartoons but I couldn't discern the threats mentioned here in the autotranslation.)

It is certainly plausible that he said those threatening words, but it is equally newsworthy to hear him say explicitly that terrorists who kill Israelis should be cursed. This is a way more peaceful position than most Islamic clerics are willing to say publicly. Whether it is his true belief or just politics I do not know, and it is intriguing to see both differing accounts of the same speech.