the inside skinny on the fatwa of the fiqh

In a recent news item I wish I didn't have to take seriously, the Shariah-promoting Fiqh Council of North America is claiming that airport body scanners violate Islamic law. The Detroit Free Press says this could complicate airline screening:

In a move that could complicate airport screening, a group of Muslim-American scholars issued a religious ruling this week that called upon the faithful to not go through body scanners because the scholars said the machines violate Islamic rules on nudity.

A growing number of body scanners -- 450 more of them this year -- are to be introduced in airports in Michigan and across the U.S., say Transportation Security Administration officials. Their increased use comes after the Dec. 25 bombing attempt on an airliner over Detroit, heightening fears of terrorism. The suspect in the failed bombing is a Nigerian Muslim.

The Fiqh Council of North America -- a national group based in Indiana -- said the scanners contravene Islamic law, which is grounded in the Quran. The council consists of an executive council and a council of 10 scholars, two of whom live in metro Detroit. It's an affiliate of the Islamic Society of North America.

The Fiqh Council's goal is to make American Muslims follow Shariah Law. (To ensure "that the dealings of North American Muslims fall within the parameters of what is permitted by the Shari'ah.") While I don't especially like the idea of body scanning, if they are limited to airport passenger screening the argument can be made that no one is forced to go through them, because no one is forced to fly. If they started scanning people on the street without warrants, that would violate the constitutional prohibition on illegal search and seizure. That's because this is the United States, and we are governed by the Constitution. The damned Shariah has nothing to do with it.

As far as I'm concerned, people who have objections grounded in Shariah Law can just stay the hell off the planes.

Please, just go ahead and obey the fatwa!

"It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women," reads the fatwa. "Islam highly emphasizes haya (modesty) and considers it part of faith. The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts."

In a statement late Thursday, the TSA said it is committed to keeping passengers safe and also protecting privacy. "Screening images are automatically deleted, and the officer viewing the image will never see the passenger," the agency said.

The suspect in the Dec. 25 attempt, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is accused of hiding explosive chemicals in his underwear. Since then, some have called for the use of body scanners at airports to find dangerous materials on passengers. Critics say the scanners show details of the outlines of a person's body.

But the TSA said the scanners "do not produce photos." Rather, it said, the images "look like chalk outlines."

Currently, there are 40 full-body scanners -- two of them in Detroit -- at 19 airports in the U.S., said TSA spokesman Jim Fotenos.

One option offered to passengers who don't want to go through a scanner is a pat-down by a security guard of the same gender, the TSA said.

OK, right there I see a problem, and it isn't a necessarily fatwa-related one. Not only does offering same-sex pat-downs discriminate on the basis of sex, but it offers no guarantee that everyone will be comfortable with the pat-down. I mean, what's the idea here? To make sure the patter-downer is not turned on? Or to make sure that the pattee-downee is not creeped out by some lech? Merely having the patter-downers be the same sex hardly eliminates this problem, especially if we consider the sexual orientation issue. Why, for example, is it fair for gay male passengers to get patted down by men (or lesbians by women) whether they like it or not, while heterosexuals are not patted down by members of the opposite sex? And none of this addresses the further issue of the patter-downers themselves possibly being turned on by the subject of the search.

All in violation of someone or another's religious principles, no doubt!

What would the Shariah say? Shouldn't there at least be a fatwa against making heterosexual Muslims submit to pat-down searches by gay American TSA employees when the latter get turned on by the search?

The two members of the Fiqh Council from Michigan are Imam Hassan Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn and Imam Ali Suleiman Ali of the Canton Mosque. "Fiqh" means Islamic jurisprudence.

The director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a separate group that has a chapter in Michigan, says it endorses the fatwa.

Well bully for the bullies at CAIR!


Maybe these scanners are a better idea than I realized.

And I still think that hiring sexy hookers to conduct the searches is an idea whose time has come!

posted by Eric on 02.14.10 at 06:37 PM


Don't want to be scanned? Don't fly. There is nothing in the Constitution about a right to fly.

SDN   ·  February 14, 2010 10:12 PM

It's as if some members of the Fiqh Council woke up one morning and said to themselves "what can I do today that will best and most efficiently say to all of America that we American Muslims stand shoulder to shoulder with all of them in brotherhood, in a partnership against the tyranny of terror - against the bombers and the haters and the professional denigrators of anything non-muslim - that, recognizing that every bomber has come from the world of Islam, we understand that we of Islam will likely bear some extra scrutiny - that we fully support the latest non-intrusive and well-meant measures designed to keep Implements off of airplanes . . . . ."

And then they turned to their amazed and still-awakening wives and laughed and yelled "April Fools!"

bobby b   ·  February 14, 2010 10:50 PM

If flying is a choice, so is walking down a street. You could, as some people do, work over the internet and have everything delivered.

There's no end to the logic. A person could be scanned, in the name of safety and security, before driving on a highway, before hopping on a bus, before riding Amtrak, before entering a grocery store, before using a public restroom, etc., etc.

There's a point at which participation in basic societal functions is not "voluntary" in any meaningful sense of the word.

People who love liberty should not be caving to this "it's a choice" argument.

PKL   ·  February 14, 2010 10:52 PM

How about Sultaana Freeman? A court in Orlando, Florida denied her a driver's license unless she unveiled her face. Here's a photo of Sultana in court as she wished to be photographed for her Florida Driver's License.

chocolatier   ·  February 15, 2010 11:47 AM

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