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European Council for Fatwa and Research

By:
H. A. Hellyer
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European Council for Fatwa and Research

In 1992, many scholars from the Muslim world and Europe congregated in France to discuss the issue of Muslims in Europe, and in 1997 formed the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) in London at the initiative of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) (a predominantly modernist Salafī organization). In his opening speech as President of the Federation, Ahmed Rawi noted that the FIOE's goal was to fill in a necessary gap until such time that the “first scholars” who knew European societies, languages, and circumstances took over the mission of “orienting and counselling European Muslims.”

From the outset the ECFR accepted the existence of Muslims in Europe under non-Muslim regimes as legitimate, since these countries have laws that enable them to “enjoy all the guarantees of an honourable life.” If a Muslim possesses “the ability to maintain [his or her] religion as well as to preserve and protect lives from death, injustice and oppression,” they opined, it was justified to find a safe refuge in non-Muslim countries.

Such non-Muslim countries would be “strange” to the Muslim, but this did not have to translate into a “spiritual penalty”; indeed, Abdullah Bin Bayyah, one of the key members of the ECFR, suggested that such Muslims would be rewarded for “bearing the (positive) burden of alienation.”

There are a number of well-known jurists associated with it: most noted are the Qatari-based Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī (born in Egypt), and the Saudi Arabian Professor Abdullah Bin Bayyah (formerly Vice-President of Mauritania). The former is associated with the modernist Salafī movement, whereas the latter is a known Mālikī jurisprudent. The European Council for Fatwa and Research is perhaps the most well-known fatwā council of its kind outside the Muslim world, composed of no less than thirty-two Sunnī legal scholars. Other noted members include Mustafa Ceric, the Muftī of Bosnia, Muhammad Taqi ʿOthmani, a Pakistani sharīʿah scholar and judge, and Taha al-ʿAlwani, a legal scholar originally from Iraq but now living in the United States.

The ECFR's offices are in the capital of the Republic of Ireland, but the council routinely hold its meetings in different European cities (including London, Sarajevo, and Stockholm). At their latest meeting, in September 2007, they issued a press release indicating they would proclaim a religious verdict (fatwā) against a death threat allegedly made by the Iraqi al-Qaʿida-affiliate Shaykh Abū ʿUmar al-Baghdādī against Lars Vilks and Ulf Johansson (Swedish cartoonists).

The ECFR's stated aims are to resituate legal discussions within a European context, keeping with the precedent of Muslim scholars historically. Yet, although the original constitution adopted by the ECFR in 1997 stipulated that at least 75 percent of its members would be drawn from Europe for this purpose, the numbers have since been revised in favor of drawing expertise from non-European fiqh experts. Although members apparently support the inclusion of European social scientists on the ECFR, presumably to inculcate a knowledge of European societies and culture, this has yet to materialize. In spite of these difficulties, however, and in the absence of any other fiqh organization devoted to the European context, the ECFR remains the foremost assembly of Muslim fiqh scholars dedicated to the European scene.

See also LAW, subentry on MINORITY JURISPRUDENCE; and MINORITIES, subentry on MUSLIM MINORITIES IN NON-MUSLIM SOCIETIES.

Bibliography

  • Caeiro, Alexandre. “Transnational ʿUlama, European Fatwas, and Islamic Authority: A Case Study of the European Council for Fatwa and Research.” In Production and Dissemination of Islamic Knowledge in Western Europe, edited by M. Bruinessen and S. Allievi. London: Routledge, 2006.
  • European Council for Fatwa and Research, First Collecton of Fatwas. Cairo, 1999.
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