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February 23, 2007



There is a passage in Nazim Hikmet's famous 1930s poem "The Epic of Sheikh Bedreddin" where he describes a kept (Persian!) jurist of the 15th century Ottoman court pronouncing judgement on the title character in exactly the terms of that cartoon: as a heretic and an infidel, "his blood and his property are halal."

I bring it up because Nazim, writing in 1936, was in fact talking about the purge, imprisonment and execution of Communists by Ataturk--who seems to be a hero to neoconservatives and others looking for an "acceptable" political model in the so-called "Islamic world." The practice of takfir is not just the precise analogue of the purges of the Cold War era in Egypt and elsewhere, it is its geneaological descendent.

So while of course I agree with all of the liberal sentiments expressed your post, it seems to me that focusing on the practice itself is missing the forest for the trees. How can you ban takfir? All absolutist religions have and need ways of distinguishing themselves from the competition. Takfir as a religious or communal principle is as unexceptionable as excommunication from today's Catholic church, or Spinoza's banishment by the Jews of Amsterdam. The problem is not takfir, but political violence.


m-a: your point is well-taken, but it seems to me that takfir is one of the most crucial intellectual steps justifying and leading to violence, and therefore one of the key places where intellectual intervention could actually make a difference. Maybe that's wishful thinking...


Sorry AA, what's written in the cartoon? Thanks


The cartoon says, "Christians are infidels and unbelievers. Their blood and their property are fair game."


The issue that Amara is raising is not one of "takfir" of Muslims vs non-muslim, or good muslim vs "kafir". He is focused on "fitna" - or in-fighting amongst Muslims. He is saying, basically, that it is brother with brother, and brother with cousin against the stranger, i.e. Muslims should not fight amongst themselves and hence weaken themselves vis a vis the West. He is lamenting the fact that Muslims have descended into self-immolation... While on the face of it, it sounds like he is a voice of reason in the midst of the madness we see playing out in Iraq between sunni and Shia, it strikes me that some may also see this as a case of "beware what you wish for."


I agree with Dahlia'a reading of Amara. This takfir horror is also increasing among Muslims living in the West, which is even more distressing. I have seen it on English speaking blogs recently.

He calls for a unanimous, collective Sunni - Shia - Sufi - Salafi fatwa forbidding the practice of takfir.

May it please G-d that this come to pass; honest making of shahada must be enough for all Muslims to accept.


books, controversies and authors aside, the main idea of banning the takfiri culture is undeniably vital. an attempt at such a consensus was attempted with the amman message.

that being said, those most interested in calling others kufar will have no problem in denying any united issued fatwa, and don't be surprised if they call the fatwa issuers kufar at the same time.

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