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An uncanny fatwa

Iran Focus

Editorial

The U.S. State Department issued an advisory earlier this month telling Americans to be vigilant about possible terrorist attacks when travelling to Europe.

The decision came as counterterrorism officials in Europe and the U.S. are assessing intelligence about possible plots aimed at Britain, France and Germany.

A day after the State Department alert, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a peculiar fatwa, or religious edict, assuring Muslims living in Western countries that there are no religious prohibitions against their stay if they are there to "defend Islam".

Khamenei was responding to questions about his "religious guidance" to Muslims who live in non-Islamic countries. His answers were posted on his official website.

The Supreme Leader, under Iran's constitution, is construed not only as the leader of Iran but the whole Islamic world, and Khamenei has certainly tried to fit the profile. His latest fatwa is thought to be aimed at non-Iranian Muslims and has a bizarre air, considering its timing, bluntness and substance.

The fatwa is not geared towards Iranians, because Iranians who seek to take political refuge in foreign lands would be banned from leaving their country in the first place, with no ifs or buts.

The cleric cautioned that traveling to non-Islamic countries would be allowed for a Muslim "only if there is no fear about diverting from his religion".

Answering a question about the permissibility of living in countries where perceived vices such as "nudity" and "vulgar music" are prevalent, Khamenei said, "Living there would not in principle be wrong".

Khamenei seems to be trying to provide ideological assurances and permissible "Sharia guidelines" to those Islamic fundamentalists who are tied to the Iranian regime and are living in non-Islamic countries for dubious reasons, perhaps acting in groups or "cells".

They should not worry, according to Khamenei, as long as the purpose of their stay is "to defend Islam and Muslims to the extent [they are] able to do so".

Does the Islam that Khamenei counsels his followers to defend condone terrorism? After all, it was the former Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini who said that the interests of the clerical regime in Iran is the only paramount objective, even outweighing all Islamic practices.

On their face, Khamenei's fatwa and comments by other Iranian officials may be dismissed as mere rhetoric by some. Still, coming at a time when the State Department and the US Attorney General talk about the accumulation of evidence regarding terror cells lurking in Western countries, the Iranian regime has once again shown that when it comes to terrorist threats, it does not want to be ignored.

Tehran is indeed the source and resource for Islamic fundamentalism. Its primary objective - according to its leaders - is to promote a "fundamentalist ideology" that remains the greatest threat to global peace and security. It would be imprudent - indeed dangerous - to gloss over this reality.