Fatwa On Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad (MTJ) Discusses Permissibility Of Bombing European Synagogues, Churches
No. 5272 - April 15, 2013
On April 12, 2013, the Salafi-jihadi website Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad (MTJ) posted a fatwa about the permissibility of bombing synagogues and churches. The fatwa, written by Sheikh Abu Mundhir Al-Shinqiti on behalf of the website's Shari'a Committee, was issued in response to a query by a reader calling himself Assad Al-Ma'arik, who asked specifically about bombing "the Jews' houses of worship in European states." Al-Shinqiti used the opportunity to address the general question of attacking Jewish and Christian houses of worship. The gist of his reply was that attacking or destroying them is legitimate in some cases, but is nevertheless inadvisable.
The following are the main points of Al-Shinqiti's fatwa:
The sheikh starts by summarizing an opinion shared by many Islamic jurisprudents, namely that attacking houses of worship is illegitimate. This opinion is based on Koran 22:40: "Had Allah not defended some men by the might of others, the monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques in which His praise is daily celebrated would have been utterly destroyed."
Al-Shinqiti rejects this view, adopting the opinion of medieval scholar Ibn Al-Qaym Al-Jawziyya, whom he quotes at length. Ibn Al-Qaym argued that the above verse refers only to the pre-Islamic era, and that, when Judaism and Christianity lost their validity with the appearance of Islam, their houses of worship also lost their protected status, fully or partially. Al-Shinqiti adds: "The ban on destroying churches and synagogues does not stem from [any characteristic of the buildings] themselves or any privileged status they enjoy. Rather, it depends on the status of the people who worship there… There is no permanent and specific ruling regarding the non-Muslims' places of worship. Their status is determined by the status of the people to whom they belong."
Al-Shinqiti goes on to explain that two types of worship places are protected from attack: those belonging to monotheists living as dhimmi in a Muslim state, and secluded monasteries.
Then he states that some synagogues and churches – namely those "belonging to the enemies of Islam" – may be attacked when there is a pressing need to do so, namely in the following circumstances:
A. When the people who frequent them are enemies of Islam and fight the Muslims.
B. When these houses of worship serve as centers for anti-Muslim activity – either for incitement, or for gathering weapons to fight (the Muslims), or for imprisoning Muslims and luring them away from their religion.
C. When the Muslims' enemies are attacking mosques. "Then it is undoubtedly legitimate to attack [these synagogues and churches] in reprisal, for Allah said [in Koran 2:149]: 'If anyone attacks you, attack him as he attacked you.'"
Finally, although Al-Shinqiti rules it permissible to attack synagogues and churches in certain circumstances, he concludes that it is preferable to avoid this, for both religious and tactical reasons. He writes: "If there is no need, and no reason necessitating an attack on the enemies' houses of worship…, then it is best to avoid this, for two reasons: First, attacking them [without real necessity] will not attain any religious or military goal. Second, it may be considered an attempt to coerce people in matters of faith [i.e., to force them to convert them to Islam], since it is an [act of] harassing our religious rivals and trying to keep them from practicing [their religion]. Islamic law stipulates that there is no coercion in religion. Furthermore, attacking houses of worship, [even] in cases where it is legitimate, will be used as a pretext to defame jihad. Therefore, the mujahideen should not resort to this tactic except where there is an urgent need and necessity."
 This may be a reference to Egypt, where Muslims extremists have accused Copts of kidnapping Muslims and keeping them in churches.
 This could be a reference to Israel and its alleged attacks on Palestinian mosques. According to this logic, attacking Jewish synagogues could be considered legitimate.