Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid is a big shot in the field of Islamic law, founder of IslamQA.info. He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. He also studied Islam under some of Saudi Arabia’s most highly placed scholars. He espouses the Salafi view of Islam, which is as fundamentalist as can be and the branch of Sunni Islam that al-Qaida favors. Keeping with that world view, he has just issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, condemning the building of snowmen.
As we are all dealing with the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo murders in France, the main issue that keeps rearing its ugly head is the matter of mocking Islam. Defenders of the killings argue that the cartoons provoked the violence and the cartoonists had it coming. I am afraid that I have to flip that around. If Muslim clerics don’t want their teachings to be mocked, they need to quit worrying about snowmen and start worrying about real people. This fatwa just provokes mockery because, let’s face it, the Islamic world has bigger fish to fry than whether snowmen are halal (OK) or haram (not OK).
I have a toddler in my home these days, and that means that Disney’s “Frozen” gets played at least once a day on the DVR. It’s a musical, animated and edited version of the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Snow Queen.” It’s relatively benign, as are all Disney products (I can remember when E-ticket meant the cool rides at Disneyland). The very idea that the song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” encourages evil is just begging for a smart-ass riposte.
Sheikh al-Munajjid, however, says on his website: “It is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun.” He went on to explain that making a snowman was making an image of something with a soul. Building images of things that lack souls is all right, though. “God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on.”
He was born in Syria, which is currently engaged in a bloody civil war. The Economist reported on Syria’s plight two days ago saying, “Since March 2011 around 200,000 people have been killed and 6.5m people have become internally displaced. A new report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, published on January 7th, brought another grim figure: Syria has overtaken Afghanistan to become the biggest source of refugees in the world. More than 3m Syrians, or one in eight of its population, had fled the country by the end of June 2014, the most recent date for cross-country comparisons. In the six months since, another 300,000 have left.”
Most of those Syrians are followers of the Prophet, peace be upon him.
Now, I believe Sheikh al-Munajjid to be a serious and intelligent man, an expert in his field and quite media savvy (his website went live in 1996). So it baffles me as to why snowmen and snowcamels are worth his while when his fellow Muslims are dying in the tens of thousands at the hands of other Muslims. I examined his website, and found 129 mentions of Syria. Not one of them addressed the current mess that nation is in.
I admit that I am not a believer, and I certainly don’t have the education in Islamic law that he does. I just have a hard time understanding why he would give those who would insult Islam and its adherents this kind of ammunition.
There will always be those who mock others simply for the fun of it. They are pricks, and while it is not written in scripture, it is nevertheless true that “pricks will always dwell amongst you.” There’s just no reason to make it easy for them.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.