Valentina Colombo / Jul 06, 2009

There is a historical judgement: This is the first time a European court recognizes that accusing a person of being an apostate, in radical Islamists’ code, is the equivalent of a condemnation to death. “With this judgement,” said Loredana Gemelli, one of the bravest lawyers in Italy, who assisted the defendant “for the first time in Italian history a judge has recognized a fatwa as penally relevant and has considered it as a dangerous threat. It is very important as it is the first time that an enlightened judge passed a judgement using these terms. It is a sentence that will become jurisprudence, I hope not only in Italy, where judges from now on will have to take it into account for other similar penal prosecutions, but also in Europe. As a matter of fact until the present in Europe, in countries like Germany and United Kingdom, the Bench has always tried to “understand” Muslims in case of threats and violence, in the name of multiculturalism and relativism.”

It all started with the following e-mail sent to Souad Sbai, an Italian Member of Parliament of Moroccan origin and President of the Association of Moroccan Women in Italy: “You are a mere opportunist, you use immigrants for your profit. You, Souad, are nothing, you have nothing, you have nothing to do with Islam, you do not know anything about fikh. Your head is uncovered in front of Allah, and the woman who does not cover her head is hung by her hair. Allah will punish you for all the wrong you have done to people. I pray to Allah against you, so that He, Allah, will find you. You are a very bad woman, pray Allah, leave the work to men. I was told bad things about you, you stood up and were counted as a masihiyya (Christian).”

Sbai immediately understood the meaning of the message and was brave enough to denounce the author, and sue him at her own risk and at her own expense. Until now, the problem with messages or statements of this kind were never considered sentences of death.

In fact, they are “coded fatwas” as Monjiya al-Souaihi, a Tunisian professor of Islamic studies, called them. In an article which she addressed to the Islamic extremist Rashid al-Ghannoushi, the Tunisian leader of the banned Nahda movement now living in the United Kingdom, who defined her as “not a true Muslim,” she wrote: “In the present article I want to tell the truth to my dearest readers; I do not want to pay attention to those liars who do not deserve any answer. I do not even want to draw attention to the accusations against me, or the quotation of only a part of my words with the clear intention of sending a coded message to kill me. We know perfectly well the way these extremists act using a symbolic language. This is the reason I accuse them of urging their followers to kill me, as they have already done with Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, Said Lakhal, Mona Talba, Lafif Lakhdar and many others”.  

To a Western audience, without a thorough knowledge of Islam and Islamic extremism, it is very hard to understand that the statements “you are a Christian,” “you are a Copt disguised as a Muslim,” “you are not a true Muslim,” “you are an hypocrite,” “you are a liar,” “you are an enemy of Islam” -- not only in the Islamists’ code but also in Muslim surroundings -- sound like a patently clear sentence of death. But if you say these sentences to a Muslim, it does not matter whether he is a practicing believer or not, he will immediately grasp their dangerous meaning. Until the recent ruling of the Court in Bologna this has been the biggest problem for lawyers facing these kind of threats.

Even the lawyer Loredana Gemelli explained to us that in the Italian penal code, a threat must “scare its object,” otherwise it cannot be considered a threat. She therefore had to demonstrate that defining her client as a “Christian” meant calling her an apostate. And as Sbai and Akrane were both Moroccan and their mother tongue is Arabic, they both could immediately understand the danger of Akrane’s message. The threat becomes evident when we read the Fatwa number 4 issued by the European Center for Fatwa and Research in Berlin: “Executing whoever reverts from Islam is the responsibility of the state and is to be decided by Islamic governments alone. Islamic organisations and establishments cannot make such rulings nor can they carry them out. In any case, a considerable number of our predecessors (Salaf) agreed that not all who revert from Islam are to be executed, but rather those who declare their action in public and may cause Fitna (an ordeal of disruption) by bringing down the name of Allah (swt), His prophet (ppbuh) or the Muslims. The punishment of execution in this case is to protect and preserve the entire nation from the evil that this individual will undoubtedly bring, and is not a case of confiscating his or her rights to expression and belief. Indeed, by committing such an act, the individual has transgressed upon the rights of others as well as the entire state and nation, which come before anyone's individual rights. Modern legislation uses the term "Grand Treason" for crimes similar to the act of one who reverts from Islam then announces this in public and wages a campaign against Islam and the entire nation” (

One could even say that Sbai did not openly declare her conversion so this does not apply. But if we put it like this, the charge against her is even worse: she is a “hypocrite” -- in Arabic a munafiq. A munafiq is a traitor of the true faith. In the Koran we read: “Certain of the desert Arabs round about you are hypocrites, as well as (desert Arabs) among the Medina folk: they are obstinate in hypocrisy: thou knowest them not: We know them: twice shall We punish them: and in addition shall they be sent to a grievous penalty” (IX, 101).

The Italian ruling read as follows: “Against Akrane Hassan born in Khouribga (Morocco), on May 5th 1961: accused for the crime mentioned at articles 81, co. 2, and 612, co. 2 since he treathened Sbai Souad sending her several e-mails in which, being both the person under investigation and the offended person foreigners of Moroccan origin of Muslim faith living in Italy, he accused the offended person of being a Muslim apostate who converted to Christianism, circumstance that following the Islamic tradition allows any good believer in that faith to carry out the sentence of death towards the offended person herself; the fact took place in Bologna on May 7th 2006.”

Thanks to the lawyer Gemelli, who has been already threatened herself, and MP Souad Sbai, something will change in the Italian approach and fight against legal jihad.  They confirm my theory that legal jihad needs a counter legal jihad, as only in this way shall we stop this new kind of terrorism against whoever attacks Islamic extremism.  There are already many Italian lawyers asking for a copy of the ruling of the Court in Bologna so that they can use it in the legal cases in which Islamic extremists deny to have sentenced people to death -- merely because they have not used the words “kill” or “death”

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