Striking Iran — response to Cheryl

[ by Charles Cameron — Khamenei fatwa against Iranian nukes: its existence, documentation, flexibility, authority, background ]



any resemblance between the New Mosque in Istambul, Turkey (left), and the nuclear facility at Bushehr, Iran (right), is purely circumstantial


Blog-friend Cheryl Rofer of The Nuclear Diner and Phronesisaical raised some questions in her comment on a post of mine, and I’d like to respond to the degree that I am able. Cheryl wrote:

On that fatwa against nuclear weapons: it just doesn’t seem to be available anywhere. I haven’t looked today, but I have previously, as have others, and it’s not on the interwebs, or seemingly anywhere else.

I agree that it’s an important part of the entire situation, if it exists. One would want to know how far its influence goes in the Iranian government and among the Iranian public.

Conversely, one might want to know why it’s so unavailable. Was it the view of one person, removed by others? Politically unsound for other reasons?


Hi, Cheryl:

I’ve seen a fatwa referenced, but haven’t seen a text (and wouldn’t be able to read it if I did).

I wonder whether the word “fatwa” is being used somewhat loosely here, to refer to a statement by the Supreme Authority, for the guidance of the faithful, but perhaps not issued as a fatwa as such.

Iran’s Statement at IAEA Emergency Meeting describes it as a fatwa, and this AhlulBayt News Agency report calls it a fatwa in the bulleted headline, but refers to it in the “box” as “Imam Khemenei’s [sic] message to the conference on nuclear disarmament in Tehran, that declared weapons of mass destruction as haram (unlawful)” and states that it “was registered as an official UN document on Thursday.”

So that might be one place to look…


Whether or not the text of a formal fatwa exists, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has certainly stated his views on the topic himself and through his emissaries on numerous occasions. Thus Kamal Kharrazi, who was Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, wrote in January 2004 (New Perspectives Quarterly):

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has reiterated on several occasions a fatwa prohibiting the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. He repeated his fatwa most recently in an address Nov. 25. Given the importance of the fatwa institution in Shiite Islam, the broad significance of this should not be underestimated.

Some of Khamenei’s statements were listed in this November 2004 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty Iran Report:

In a 5 November commentary in the “Los Angeles Times,” Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Javad Zarif referred to “serious ideological restrictions against weapons of mass destruction, including a religious decree issued by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, prohibiting the development and use of nuclear weapons.”

“We believe that the use of nuclear weapons is religiously forbidden,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 12 September according to state television. “This is the leader’s fatwa [religious decree].”

“The religious verdict of our leader is that using weapons of mass destruction is forbidden, is ‘haram’ [‘unlawful’ in Islam],” Supreme National Security Council official Hussein Musavian said in an 11 September interview that appeared in the 12 September “Financial Times.” “For Iranians, this verdict is much more important than the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty].”

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