MEMRI, November 21, 2008.
In the latest of his controversial statements and fatwas, well-known Saudi
Islamist lecturer and author Sheikh Muhammad Al-Munajid stated, on Al-Majd
TV on August 27, 2008, that mice were Satan’s soldiers and that “according to
Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases”. Sheikh Al-Munajid, who
frequently appears on Saudi TV channels, was a former member of the staff of
the Saudi Embassy Islamic Affairs Department in Washington, D.C., but was
stripped of his diplomatic credentials.
MEMRI’s translation of Al-Munajid’s statements, which was quickly picked up
by the international media, became part of the ongoing dispute between
hard-line clerics and reformers in the Arab world. Additionally, the widespread
western attention to his statement forced Al-Munajid to defend and clarify his
statements. In a November 6, 2008 interview on Iqra TV, he insisted that he
had “never issued a fatwa about the killing of Mickey Mouse,” and complained
about MEMRI’s translation and release of clips of his statements on this and
other matters. Previously, on September 4, 2008,
in an interview with Alarabiya.net, he discussed his statements and complained
about MEMRI; and on September 29, 2008, he posted his own YouTube video,
in response to a compilation of MEMRI TV videos.
In the Arab world, the Saudi daily Al-Madina published a lengthy article citing
Saudi Islamic scholars who defended Al-Munajid and claimed that MEMRI had
distorted his words, just as the Jews and the Christians had falsified scripture.
One of the scholars also proposed establishing an organization to counter
In contrast, Egyptian Mufti ‘Ali Gum’a called for a halt to the issuing of bizarre
fatwas, saying that they damaged Islam and Muslims, and also called for the
establishment of a body for fatwa oversight.(2) Senior Saudi cleric Sheikh ‘Abd
Al-Muhsin Al-‘Obikan also called for the establishment of a fatwa oversight
body; while he did not specifically mention Al-Munajid’s Mickey Mouse
statements, he said that such a body had become necessary because in the
modern world, fatwas quickly find their way into the global media and raise a
Liberal columnists in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and in the Saudi and
Gulf press, as well as liberal Arab websites, accused Al-Munajid of making
Islam look ridiculous, and decried the flood of controversial fatwas of the past
few years. The Syrian poet Adonis, in an interview with the Algerian Al-Nahar
daily, said that Islam today was about “how to issue fatwas about Mickey
Mouse and how to make licit the killing of Mickey Mouse,” and added that
“Islam is no longer directed to the heart and the soul.”(3) Sami Al-Behiri, a
columnist for the Arab liberal e-journal Elaph, said that Al-Munajid had a
life-denying mentality that breeds terrorism. Al-Behiri also conducted a mock
interview with “Mickey Mouse”; in it, the latter complained that the threats
against him had made him into another Salman Rushdie.
Following are excerpts from Sheikh Al-Munajid’s November 6 interview on Iqra
TV and September 24 interview on Alarabiya.net, and some of the reactions in
the Arab press to his statements about Mickey Mouse:
Al-Munajid to Iqra TV: “I Never Issued a Fatwa About the Killing of Mickey
Mouse… None Of This Ever Happened
In a November 6 interview on Saudi Iqra TV, Sheikh Al-Munajid said: “I never
issued a fatwa about the killing of Mickey Mouse. Nobody asked me for a ruling
with regard to Mickey Mouse, and I did not say that it is permissible or
necessary to kill Mickey Mouse. None of this ever happened… I said that some
cartoon characters, such as dogs, pigs, and mice – reprehensible animals
according to shari’a – are glorified in animated films. I said that it is
inappropriate to show such things to people, and that a mouse is a ‘little
corrupter,’ which should be killed in all cases. I mentioned Mickey Mouse, or
that Jerry, by way of example only.”
He also complained about MEMRI for its ongoing monitoring of his statements,
saying: “Along came the MEMRI website – that is, memri.net – which is a
Jewish website run by a Mossad officer, which monitors… Even this show of
yours is monitored, and they take excerpts from it… Memri.net.
M-E-M-R-I.net… Once I said that a woman must obey her husband, that if he
calls her to bed she must consent, or else the angels will curse her, and that
she must come to him even if she is cooking by the stove – all in accordance
with the Prophet’s hadiths. The website took my words and wrote:
‘Rape of Wives’…
“They took an excerpt about Mickey Mouse… Then it was aired by four huge
global TV networks – ABC, BBC, Fox News, and CNN. In other words, it was
viewed by 350 million people…
“My complaint is not directed towards them . After all, they are our
enemies, and we understand why they do this. Their behavior is
understandable. What I don’t understand is how some Muslims, when asked:
‘What’s your view on the Mickey Mouse fatwa?’ can say: ‘This is a distortion
of Islam. This fatwa must be revoked.'”
Al-Munajid To Alarabiya: My Words Were Taken Out of Context
Sheikh Al-Munajid also complained about MEMRI in a September 24, 2008
interview with Alarabiya.net: “The clip under discussion is on the Zionist MEMRI
website, which monitors Islamic programs, cuts clips from them, translates
them, presents them, and sends some of them to international news wires. That
is what happened here.” He also stated that he did not in fact issue a fatwa
calling for Mickey Mouse’s killing, saying: “Everyone knows that he is an
imaginary, humoristic cartoon character, and that he doesn’t have any blood to
be shed.” He added that his program had been about the influence of images on
people, and that in that context he had discussed “the effect of some cartoons
that make children enamored of impure and harmful animals – like the mouse,
with Jerry and Mickey, or the pig, like in the Timon and Pumbaa series, and the
dog, like Scooby Doo and others.”
He said: “The problem with cutting is that it abridges the topics and
presents the with fragmentary concepts that are then misunderstood.”
He said that many of those who criticized him simply didn’t know the context
of what he said, and thought that he had actually issued a fatwa calling for the
killing of Mickey Mouse.
Sheikh Al-Munajid also posted, on YouTube on September 29, 2008, a video in
English. This video was in response to a MEMRI video compilation on the
MEMRI TV page on YouTube.
Saudi Professor: MEMRI Falsified Al-Munajid’s Statements – Just As the Jews
While Al-Munajid’s original statements on killing Mickey Mouse were made on
the Saudi religious TV channel Al-Majd, it was the coverage in the Western
press that brought the issue to the fore. The Saudi Al-Madina daily and the
liberal Arab e-journal Elaph, for instance, both reported on interest in the West
and listed Western media outlets that had picked up the MEMRI TV clip of
Al-Mujanid making the statements: ABC, Fox News, and the Daily Telegraph,
among others. Soon after, the clip became a topic of discussion in media
outlets throughout the Middle East.
Dr. Mazen Salah Mutabagani, a professor at King Saud University in Riyadh
who specializes in the study of Orientalism, accused MEMRI of falsifying Sheikh
Al-Munajid’s statements – even though he acknowledged that he had not “read
the particulars” of Al-Munajid’s exact statements:
“The attitude of the Western media, and especially the institute called MEMRI,
which specializes in transmitting from the Arab media and translating it for the
West – including the falsification of Sheikh Al-Munajid’s statements – it isn’t
unusual for groups among them to do these kinds of things. The noble Koran
said about them ’they change words from their
context’ and ’they sell Allah’s verses for a trifling.’
“Falsification of scripture did in fact occur among them, as Western research
and textual criticism have affirmed. So it is no surprise that Sheikh Al-Munajid’s
statements would be falsified into a form that is not becoming of a Muslim
“I haven’t read the particulars of what he said, but I read that he did not issue a
fatwa calling for the killing of Mickey Mouse, who is just a cartoon character.
Rather, he was talking about the danger by cartoons, and this is not
a new issue.”
Mutabagani continued: “The truth about MEMRI is that the Jews and the
Zionists search for any means to distort Islam and the Muslims and to stoke
enmity towards them in the media. MEMRI isn’t the only one, there are many
centers, though I can’t recall their names. Regarding MEMRI, I learned
that the people behind it are extremist Jews, some from Israel and some from
Al-Madina noted that Mutabagani had called on the Saudi Ministry of Religious
Affairs to launch a research institute comparable to MEMRI, in order to deal
proactively with the world media.(8)
Saudi Liberal Columnist: “Mickey Mouse and His Friends Have Never Strapped
Explosives Belts On Their Waists”
In an interview with the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, Dr. Yousuf bin ‘Abdallah
Al-Ahmad, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud
University, expressed displeasure with Muslim “hypocrites” who had joined the
West in what he termed an intentional distortion of the words of Muslim clerics
in order to ridicule them.
Indeed, a number of Arab columnists, including Saudis, did criticize Sheikh
Al-Munajid’s “fatwa” as another example of overreach on the part of
fundamentalist clerics. Muhammad Bin ‘Abd Al-Latif Aal Al-Sheikh, a columnist
for Al-Jazirah and a frequent critic of Islamist groups, noted that animal
allegories were an important genre in classical Arab literature, and that no
religious figure had ever condemned them in the past.
‘Abdallah Farraj Al-Sharif made the same point in the Saudi daily Al-Madina. He
also contested Al-Munajid’s claims on Islamic grounds, saying that it was
disputed whether mice are really ritually impure, and that in any event the
reason one may kill them is simply because they can cause harm, and not
because they are inherently evil or hated by Allah. He also accused Al-Munajid
of making Muslims look ridiculous based on distortions of Islam’s true
The well-known Saudi liberal columnist Hussein Shobakshi wrote in the London
daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that Al-Munajid “should leave Mickey Mouse and
others like him alone, since there are people who are much more dangerous. As
far as I know, Mickey Mouse and his friends have never strapped explosives
belts on their waists, or declared anyone an apostate for disagreeing with them,
or other such disgusting examples.
“Ramadan is almost over, the ‘Eid is almost upon us, and Mickey and other
have a rendezvous with our children. Let them play and be
happy in peace.”
In a sarcastic article on the role clerics play in Arab society, Dr. Khaled
Al-Hurub wrote in the UAE daily Al-Ittihad: “What would happen to us if, Allah
forbid, these sheikhs were silenced?… Without them, we would continue in our
frightful negligence, allowing our children to laugh happily at the conniving
Mickey Mouse, thinking, in our great ignorance, that he was just a plain old
“In fact, the muftis revealed to us that he is a soldier of the accursed Satan
disguised as an innocent mouse, who wants to finish off our children’s minds.
“Even those we thought were innocent mice have been incontrovertibly proven
to be lowly creatures that must be killed ‘in all cases’; they are part of a global
conspiracy against us.”
Others, though, thought that the controversy was overblown. Muhammad
Sadeq Diyab, also writing in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, blamed the West for jumping
on the Mickey Mouse fatwa: “I blame the preacher Muhammad Al-Munajid for
being inexact in his speech and mistaken in his priorities, but I don’t see in the
opinion he presented, as broadcast, any reason for the Western and American
media to get angry, or for news websites and web forums to carry this, or for it
to be discussed on numerous talk shows and news programs after it was
translated into English.
“ as though Al-Munajid had already mounted his horse and taken up
his sword to carry out the death sentence on this cartoon character. There is no
justification for this outcry, which is another attempt to fish in murky
Some Saudi commentators complained that Al-Munajid was being described as
a Saudi, and stressed that he is actually a Palestinian with a Syrian passport
who merely resides and teaches in Saudi Arabia. (In fact, Al-Munajid has
long lived in Saudi Arabia, and formerly served in the Saudi Embassy’s Islamic
Affairs Department in Washington; additionally, his page on Islamonline’s “Ask
the Scholar” feature refers to him as “a well-known Saudi Islamic lecturer and
Egyptian Liberal: “I Decided to Go to Disneyland to Make Sure Mickey Mouse
Was All Right”
Sami Al-Behiri, an Egyptian residing in the U.S. who is a columnist for the liberal
Arab e-journal Elaph, headed to Disneyland to interview Mickey Mouse and get
his response to Sheikh Al-Munajid’s statements:
“I abhor all the mice in the world, with the exception of four: the computer
mouse, Jerry, Mickey Mouse, and the Mexican mouse Speedy Gonzalez.
“Thus, I decided to support Sheikh Muhammad Al-Munajid’s fatwa attacking
mice, but I differ with him on his attack against Jerry and Mickey Mouse. You
can view Sheikh Al-Munajid’s fatwa here:
“In truth, Sheikh Al-Munajid represents a group of sheikhs who attack all that is
good, and fear the very feeling of happiness. Feeling happiness, or the
happiness of others, makes them miserable. This is why you see them attacking
all that is good in our lives and our children’s lives, like Mickey Mouse or Tom
“These sheikhs are free to believe what they want, but they are not free to turn
our lives into a swamp of misery.
“Sheikh Al-Munajid did not take the trouble to ask himself: If mice are evil and
must be destroyed (including imaginary cartoon mice), then why did Allah
create them?… Also, if Sheikh Al-Munajid hates living mice, what have
imaginary cartoon mice ever done?
“In my analysis, the flood of fatwas that has attacked us in these last years is
nothing but a storm against life and against all that is good or gladdening in our
lives. The necessary conclusion of this hatred for our lives is to strap on an
explosive belt in order to be delivered from our melancholy lives.
“I was quite alarmed at Sheikh Al-Munajid’s fatwa, and I decided to go to
Disneyland to make sure Mickey Mouse was all right.”
“I Don’t Think We Can Let a Muslim From the Middle East Interview Mickey
Mouse Under These Circumstances”
“When I got to Mickey Mouse’s house in Disneyland, I found that it was tightly
guarded by Marines, U.S. National Guard, and no small number of FBI agents,
with their dark glasses, earpieces, dark suits, and black ties. It appeared that
they were observing all of the visitors, including the children.
“I approached Mickey’s house, and a Marine appeared. We had the following
“Marine: Are you here by yourself?
“Marine: Where are your children?
“Me: My children are no longer kids, they are college and high school students.
“Marine: I can’t let you enter without a child with you.
“Me: Why, what happened?
“Marine: There’s a death threat against Mickey Mouse, from some extremists
“Me: I’m a journalist – I came to interview Mickey Mouse about these threats
that people are talking about on the web.
“Marine: Let me see your ID.
“(I take it out, and he looks a few times at me and then at my picture, then
says:) Your name is Sami Al-Behiri!
“Marine: What kind of name is that? Where are you from?
“Me: I live here in the U.S., in California.
“Marine: What I mean is, what is your country of origin, where did you
“Me: I’m originally from Egypt.
“Marine: Ah, so you’re from the Middle East.
“Marine: Are you a Muslim?
“Me: I think that’s my business, and has nothing to do with interviewing
“Marine: Answer the question. Are you a Muslim?
“Marine: Mr. Al-Behiri, I don’t think we can let a Muslim from the Middle East
interview Mickey Mouse under these circumstances.
“I asked to see his superior, and in the end they allowed me to interview
Mickey Mouse, after undergoing a body search, and they insisted that a Marine
be present during the interview.”
Mickey Mouse: “I’ve Become Like Salman Rushdie”
“I entered to meet Mickey Mouse and found him in a miserable state, trembling
“Me: Good morning, Mickey.
“Mickey: What’s good about it?
“Inshallah khayr (All will be well, Allah willing).
“Mickey: You say ‘Allah’ – are you one of them?
“Me: Don’t be afraid, I just came to interview you. Naturally you’ve heard of
the fatwa by Sheikh Al-Munajid in the Middle East, which demanded all the
mice in the world be killed?
“Mickey: Yes, and from that time on my life has become unbearable. I’ve
become like the British author Salman Rushdie – I can’t go out and meet the
children and play with them, like I used to before this fatwa. You wouldn’t have
a bit of Kashkaval cheese with you, would you?
“I had brought with me as a gift a quarter loaf of Swiss cheese, but the FBI
agents took it from me during the search, since they were afraid it might be
“Mickey: What do people in the Middle East think about this fatwa?
“Me: The truth is that they are very alarmed – especially the children, who love
you very much.
“Mickey: Give them my best.”
“Me: What security precautions has the federal government taken to protect
“Mickey: In addition to the Marines and other forces you saw outside, scientists
from Harvard University prepared a special mouse hole against
“Me: Is it that bad? “Mickey: Yeah, they’re afraid Iran will get a nuclear bomb
and the ‘mouse hole’ will be one of the strategic targets.