Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun
Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun was born in Aleppo, Syrian Arab Republic, in 1949. His father, Muhammad Adeeb Hassoun was also a sheikh. He has five children and ten grandchildren. Hassoun studied at the University of Islamic Studies, where he graduated as Doctor in Shafi'i fiqh. Hassoun took office as Great Mufti of Syria in July 2005 after the death of Ahmed Kuftaro. Hassoun is a frequent speaker in interreligious and intercultural events, and his pluralistic views on interfaith dialogue (between different religions or between different Islamic denominations) has sparked criticism from stricter visions of Islam.
On September 6, 2006, Hassoun met the Armenian Foreign Minister to discuss the relationship between the two nations, as well as the two religions, among other issues. In the same travel he met the Catholicos of All Armenians
On January 15, 2008, Hassoun spoke to the European Parliament on the subject of intercultural dialogue, stressing the value of culture as a unifying rather than a dividing force. Hassoun was addressing a formal sitting of Parliament as the first speaker in a series of visits by eminent religious and cultural leaders in 2008, which had been designated the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. He made the statement "Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohamed came with one single religion", therefore "there is no holy war, because a war can never be holy: it is peace that is holy"; later he added that it is wrong to use religion to justify killing.
On 19 January 2010, Hassoun sparked controversy when, speaking to a delegation of Christians and Jews from the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, he allegedly commented, "If the Prophet Muhammad had asked me to deem Christians or Jews heretics, I would have deemed Muhammad himself a heretic," and, "[i]f Muhammad had ordered me to kill people, I would have told him, 'You are not a Prophet.'" In a later clarification, Hassoun stated that his initial statement had actually been, "If our Prophet Muhammad had ordered me to disbelieve in Moses and Jesus..."
Provoking an outcry amongst many orthodox Muslims, news of the incident reached the English-speaking world primarily after the prominent Muslim scholar Muhammad al-Yaqoubi's public condemnation of the mufti. During his Friday sermon of 22 January at Masjid al-Hasan in Damascus, Ya’qoubi decried Hassoun's indiscretion, imputing disbelief to his words, and demanded that the mufti resign. Ya'qoubi's comments led to his own immediate dismissal from the pulpit.
2011 Syrian uprising
Hassoun is considered to be a firm supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad. In a public address which aired on Syria News TV and was posted on the Internet on 9 October 2011 (as translated by MEMRI), Hassoun threatened to activiate suicide bombers in Europe and the United States if Syria was attacked by external powers. He said: "The moment the first missile hits Syria, all the sons and daughters of Lebanon and Syria will set out to become martyrdom-seekers in Europe and on Palestinian soil. I say to all of Europe and to the US: We will prepare martyrdom-seekers who are already among you, if you bomb Syria or Lebanon." He added: "Do not think that the people who will commit martyrdom in France, Britain, or the US, will be Arabs and Muslims. They will be a new Jules Jammal or a new Muhammad Al-Durrah. They will all be like the righteous [of the past]."
Der Spiegel interview
Hassoun was interviewed by the German magazine Der Spiegel on 11 August 2011, saying that some of the protestors in Syria were armed Islamist rebels backed by Saudi Arabia. He talked about religion and politics in Syria during the revolution:
But then imams who had come from abroad, especially Saudi Arabia, stirred things up with their inflammatory speeches. The news channels stationed in the Gulf states, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, helped them by falsely claiming that the clergy was on the side of the anti-Assad protesters.", "And what has really improved in Egypt? Should we welcome the rise of Islamist parties? I believe in the strict separation of church and state."
"How many, 50 or 55? We're talking about an army of tens of thousands of men. But some of the radical Sunni imams from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region are stirring people up, and unfortunately they are finding a few Sunni imams in my country who sympathize with them. For instance, they have pronounced a fatwa against me, because in their view I am betraying religion and am too moderate. But I'm not the only one on their hit list." "They set their sights on my innocent son Saria, a 22-year-old student who was always friendly to everyone, who was studying International Relations and did not want to make religion his profession. So much for the kin liability you've criticized elsewhere! Oh, if only the four killers had killed me instead.", "There are close ties between the Saudi royal family and the American White House. The Americans are often on the side of the oppressors. I am always on the side of the oppressed." "I see myself as the grand mufti of all 23 million Syrians, not just Muslims, but also Christians and even atheists. I am a man of dialogue. Who knows, maybe an agnostic will convince me with better arguments one day, and I'll become a non-believer. And if I'm enthusiastic about the opposition's political platform, I also might change sides.
- Dr. Hassoun's official website (in Arabic), retrieved 12-20-10
- Shora, Nawar, "The Arab-American Handbook: A Guide to the Arab, Arab-American and Muslim Worlds", ISBN 978-1-885942-14-2. Page 237
- Minister Oskanian Meets with Sheikh Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassun, Mufti of Syrian Arab Republic Armenian Foreign Ministry web site, retrieved 12-21-10
- Highest ranking Muslim cleric in Syria visits Armenia, HULIQ.com, Hareyan Publishing LLC, retrieved 12-21-10
- European Parlament, retrieved 12-21-10
- Excerpts of Hassoun's speech at the European Parliament, (video)
- Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya’qoubi refutes the Mufti of Syria, thread on Ummah Forum, 01-27-10, retrieved 12-20-10
- The Jerusalem Post, The lonely man of peace, by Lauren Gelfond Feldinger, 01-21-10, retrieved 12-20-10
- "Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad al Yaqubi Dismissed....". Qatar Living. 03-02-2010. Retrieved 03-02-2010.
- "Syria government blames 'terrorist group' for killing mufti's son". Los Angeles Times. 2011-10-03.
- Mufti of Syria Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun Threatens to Activate Suicide Bombers in Europe and the U.S., MEMRI, (transcript), Clip No. 3142, October 9, 2011. (Video clip available here).
- "Assassinations Sow Discord in Syria". The Wall Street Journal. 2011-10-04.