WASHINGTON: The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), a body of Islamic scholars of North America has issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from going through full body scanners. Major Muslim groups of North America support this fatwa.
FCNA issued the religious ruling that says going through the airport scanners would violate Islamic rules on modesty.
"It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women," reads the fatwa issued last Tuesday. "Islam highly emphasises haya (modesty) and considers it part of faith. The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts."
After the Christmas Day bombing attempt in Detroit by a suspect from Nigeria, many believe that it is agencies sponsored drama, some US and Canadian airports are now in the process of buying and using the see through body scanners.
Muslim groups say the scanners, which show in graphic detail the outlines of a person's body, go against their religion. One option offered to passengers who don't want to use the scanners would be a pat down by a security guard. The Muslim groups are urging members to undergo those instead.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says it endorses the fatwa. "We support the Fiqh Council's statement on full-body scanners and believe that the religious and privacy rights of passengers can be respected while maintaining safety and security," Nihad Awad, national executive director of CAIR was quoted as saying.
Currently, there are 40 full-body scanners at 19 airports in the US, including two in Detroit, said spokesman Jim Fotenos of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). There are plans for 450 more body scanners in US airports, he said.
In a statement, the TSA said it is committed to keeping passengers safe and also protecting their privacy. Body scanners "do not produce photos", the agency said. Rather, the images "look like chalk outlines".
The TSA stressed that the body scanners are "optional to all passengers". Those who turn them down, "will receive equivalent screening that may include a physical pat-down, hand-wanding, and other technologies".
"Physical pat-downs are performed by transportation security Officers of the same sex as the passenger in a private screening area, if the passenger requests."
“The Full Body Security Scanners (also called Nude-body scanners) are being installed at various airports in United States and Europe. Several human rights and religious groups have expressed their concerns and disapproval of such scanners on the grounds of violation of privacy and human dignity. The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) emphasizes that a general and public use of such scanners is against the teachings of Islam, natural law and all religions and cultures that stand for decency and modesty.
It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women. Islam highly emphasizes ‘haya’ (modesty) and considers it part of faith. The Qur’an has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts. Human beings are urged to be modest in their dress. See Holy Quran, 7:26-27; 24:30-31; 33:59. Exception to this rule can be made in case of extreme necessity, such as medical treatment, to investigate a crime or in a situation of imminent danger. There must be a compelling case for the necessity and the exemption to this rule must be proportional to the demonstrated need.
FCNA fully supports the necessary measures for the safety and protection of all passengers. It is, however, deeply concerned about the use of nude body scanners for this purpose. FCNA recommends that instead of producing and displaying a picture of the body, software should be designed to produce only the picture of questionable materials on an outline of the body. Further, other technologies could be used that detect the presence of explosives without infringing on modesty as some European leaders have pointed out. FCNA appreciates the alternate provision of pat-down search (when needed) and therefore recommend to Muslims to avail this option over the nude body scanners.” (Issued on February 9, 2010)