n September, Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), held a press conference in Washington and, flanked by other Muslim figures, announced that 120 Muslim scholars had produced an 18-page open letter, written in Arabic, to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
An English translation of the document is a tough slog. As Awad said at the time, “This letter is not meant for a liberal audience.” He even admitted that mainstream Muslims might find it difficult to read.
The letter is an extended exegesis, heavily salted with quotes from the Koran and the Hadith, arguing point by point about the nature of jihad, the slaughtering of innocents, the taking of slaves, and other not-so-savory elements of the distant past — and in the past they should remain, the text argues. It makes the case not only that ISIS was wrong to commit horrific acts of violence in modern times, but that it was interpreting Islamic law incorrectly to justify such acts….