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Islamic Separatists and Emoticons: The Fatwa

Jurists with the Vilayat Dagestan jihadist insurgency in the North Caucasus region have determined the theological standing of emoticons.
March 10, 2014, 6:55pm
Photo by Casey Fleser

After a busy February of not bombing the Winter Olympics at Sochi as originally promised, the Vilayat Dagestan (VD) — part of a confederation of jihadist insurgencies known as the Caucasus Emirate, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in the North Caucasus region — has moved on to a tough, challenging issue: the theological standing of emoticons.

Last Wednesday, the big brains that tackle weighty doctrinal issues for VD issued a fatwa titled “Rule for drawing emoticons while chatting online,” coming down decisively on what was presumably a hotly debated topic. They ruled that the use of emoticons is OK — kinda.

Here’s the reasoning. The Koran forbids drawing pictures of people. VD’s authorities on Islam noted that the prohibition against these images center on the head, referring to a prophetic dictum that asserts that if the head is removed from an image, it no longer counts as an image. Emoticons are pretty crappy representations of people, lacking things like ears, noses, and hair. You can even argue that they are technically headless — which is basically the view of VD’s jurists, who determined that “if part of the image will be removed, without which it ceases to be alive, such images are not haram [forbidden].”

So, if a picture of a person is sufficiently lousy and missing actual human elements — most crucially, a head — then it doesn’t count as a forbidden image. Emoticons are therefore far from actual representations of people. In fact, they’re really not pictures at all, but just symbolic icons representing a person's state of mind. People can now liberally deploy emoticons in chat rooms and the like without worrying that they’re drawing forbidden pictures. Yay!

But hold up, ladies. The VD fatwa clamps down on women getting all casual with the expression of their emotional states of being — no emoticons can be used with guys outside their family. The thinking here is that if a woman shares feelings and emotions with non-mahram men, she would be getting too familiar with them, and therefore would be a hussy. If worst comes to worst and she has to actually communicate with a man she isn’t related or married to, VD’s jurists said that she can damn well communicate in public without the use of emoticons. So that's that.

Now that the proper use of emoticons is settled, at least among militant Islamists in the Caucasus, VICE News hopes that VD can carry on with their excellent work of not blowing stuff up for quite some time to come.

Photo via Flickr