Interpreting Islam in the Jewish State: Muftis and Iftaʾ in Israel

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Islam is the religion of the majority of Arab citizens in Israel. According to a report issued by Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, there are 1.2 million Muslims in Israel, comprising about 80% of the Arab population in the country. Over the past four decades, Islam has become an important factor in the political and socio-cultural identity of the Arab minority; the number of Muslims in Israel who define their identity first and foremost in relation to their religious affiliation has steadily increased. This article studies the authority, ideologies and legal methods and mechanisms used by muftis practicing iftaʾ in the State of Israel when interpreting Islam for the resident Muslim minority. Key questions are: Who serve as the primary religious authorities for Muslims in Israel? Does a unique ‘Israeli-Islam’ exist? The present research found that the evolving Islamic law of minorities in Israel is much less developed than it is in the West; as such, one cannot yet identify Islam in Israel as ‘Israeli-Islam,’ as having its own distinct nature (as in the case of ‘Euro-Islam’). To date, there seems to be no single locus of Islamic religious authority in Israel; multiple groups claim to speak on Islam’s behalf. As such, there is religio-political fragmentation amid the Muslim community in Israel, each group seeking to create its own religious authority: CIS of the al-Qasemi Sufi Order; ICIF of NIM and, finally, the ad-hoc SIM iftaʾ committees. To date, none of these iftaʾ agencies in Israel has been able to formulate, authorize and apply a code of Islamic minority law in Israel, and they continue to rely heavily on foreign Islamic religious authorities. Israeli Muslims continue to maintain strong ties with the regional socio-cultural and religious space and with their peers in the Muslim-Arab world. Israeli iftaʾ agencies tend to adopt and adapt work methods used by foreign, regional Islamic religious authorities and to accept, as is, or adapt many of their opinions/decisions.
Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Sciences and Humanities
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020


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