International Journal of Middle East Studies

Islamic Practices in New Media

THE CONSUMER JIHAD: BOYCOTT FATWAS AND NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB

Leor Halevi c1

Abstract

This article deals with the origins, development, and popularity of boycott fatwas. Born of the marriage of Islamic politics and Islamic economics in an age of digital communications, these fatwas targeted American, Israeli, and Danish commodities between 2000 and 2006. Muftis representing both mainstream and, surprisingly, radical tendencies argued that jihad can be accomplished through nonviolent consumer boycotts. Their argument marks a significant development in the history of jihad doctrine because boycotts, construed as jihadi acts, do not belong to the commonplace categories of jihad as a “military” or a “spiritual” struggle. The article also demonstrates that boycott fatwas emerged, to a large degree, from below. New media, in particular interconnected computer networks, made it easier for laypersons to drive the juridical discourse. They did so before September 11 as well as, more insistently, afterward. Their consumer jihad had some economic impact on targeted multinationals, and it provoked corporate reactions.

(Online publication January 27 2012)

Correspondence

c1 Leor Halevi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.; e-mail: leor.halevi@vanderbilt.edu

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