Sexual slavery practised by Islamic State (IS) jihadists is condoned in literature that is available at Islamic institutions and should be burnt, a leading imam in France has said.

Hocine Drouiche, vice president of the Conference of Imams of France and an imam in Nimes, said that the ideology behind the sex-slave market set up in Mosul, Iraq, during its occupation by IS could be found in books published or stocked by Islamic universities that contained justifications for the rape of women and girls “because they are not Muslims”.

appearing to show IS slave market
This image, apparently showing women held by IS being transported as slaves, was published after IS took thousands of women and children in Iraq hostage (IG)

In the first of three articles published this month by the Vatican-linked website AsiaNews, he added: “These books are part of the official curricula of universities and centres that train imams in almost all Muslim countries, even though all these countries have signed the Geneva agreements on conflicts and the various UN conventions relating to conflict situations.” AsiaNews noted that both Christians and Yazidis had been kept as slaves by IS extremists.

The Algerian-born imam and scholar of interfaith dialogue also said that criticism of the sexual enslavement of non-Muslim girls as young as ten – which was condoned by IS – was impossible because such teachings were deemed “divine and sacred”, and anyone who questioned them “would be immediately isolated among Islamic jurists”.

“Why are such savage crimes against human beings justified simply because the latter are not Muslims?” he asked, and called for Islamic laws to be considered in the context of when they were written.

Dr. Drouiche called for Muslims to have the “courage” to distance themselves from Islamic State. “Up to now, no imam or theologian has had the courage to say that Daesh [the Arabic acronym for IS] cannot claim for itself the Islamic religion, that they are simply not Muslims,” he said.

“Muslim terrorism, including slavery and sexual slavery, will vanish after the burning of all those books … Otherwise these universities and religious centres will continue to create different brands of Daesh, Al-Qaida, Aqpa, Aqmi, Boko Haram, [Al-]Shabab, al-Nusra Front, not to mention Ansar Dine, Ansar al-Sharia, etc,” he argued.

He named Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the seat of Sunni learning, as one such institution, but AsiaNews did not include a response from the institution or say whether one had been sought.

Dr. Drouiche (with arms outstretched), French author Marek Halter (L), Imam of the Drancy Mosque, Hassen Chalghoumi (C) and representative of the Jewish community gather near the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on November 15, 2015, two days after attacks that killed at least 129 people. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Drouiche has faced criticism from some French imams for saying political Islam and terrorism are linked. He has said political Islam is at odds with “the Islam of humanism, openness and tolerance”.

In a second article he said some scholars have called for the contextualisation of ancient Islamic teaching. But he said “the weight of the ‘sacred past’ … is holding back the evolution of the Muslim world” and brought about conflict between it and the West, China, India, several African countries, and conflict within Islam.

Conservative and Salafi schools are resisting efforts to reform Islamic teachings, believing that any reform amounts to “a capitulation before its enemies”, he said.

Many Muslims are espousing a “binary vision of the world” in which Islam is permanently at war against “the infidels”, he said, which overlooks areas of overlap between Muslim law and contemporary international humanitarian law.

Dr. Drouiche’s final article urges Muslims to teach their children “that human beings are all equal in law regardless of their religion and that violence and sexual slavery are crimes against humanity”.

He argued that the silence of the Muslim majority – in Muslim countries and the West – regarding the “genocide” of their Christian and Yazidi countrymen and countrywomen, “prevents the normalisation of relations between Muslims and local minorities and the non-Muslim world as a whole”.

Citing “radicalised mosques” and Shia circles in post-IS Iraq and Syria that promote “‘narratives of hatred’, especially against Christians”, he asked: “Are we moving towards a new path that will continue Daesh’s work?”

“Until the situation changes, Eastern Christians, Yazidis and other minorities will continue to live in fear of persecution and slavery,” he warned.

Dr. Drouiche made headlines in France in 2016 when he briefly resigning as vice-president of the Conference of Imams the day after a terrorist drove a lorry through crowds in Nice, killing 86 people. He hit out against “incompetent Muslim institutions which do nothing for peace and do not stop proclaiming that Islamic extremism does not exist”. He later revoked his decision on the condition that the Conference of Imams cut ties to the French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil du culte musulman de France), which he accused of doing nothing in response to the attack, save issuing a brief statement.