Global Imams Council Adopts the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism – C-CAT MEMO

In this memo, “The Global Imams Council Adopts the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism: Import of the Decision,” C-CAT provides background and assessment of this clerical statement by the first large Muslim clerical body to take this step.

“We invite leading organizations of the Muslim world and all other Imams Councils to adopt the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and all examples underneath it.” [i]

The Global Imams Council

November 2, 2020


The Bagdad-based Global Imams Council Adopts the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

The Governing Board of the Global Imams Council (GIC)[ii] in Baghdad, Iraq, and its Senior Imam Committee voted unanimously this week to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Definition of Antisemitism. The GIC general council and members worldwide then voted by an “overwhelming majority” in favour, according to a GIC press release on the matter.

The global campaign for the adoption of the IHRA definition has become a cornerstone effort in the battle against Jew-hatred. 

It has been adopted by 34 countries to date including CanadaAlbania and Bahrain joined the effort just this week as did the province of Ontario.

The GIC resolution was passed on October 26, 2020 and made effective on October 30, 2020. According to a GIC internal memo issued by GIC president, Imam Baqir al-Budairi, the “definition will be binding on all current and future members of the The Global Imams Council; including all affiliate Mosques, Centers, Institutes and Organizations operated by the Imams of this council worldwide.”

With 1,300 imams serving more than 800 communities across 49 nations, the GIC is “the world’s first and largest international non-governmental body of Muslim faith leaders from all Islamic denominations and schools of thought,” according to their website.

A Statement from GIC President Imam al-Budairi:

“The Global Imams Council is determined to strengthen the bridges of peace between Islam and all religions. We respect the beliefs and emotions of all people, and this is what makes us different from the Islamist extremists who have tarnished the image of our religion. Our Council has welcomed the invitation to adopt the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, and I am pleased to announce that our Council has done so through a successful and democratic referendum. We understand the importance of clerical presence in these peace developments….”[iii] 

Imam al-Budairi, President, Global Imams Council

Who is Imam al-Budairi? 

Imam Mohammad Baqir al-Budairi, is a prominent Islamic scholar and among the leading Imams in Baghdad, Iraq. He belongs to a family of revered faith leaders. His paternal grandfather, Grand Ayatollah Abdulzahra al-Budairi, established Baghdad’s contemporary Islamic Seminary: Al-Zahra Seminary for Religious Studies (1970), and had founded the iconic Sayiday Shabab Ahl-Aljanah Mosque in Baghdad in 1960. Both establishments are currently overseen by Al-Budairi’s father, Allamah Al-Budairi, who is also a notable scholar and the founding director of numerous educational and charity organizations in Iraq.[iv]

 In a statement, the GIC said that the adoption of the definition came after it received a letter from the office of U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism Elan Carr, calling on the council to do so, and after receiving requests from “influential and prominent members of the public who are concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism; and the importance of defining and combating this form of extremism which has led to terrorism.”[v]

 “We live in a time of rising antisemitism and terrorist attacks, which makes our responsibility as faith leaders greater, and even greater as Imams,” GIC’s members stated, adding that they are “the first Imams Council in history to invite a rabbi to become a permanent member of its Interfaith board.”[vi]


The Import of the Global Imams Council Vote

 Clerical Influence is a Crucial Factor in the Battle Against Extremism: While the actions taken by state entities are obviously key milestones in the IHRA campaign, they are also limited by their political nature in an arena in which antisemitism as a global phenomenon is often driven by ideological and theological factors. 

But this is a clerical statement by the first large Muslim clerical body to take this step, and the import of this vote cannot be overstated. Clerics in the Muslim world are a key political and cultural force with a very different level of credibility and influence both within, but also well beyond, political frameworks. 

In particular clerical efforts like those of the GIC are indispensable in curtailing the influence of Islamist extremists, clerics and institutions who regularly and effectively dismiss and delegitimize state entities who oppose them, as enemies of the Muslim world fundamentally at odds with Islamic sensibilities. 

 A Blow Against Islamist Antisemitism – a Global Super-spreader of Jew-hatred: Islamist antisemitism is at the very heart of the theology, strategies, and writings of extremist entities like the Muslim Brotherhood, the Wahhabis, and the Khomeinists of Iran. It is uncompromising, unrelenting and openly genocidal. For these groups that have tens of millions of adherents and sympathizers, antisemitism is neither a rhetorical tactic nor a secondary objective, but a raison d’être. It is a central organizing principle that animates and informs the worldview and policies of Iran’s Islamic Revolution and fuels the onslaughts of terrorist groups that Islamism has spawned, tolerated, or actively supported. 

Notably, Islamist antisemitism has demonstrated unique capacities as a “super-spreader” of Jew-hatred across the globe. Its canards have been adopted, amplified, and normalized by extremists on both ends of the political spectrum throughout western world. Islamist antisemitism is a key driver and catalyst of global antisemitism and is now being directly and unambiguously confronted by the GIC on an unprecedented institutional scale. This is likely to have significant impact both on the ground and throughout the political corridors of the Islamic world.

 A New Template: The GIC’s vote has created a new Islamic template that will open the door for other like-minded Muslim clerical institutions to join this effort against the depredations of Islamist extremism.

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The U.S. Department of State:

 “I welcome the opportunity to work with you in achieving this landmark step that will pave the way for stronger Muslim-Jewish relations and help defeat anti-Semitism and hate worldwide.”[vii]

Ellie Cohanim, U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism 

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“Israel welcomes the important step by the Global Imams Council (GIC) in adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Religious leadership has an important role to play in marking a path for its believers, and the GIC leads the way in the struggle against antisemitism and in the building of bridges of peace and coexistence….”[viii]

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“We live in a time of rising antisemitism and terrorist attacks, which makes our responsibility as faith leaders greater, and even greater as Imams”[ix]

The Global Imams Council (Oct. 29, 2020)

“… Not only is the IHRA Definition a consensus issue in the Jewish community, but even mainstream Muslim organizations have adopted it this week – including the Global Imams Council. In the last week alone, the Muslim-majority nations of Albania and Bahrain have also both adopted it. The [antisemitic] chants at July’s rally are a vivid illustration of why the IHRA Definition is so important and why the lines of what constitutes antisemitism must not be blurred….”[x]

 Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer, B’nai Brith Canada (Oct. 30, 2020)

“We invite leading organizations of the Muslim world and all other Imams Councils to adopt the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and all examples underneath it.”[xi]

The Global Imams Council (Oct. 29, 2020)