The Fiqh Council of North America, a group of Muslim scholars, says the scanners see through clothes to create a three-dimensional image of a person’s naked body.
In a February 9 statement, the group said, “It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women.” The statement noted that the scans are, “against the teachings of Islam, natural law, and all religions and cultures that stand for decency and modesty.”
The council added, “The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts. Human beings are urged to be modest in their dress.”
A Canadian imam, one of 10 Muslim scholars who helped draft the religious ruling, told CBC News that the only exceptions to Islamic rules of modesty are medical necessities or other emergencies, such as the investigation of a crime.
“It has to be a clear and compelling case, and only to the extent that it is absolutely needed,” said Jamal Badawi, professor emeritus of religious studies at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “That does not seem to apply to these scanning machines.”
Another Islamic advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, issued a statement endorsing the FCNA stand.
“We support the Fiqh Council’s statement on full-body scanners, and believe that the religious and privacy rights of passengers can be respected while maintaining safety and security,” said CAIR national executive director, Nihad Awad.
Despite concerns by privacy watchdogs and civil liberty advocates, some U.S. and European airports began using the scanners after an attempted bombing aboard a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25, 2009.
Canada’s Transport Minister John Baird has promised 44 full-body scanners at airports across the country for passengers on U.S.-bound flights.
Recent surveys suggest that the majority of Canadians are in favor of the scanners. In one poll, 74 percent said they supported the use of the scanners, and 67 percent said they would prefer the scanner to a body frisk.