Former “Cheers” actress Kirstie Alley was believed to be in hiding somewhere in California Tuesday night after the Islamic State issued a fatwa calling for her to be beheaded as an apostate.
Friends of the actress say they are shocked and confused by the charge of apostasy because as to their knowledge, Alley, 64 — who is an outspoken advocate of Scientology — has never been a member of the Muslim faith.
Security analysts are studying reports that the fatwa was issued from a mosque in central Raqqa, the so-called capital of the self-professed Islamic State.
The head imam of the mosque is reported to be a leading ISIS spiritual adviser known to Western intelligence as Sheik Mahmoud ibn al-Jushaishi, who according to information received from the Iraqi intelligence services, was born in Baghdad and as a child was diagnosed with severe dyslexia.
Analysts are pursuing the theory that the fatwa was intended to be directed at Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the well-known Somali women’s rights activist who for over twenty years has been campaigning against Islamic extremism and the practice of female genital mutilation.
Hirsi Ali has been the subject of a number of death threats since publicly renouncing her religion and claiming political asylum in the Netherlands in 1992.
However, entertainment analysts are working on the theory that ibn al-Jushaishi is a fan of the early, pre-Alley seasons of “Cheers,” which feature Shelley Long as the female lead Diane Chambers opposite lothario bar owner Sam Malone.
Although television is banned by ISIL, illegal satellite dishes are able to pick up Turkish broadcasting and sitcom experts are poring over ratings figures and viewing intelligence to see if episodes of “Cheers” have been running on Turkish television.
One unnamed TV comedy analyst speculates that viewing old episodes of “Cheers” starring Long — or just episode 122, in which Alley first appears — could have sent the hard-line cleric into a rage and prompted him to issue the deadly fatwa.
Neither Long nor Alley were available for comment.