Thursday, July 28, 2005

U.S. Muslims issue anti-terrorism 'fatwa'

From Yahoo News:

Top U.S. Muslim scholars issued a "fatwa," or religious edict, against terrorism on Thursday and called on Muslims to help authorities fight the scourge of militant violence.

The fatwa was part of efforts by U.S. Muslims to counter perceived links between Islam and terrorism and avert any negative backlash after this month's bombings by suspected Islamic extremists in London and Egypt.

"Having our religious scholars side by side with our community leaders leaves no room for anybody to suggest that Islam and Muslims condone or support any forms or acts of terrorism," said Esam Omeish, president of the Muslim American Society, one of the groups which announced the fatwa.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said it was the first time Muslims in North America had issued an anti-terrorism edict, although they had repeatedly condemned such acts of violence.

American Muslims this month launched a nationwide advertising campaign in which they declared that those who committed terrorism in the name of Islam were betraying the teachings of the Koran.

Muslim organizations say they have not so far detected any widespread reaction against their community after the most recent bombings.

Hooper said Thursday's religious ruling, issued by the Fiqh Council of North America, said: "We clearly and strongly state (that) all acts of terrorism targeting civilians are 'haram' (forbidden) in Islam."

"It is 'haram' for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence, and it is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians," he quoted the ruling as saying.

The Fiqh Council is an association of Islamic legal scholars that interprets Islamic religious law. Hooper said it was the only one of its kind in North America.

Some 130 North American Muslim organizations and leaders have signed and endorsed the fatwa.

Similar anti-terrorism fatwas have been issued by other Muslim communities. After the bombings in London religious leaders from about 500 British mosques issued such an edict and presented it to local politicians.

According to Islam, only responsible, religious authorities which are recognized by a Muslim community may issue fatwas. Many Muslims say extremists such as Osama bin Laden have given these edicts a bad name in the West because they have used them without authorization and to call for acts such as murder.

Because Islam is not based on a world-wide hierarchical structure, the edicts are not globally binding, and only affect the community whose religious leaders have issued the rulings. (additional reporting by Caroline Drees)