July 28, 2005

U.S. Muslims issue anti-terrorism ‘fatwa’

By Romney Willson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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)