Muslim scholars in the United States have issued a Fatwa, or judicial ruling, against terrorism. More than 100 Muslim organizations across the country quickly endorsed the ruling, hoping that it will have an impact on the current war against terrorism worldwide.
In the most forceful language possible, Muzammil Siddiqi announced the Fatwa at a news conference Thursday in Washington.
"Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives," He clearly and strongly stated. "Number 1: All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are 'haram' - forbidden - in Islam. Second: It is 'haram' for a Muslim to cooperate or associate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence. Number 3: It is the duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians."
Mr. Siddiqi is chairman of the Fiqh Council, an association of Islamic legal scholars that interprets Muslim religious law. Among the dozens of Muslim American groups endorsing the Council's fatwa was the Islamic Society of North America. ISNA's president, Sheikh Muhammad Nour Abdallah, said previous antiterrorism statements by American Muslim leaders' were of a political nature. In contrast, this ruling reflects a religious -- and in some ways more influential -- pronouncement against terrorism.
"This Fatwa is really not new to us as scholars of North America. It was our position and still is as Muslim scholars," he said. "Clearly, we condemn all kinds of violence against civilians, whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, whoever they are. We are here as ISNA supporting it."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is also supporting it … and not just by signing the fatwa. CAIR has produced radio and TV public service announcements in English, Arabic and Urdu, to explain the ruling.
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper says it's important for this message to reach not just non-Muslims who believe Islam supports terrorism, but Muslims, here in the United States and elsewhere. "We're calling on Imams, or Islamic religious leaders, around North America to read the 'Fatwa' during Friday prayers, Friday is the day of congregational prayer in Islam," he says. "So we're encouraging Imams around the country to do that."
More importantly, says Salam Al-Marayati, of the Public Affairs Council, this message needs to reach Muslim young people -- the generation often recruited as suicide bombers. "Our children need to be very clear on these matters," he says. "There should be no confusion and no ambiguities. As we stand to together as leaders of established Muslim American organizations, this is a message to our future generations and our children so that this notion that suicide bombing and terrorism has any room in Islam is rejected outright."
Over the last few months, a growing number of judicial groups in the Muslim world issued denunciations of terrorism. Nihad Awad of CAIR says that reflects the mainstream -- moderate -- voice of Muslims, in America, and worldwide.
"About 2 weeks ago, I was in Amman, Jordan, I participated in the Islamic International Conference," he says. "The delegates that came from 42 countries represented all schools of thought and sects within Islam. About 170 scholars and leaders came to Jordan to announce clearly that we spoke in one voice against terrorism, violence and extremism. I think that Amman message is no different than our message today."
The Fiqh Council of North America's Fatwa was prompted by the condemnation of terrorism in a similar ruling by British Muslim organizations, announced after the July 7 bombings in London. Georgetown University Islamic Studies Professor John Voll says such religious rulings translate Muslims' stand against violence into action. "The series of bombings within the last year and half, the Madrid bombings, the London bombings, I think represent a new phase in which Muslims in the West are recognizing that the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center was not just a one-time affair," he says. "I think that the new Fatwa from the Fiqh Council represents a very important reminder of American Muslims to Muslim Americans of their need to be actively aware of the non-Islamic nature of violent extremism."
By issuing this Fatwa, Professor Voll says, American Muslim organizations are taking a firm stand in the global fight against terrorism. "By itself, it would not have a major impact," he says. "But in combination with the many statements over the last few years and particularly in the last few months, I think it does have an important impact of reminding people around the world, Muslims and non-Muslims, that the mainstream Muslims, the real Muslims, if you will, reject terrorism."
American Muslim leaders say this religious ruling is based on strict interpretation of Islam's two main sources, the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. They hope it adds moral authority to their often-stated condemnation of terrorism… and finally puts to rest the