Muslim leader issues anti-terror fatwa

Declaration a clear refutation of al Qa'eda ideology, author says, with hopes of influencing potential recruits.

Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri says he felt compelled to write the edict because of concerns about the radicalisation of young Muslims.
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LONDON // A global fatwa condemning terrorism and warning suicide bombers that they were "destined for hell" was issued yesterday by the leader of an international Muslim movement. The 600-page ruling was issued by Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri, founder of the global Minhaj-ul-Quran movement. Announced at a conference in London, the fatwa decrees: "Suicide bombings and attacks against civilian targets are not only condemned by Islam, but render the perpetrators totally out of the fold of Islam - in other words, to be unbelievers."

The Pakistani-born Mr ul Qadri, who has promoted peace and interfaith dialogue for 30 years, describes his declaration as "the most comprehensive fatwa on the subject of terrorism ever written". He said that it probably would have no effect on terrorists so brainwashed that they could no longer think for themselves, but could influence those who were tempted to follow the teachings of extremists. "The fatwa has been issued to provide clear, categorical and comprehensive injunctions that will dissuade confused and impressionable young Muslims from embarking upon the path of extremism and radicalism that eventually leads to the deadly and horrific outcomes we have all tragically come to know," he said.

Mr ul Qadri said the fatwa completely dismantled al Qa'eda's violent ideology, which he described as an "old evil with a new name". "I have tried to leave not a single stone unturned on this particular subject," said Mr ul Qadri, a scholar of Sufism who said he felt compelled to issue the edict because of concerns about the radicalisation of young Muslims. "The reality is that whatever these terrorists are doing it is not martyrdom. All these activities are taking them to hellfire."

Mr ul Qadri said he had drawn on classical teachings and authorities acceptable to all sects of Islam to compile his fatwa. Shahid Malik, Britain's communities' minister, yesterday welcomed the fatwa. "It is incumbent on Muslims to stand up for their faith," he said. "When 7/7 occurred [the London transport bombings in 2005], those four evil young men killed themselves and over 50 innocent people because they followed a twisted and perverted interpretation of Islam which told them by doing so they would go to heaven.

"A clear and unequivocal message must go out that Islam teaches that these four are not martyrs going to heaven but sinners going somewhere very different indeed." Shahid Mursaleen, the spokesman for Minhaj-ul-Quran UK, added that the fatwa "has hit hard on the terrorists as it prevents Islamists from considering suicid e bombers as martyrs". He said: "This fatwa injects doubt into the minds of potential suicide bombers. Extremist groups based in Britain recruit youth by brainwashing them that they will 'with certainty' be rewarded in the next life. Mr Qadri's fatwa has removed this key intellectual factor from their minds."

A spokesman for the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based counterterrorism think tank, hailed the fatwa as "arguably the most comprehensive" theological refutation of Islamist terrorism. "Terrorist groups such as al Qa'eda continue to justify their mass killings with self-serving readings of religious scripture," he said. "Fatwas that demolish and expose such theological innovations will consign Islamist terrorism to the dustbin of history."

Tim Winter, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Cambridge University, said although there had been similar fatwas in the past, Mr ul Qadri appeared to have gone further than most. "To declare the miscreants as unbelievers is unusual because it is not really clear that the rules allow one simply to say that they are not Muslims," he told Reuters. "Those who are already hardliners will pay no attention at all. But 'swing voters' - poorly educated and angry Muslims, who respect mainstream scholars - will probably take note. Certainly it is a helpful initiative."

Minhaj-ul-Quaran runs courses in combating religious extremism in educational centres throughout Britain. Shaikh Mohammed Hisham Kabbani, an Islamic scholar at the Centre for Spirituality and Cultural Advancement, said: "This scholarship is a landmark in enabling Muslims living in the UK to be able to silence the small minority of people who think it is OK to commit violent acts in the name of Islam," he said.

"We are happy and honoured to be working with Mr Qadri and Minhaj-ul-Quran to support the UK Muslims in countering the radical Islamist rhetoric in the world."