Muslim scholars recast jihadists' favorite fatwa

Wed Mar 31, 2010 3:35am EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - Prominent Muslim scholars have recast a famous medieval fatwa on jihad, arguing the religious edict radical Islamists often cite to justify killing cannot be used in a globalized world that respects faith and civil rights.

A conference in Mardin in southeastern Turkey declared the fatwa by 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyya rules out militant violence and the medieval Muslim division of the world into a "house of Islam" and "house of unbelief" no longer applies.

Osama bin Laden has quoted Ibn Taymiyya's "Mardin fatwa" repeatedly in his calls for Muslims to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and wage jihad against the United States.

Referring to that historic document, the weekend conference said: "Anyone who seeks support from this fatwa for killing Muslims or non-Muslims has erred in his interpretation.

"It is not for a Muslim individual or a Muslim group to announce and declare war or engage in combative jihad ... on their own," said the declaration issued Sunday in Arabic and later provided to Reuters in English.

The declaration is the latest bid by mainstream scholars to use age-old Muslim texts to refute current-day religious arguments by Islamist groups. A leading Pakistani scholar issued a 600-page fatwa against terrorism in London early this month.

Another declaration in Dubai this month concerned peace in Somalia. Such fatwas may not convince militants, but could help keep undecided Muslims from supporting them, the scholars say.

The Mardin conference gathered 15 leading scholars from countries including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India, Senegal, Kuwait, Iran, Morocco and Indonesia. Among them were Bosnian Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric, Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah of Mauritania and Yemeni Sheikh Habib Ali al-Jifri.   Continued...