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Muslim scholars recast jihadists’ favorite fatwa

(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.

Lifestyle

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.

RULE FOR MUSLIM RADICALS

Ibn Taymiyya’s Mardin fatwa is a classic
text for militants who say it allows Muslims to declare other Muslims
infidels and wage war on them. The scholars said this view had to be
seen in its historic context of medieval Mongol raids on Muslim lands.

But the scholars said it was actually about
overcoming the old view of a world divided into Muslim and non-Muslim
spheres and reinterpreting Islam in changing political situations.

The emergence of civil states that guard
religious, ethnic and national rights “has necessitated declaring the
entire world a place of tolerance and peaceful co-existence between all
religious, groups and factions,” their declaration said.

Aref Ali Nayed, a Libyan who heads the Dubai
theological think-tank Kalam Research and Media, told the conference
the great Muslim empires of the past were not a model for a globalized
world where borders were increasingly irrelevant.

“We must not be obsessed with an Islam
conceived of only geographically and politically,” he said.

“Living in the diaspora is often more
conducive to healthy and sincere Muslim living. Empires and carved-out
‘Islamic states’ often make us complacent.”

Nayed
said Muslims must also understand that “not all types of secularisms
are anti-religious.” The United States has stayed religious despite its
separation of church and state, but some “French Revolution-like
secularisms” were anti-religious.

The
declaration ended with a call to Muslim scholars for more research to
explain the context of medieval fatwas on public issues and show “what
is hoped to be gained from a sound and correct understanding of their
respective legacies.”

(Editing by Jon
Boyle
)