National Post : Top Islamic scholar issues 'absolute' fatwa against terror

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A prominent Islamic scholar denounced terrorism in London, England, yesterday, issuing a fatwa he hopes will persuade young Muslims to turn their backs on extremism.

Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri said there were no "ifs or buts" about terrorism, adding he wanted to convey the message that acts of terrorism cut people off as true followers of Islam.

"They can't claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim Umma [the wider Muslim community]. No, they become heroes of hellfire, and they are leading towards hellfire," he said. "There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered jihad."

Yesterday's event in London was publicized by the Quilliam Foundation, a government-funded anti-extremism think-tank, and Dr. Qadri addressed an audience that included London's Metropolitan Police, lawmakers and officials from charitable organizations.

His 600-page fatwa was an "absolute" condemnation of terrorism without "any excuses or pretexts."

"Good intentions cannot convert a wrong into good, they cannot convert an evil into good," added Dr. Qadri, who has been living in Southern Ontario for the past four years.

"Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts."

His words echo edicts condemning extremism issued by several Islamic groups since the 9/11 attacks.

But Dr. Qadri says his fatwa, which declares terrorists and suicide bombers to be unbelievers, goes further than any previous denunciation.

"This is the first, most comprehensive fatwa on the subject of terrorism ever written," said the scholar, who has written about 350 books on Islamic scholarship and is a scholar of Sufism, a long tradition within Islam that focuses on peace, tolerance and moderation.

"I have tried to leave not a single stone unturned on this particular subject and I have tried to address every single question relevant to this subject."

Dr. Qadri, 59, who was born in the Punjab city of Jhang, Pakistan, is head of the global Minhaj ul-Quran religious and educational organization that spreads his Sufiideas.

A former Pakistani minister and associate of Benazir Bhutto, the assassinated former prime minister, he delivers lectures worldwide promoting his message of harmony.

Tim Winter, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Cambridge University, said while there had been similar fatwas in the past, Dr. Qadri had 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 said.

"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."

Dr. Qadri said he felt compelled to issue the edict because of concerns about the indoctrination of British Muslims at university -- Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the accused Nigerian Christmas Day bomber, has said he was radicalized while studying in London in 2008 -- and the failure of Muslim clerics and scholars to condemn such extremism.

"The reality is that whatever these terrorists are doing it is not martyrdom. All these activities are taking them to hellfire," Dr. Qadri said.

He is confident his edict will have a significant impact, saying it draws on classical teachings and authorities acceptable to all sects of Islam.

"I will say more than 50% will change their way, they will be influenced. Of the remaining 50% at least some of them, half of them, will become doubtful about their life, their terrorist activity."

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