Normally when we hear that an Islamic cleric has issued a fatwa against somebody we think that someone’s death has been ordered because that person purportedly said, wrote or did something some Muslims may have found ‘offensive’.
Of course those of us who value human rights – especially freedom of speech – have often been put off by such pronouncements which, in this day and age, strike us as draconian, cruel and outdated.
Given the rise in the number of Islamic terrorist cells around the world, and increased incidences of terrorist acts, their arguments have tended to ring hollow to many. Their apologetics seemed like mere lip service – for how could one successfully argue that Islam was a religion of peace given the horrific acts of violence that have been committed in its name over the last 10 years alone?
But there is now an interesting new development that could help convince skeptics. A fatwa has finally been issued that might signify greater sincerity by Muslim clerics in their denouncement of terrorism. A fatwa… against terrorists.
The UKPA reports:
The leader of a worldwide Muslim movement with thousands of followers in the UK is to issue a fatwa – or Islamic religious ruling – in London condemning terrorism and warning suicide bombers that they are "destined for hell".
Pakistan-born Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, founder of the global Minhaj-ul-Quran movement, will make the formal UK proclamation of a fatwa, or religious edict, condemning terrorism and suicide bombing at a news conference.
The 600-page fatwa announces that "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".
Shahid Mursaleen, spokesman for Minhaj-ul-Quran UK, said: "He has hit hard on the terrorists as it prevents Islamists from considering suicide bombers as ‘martyrs’. 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 and Dr Qadri’s fatwa has removed this key intellectual factor from their minds."
The fatwa has been billed as "arguably the most comprehensive" theological refutation of Islamic terrorism to date by counter extremism think tank the Quilliam foundation.
We should all hope that this fatwa against terrorists will make a difference. Of course, it would be naive for anyone to expect an overnight change of heart among those that would otherwise consider acts of terrorism or suicide bombing against civilians in the name of Islam. It would also be naive to expect that this fatwa will go unchallenged or not be dismissed outright by more conservative Islamic clerics.
But it is a good start. After all, where reason fails, one of the best ways of getting people to stop doing something is by telling them that their deity forbids it.