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Activating the Counter-Terrorism Fatwa - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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“Targeting public resources, corruption, hijacking planes, and blowing up buildings.” This is the most important line in the historical fatwa that was issued last month by the Saudi Arabian Senior Ulema Council which is in practice the most important religious authority in the Islamic world. This is a line that explicitly prohibits the actions of terrorist groups that claim to be Islamic and who fight in the name of Islam. As this is a fatwa that deals with international security, not just security in Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world, we expected that this would be circulated and broadcast everywhere, however I only succeeded in finding news of this fatwa with difficulty, and the majority of what was reported was just general information.

Since this is the most important fatwa to appear until now with regards to the controversial war on terrorism we expected news of this to appear everywhere, however this fatwa still remains away from the spotlight and unknown to the general public. Without publicity this fatwa remains as nothing more than a mere piece of paper, and terrorists will continue to benefit with regards to financing, recruitment, and winning public sympathy. Therefore it is in the interests of terrorists and the extremists who support them for this fatwa to remain unknown and not receive any publicity, and they are trying to bury or silence this fatwa.

It was expected that this fatwa would be promoted and publicized by those religious figures who are employed by the state, such as imams, preachers, and scholars, and for them to explain and defend this fatwa in their mosques and from their minbars. It was expected that all government publications that might oppose this fatwa be withdrawn, and for all governmental or quasi-governmental funds to stop financing publishing houses, books, seminars, and even leaflets that oppose this fatwa. This is the way to activate this fatwa and defeat the extremist ideology that has invaded Islamic societies, and return the situation to what it was prior to 1991 when jihad was only declared by the Mufti of a country or the country’s institutions. However the opposition stole the fatwa and exploit it to serve their own political goals. Jihad today has become a term utilized by groups and organizations that have nothing to do with Islam.

As a result of this, a large number – perhaps even thousands – of Saudi Arabians died over the past 20 years due to so-called jihad, and we do not know what the true number is today. A long and ambiguous war that was supposed to be temporary began as part of Afghan jihad to fight the Soviet forces; however this was a terrible political mistake and the dam broke in the face of a wave of [Islamic] extremism.

By explicitly defining terrorism in a detailed manner, the Saudi Senior Ulema Council has blocked the path for those who attempt to justify their criminal activities. Religious scholars have braved these extremists and their criticism and played their role, however it is now the government’s turn to do this and implement a program to confront terrorism which is something that harms Muslims and the reputation of Islam. It is no longer correct to say that Islam is the religion of peace and tolerance when there are those who kill children and blow up planes full of innocent passengers and destroy houses, and all in the name of jihad. Like everybody else, the Muslims are confused about Islam’s true principles with regards to defense and war, and does Islam no longer recall that it is the religion that prohibits the cutting down of trees and the killing of animals during war, as well as protecting the women, children, and the elderly, from violence?

Defining and criminalizing terrorism scares the extremists because it cuts off their access to financing, prevents them from recruiting amongst the youth, and eliminates their relationship with the Muslim community who they continually seek to win over with fatwas and propaganda.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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