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Reversing Fatwas'' Out of Fear - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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With the British government”s announcement to oust extremists came the alterations in their words and actions. We have witnessed the fleeing of Omar Bakri to Lebanon and his declaration to his adherence of tolerance and non-violence. Sheikh Abu-Basir al-Tartusi also changed his stance and refuted suicide attacks. He reiterated his new position by quoting sayings of the Prophet Mohamed that refer to the importance of peace. al-Tartusi, it would seem, had never heard of these sayings prior to Tony Blair”s decision to repatriate people such as himself.

The common factor amongst those who have fled and those who have reconsidered their views is that they fear being sent back to their countries of origin and the possibility of being imprisoned. How ironic that these people are comfortable in sending others to their deaths, yet they refuse to pay a small price such as extradition or imprisonment even when the alternative is to disclaim fatwas (religious rulings) that they had previously issued.

Such changes however, have been positive, even if they are just a result of fear. Recent reversions have also come from Sunni preachers in Iraq who openly declared the interdiction of suicide bombings when not long ago they would openly state that such operations are part of the religious holy war (Jihad).

Such preachers would emphasize their belief that suicide bombers who attacked military areas, children”s schools, police offices and civilian hospitals are not assassins. They would also argue that he who does not share this point of view should also be killed whether he is the imam of a mosque, a university professor or a barber who does not cut his customer”s hair according to their style.

Politics seems to have overruled religious edicts even though such edicts are far from the true meaning of religion. Shiite preachers have made announcements claiming that Americans are evil and should not be dealt with, yet suddenly, their perspective will change and claim that not only are Americans friends but also allies. Such a change is becoming more evident amongst Sunni preachers whose main concern was to criminalize and denounce the occupying forces as infidels yet now they call upon Washington to support them in drafting a new constitution.

The truth remains that such words sought to politicize religion so that these preachers could cause confusion amongst the people. In Saudi Arabia, some preachers interfere in politics despite being completely ignorant of the current political status, and there have been many deaths amongst those who involve themselves in acts of terrorism.

Why do they express such sentiments? When this question was posed to one of these preachers, Sheikh Ali al-Khodeir who eventually retracted his religious edicts, he replied that such words were mistaken attempts that do not suit the modern world. Al-Khodeir said, &#34We never imagined that we could possibly reach the level of bloodshed that we once witnessed in Algeria. This bloodshed must stop.&#34 At least this Sheikh had admitted his ignorance whereas others merely retract their words to escape punishment.

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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