Riyadh and London, Asharq al Awsat – Sheikh Abdul Muhsin al Obeikan, legal advisor to the Saudi ministry of justice and member of the Shura (consultative) Council, revealed on Thursday he was willing to debate with Abu Basir al Tartousi, the spiritual leader of the Salafi trend, in a location and time of his choice, after announcing on his program “Hiwar ma al Ghaeb” (conversations with the absent) his readiness for a discussion with those with reservations.
His position on the legality of the insurgency in Iraq and other topics would mirror the fatwas (religious edicts) of Sheikh Saleh bin Uthaymeen and Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Baz which forbids suicide operations entirely.
Originally from Syria but now living in London, al Tartousi, one of the most prominent spiritual guides of the extremist jihadist movement, had called for a debate on the legality of the insurgency in Iraq in Sharia (Islamic law) and other religious matters.
Known as Abdul Munim Mustafa Abu Halimah, the extremist leader wrote on his internet site, under the headline, “An open invitation to al Obeikan”, “Following repeated requests by supporters to debate with the other side and despite their allegations that we are uneducated and do not believe in dialogue, we called for a open discussion to take place over a year ago.” Earleir, al Tartousi had issued fatwas condemning suicide operations in Iraq and Afghanistan under the title, “warnings against suicide operations”.
For his part, al Obeikan affirmed that the daily killing and destruction in Iraq were in no way related to jihad (armed struggle) and the term resistance would not apply according to Islamic law. In fact, the Sheikh indicated that jihad was subjected to a number of constraints.
He pointed out that the conflicting opinions of the Syrian extremist leader who had backtracked on some of his earlier pronouncements reveal an underlying problem, since “a scholar can sometimes retract a fatwa or statements but to go back on everything he had decreed in the past has never happened.”
Asked by Asharq al Awsat if he had met al Tartousi, Sheikh Obeikan said, “I have heard of him but I have never met him.”
Islamic extremists were divided online as they debated the differences between Sheikh al Obeikan and al Tartousi on several websites sympathetic to al Qaeda, with one contributor, using the acronym, Ali bin Mohammad, saying “the two men are poles apart”.
Fundamentalists had viciously attacked al Tartousi online and accused him of letting down al Qaeda’s supporters with one militant asking, “What did you expect from a man who lives in London?” and another saying, “It is no use counting on the opinions of men who have never fought. Opinions on jihad should be taken from the mujahideen (fighters). I have never considered to consult those who make statements from London.”