Saudi clerics get one right

Many of us concerned about Islamic terrorism have long lamented that Muslim clerics have not denounced suicide bombers and terrorism forcefully. So it comes as a welcome surprise that Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Ulema issued a fatwa that accurately defines terrorism, outlaws it and the networks that finance terror. David Ignatius in the Washington Post wrote about it today:

The fatwa begins with a clear definition of terrorism, which it calls “a crime aiming at destabilizing security” by attacking people or property, public or private. The document goes on to list examples of this criminal activity: “blowing up of dwellings, schools, hospitals, factories, bridges, airplanes (including hijacking), oil and pipelines.” It doesn’t mention any geographical area where such actions might be permissible.

What’s striking is that the fatwa specifically attacks financing of terrorism. The Muslim religious council said that it “regards the financing of such terrorist acts as a form of complicity to those acts . . . to bring a conduit for sustaining and spreading of such evil acts.”

It is interesting that this fatwa was issued in April, got positive reaction from General Petraeus in May, but has not widely been reported. According to Ignatius, the criticism it has received in the Muslim world indicates it has struck a nerve and represents a positive step.

Not everyone agrees. I was struck by the comments to the news story in Magharebia cited above, an online news site for Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia (the Maghreb), which are very critical. The criticism encompassed calling Saudi fatwas hypocritical, some of which were lauded at a conference named “Women Lack Brains and Faith,” and others like this one which are seen as providing cover to autocratic regimes. I liked this one best:

Yet another fatwa! These Saudis astonish me with this openness of mind and this rediscovered free speech. Terrorism is haram – what a discovery! Sidi Mohamed and the Saudis, my grandmother has never gone to school and she concluded a few years ago that terrorism is haram. This was just at the time when you and your likes raised up your hands and arms during your Friday sermon at Mecca and implored God to help the mujaheddin in Algeria. Perhaps it was your kings and kinglets who dictated this fatwa to you, as you pump our air full of your satellite channels. And, I find you on the internet. Enough, gentlemen! Stop your theatrics! You are just puppets. If I have a problem, I address God directly. In Islam, the “father’ does not exist. Mind your own, more urgent problems, such as forced marriage like the 13-year-old girl who died of vaginal haemorrhaging in Yemen. 13 and 14-year-old girls are being sent from Pakistan and bought by your compatriots to satisfy their sexual pleasure and then sent home after a few months. As I see it, this is called PEDOPHILIA! I now understand why the Jews mock us, because our leaders are dictators and you are the allies.

Bottom line is that this fatwa is encouraging, but I wouldn’t count on it eliminating Islamic terrorism overnight.

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