Activating the Counter-Terrorism Fatwa

By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid

"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oppose this fatwa be withdrawn, and for all governmental or quasi-governmental 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.

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