Muslim Scholars and Clerics: Suicide Bombings Are Un-Islamic

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Suicide bombers in Afghanistan have shown little restraint: Wedding parties and even mosques and children have witnessed gruesome targeting by the Taliban against civilians.

But as attacks soared in the summer and fall, killing scores of civilians every week including at least 40 Muslim devotees at a mosque in late October public revulsion has turned into unprecedented condemnation.

For the first time in late January, Muslim scholars and clerics from around the world will come to Kabul specifically to condemn suicide bombings as un-Islamic. The conference will be the first to focus on suicide bombing, and its framers hope the result will reverberate beyond Afghanistan.

"Many times, scholars in Pakistan and Afghanistan have made statements but had no influence," says Mufti Shamsur Rahman Firotan, a religious scholar in Kabul. "This one will have influence, and will give the idea to the people that suicide attacks are forbidden. The message is for all: in Iraq, in Pakistan, all these [militant jihadist] groups."

Senior United Nations officials have challenged religious officials to speak more loudly against attacks carried out in the name of Islam, while Afghan religious scholars have long decried suicide attacks, with little response by the ultra-conservative Taliban. An official gathering this summer resolved that suicide attacks "have no legitimate foundation in Islam."

It had little effect at the time. But those declarations have now been further bolstered. Saudi Arabias Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in the birthplace of Islam and respected by the Taliban, explicitly condemned suicide bombing.

Yet since Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh issued such a high-profile public statement in late October, Taliban suicide attacks have continued, some with multiple bombers. But Afghan religious scholars say momentum is building against them.

One reason is because Mr. Abdulaziz does have influence on the Taliban," says Mr. Firotan, who is a member of Afghanistan's Ulema Council of Islamic scholars, which has long campaigned against civilian deaths.

"The Taliban think we are their enemies, so they don't respect our declarations," says Mr. Firotan. "But Mufti Aziz is respected by them, and all around the Islamic world. It has influence."

Invoking Muhammed

The newsletter of Afghanistans religious scholars, called Al- Islam, publicized the Grand Muftis high-profile pronouncement against suicide bombing.

Invoking the Muslim prophet Mohammed, Abdulaziz noted that killing innocents has been forbidden for 14 centuries. He said justifying suicide attacks in the name of religion was a "misuse" of Islam.

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"Attacks, suicide attacks, and killing of the innocent have no place in Islam, and whoever conducts these are not just deprived of Paradise, but they will go to hell," Abdulaziz said according to Al- Islam. "There is jihad in Islam, but it is very different from killing of the innocent and suicide attacks [which does] not benefit the people and humanity."

The Taliban claims it has not "officially" received Abdulaziz's fatwa (or religious decree), says Firotan, but only heard about it.

'This is not the way'

The Quran makes clear that self-defense is acceptable, says Firotan, providing "there is no other way to live, but that is not the situation now."

For those who want to fight US forces, says Firotan, there are methods. "But this is not the way to go to mosques, banks, bazaars, or shops. There, are 100 percent, some Taliban who are [also] against these actions."

As the Taliban has waged its insurgency in recent years, it has also increasingly targeted civilians, along with US and NATO military forces, Afghan security, and the government. …