JEDDAH/NEW YORK, 30 October 2004 — Over 2,500 Muslim intellectuals from 23 countries have signed a petition to the United Nations calling for an international treaty to ban the use of religion for incitement to violence.
It also calls on the Security Council to set up a tribunal to try “the theologians of terror.” The petition is addressed to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and to all members of the Security Council and its current chairman.
“There are individuals in the Muslim world who pose as clerics and issue death sentences against those they disagree with,” says Shakir Al-Nablusi, a Jordanian academic and one of the signatories. “These individuals give Islam a bad name and foster hatred among civilizations.”
Nablusi said hundreds of Arab writers and academics were collecting more signatures and hope to have “tens of thousands” by next month. Among those collecting signatures are Jawad Hashem, a former Iraqi minister of planning, and Alafif Al-Akdhar, a leading Tunisian writer and academic. Most of the signatories are from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states plus Iraq, Jordan and Palestine.
The signatories describe those who use religion for inciting violence as “the sheikhs of death”. Among those mentioned by name is Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian preacher working in Qatar. The signatories accuse him of “providing a religious cover for terrorism.”
Last year Qaradawi raised a storm when he issued a fatwa allowing the killing of Israeli pregnant women and their unborn babies on the ground that the babies could grow up to join the Israeli Army. Last September, Qaradawi in a fatwa in response to a question from the Egyptian Union of Journalists said killing “all Americans, civilian or military” in Iraq was allowed.
“We cannot let such dangerous nonsense to pass as Islam,” Nablusi says.
The petition also names the late Egyptian preacher Muhammad Al-Ghazzali who, in 1992, issued a fatwa for the murder of Farag Foda, an anti-clerical writer in Cairo. Within weeks of the fatwa, zealots murdered Foda in his home.
Other “sheikhs of death” mentioned include the Yemeni Abdul-Majid Al-Zendani, and the Saudis Ali bin Khudhair Al-Khudhair and Safar Al-Hawali. The two Saudis have described the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States as “retaliations”, and thus justified under Islamic law.
Issuing murder fatwas has a long story.
In 1947 the late Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Ahmad Kasravi, one of Iran’s most prominent lawyers. A few weeks later, six men stabbed Kasravi to death in a court of law. In 1951 a group of mullas issued a fatwa for the murder of Iran’s Prime Minister Haji-Ali Razmara. He was shot dead a few days later. In 1989 Khomeini issued a fatwa for the murder of the British novelist Salman Rushdie.
The signatories of the petition also want the UN to order its member states to stop broadcasting the “mad musings of the theologians of terror.”