Religious scholars declare suicide attacks in Pakistan un-Islamic
Islamabad – A powerful grouping of Islamic scholars has issued a decree against suicide attacks inside Pakistan, declaring them “forbidden,” media reports said on Wednesday. However, it threatened to declare jihad (holy war) against the United States if it did not halt recently increased airstrikes in the country.
The fatwa, or edict, came on Tuesday from the Muttahida Ulema Council (United Scholars Council) which represents all schools of thought, including the minority Shiite Muslim sect.
“It is a unanimous decree of the ulema (scholars) that suicide attacks in Pakistan are haram (forbidden) and illegitimate,” the English-language Dawn newspaper cited a joint declaration issued by the meeting held in the eastern city of Lahore as saying.
The declaration came at a time when Islamic militants have launched a spate of suicide bombings against government forces and politicians.
Hundreds of people, mostly security personnel, have been killed in the last 16 months, including at least 55 who perished in a suicide truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on September 20.
Similar edicts have also been released in the past, but many hard-line Pakistanis say these were issued by pro-government scholars as part of a campaign to soften up anti-American public sentiment and please the West.
However, the recent declaration came from a group of ulema that also included representatives of Islamist organizations suspected of involvement in fighting against Indian forces in Kashmir region and international troops in Afghanistan.
The declaration casts doubt on the Pakistani government’s commitment to prevent suicide bombings, which are widely described as a fallout of Islamabad’s support for the US-led fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and the subsequent military operations inside Pakistan.
The scholars’ council warned if “American aggression against Pakistan escalates, jihad might be announced after due consultation,” according to the daily newspaper The News. The meeting also demanded “the shameful and deceitful” alliance with Washington in the fight against terrorism must be scrapped.
The fatwa called upon the country’s top political and military leadership to stop acting as “Western stooges” or step down if they cannot defend the country.
Conservatives believe the United States, whose troops invaded Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, has a wider agenda of neutralizing the strategic assets of Pakistan, the lone nuclear power in the Islamic world.