Muslims cheer clerics’ attack on al-Qaeda

CAIRO, Egypt – The e-mails from Muslims began moments after release of a religious edict condemning al-Qaeda. They came from every corner of the world. Soon they were tumbling in too fast to handle.

“I couldn’t even read them all. There’s at least 1,000. Maybe more,” said Mansur Escudero, secretary-general of the Islamic Commission of Spain. “The tone was nearly all the same: ‘It’s about time someone did it. Bravo!'”

The fatwa, issued on the anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, which claimed 191 lives, was believed to be the first cleric-sanctioned condemnation directly against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. But it highlights a wider, critical dialogue emerging across the Islamic world.

Moderate Muslims are increasingly turning to Islam’s sacred core – the Quran and the laws and traditions it inspires – to defend their views and discredit radicals as part of a “counter-jihad” for Islamic hearts and minds.

“The long and painful silence of moderate theologians and experts in Islam jurisprudence – who had been bought off or intimidated into silence – is finally starting to break apart,” said Khaled Abou El Fadl, an authority on Islamic law at the University of California-Los Angeles. “We are seeing signs of a counter-jihad.”


The March 11 fatwa by Spain’s highest Muslim authority and the deluge of support messages appeared to touch the frustration among mainstream Muslims. But the response was dominated by those outside the Middle East, suggesting the centers of moderate influence reside outside traditional Muslim areas.

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