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Spanish Muslims decry Al Qaeda

Last Thursday, Spain's Islamic Commission issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden and his followers.

By Geoff PingreeCorrespondents of The Christian Science Monitor, Lisa AbendCorrespondents of The Christian Science Monitor / March 14, 2005


Amid the anniversary events of the March 11 terrorist bombings, it was no great surprise that Al Qaeda representatives condemned last week's Democracy, Terrorism, and Security Summit here. What did grab attention was an unprecedented fatwa that Spain's own Islamic Commission issued Friday against Osama bin Laden and his followers.

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The fatwa is unlikely to have much global impact, but in Spain - where Muslims, Jews, and Christians coexisted peacefully for centuries - the move by the country's largest Muslim organization is seen as a welcome gesture. Indeed, a year after Islamist terror groups made Spain a key front in their global jihad, Muslims here are speaking out against militant Islam with renewed vigor.

On Saturday, barely a day after the Summit - attended by world leaders including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright - had issued its recommendations for democracy's response to terrorism, an Al Qaeda-linked website published its attack.

Threatening the Summit's participants, the inflammatory statement reportedly said, "You infidels, whatever you prepare, you will be defeated and never be victorious because Allah has promised us victory." The statement was attributed to Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, the "media coordinator" for Iraqi Al Qaeda affiliate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

But Spain's Muslim leaders had already claimed the high ground.

The Islamic Cultural Center of Madrid, for example, which is the country's largest mosque, draped itself with a huge commemorative banner that denounced terrorism and applauded tolerance. It sent memorial wreaths that were displayed at the central commemorative festivities held at the Atocha train station last Friday.

In Fuengirola, cleric Mohammed Kamal Mustafa said Friday that the terrorists who committed the attacks in Madrid last March "are not Muslims and have nothing to do with Islam, but only exploit the religion's name to inflict harm on innocent people."

And in Valencia, an estimated 100 Muslims donated blood at their mosque to show solidarity with the victims of terrorism.

Most significant, however, was the fatwa issued by the Islamic Commission, the organization that mediates between the Spanish government and the nation's Muslim community.

The edict condemns bin Laden and Al Qaeda members as apostates for their use of violence, and it calls on Muslims to fight actively against terrorism. The fatwa is the first of its kind to use the weight of religious authority to specifically denounce Mr. bin Laden, and it serves as a powerful reminder that the vast majority of Spain's nearly 1 million Muslims condemn terrorist tactics.

"We see this as our contribution," says Mansur Escudero, secretary general of the Islamic Commission. "a declaration from the Muslim community that says that bin Laden and Al Qaeda are not Muslims - they are outside of Islam."

The edict cites the Koran and the traditions of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, or Sunna, in condemning bin Laden. "Since bin Laden and his organization defend the legality of terrorism and base that defense in the sacred Koran and the Sunna ... [they] have made themselves apostates."