For most of the last two decades, the West knew the word fatwa through the death sentence laid by Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on author Salman Rushdie for his novel "The Satanic Verses," which rather mildly satirized his own Muslim religion. The novelist survived (though his Japanese translator was killed in 1991), but had to spend some of those years in fearful, heavily guarded hiding. Fatwa arose again, though to less notice, after Sept. 11, 2001. Fundamentalist preachers in some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, declared the thousands of victims to be culpable infidels. Now the fatwa is headed for rehabilitation, this time used in a vigorous backlash against the brand of terrorism that has struck Britain, Spain, Morocco, Egypt and, over and over again, the civilians of Iraq.
A broad group of U.S. and Canadian Muslim scholars and religious leaders last week issued a fatwa that is as unequivocally anti-violence as those of Khomeini or Osama bin Laden were pro-murder: "All acts of terrorism are haram, forbidden by Islam. It is haram, forbidden, to cooperate or associate with … any act of terrorism or violence." The declaration then went beyond familiar condemnations to demand action: It is the "civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of civilians." (MORE)