(March 12, 2005) Spain's leading Muslim clerics have issued a religious order declaring Usama bin Ladin an apostate and to have forsaken Islam by backing attacks such as the Madrid train bombings.
The Islamic Commission of Spain timed its fatwa to coincide with the first anniversary of the attacks, which killed 191 people and were claimed in the name of al-Qaeda in Europe.
The commission's secretary-general, Mansur Escudero, urged others of their faith worldwide to denounce the al-Qaeda. Escudero said that the group had consulted with Muslim leaders in other countries, such as Morocco – home to most of the jailed suspects in the atrocities – Algeria and Libya, and had their support also. He has called upon all Muslim leaders to now also condemn the terrorists publicly.
The commission, whose elected leaders represent the Muslim community in talks with the government, said the Koran barred Muslims from committing crimes against innocent people.
"We declare ... that Usama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation, responsible for the horrendous crimes against innocent people who were despicably murdered in the 11 March terrorist attack in Madrid, are outside the parameters of Islam," the commission said. The fatwa said that according to the Koran “the terrorist acts of Osama bin Laden and his organization al-Qaeda … are totally banned and must be roundly condemned as against Islam.”
It added: “Inasmuch as Osama bin Laden and his organization defend terrorism as legal and try to base it on the Koran --- they are committing the crime of ‘istihlal’ and thus become apostates that should not be considered Muslims or treated as such.” The term “istihlal” refers to the act of making up one’s own laws.
"The reaction of some Muslims has been: 'How do you dare to do this (fatwa)? You are putting your lives in danger'," Escudero said.
"But so far, I have not seen any Muslim who opposed it. Some might question our authority to do it, but no one has denied our arguments."
Muhammad Chaib, head of the Ibn Batuta Socio-Cultural Association for Muslim immigrants, supported the condemnation of Bin Laden but said the Muslim community's priority should be integrating into Spanish society, not making political statements.
Islam does not justify terrorism
Most of the 42 suspects still held in the investigation into the bombings are of Moroccan origin. Investigators say they were committed to fighting the West.
"The terrorist acts of Usama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation ... which result in the death of civilians, such as women and children ... are totally prohibited and are the object of strong condemnation within Islam," the commission said in a statement quoting extensively from religious texts.
It issued its fatwa as Spaniards paid tribute to the passengers killed on four Madrid commuter trains a year ago.
At Madrid's main mosque, worshippers observed a minute's silence before Friday prayers, and Morocco's King Muhammad attended a wreath-laying ceremony in honour of the victims.
Some one million Muslims live in Spain and many have felt increasingly isolated as a result of the 11 March 2004 bombings.
Twelve Muslims were killed in the attacks.
"If we analyse [Bin Laden's] actions, we see they have only caused harm and pain to the Muslim world," said Escudero, a Spaniard who converted to Islam in the 1970s. "Some Muslims even wonder whether he is an invention of the enemies of Islam."
Bin Laden's stated aim of recovering al Andalus - the Arabic term for Spain during the nearly 800 years parts of the country were under Moorish rule - "totally contradicts God's will", the commission added.
"If there are reprisals from this group or any other, then I am willing to accept them. I am not afraid," said Escudero.
"I only fear God, and He is the best protector."