Group Authoring Fatwa Has Links to Bin Laden Ally

By Sherrie Gossett | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - Thursday's religious edict condemning terrorism was authored and issued by the Fiqh Council of North America, an association of Muslim jurists who interpret Islamic law. The edict was signed by 18 council scholars.

The Fiqh Council of North America traces its origins to the early 1960s and the Religious Affairs Committee of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) of the United States and Canada, according to the council's website. This Religious Affairs Committee evolved into the Fiqh Committee of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which was founded in 1980.

The MSA itself was an American outreach project of Pakistan's Jama'at-i-Islami (JI), an anti-Western fundamentalist group that calls Osama bin Laden a hero of the Islamic world. JI's president, Qazi Hussein Ahmed, has called the United States a "world terrorist" and advocated "martyrdom operations" in Iraq, Israel, Chechnya and Kashmir.

JI also boasts of maintaining "close brotherly relations" with and "practical links" to Hamas, a frequent sponsor of suicide bombings in Israel.

The MSA created the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), to accommodate graduate students and other non-students. In 1986 the Fiqh Council changed its name to the Fiqh Council of North America.

The Council continues as an affiliate of ISNA, advising and educating its members and officials on matters related to the application of Shari'ah (Islamic law) in their lives. (ISNA is one of 25 Muslim organizations under federal investigation. Although it has been criticized for having formed a legal defense fund for Hamas leader Abu Marzook, the organization insists it is "mainstream.")

Terrorism analysts have previously been skeptical of fatwas such as the one issued Thursday, citing the changing positions of Islamic scholars on the subject. The Middle East Quarterly has reported Islamic leaders sometimes bend to government pressure to issue appeasing statements.

One of the most influential scholars in the Islamic world, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, has previously declared that any fatwa disallowing suicide bombings lacked any authority.

Al-Qaradawi explained why there were contradicting fatwas on this subject in comments made to Al-Istiqlal, the newspaper of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. "The fatwas that were made against these heroes, in which they were labeled 'terrorists', were not issued by authoritative religious sources," Al-Qaradawi stated, "but rather by a group of people who are alien to the Shari'a and the religion.

"They probably serve the regimes or are agents of the police," he added. [Translation: Middle East Research Institute, May 2, 2001]

See Related Story:
American Muslim Group Condemns Terrorism (July 29, 2005)

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