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Saudi Religious Scholars Back 'Holy War'.

Prominent Wahhabi religious scholars in Saudi Arabia urged Iraqis to support militants waging holy war against the US-led coalition forces as American troops prepared on Nov. 6 for a major assault on the insurgent hotbed of Falluja.

In a letter posted on the Internet and addressed to the Iraqis, 26 Wahhabi scholars and preachers said their appeal was prompted by "the extraordinary situation through which the Iraqis are passing". Shaikh Awad Al-Qarni, one of the scholars, told Al-Arabiya TV: "At no time in history has a whole people been propaganda that's been proved false. The US forces are still destroying towns on the heads of their people and killing women and children. What's going on in Iraq is a result of the big crime of America's occupation of Iraq". In their letter, the scholars stressed that armed attacks by militants on US troops and their allies in Iraq represented "legitimate" resistance. They were careful to direct their appeal to Iraqis only and stayed away from issuing a general, Muslim world-wide call for holy war. They also identified the military as the target, one that is considered legitimate by many Arabs who view US troops and their allies as occupiers. The scholars - some of whom criticised in the past for their extremist views - apparently did not want to antagonise the Saudi government or appear to be flouting its efforts to fight terrorism.

Saudi Arabia has sealed off its long border with Iraq and bars people from crossing into that country. Its most senior Wahhabi religious leaders issued a statement last year saying the call for jihad - holy war - should only come from the ruler and should not be based on edicts issued by individual religious men. Saudi officials did not comment on the latest statement. The religious figures' appeal came as US troops, backed by air and artillery power and Iraqi security forces, were gearing up for a major assault on Falluja.

The religious men issued a fatwa (religious edict) prohibiting Iraqis from offering any support for military operations carried out by US forces against insurgent strongholds. Their letter said: "Fighting the occupiers is a duty for all those who are able. It is a jihad to push back the assailants. Resistance is a legitimate right. A Muslim must not inflict harm on any resistance man or inform on them. Instead, they should be supported and protected". Besides Al-Qarni, the Wahhabi scholars signing the letter included Shaikh Safar Al-Hawali, Shaikh Nasser Al-Omar, Shaikh Salman Al-Awdah and Shaikh Sharif Hatem Al-Aouni. Al-Hawali, who was jailed in the 1990s for five years without trial because he criticised US involvement in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq, once was close to Saudi-born Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. He opposed the presence of US troops in the kingdom. His name appeared this month on a list issued by a group of Arab intellectuals seeking to prosecute prominent religious men for encouraging terrorism.

The scholars said inter-Iraqi fighting would cause "great damage to the Iraqis and give a free service to the Jews who are infiltrating into Iraq and to the coalition forces which exploit differences to consolidate their domination".

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to its two holiest cities, has launched a campaign against militants. The crackdown began after Al-Qaeda-affiliated operatives attacked three residential compounds in Riyadh in May 2003 and killed dozens of people, bringing terrorism to the kingdom for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the US.

On Nov. 8, the Saudi Embassy in Washington released an official statement in which Prince Bandar Ibn Sultan, the kingdom's ambassador to the US, made it clear that these scholars did not represent the government of Saudi Arabia nor the senior Wahhabi religious men of the country. The statement said: "I would like to state that these individuals do not represent the Saudi government nor the Council of Senior Ulema (religious scholars), both of whom have repeatedly condemned terrorism in Iraq and throughout the world. The Saudi people pray for the end to bloodshed in Iraq, and the restoration of peace, security and stability in Iraq for the benefit of the Iraqi people and the region".

The religious scholars who signed the petition were:

1-Shaikh Ahmad Al-Khudairi - professor of Fiqh in Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University, Riyadh;

2-Shaikh Ahmad Al-Abdulateef - Islamic ideology professor, Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah;

3-Shaikh Hamed Al-Fureih - professor of Qur'an commentary, Teachers College, Dammam;

4-Shaikh Al-Shareef Al-Fa'ar - professor of origin of Fiqh, Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah;

5-Shaikh Al-Shareef Al-Auni - professor of Hadith, Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah;

6-Shaikh Khaled Al-Qasim - professor of Islamic Studies, King Saud University, Riyadh;

7-Shaikh Saud Al-Fineisan - prof. of Qur'anic studies, Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University;

8-Shaikh Saeed Al-Ghamdi - professor of Islamic Ideology, Shariah College, Abha;

9-Shaikh Safar Al-Hawali - ex-professor of Islamic Ideology in Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah;

10-Shaikh Salman Al-Ouda - supervisor of the islamtoday website;

11-Shaikh Suleiman Al-Rashoodi - religious legal consultant;

12-Shaikh Saleh Al-Sultan - professor of Fiqh, Qasim University, Qasim;

13-Shaikh Saleh Al-Darweesh - judge in Public Court of Qateef, Eastern Province;

14-Shaikh Abdel Rahman Madkhali - professor of Hadith, Teachers College;

15-Shaikh Abdel Aziz Al-Ghamdi - professor of Fiqh, King Saud University, Abha;

16-Shaikh Abdullah Al-Turaiqi - prof. of Islamic Culture, Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University

17-Shaikh Abdullah Al-Zayidi - prof. of Islamic Culture, Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University;

18-Shaikh Abdullah Al-Zayid - former head of the Islamic University in Madinah;

19-Shaikh Abdullah Aal Al-Shaikh - professor of Hadith, Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University;

20-Shaikh Abdel Wahab Al-Tureiri - deputy supervisor of islamtoday website;

21-Shaikh Ali Asiri - professor of Islamic Ideology, Shariah College, Abha;

22-Shaikh Ali Badahdah - prof. of Hadith and Qur'anic studies, King Abdel Aziz University, Jeddah;

23-Shaikh Awad Al-Qarni - former prof. of origins of Fiqh, Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University;

24-Shaikh Qasim Al-Qathradi - professor of Qur'anic commentary, Shariah College, Abha;

25-Shaikh Mohammed Al-Shareef, prof.of Qur'an and its sciences, King Abdel Aziz University;

26-Shaikh Misfir Al-Qahtani - prof. of Fiqh, King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran.

In their statement, the scholars called for militants not to target nationals of countries whose governments did not take part in the war. They said it was not allowed for any Muslim to harm resisting persons or to tell the enemy of their locations, "but on the contrary, stand beside them and protect them". Their fatwa said it was sinful in Islam to assist or support any military operations by the occupying forces and that anyone who did so would be "co-operating in evil and enmity". They called for easing everyday conditions of ordinary Iraqis by providing their day-to-day needs of medical, educational, and living conditions, stressing the importance of saving Muslim blood and honour in Iraq and considering that "a basic principle of the religion".

They said the unification of Iraq was a vital issue and that conflict would do much damage, as "it would be giving a free service to the Jews that smuggle into Iraq, and to the occupying forces that nurture conflicts to cement their own agendas and inflict their rule on every party". They said "hidden hands" tried to "ignite turmoil and rip Iraqis into sects, fuelling domestic battles between the Shiites and the Sunnis and between the Kurds and the Arabs".

The statement called on Muslims everywhere who consider themselves "followers of Da'wah (propagation)" to turn to Iraq to help take part in its reconstruction and contribute to its educational and philanthropic services in the country, saying that such things would have a big impact on Iraqis.
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Nov 15, 2004
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