THE leader of a worldwide Muslim movement with thousands of UK followers yesterday issued a fatwa – or Islamic religious ruling – condemning terrorism and warning suicide bombers they are "destined for hell".
Pakistan-born Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri said there were no "ifs or buts" about terrorism and no justification for it in Islam.
In a news conference attended by MPs, representatives from the Metropolitan Police, charitable organisations and think-tanks, he called on Islamic leaders to convey the message terrorism cuts people off as true followers of Islam.
"They can't claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim Umma (the Muslim community], no, they become heroes of hellfire, and they are leading towards hellfire," he said."There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered Jihad."
Dr Qadri, who spoke in both English and Arabic, said his fatwa, a religious edict, was an "absolute" condemnation of terrorism without "any excuses or pretexts".
"Good intentions cannot convert a wrong into good, they cannot convert an evil into good," he said. "Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts."
He insisted Islam was a religion of peace that promotes beauty, "betterment", goodness and "negates all form of mischief and strife".
The 600-page fatwa by Dr Qadri, founder of the global Minhaj-ul-Quran movement, will be translated into English in the coming weeks. His talk will also be made available online in a bid to counter extremist versions of Islam on the internet.
The fatwa has been billed as "arguably the most comprehensive" theological refutation of Islamic terrorism to date by counter-extremism think-tank the Quilliam foundation.
The Minhaj-ul-Quran movement said it runs courses in combating extremism throughout Britain, including at centres in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nelson, Walsall and Glasgow. It also has a Dundee office.
A fatwa, an edict issued by a learned Muslim scholar, may concern any aspect of Islamic life. The term became famous in the West in 1989 after author Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding following a "death fatwa" issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, who ruled his book The Satanic Verses, had "insulted" Islam.
Yesterday's fatwa announces that "suicide bombings and attacks against civilian targets are not only condemned by Islam, but render the perpetrators totally out of the fold of Islam, in other words, to be unbelievers".
Shahid Mursaleen, spokesman for Minhaj-ul-Quran UK, said: "He has hit hard on the terrorists as it prevents Islamists from considering suicide bombers as 'martyrs'. This fatwa injects doubt into the minds of potential suicide bombers. Extremist groups based in Britain recruit youth by brainwashing them that they will 'with certainty' be rewarded in the next life and Dr Qadri's fatwa has removed this from their minds."
Communities minister Shahid Malik, whose Dewsbury constituency was home to 7/7 bomber Mohammad Siddique Khan, welcomed the fatwa.
"It is incumbent on Muslims to stand up for their faith – when 7/7 occurred those four evil young men killed themselves and over 50 innocent people because they followed a twisted and perverted interpretation of Islam which told them by doing so they would go to heaven," he said.
"A clear message must go out that Islam teaches that these four are not martyrs going to heaven but sinners going somewhere very different indeed."
Islamic scholar Shaikh Mohammed Hisham Kabbani, of the Centre for Spirituality and Cultural Advancement, also welcomed the fatwa. "This is a landmark in enabling Muslims to be able to silence the small minority who think it is OK to commit violent acts in the name of Islam.".