Muftis to counter extremist edicts

CAIRO • Top Muslim clerics have gathered in Egypt to address extremist religious edicts, in the face of an unprecedented threat from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants who have declared a "caliphate".

The muftis - usually the official interpreters of Islam in their countries - met alongside other clerics over two days in Cairo to cope with what the clerics described as a rash of extremist fatwas, or edicts.

Leniency in dealing with fatwas that excommunicate Muslims has resulted in murder and bloodshed, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, head of Al-Azhar, the prestigious Cairo-based Islamic institution, told the conference.

But it was not immediately clear how effective the clerics' proposal to realistically address the problem would be, especially in the age of the Internet where many Muslims consult religious websites. And for the first time in Islamic history, the entire corpus of Islamic scholarship is available online, a Google search away for those seeking a quick answer to a religious query.

The dilemma has been highlighted by ISIS atrocities in Syria, Iraq and other places. ISIS supporters circulated a collation of classical fatwas taken from the website of a major Saudi university in support of execution-style killings.

"The goal of this conference is to unite the message of muftis in the light of the challenges faced by the region and world in the shape of extremist fatwas and groups that talk in the name of religion," said Dr Ibrahim Negm, an adviser to Egypt's Grand Mufti.

Dr Negm said the conference could decide to form a general secretariat for the region's muftis, centres to monitor and rebut extremist fatwas and training for aspiring muftis. The clerics also aimed at "creating a new strategy for Muslim communities in the West to confront extremist thought".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Muftis to counter extremist edicts'. Print Edition | Subscribe