MADRID, Spain – Muslim clerics in Spain issued what they called the world's first fatwa (search), or Islamic edict, against Usama bin Laden on Thursday, the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, calling him an apostate and urging others of their faith to denounce the Al Qaeda (search) leader.
The ruling was issued by the Islamic Commission of Spain, the main body representing the country's 1 million-member Muslim community. The commission represents 200 or so mostly Sunni mosques, or about 70 percent of all mosques in Spain.
The March 11, 2004, train bombings killed 191 people and were claimed in videotapes by militants who said they had acted on Al Qaeda's behalf in revenge for Spain's troop deployment in Iraq.
The commission's secretary general, Mansur Escudero, said the group had consulted with Muslim leaders in other countries, such as Morocco — home to most of the jailed suspects in the bombings — Algeria and Libya, and had their support.
"They agree," Escudero said, referring to the Muslim leaders in the three North African countries. "What I want is that they say so publicly."
The fatwa said that according to the Quran "the terrorist acts of Usama bin Laden (search) and his organization Al Qaeda ... are totally banned and must be roundly condemned as part of Islam."
It added: "Inasmuch as Usama bin Laden and his organization defend terrorism as legal and try to base it on the Quran ... they are committing the crime of 'istihlal' and thus become apostates that should not be considered Muslims or treated as such." The Arabic term 'istihlal' refers to the act of making up one's own laws.
Escudero said a fatwa can be issued by any Muslim leader who leads prayer sessions and as he serves such a role, he himself lawfully issued the edict.
He called it an unprecedented condemnation of bin Laden. "We felt now we had the responsibility and obligation to make this declaration," he said in an interview.
"I hope there is a positive reaction from Muslims," he added.
Asked if the edict meant Muslims had to help police try to arrest the world's most wanted man — who is believed to be hiding along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan — Escudero said: "We don't get involved in police affairs but we do feel that all Muslims are obliged to ... keep anyone from doing unjustified damage to other people."