“Koran says – you're free in your religion” – Muslim cleric
Speaking about his recently-issued religious ruling – a fatwa – which condemns terrorism and suicide bombings, Dr Tahir ul-Qadri also said “holy war” is the incorrect translation of jihad and Koran says that there should be freedom of religion.
RT: Here in the UK we mostly know the word fatwa from the one that was issued against Salman Rushdie and his book – The Satanic Verses. Could you explain what fatwa is?
TQ: Fatwa literally means a decree and a ruling and this has a very significant place in sources of Islamic laws and Islamic rulings.
RT: Why are you doing it now and why you didn't issue this fatwa after 9/11 for example?
TQ: I normally never issue a fatwa. But now I thought this was the time because terrorism as a wave became much stronger than earlier in Pakistan and that part of the world last year. Then terrorists started slaughtering people, then terrorists started even killing the people, then taking their dead bodies out of the graves and hanging them on the trees, and they started bombing everywhere and they captured the particular areas, you know, and they took over and then Pakistan military started a very strong operation against them. That was last year. And at that time I found that many scholars and many preachers and even religious political leaders kept silent on that act of brutality committed by the terrorists.
RT: Can we talk in detail – what exactly do you say in the fatwa? Why hasn’t jihad or holy war been mentioned? Why did you miss that out?
TQ: Because I concentrated only on the subject of terrorism. But I mentioned in my book categorically, that an act of terrorism is not jihad.
RT: So in fact terrorism can't be considered as a part of holy war?
TQ: Absolutely not. The holy war is a wrong translation, and I would be clear and you would be the means to communicate this message faster to the world. Its meaning is struggle. That’s it. The word war is not included in the origin and the meaning of the word jihad. Jihad is a much wider concept which means just to strive for, to struggle. If you put your energy and abilities, efforts to achieve your good end – that's known as jihad. So there's no place for aggression in the concept of jihad, no place for brutality when we speak about jihad. The holy war isn't the concept – it is holy struggle.
RT: So did terrorists hijack the concept of jihad?
TQ: Yes they did. They misguided people and youth and their efforts have no links with jihad.
RT: You used terms like “terrorism” and “innocent people” in your fatwa – these are terms that hugely open to interpretation. What did you mean by them?
TQ: I understand they again create an excuse on the base of innocent – the word innocent. I’d like to make it clear: in case of killing or non-killing, the word innocent has never been used in the Koran. This exception of innocent has never been given in Koran. The word which is used in Koran means: if anyone kills a human being without the lawful right which the court exercises if the person was an intentional murderer, so he was liable to capital punishment or he was a rebel, so as the punishment of rebellion with killing of man – he is liable to capital punishment and if he is a terrorist and he kills a person, so as punishment of the act of terrorism he is liable to death punishment. So the Koran says if the person is neither an intentional murderer nor a terrorist, killer, rebel… so if anyone kills a person who doesn't fall within these three categories, then they kill innocent people. Any peaceful population, all men who aren't fighting with you one to one on the battlefield – everybody has a right to kill anyone on the battlefield – so every single civilian person who is non-combatant is innocent.
RT: The aim of your fatwa seems to go against everything that suicide bombers and fundamentals believe about themselves. Who do you think they aimed at and what effect do you think it will have?
TQ: Millions of youngsters who aren't potential extremists but who are available. Some people who are always behind the youth, they again trap them and they again put wrong ideologies in their minds and misguide them by using wrong meanings of this terminology. First of all this will effect them, they'll be clear and they'll never be “kidnapped” by the terrorist people. Secondly, thousands of youth who haven’t been totally brainwashed and who haven't become suicide bombers yet, but they're on the same track. They’re going forward – they've become conservative, living an isolated life, they believe in isolation and don't want to be integrated and we can see a tendency which could lead them to radicalism and terrorism. These thousands of youth will stop. And I hope nobody in the whole Muslim world would be in position to rebut it. They can disagree with me just in slogans, and I can't say to be 100 per cent sure about those who were thoroughly brainwashed – but their number is little. Much larger in number are those thousands who are waiting behind to enter. At least it will stop them and this will have a very big effect on Islam and humanity.
RT: Let’s talk about what is increasingly being known as Islamophobia, particularly in Europe. Dutch politician Geert Wilders made a film which says that Koran is a fascist book – what would you say to him?
TQ: I think these are the same kind of activities – not Osama and Taliban, but their supporters who are acting against non-Muslims. If in Western world some people start to do the same kind of thing, it won't help in developing the peace process. It'll only create hatred. The question is what do they want to achieve out of that? Just hatred? Just reaction? Further disputes? Clashes and further division of humanity?
RT: There's quite a lot of opposition to Islam in Europe at the moment. The Swiss for example have banned the building of more minarets. France is talking about banning the burqa… do you think Europe is ready to accept Islam?
TQ: The best solution for peaceful atmosphere for the mankind is multiculturalism. There should be full democracy, freedom of religions, freedom of cultures and no freedom for terrorism, extremism, no freedom of creating brutality and divisions in the society. The first Islamic society created by the Prophet Muhammad, prophet of Islam in Medina, was a multicultural society. He started this society instead – alliance with Jews, Christians and their allied tribes. And their local customs, cultures, traditions, religions and customary laws were given guaranteed protection. Koran says – there should be freedom of religion. Koran says: you're free in your religion and we are free in our religion.