Muslim scholars from the US and Canada issued a fatwa against terrorism today. While American Muslim groups have condemned acts of religious extremism before, this new edict carries the weight of an official judicial ruling. NPR's Jason DeRose reports.

JASON DeROSE reporting:

The fatwa comes from the 18-member Fiqh Council of North America, the group of Islamic scholars that decides judicial issues for Muslims. The fatwa makes three main points. First, all acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram, or forbidden. Second, Muslims are likewise forbidden to cooperate with any individual involved in terrorism or violence. And third, says Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, chair of the Fiqh Council of North America...

Mr. MUZAMMIL SIDDIQI (Chair, Fiqh Council of North America): It is the duty of Muslims to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.

DeROSE: Siddiqi and other Muslim leaders announced their ruling at a news conference today in Washington. He says anyone who does not follow the fatwa and carries out an act of terror is committing a sin and, he says, that person is a criminal, not a martyr. Esam Omeish, president of the Muslim American Society, says issuing the fatwa adds a moral consequence to acts of religious extremism.

Mr. ESAM OMEISH (President, Muslim American Society): Having our religious scholars side by side with our community leaders leaves no room for anybody to suggest that Islam and Muslims condone nor support any forms or acts of terrorism.

DeROSE: The fatwa's authors emphasize this moral position against violence is long-standing and supported by texts from the Koran and the sunnah, or traditions of the prophet Muhammad. Muslim leaders abroad have issued similar condemnations in recent weeks, but some have left room for violence. British Muslim leaders denounced the July 7th transit bombings in London, but they also said suicide bombings could still be justified if used against an occupying power. Salam al-Marayati with the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington says this new fatwa is more nuanced.

Mr. SALAM AL-MARAYATI (Muslim Public Affairs Council): This is the mainstream, moderate voice of Muslim-Americans and Muslims worldwide as opposed to the extremist forgery of Islam by radicals.

DeROSE: Still, today's fatwa did not specifically address terrorism against military targets during a war such as in Iraq, and there is no mechanism for civil enforcement of the fatwa. But Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, says this fatwa repudiates the notion that terrorists can act in the name of God.

Mr. NIHAD AWAD (Executive Director, Council on American Islamic Relations): It takes the oxygen away from those who are breathing in anger because this cause they bring reason and they bring justification from the basic Islamic sources.

DeROSE: Awad says the purpose of today's fatwa is to stop terrorists from achieving their goal of sparking a war between faiths and what have some called a clash of civilizations. The Fiqh Council of North America is urging imams to read fatwa at community prayers tomorrow at mosques across the United States. Jason DeRose, NPR News, Washington.

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