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08 February 2003 Saturday 06 Zilhaj 1423

Ulema forbid attack on non-Muslims

By Syed Rashid Husain

RIYADH, Feb 7: The Council of Saudi Ulema in a Fatwa (edict) has forbidden attacks on non-Muslims anywhere in the world. The declaration said it was a crime to randomly judge people as infidels and target them.

The edict comes in the backdrop of increasing fears of attacks on Westerners living in the Kingdom and the other parts of the Gulf, as anti-US sentiments are sweeping the region ahead of a possible war on Iraq.

The Saudi scholars in the statement said: "What is happening in some countries from the shedding of the innocent blood and the bombing of buildings and ships and the destruction of public and private installations is a criminal act against Islam," Saudi newspapers said quoting the statement by the council, responsible for interpreting Islamic laws in the Kingdom.

The reference to the bombing of buildings and ships apparently alluded to the attacks on the US naval vessel, USS Cole near the Yemeni port and the bombings on the US interests and embassies in parts of the world over the last few years.

"Those who carry out such acts have the deviant beliefs and misleading ideologies and are responsible for the crime. Islam and Muslims should not be held responsible for such actions," the statement clarified.

There are more than 100,000 Western expatriates living in the Kingdom including about 40,000 American citizens and about 30,000 Britons. During the 1991 Gulf war, the number of the US and British citizens living in the Kingdom was even higher.

The attacks against Westerners here are rare, and a recent bombing campaign has been blamed on alcohol smuggling gangs, there have been a number of isolated incidents since Sept 11, clearly related to the prevalent anti-Western sentiments in the region.

In the eastern province of the Kingdom periodic attacks on westerners have been witnessed over the last few years. A parcel bomb exploded in 2000 in major hospital in Al-Khobar, injuring a doctor. A United States citizen was hurt in an explosion in a compound in 2001 and another United States citizen was killed in an explosion in a shop on major commercial street of the city of Al-Khobar on the east coast of Saudi Arabia.

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