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Saudi cleric issues fatwah on the use of weapons of mass destruction

By Col (res.) Yoni Fighel and Mr. Moshe Marzouk- ICT Researcher
Recently, a well-known Saudi cleric issued a religious edict (Fatwa) granting legal legitimacy to the use of weapons of mass destruction against the US and Britain and against their citizens. Sheik Nasser bin Hamd al-Fahad is recognized as one of the senior Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia and is associated with Bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization.

Sheikh al-Fahad’s edict, was published on one of the websites identified with al-Qaida and the global Jihad, in reply to a question regarding the Islamic religious basis underlying al-Qaida’s intention to use weapons of mass destruction against the US.

In his edict, Sheik al-Fahad explains that the Muslim world is currently engaged in a defensive war, rather than a war of choice. The US and Britain, he says, are committing acts of aggression against the Muslim world in general and Afghanistan and Iraq in particular.

In a defensive war, according to al-Fahad, Islam makes no distinguish between enemy military personnel and enemy civilians—even women and children. He emphasizes that no means are forbidden—even those that are likely to harm many Muslims. In a defensive war, Muslims must use all means at their disposal and must not recoil from using any method to hit “the crusaders”. [1]

A radical among radicals

Sheik al-Fahad, born in Riyadh in 1936, is a graduate of the “Al-Imam” Islamic University in Saudi Arabia. In 1997, he was detained by Saudi authorities, but was released shortly thereafter. He has written dozens of books and publications full of incitement and religious edicts against the US and anyone cooperating with it. Among his well-known pronouncements is that “anyone assisting the Americans is an infidel.” His doctrines have formed the ideological basis for a culture of animosity and hatred towards the West, toward Christianity, and particularly towards the Americans.

Sheik Nasser al-Fahad is considered one of the three most radical Saudi clerics, along with Sheik Ali al-Khadir and Sheik Ahmed al-Khaldi, all of whom favor global Jihad and support the al-Qaida organization. The edicts issued by the three constitute the legal Islamic basis for al-Qaeda’s terrorist activity against the West.

On the eve of the war in Iraq, the three clerics called on Muslims around the world to engage in a war of Jihad against the US and its allies. They also harshly criticized the Saudi rulers for offering assistance and military aid to the allies in their war against Iraq. Moreover, the three accused the Saudi royal house of heresy and deviation (“Murtadin”) from the ways of Islam. Such an accusation, according to Muslim religious law, is tantamount to sanctioning their murder.

Upon the outbreak of war in Iraq (March 20, 2003), the three went underground, but continued to incite and issue edicts against the US and Britain. These edicts resonated powerfully among many believers, particularly al-Qaida supporters.

Following the terrorist attacks in Riyadh (May 12), Saudi security forces launched an extensive manhunt for the three radical clerics, which led to their capture in the city of Medina. The arrest of the three immediately aroused a backlash and led to rumors that two of the clerics—Sheik Khadir and Sheik al-Khaldi—were killed during their an arrest attempt. The rumors of their death aroused an outcry and calls for revenge on many web sites associated with al-Qaeda .[2]

Figures close to Bin Laden reported that the news that the two clerics had been killed greatly affected Bin Laden, who pledged to avenge their death by harming the al-Saud family “in a way never before seen in the past” .[3] Meanwhile, the Al-Jazeera network published a warning from al-Qaida’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who called for September 11-style attacks against Americans. He also urged Muslims to attack British, Australian and Norwegian targets.
The web site associated with al-Qaeda also issued a call to topple the regime of the “corrupt and infidel” al-Saud royal family in Saudi Arabia.[4]

In the wake of the uproar surrounding rumors of the liquidation of Sheik Khadir and Sheik al-Khaldi, the Saudi Interior Minister confirmed that the two clerics, along with Sheik Nasser al-Fahad, were in custody, but denied any of them had died.

The implications of the fatwah

Sheikh al-Fahad’s fatwa is one of several such edicts issued by Islamic clerics granting religious authorization to carry out terrorist attacks using weapons of mass destruction against American targets and targets of those who provide assistance to “the crusader’s world of heresy”. Edicts issued by the same clerics, who are associated with Bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization, offer the religious backing for the continuation and escalation of the organization’s terrorist activity against the US.

In our estimation, the al-Qaida organization and other radical Islamic groups associated with it will use such edicts to gain support for their efforts to carry out large-scale attacks against Western targets. These efforts are likely to include plots against Western civilian infrastructure targets with the intention of maximizing the human toll and economic loss.