Sheikhs and religious experts in Cairo called on Muslim youth to disregard fatwas issued by terrorist organisations that call on young people to carry out suicide operations in their countries during religious seasons such as the month of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha "to get a double reward".
In interviews with Al-Shorfa, they emphasised that killing civilians, harming national interests, and violating the sanctity of human life is forbidden according to consensus of the ulemas (religious scholars). Furthermore, they said the sin multiplies on religious occasions, which God created as cause for love, compassion, and giving among Muslims -- not for fighting.
Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in different Arab countries issued calls and fatwas for terrorist operations against the "West and its agents" during Ramadan and intensifying them during the days of Eid.
"Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula", the organisation's branch in Yemen, stepped up attacks against the government and the Yemeni Army in southern Yemen, killing dozens of soldiers and many civilians. AQAP members went so far as to carry out some of these operations against during iftars.
During the first days of Ramadan, the organisation published a statement online calling on al-Qaeda members and Muslim youth to target Yemeni soldiers and the Yemeni government to make them "repent before God". The organisation widened its list of targets by adding that "everyone who stands with the Yemeni government is an enemy of Muslims."
In late August, Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb broadcast a video calling on members to escalate terrorist operations against "French interests and governments in the Arab region co-operating with the West" during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr.
Sheikh Gamal Qutb, former chairman of the Fatwa Committee at Al-Azhar in Cairo, told Al-Shorfa that Muslim youth must not surrender themselves and their minds to such invocations and fatwas, which could lead them to a dark path, not to heaven as al-Qaeda claims.
He said killing innocent civilians -- Muslim or non-Muslim -- is "forbidden according to consensus of the ulama and sheikhs, because it violates the sanctity of blood, which God forbid shedding in general and Muslim blood in particular ".
Qutb advised young people to use legitimate channels to obtain fatwas in such matters and to ask authorities in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) about the provisions of jihad.
"There are many means of jihad, including changing [that which is] evil with speech and the heart," he said.
Islamic scholar Khaled al-Jundi said that shedding the blood of Muslims and civilians in general is forbidden at all times and every occasion, and that the sin of doing so is multiplied for servants of God. He said that such fatwas have no legitimate grounds in Islam.
Al-Jundi said the real problem is that young people are getting such information and fatwas from the Internet without verifying their validity with religious authorities in jurisprudence and Islamic law at Al-Azhar and Dar Al-Ifta.
He advised young people to focus on working "to build their nations and change them with knowledge rather than violence, which will precipitate killing of the elderly and innocent children and women, whom the Islamic religion forbids killing".
Islamic Group theorist Dr. Nageh Ibrahim said any attacks on civilians, especially those that kill children, women, the elderly, Christian clergy, and the poor, are a major violation of the provisions of Islamic law, which prohibits killing these groups because they are not involved in fighting -- whether during Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, or any other time of year.
In terms of the effect that such fatwas have in attracting more young people to join organisations affiliated with al-Qaeda, Dr. Ammar Ali Hassan, an researcher specialising in the affairs of Islamist groups, told Al-Shorfa that the impact of al-Qaeda and its various cells on the Internet declined significantly during the past three years.
Unlike previous years when al-Qaeda recruited members through the internet, as was the case in the bombings in London and Madrid, Hassan said several factors have caused the fatwas issued by al-Qaeda to lose credibility among the younger generation.
One of these factors is, "the inability of the organisation's senior leaders, such as Osama bin Laden and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, to appear in the videos that are aired, as was the case between 2001 and 2006".
Among young people, "this gave an impression of the extent of weakness plaguing the organisation, so there is no reason for these fatwas to have any credibility," he said.
Hassan added that this coincided with "the success of security forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and most Arab countries, such as Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, in wiping out al-Qaeda in their countries through security campaigns, and through the ideological revisions that struck the ideological structure of any fatwa these groups could issue with respect to jihad and its provisions".