Some 70,000 Muslim leaders in India have jointly issued a religious ruling, or fatwa, condemning extremist violence carried out by groups like the Islamic State group, the Taliban and al Qaeda. The document was signed by some 1.5 million adherents during a major annual religious ceremony, the Times of India reported Wednesday.
"It is written in the Quran that killing one innocent person is equivalent to killing all humanity," Mohammed Ehsan Raza Khan, a religious leader at the event, said.
The fatwa was issued this week during the 97th anniversary of the death of the Barelvi school of Islamic theology's founder. The religious movement is known for its peaceful and spiritual understanding of Islam. The fatwa also lambasted U.S. Republican front-runner Donald Trump for inciting hatred by calling for a ban of Muslim entry into the U.S.
“If one country imposes such a ban on Muslims, other countries will enforce such bans too, perhaps on other communities. That will only cultivate hatred and divide people,” Mufti Mohammed Saleem, an Indian religious leader, said.
India is home to more than 170 million Muslims, putting the country in second place in the world in terms of that demographic. Muslims make up about 14 percent of India’s largely Hindu population. Indian Islam has long been considered moderate and at odds with the radical interpretation endorsed by groups that include al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, aka ISIS. Earlier this year, 1,000 Muslim leaders signed a fatwa condemning terrorism.
“A large number of Muslims across the world are alarmed by both the rise of these violent extremists and also the rise of the right-wing narrative about Muslims in the West,” said Raza Rumi, a Pakistani journalist currently teaching at Ithaca College in Upstate New York, who has written frequently on extremism.
ISIS and other terrorist groups have drawn considerably fewer followers from India than from Europe and the Middle East. A few dozen Muslims have been stopped by Indian authorities while attempting to travel to Syria to join the radical militant group, and only a handful have made it to Syria or Iraq.
Rumi said the fatwa reflected a Muslim effort to distance themselves from extremists, particularly as the Indian government has moved toward the right in recent years. It was significant in that it could have an impact elsewhere in the region, where ISIS draws greater support, he said.
“Because the South Asian Muslims are linked in their outlook, this will have a positive effect in Pakistan and in Bangladesh as well,” Rumi said.
Muslim leaders have widely condemned ISIS for its puritanical interpretation of the religion, and its barbarism. The group is known for its harsh penalties, including beheadings, lashings and stonings, as well as for its recent attacks overseas. The two largest Muslim movements in India and Pakistan -- the Barelvi philosophy and the more orthodox Deobandi movement -- have both decried the militant group.