India Muslims
Thousands of Indian Muslim scholars have issued a fatwa condemning ISIS-style extremism. Pictured: Muslims offer prayers at a mosque on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday, in Bengaluru, India, July 18, 2015. Reuters/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

More than 1,000 Muslim leaders in India have endorsed a religious ruling, or fatwa, condemning the Islamic State militant group as antithetical to the teachings of Islam and inhumane. Religious leaders in the country have expressed concern over the spread of slick extremist propaganda online, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs knows of just 17 Indians who have joined the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. That figure is considerably lower than the number of recruits from many European and Middle Eastern countries. An additional 30 Indian Muslims have been stopped by authorities from traveling to Syria to join the radical militant group.

“It is a strong message that we, as a large and influential community of Muslims, reject this kind of torture, killings, violence,” Abdur Rahman Anjaria, a Muslim community leader in Mumbai, told the Wall Street Journal.

India is home to more than 170 million Muslims, putting the country in second place in the world in terms of Muslim demographics. 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 of religion endorsed by groups that include al Qaeda and ISIS.

“Repeated statements of this kind help to keep Muslims out of the sphere of radicalization,” Ajai Sahni, executive director of New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management, told the Wall Street Journal. “They create an atmosphere and culture and interpretation of Islam that opposes violent jihad.”

The religious pronouncement was issued by the Mumbai-based Islamic jurist Manzar Hasan Khan Ashrafi Misbahi and signed by Muslim Indian leaders across sects.

ISIS, which grew in strength amid the instability wrought by war in Syria, has taken over large swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq. The group has promulgated a narrow, puritanical interpretation of Islam that has been widely condemned by Muslims worldwide and has been considered too violent even for al Qaeda. In areas under ISIS control, courts frequently hand down harsh penalties that include beheadings, lashings and stonings.

The interpretation of Islam endorsed by ISIS has generally been considered out of touch with local Syrian religious tradition, which is steeped in a more pluralistic, Sufi understanding of Islam. The group draws many of its recruits from other regions, including Saudi Arabia, North Africa and Europe.

Shortly after ISIS began making headlines last year, more than 100 of the world’s top Muslim scholars signed an open letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared caliph, providing reasons why they deemed the group un-Islamic. This week, Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, a prominent Muslim scholar who gained a reputation as one of the most outspoken critics of the Syrian regime early on during the popular Syrian uprising, published a book from exile in the United Kingdom with a rebuttal of ISIS’ ideology.