- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 13, 2003

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Agence France-Presse) — King Fahd called on Muslim scholars yesterday to counter extremism and misguided religious edicts that have led Islamic militants to carry out terror attacks, state media reported.

The scholars must “highlight the dangers which extremism poses to the Muslim’s creed and conduct,” he told the opening session of a conference of the Islamic jurisprudence assembly in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, the SPA news agency reported.

Scholars must join hands to “correct the flaws in the thinking of some Muslims through dialogue in seminars, conferences and via the media,” the ailing monarch said in an address read on his behalf.

The group is made up of religious scholars from Islamic states and is affiliated with the Mecca-based Muslim World League.

The scholars should use religious arguments to shoot down “aberrant individual fatwas,” King Fahd said in a reference to religious edicts issued by dissident Saudi and other clerics that legitimize violence or suicide bombings.

The Saudi monarch also called on the assembly to combat the practice of “takfeer,” whereby Muslim extremists hold other Muslims to be heretical, warning that it threatened to trigger inter-Islamic strife.

Scholars should “tackle the strife [caused by] takfeer that is rearing its head in some Islamic societies,” he said.

“Terror organizations have taken advantage of the fact that some youths are ignorant of the true tenets of religion and enlisted them” to engage in acts of killing and violence, King Fahd said.

“The deviancy of extremists among the nation’s youth” has been exploited by some sides hostile to Muslims to launch “a fierce campaign against Islam,” he said, implicitly referring to claims in some Western quarters that Islam fosters extremism.

A total of 52 persons have died in suicide bombings of residential compounds in Riyadh in May and November, prompting a crackdown by Saudi security forces on Islamic militants that has netted hundreds of terror suspects.

Meanwhile, Sheik Ahmed bin Hamoud al-Khalidi, a high-profile Saudi cleric who previously aired extremist views, yesterday became the latest of several jailed Saudi dissident leaders to repent.

“The self-assessment period that we went through in jail and the events that followed led us to conclude that we have committed an error and we ask God’s forgiveness and the guidance of the leading scholars,” he said in an interview aired on Saudi state television.

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