Fatwa puts journalists’ lives at risk

Published on 9 February 2012 in News
Mohamed Bin Sallam (author)

Mohamed Bin Sallam


SANA'A, Feb. 8 – The lives of four Yemeni journalists are in jeopardy after a group of Islamic clerics issued a fatwa (religious statement) against them describing them as apostates.

The religious statement was made by clerics after the four journalists – Mohsen Ayd, Bushra Al-Maqtari, Fikri Qasem and Sami Shamsan – published opinion articles in opposition newspapers criticizing religious leaders and questioning God’s justice.

Ayd explained in a press release that the fatwa was issued on the grounds of political disagreement between the clerics and the writers.

"This is a politicized fatwa that has nothing to do with the law or religion," Ayd said. He added that clerics who signed the fatwa have neither met him nor went to the court to complain him.

"Now my life and my colleagues' lives who were included in the fatwa are at threat since some extremist may consider this a green light to kill us," said Mohsen.

The clerics that signed the fatwa, who include Abd Al-Majeed Al-Zindani and Abd Al-Wahab Al-Dailami, two prominent leaders of the Islah Isalmc Party, should be held accountable for any potential harm may happen to the journalists, said Ayd. He also condemned the use of religion in political conflicts saying, "This represents a threat to our lives and our families."

Human rights activist Anwar Al-Rasheed, together with some Kuwaiti activists, begun a campaign to support journalist Bushra Al-Maqtari, also included in the apostate fatwa.

For his part, Shawki Al-Qadi, an Islah MP and preacher of a prominent mosque in Taiz, described the fatwa as "illegal terrorism".

He said, "I disown this fatwa and I'm against the issuing of any fatwa of apostasy outside of professional and independent court.

"I demand that anyone who has a problem with another goes to court to prosecute," he added, calling on lawyers and activists to sue those leading such campaigns and issuing fatwas of apostasy.

On Wednesday, a group of human rights activists took the case to the attorney general.

"This fatwa incites the killing of activists and puts the lives of journalists mentioned in the fatwa at risk," said another journalist during a sit-in in front the office of the attorney general.

The Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate also condemned the fatwa, which was issued late last week.

Al-Zindani denied rumors of a similar fatwa issued by him and other clerics in 1994 during the civil war between south and north Yemen.

The previous fatwa allowed outgoing president Saleh to kill opposition southerners and take their properties in retribution for their rebellion against Saleh's rule at the time.