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Spanish Muslims decry Al Qaeda

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Most significant, however, was the fatwa issued by the Islamic Commission, the organization that mediates between the Spanish government and the nation's Muslim community.

The edict condemns bin Laden and Al Qaeda members as apostates for their use of violence, and it calls on Muslims to fight actively against terrorism. The fatwa is the first of its kind to use the weight of religious authority to specifically denounce Mr. bin Laden, and it serves as a powerful reminder that the vast majority of Spain's nearly 1 million Muslims condemn terrorist tactics.

"We see this as our contribution," says Mansur Escudero, secretary general of the Islamic Commission. "a declaration from the Muslim community that says that bin Laden and Al Qaeda are not Muslims - they are outside of Islam."

The edict cites the Koran and the traditions of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, or Sunna, in condemning bin Laden. "Since bin Laden and his organization defend the legality of terrorism and base that defense in the sacred Koran and the Sunna ... [they] have made themselves apostates."

According to Escudero the fatwa - issued on the eve of the anniversary of the March 11 attacks - serves "as a call to conscience" for Muslims here. Some religious leaders in Morocco - the country of origin for most of the suspects in the March 11 bombings - and Libya have supported the Spanish Commission's edict.

But there have been few signs of change among the Sunni preachers in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere who have backed bin Laden in the past - and who reject groups like the one in Spain. For tafkiris, or rejectionists, such as bin Laden's followers, Muslims who work with what are regarded as infidel regimes like Spain are themselves rejected as unIslamic.

And in the broader Islamic world, where the terrorist bombings like the one in Madrid are rejected, there is still a high degree of support for the political causes that allegedly motivate such attacks. This takes the edge off any specific condemnations of bin Laden.

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