An Internet news portal is reporting on a conference held in Istanbul by a previously unknown organization calling itself the Association of Muslim Scholars in Support of the Syrian People. According to the report:
At a two-day conference held in Istanbul, the Association of Muslim Scholars in Support of the Syrian People issued a religious opinion (fatwa) on Wednesday declaring support for the Syrian revolution to be a religious obligation. The conference’s closing statement also condemned the Iranian regime and Lebanon’s Shiite Hizbullah movement for their support of the Assad regime. The conference hosted some 200 Sunni clerics from European Islamic organizations, as well as individual Kurdish and Turkish religious scholars, the London-based daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported. The Syrian opposition National Salvation Congress is set to hold deliberations in Istanbul this Saturday on the future of Syria’s insurrection. “Islam is a comprehensive religion pertaining to all walks of life, not just ritual,” Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, former mufti of Jerusalem, told The Media Line. “Therefore, it is the right of religious scholars to discuss and rule on political matters.” The fatwa, which is religiously non-binding but carries sway among devout Muslims, comes as Muslims debate the role of religion in the Arab Spring. Islamic groups were largely caught flatfooted as unrest broke out months ago, but have worked hard to ride the wave of popular protests. In Syria, some are concerned that toppling the secularist Al-Assad regime risks driving the country into the hands of Islamists. Shakib Bin-Makhlouf, president of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, said the Istanbul conference was held only now in order to give the Al-Assad regime time to change its ways. “Clerics usually take their time,” Bin Makhluf told The Media Line. “They wanted to give the regime an opportunity to correct itself, and issued statements calling on it to do so. When that failed, they decided to issue a religious ruling.” The clerics assembled in Istanbul were not the first to voice religious opinions against the Syrian revolution. Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood had spoken up against Al-Assad as early as the end of March, two weeks after protests began in Syria. It even organized a demonstration across from he Syrian embassy in Amman in June, with hundreds of participants. “What is happening in Syria is an appalling crime,” Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood declared in a press statement in June. “Any leader ordering to open fire on his unarmed people … has lost his legitimacy.”
A report on FIOE by the NEFA Foundation describes the organization as follows:
The Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) claims to be an independent organization representing the interests of Muslims in Europe. In reality, the FIOE is an umbrella group that comprises the global Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. Strong links connect FIOE’s leadership central institutions and member organizations to the Brotherhood, as well as to Saudi Arabia. Funding for the FIOE is derived largely from Gulf sources, including some of the ruling families of the United Arab Emirates. The FIOE has strong ties to Hamas and Hamas fund-raising organizations, and some FIOE member organizations show evidence of links with Al-Qaida. The FIOE recently opened a headquarters office in Brussels and has had some success in positioning itself as a “dialog partner” for the EU and other important institutions.
Another NEFA report identifies Sheikh Sabri as a Trustee of the Union of Good, the worldwide coalition of Islamic charities raising money for Hamas and headed by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi.