Muslim nations vow to combat extremist religion, rein in terror

Mecca: Muslim nations vow to combat extremist religion, rein in terror By The Associated Press
MECCA – Leaders at the biggest-ever Muslim summit on terrorism vowed Thursday to fight extremist ideology, saying they would reform textbooks, rein in the issuing of religious edicts and crack down on terror financing.

Kings, heads of states and ministers from more than 50 Muslim countries closed a two-day summit held in Islam’s holiest city, Mecca, that had been convened in a bid to address terrorism that has increasingly confronted their own governments and to counter criticism that the Islamic world has been doing to little to confront extremism.

The leaders of about 40 countries participated in the meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, with the remaining OIC members represented by ministers. Among noted absentees were Syrian President Bashar Assad, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika – hospitalized in France – and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"The Islamic nation is in a crisis. This crisis does not reflect on the present alone, but also on its future and the future of humanity at large," the summit’s final statement, dubbed the Mecca Declaration, said.

"We need decisive action to fight deviant ideas because they are the justification of terrorism," it said. "We are determined to fight terrorism in all its forms."

In the declaration, the countries promised to "change national laws to criminalize financing and incitement" as well as correct school curriculums to purge extremist ideas.

"Islam is the religion of moderation. It rejects extremism and isolation. There is a need to confront deviant ideology where it appears, including in school curriculums. Islam is the religion of diversity and tolerance," it said.

It also underlined that "fatwas" – or Islamic religious edicts – must only be issued by "those who are authorized," an effort to rein in edicts by clerics who denounce other Muslims as "apostates" and allow their killing.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal described the pledges as "irreversible" but acknowledged that member countries had the duty of putting them to the test.

"It is now up to every Muslim government to implement the measures, God willing," he said at a press conference.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, speaking at the opening session of the summit Wednesday, called for moderation in Islam.

"Islamic unity can’t be achieved by the spilling of blood, as deviant people claim by their dark ideas," he said. Saudi Arabia has been waging a strong crackdown on al-Qaida militants on its soil since a wave of attacks in early 2003, and Abdullah has taken gradual steps to clamp down on militant preachers in his country, the homeland of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 suicide hijackers in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has also played a leading role at the summit, pressing for strong language against terrorism and extremist ideology after his country was hit by its worst ever terror attack last month, a triple suicide bombing at Amman hotels that killed 60 people.

"The subject that should have priority over all these subjects is the consensus among us as Muslims on who is a Muslim and on the condition of Ifta, (edict making)," he told the summit on Wednesday."The absence of consensus on these two issues has led to divisions and differences, accusations of apostasy and internecine fighting," the Jordanian monarch said.

The meetings were held at the Safa Palace, adjacent to the Grand Mosque. Saudi security forces and soldiers of the Royal Guard imposed tight security around the conference venue, closing most of the streets to the holy mosque.

Still, tens of thousands of pilgrims poured into Islam’s most holy site to perform their rituals, know as Omra, or minor pilgrimage.

The OIC, founded in 1969, is based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.