August 13th, 2010
12:37 AM ET
A council of Canadian imams is issuing a declaration Friday that it says represents the world's first nationwide condemnation of radical Islam by the faith's religious leaders.
"People have done many, many condemnations of terrorism but it has never been done well enough or complete enough to get people to pay attention and to say this is a point of sea change," said David Liepert, a spokesman for the Canadian Council of Imams, which is issuing the statement.
"This is us reclaiming Islam from radicals who want to promote conflict and promote violence," he told CNN.
The Council, which comprises 50 influential imams, says its statement - called the Canadian Council of Imams Declaration– will be read in more than 200 mosques across Canada during Friday's afternoon prayers.
"Islam does not permit the killing of innocent people, regardless of their creed, ethnicity, race or nationality," the statement says.
The declaration doesn't mention radicalism or terrorism, but it repeatedly condemns religious violence.
"The sanctity of human life overrides the sanctity of religious laws," it says. "Islamic rulings do not - and should not - contradict natural laws. Islam is a religion that promotes peace, justice, equality, dignity and freedom for all human beings."
"All human beings are equal, and all of them are the children of Adam and Eve (peace be upon them)," another part of the statement reads. "The best Muslim is the one who is good to his/her family and neighbors, and one who avoids harming others with his/her hand or tongue."
The declaration, which comes at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, is aimed at establishing basic tenets of Islam for Muslim youth and at improving the public image of the religion, Liepert said.
"For Muslims, our religion is always part of the story when one of us does something wrong," he said. "Maybe that's not the way it should be, but it's the way it is."
"We need to take every opportunity we get to denounce terror and violence and their linkages to religion, which are false," he said.
Earlier this year, a Muslim scholar issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, from London saying that suicide bombers are destined for hell.
In March, Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri criticized Islamic extremists who cite their religion to justify violence, in what one counterterrorism think tank said was "arguably the most comprehensive theological refutation of Islamist terrorism to date."
"We looked at things like a fatwa, but the trouble is it's a limited legal opinion," Liepert said. "We consider this statement almost a constitution for the way Islam is and will be interpreted by Canada."
At a time of rising tensions in the United States between Muslims and other Americans over a proposed Islamic center near New York's ground zero and over proposed mosques elsewhere in the country, Liepert hopes his group's document will provide a roadmap to its southern neighbor.
"This document will show American Muslims that this is the way to go," he said.
But Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that many American Muslim groups had issued condemnations of Muslim terrorists. He pointed to a 2005 fatwa issued by the Fiqh Council of North America, a U.S. counterpart to the Canadian Council of Imams.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.