Authorities in Afghanistan are hoping that a major conference of Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia this week will declare the Taliban’s jihad in Afghanistan un-Islamic and a violation of Islamic Shari’a law.
Sayed Ehsan Tahiri, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC), says a large delegation of Afghan ulema, or Muslim clerics, will participate in the two-day conference in Jeddah and the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
“The ulema of Afghanistan will be carrying the message of their fatwa and our great nation,” he told journalists on July 9. The edict Tahiri alluded to declared in June that "the ongoing war in Afghanistan is illegal and has no root in Shari'a law."
The fatwa, backed by some 2,000 Muslim clerics and religious scholars, states that "it is illegal according to Islamic laws and does nothing but shed the blood of Muslims."
Riyadh is hosting the event, organized by the secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). It is expected to begin on July 10 and conclude the next day.
Tahiri now hopes the conference will reaffirm the June fatwa by Afghan clerics.
“The deliberations will focus on finding religious grounds for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said. “This is very significant for the future of Afghanistan and the initiation of direct talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban.”
In a July 5 statement, the 57-member alliance of predominately Muslim countries said the event would gather Muslim scholars from Afghanistan and around the world “to discuss ways of contributing to the efforts of achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan and bringing Islam’s immaculate principles to bear on the fight against terrorism and violent extremism in all forms and manifestations.”
The Taliban, however, rejected the conference. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers this process under the title of conferences of the Islamic Scholars as an absolute anti-Islamic U.S. process,” a July 7 statement by the insurgents said.
Washington, however, is backing Kabul’s efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban.
During an unannounced visit to Kabul on July 9, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated his administration’s calls for peace negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.
“The United States will support, facilitate, and participate in these peace discussions, but peace must be decided by the Afghans and settled among them,” he told journalist alongside Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. “We expect that these peace talks will include a discussion of the role of international forces and actors.”
Kabul and the Taliban engaged in an unprecedented three-day ceasefire last month to mark the Muslim Eid al-Fitr but scores of soldiers and civilians have been killed in attacks after hostilities resumed.