ucanews.com reporters, DhakaUpdated: June 21, 2016 09:13 AM GMT
Bangladeshi Muslims pray at Tongi, near the capital Dhaka in in this file photo. More than 100,000 Muslims clerics have signed a 'fatwa' to denounce terrorism and militancy in the name of Islam in this Muslim-majority country. (ucanews.com photo by Stephan Uttom)
Bangladeshi Christian activists are backing a fatwa (religious edict) signed by tens of thousands of Muslim clerics denouncing terrorism and militancy as "un-Islamic" and "a crime against humanity."
"Islam is a religion of peace, but sadly, opportunists misuse it to carry out militancy and violence," Nirmol Rozario, secretary general of Bangladesh Christian Association told ucanews.com.
"This fatwa is a positive move," he said.
More than 100,000 Islamic leaders, clerics and scholars have endorsed the Fatwa of Peace for Human Well-Being issued against ongoing Islamist attacks on secularists, intellectuals, liberal Muslims and religious minorities, according to Maolana Fariduddin Masoud, a prominent cleric.
Masoud, secretary general of the Jamaiatul Ulema (Council of Clerics) first came up with the idea of a fatwa against militancy last December. The edict will be publicly issued on June 18.
The move comes at a time when police are conducting a weeklong anti-militancy crackdown. A total of 11,684 suspects including 166 alleged militants have been detained since June 11, according to data from police headquarters.
Christian leaders see the fatwa as "an effective way" to hit back against the recent surge in religious extremism and militancy.
"It is good to see Islamic clerics reiterate… [that] torturing and killing in the name of religion is un-Islamic," said Theophil Nokrek, secretary of Bangladesh Catholic bishops' Justice and Peace Commission.
Awakening of conscience
Masoud wants people to know that Islam never supports violence and killing in the name of religion.
"The world is plagued with militancy through misinterpretation of Islam," Masoud told ucanews.com. "In order to eradicate terrorism we need an awakening of conscience."
Once the fatwa is issued, there will be mass campaign to spread the message.
"We will conduct seminars in mosques all over the country," Masoud said. "The government and media need to support our efforts."
Moderate Islam to militancy outbreak
Long known as a moderate Muslim-majority country, Bangladesh has seen a wave of alleged Islamic extremist attacks targeting atheist bloggers, liberal intellectuals and minorities such as Muslim Shias, Christians and Buddhists.
At least 40 people have been killed in gruesome attacks since 2015. International jihadi groups, such as the so-called Islamic State and Al-Qaeda have claimed responsibility for most of the killings.
However, the ruling Awami League government has denounced the international jihadi connection and blamed the slaughter on homegrown militants allegedly linked to opposition political parties.