Fatawā of Osama bin Laden

Fatawā of Osama bin Laden

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Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

 wrote what is referred to as a fatwā
A fatwā in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā...

 in August 1996, and was one of several signatories of another and shorter fatwa in February 1998. Both documents appeared initially in the Arabic-language London newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi
Al-Quds Al-Arabi
Al-Quds Al-Arabi , is an independent pan-Arab daily newspaper published in London since 1989. The paper is owned by Palestinian expatriates, and edited by Abd al-Bari Atwan who was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza Strip in 1950. Its motto is . Its circulation is estimated to be...

. At the time, bin Laden was not a wanted man in any country except his native Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, and was not yet known as the leader of the international terrorist organisation al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

. Therefore, these fatwās, or fatawa, received relatively little attention until after the August 1998 United States embassy bombings
1998 United States embassy bombings
The 1998 United States embassy bombings were a series of attacks that occurred on August 7, 1998, in which hundreds of people were killed in simultaneous truck bomb explosions at the United States embassies in the East African capitals of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. The date of the...

, for which bin Laden was indicted. The indictment mentions the first fatwā, and claims that Khalid al-Fawwaz
Khalid al-Fawwaz
Khalid Abdulrahman al-Fawwaz kunya: Abu Omar al-Sebai is a Saudi who has been under indictment in the United States since 1998, accused of helping to prepare the1998 United States embassy bombings...

, of bin Laden's Advice and Reformation Committee
Advice and Reform Committee
The Advice and Reform Committee or Advice and Reformation Committee was the London office of what is now called al-Qaeda from 1994 until the arrest of Khalid al-Fawwaz in 1998...

 in London, participated in its communication to the press.

1996 fatwā

Bin Laden's 1996 fatwā is entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places". This document is sometimes called the Ladenese epistle, a term derived from bin Laden's surname. It is a long piece, and complains of American activities in numerous countries. It was faxed to supporters across the world.

1998 fatwā

The 1998 fatwā reached al-Quds al-Arabi by fax, and was signed by five people, four of whom represented (or were said by the newspaper to represent) specific Islamist groups:
  • Osama bin Laden
  • Ayman al-Zawahiri
    Ayman al-Zawahiri
    Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian physician, Islamic theologian and current leader of al-Qaeda. He was previously the second and last "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, having succeeded Abbud al-Zumar in the latter role when Egyptian authorities sentenced al-Zumar to life...

    , "emir of the Jihad Group in Egypt", probably meaning Islamic Jihad, now known as Islamic Jihad
  • Ahmed Refai Taha
    Ahmed Refai Taha
    The Egyptian Refa'i Ahmed Taha or Refa'i Ahmed Taha Musa or Ahmed Refa'i Taha, alias Abu Yasser al-Masri , is the former leader of a terrorist component of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, having succeeded "The Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel-Rahman in that role after the latter's arrest in 1993 and imprisonment...

    , alias Abu Yasser, of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya
    Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya
    Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya is an Egyptian Islamist movement, and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Egyptian governments...

     (in Egypt). This endorsement was retracted because of the enormous unpopularity of terrorism in Egypt following the Luxor massacre of tourists and Egyptians by al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya. Taha explained his signature to fellow members of the Islamic Group saying he had only been asked over the telephone to join in a statement of support for the Iraqi people.
  • Mir Hamzah
    Mir Hamzah
    Mir Hamzah or Shaykh Mir Hamzah is a Pakistani Islamic jihadist who was one of the five signatories of a 1998 fatwa from the World Islamic Front. He is identified in that document as the secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan.-References:...

    , "secretary of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan
    Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan
    The Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan is a political party in Pakistan. It is part of the Islamic Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, that won at the last legislative elections, 20 October 2002, 11.3 of the popular vote and 53 out of 272 elected members.This party belongs to the Sunni current, which in...

    ", or so he claimed
  • Fazul Rahman, "emir of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh", probably Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh or HUJI-B; HUJI itself is in Pakistan.

The signatories as a group were identified as the "World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders". This fatwā complains of American military presence in the Arabian Peninsula, and American support for Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. It purports to provide religious authorization for indiscriminate killing of Americans and Jews everywhere. It appeared in February 1998 and the embassy bombings followed in August.