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Monday, October 5, 1998 Published at 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK

World: South Asia

Call to outlaw death fatwas

Death fatwas - an abuse of religion, say campaigners

Pakistan's leading human rights organisation has called for a ban on death fatwas, saying that incitement to violence should be against the law.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says the excessive use of fatwas - or religious edicts - is a violation of Pakistani law, an encroachment on the powers of the courts, and a misuse of religion.

Fatwas are religious decrees issued by recognised Islamic scholars or other authorised Muslim leaders.

The commission is especially concerned about fatwas which call for people to be put to death.

[ image: Test ban treaty un-Islamic, say some clerics]
Test ban treaty un-Islamic, say some clerics
In recent weeks fatwas have been issued on a range of topics in Pakistan.

One called for the death of anyone opposed to the enforcement of Islamic sharia law in the country.

Another demanded the death of a journalist in Peshawar who wrote an article cataloguing alleged sexual abuse of children in some Islamic schools.

A third was issued against members of parliament who have urged Pakistan to sign the nuclear test ban treaty.

[ image: Rushdie - still living under a fatwa]
Rushdie - still living under a fatwa
The commission's call came as Iran repeated that the fatwa issued against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie for blasphemy cannot be lifted.

Diplomatic ties between Iran and the UK were upgraded last month after the Iranian government distanced itself from the death edict issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Fatwas cover wide variety of situations

In April religious authorities in Algeria put out a fatwa permitting women who had been raped in the country's civil war to have abortions.

And last year the Mufti of Egypt reportedly issued a fatwa warning people against organising or attending bullfights. The edict said eating meat from bulls killed at a fight was also contrary to Islam.

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