KABUL -- More than 100 Muslim scholars from 57 countries have used their collective strength and the teachings of the Koran to announce their full support for lasting peace in Afghanistan.
The International Ulema Conference on Peace and Security in Afghanistan, which was sponsored by the Saudi government and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), took place in Makkah and Jeddah Tuesday-Wednesday (July 10-11).
"We call upon Afghanistan's government and the Taliban movement to conform to a truce and ceasefire and set on a track of direct Afghan negotiations," the ulema said in a joint declaration July 11.
"Based on the texts of the Koran and the tradition that Islam is a religion of peace and mercy, that the believers should all be merciful towards one another, and that their blood, property, and honour are inalienable and should be protected against aggression, we hereby affirm that the suicide attacks targeting innocent people, and that [internecine] killings among Muslims are all acts that are prohibited by Allah and His Messenger under texts that are conclusively clear and well-established," the declaration said.
The ulema praised Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's "invitation to the Taliban movement to engage in a direct, peaceful and unconditional dialogue, and for his recognition of the [Taliban] as a political party whose goal shall be the predominance of security in Afghanistan".
"We also call on the Taliban movement to respond to the invitation made by the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to eschew violence, end the mutual killings and sit together around the negotiating table," the declaration said.
"A national dialogue is the optimal way to end the conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban movement," it said.
Negotiation the 'only solution'
Afghan leaders welcomed the declaration and reiterated Afghanistan's commitment to peace.
"On behalf of Afghanistan, I would like to extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to the Ulema gathered at the #OICAfghanUlemaConference in Saudi Arabia. I welcome the Ulema's decision that the war in Afghanistan is a 'fitna' and has lost its legitimacy," Ghani tweeted.
"We welcome the efforts made by scholars in Kabul, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia," Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesman for Ghani, told Salaam Times.
"The decision made by scholars of the Muslim world is important to the [Afghan] government," he said. "This is the reason for which the government declared unilateral ceasefire on the basis of the request and fatwa of Muslim scholars. The objective of the Afghan government, and the consensus inside Afghanistan, is to provide security and peace and to end the war."
"Those who reject the scholars' decision and continue fighting and committing violence are indeed resisting the will of scholars of the Muslim world," Murtazawi said.
"The Taliban cannot succeed through war and fighting," he said. "Negotiating is their one and only solution."
"Ordinary Afghans, religious scholars and the government of Afghanistan have, for many years, considered the Taliban's war as illegitimate and non-Islamic," Ghulam Farooq Majrooh, a member of the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament) from Herat Province, told Salaam Times.
"The decisions made by Muslim scholars at the Saudi summit are indeed what all Afghans want, and I consider this decision the best option for ending the war."
"The Muslim scholars' summit and their position on the war in Afghanistan are praiseworthy, and they are supported by the people of Afghanistan," he said.
"Their decision was to call the Taliban and their wars illegitimate," Majrooh said. "Therefore, the Taliban have no way out other than to negotiate."
Taliban again reject calls for peace
The Taliban rejected the outcome of the conference and the ulema's calls for the militants to join peace negotiations.
Previously the Taliban said it would engage in direct negotiations only with the United States to end the conflict in Afghanistan.
Washington has previously rejected such demands, insisting on an Afghan-led peace process.
"All Muslims, including Muslim scholars, unanimously consider the Taliban and their activities against Islam, and condemn their actions in every Islamic and non-Islamic meetings and conferences," Salem Hasani, a Muslim scholar from Kabul, told Salaam Times.
"The [Taliban], however, always opposes Muslim scholars' decisions, which means the Taliban are indeed against Muslims and their scholars," he said.
"The Taliban's rejection of Muslim scholars' requests displays their utter disregard ... for Islam, as well as for Muslim scholars," he said. "Hence, the Muslim world should take the necessary measures against this group."