May 21, 2005


Clerics strip fugitive Taliban leader of power (Tom Coghlan, 20/05/2005, Daily Telegraph)

A crowd of 600 Afghan clerics gathered in front of an historic mosque yesterday to strip the fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar of his claim to religious authority, in a ceremony that provided a significant boost to the presidency of Hamid Karzai.

The declaration, signed by 1,000 clerics from across the country, is an endorsement of the US-backed programme of reconciliation with more moderate elements of the Taliban movement that Karzai has been pursuing ahead of the country's first parliamentary elections, due in September.

Symbolically, the ulema shura, or council of clerics, was held at the Blue Mosque in the southern city of Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban movement.

At the same venue in 1996 the Taliban leader held up a cloak said to belong to the Prophet Mohammed, which is kept in a shrine in the mosque. He was proclaimed Amir ul-Mumineen or Leader of Muslims by the same clerical body, one of the few occasions the title has been granted anywhere in the Islamic world in the modern era.

As afternoon prayers approached yesterday, some 600 clerics, heavily bearded and wearing substantial turbans and flowing robes, from 20 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, entered the blue-domed mosque's main courtyard, flanked by heavily armed guards.

With the assembled clerics seated on the marble floor before him, the head of shura, Maulvi Abdullah Fayaz, said: "Karzai is elected through free and fair election and religiously we have to obey his orders. None of the orders of the previous Emirs, including Mullah Omar, is accepted."

He said that following the Taliban, "accepting their orders and through their orders killing people and destabilising the country", was "against sharia law".

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 21, 2005 5:14 PM
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