WASHINGTON, July 28: In the most far-reaching ruling of its kind in North America, the region’s largest association of Islamic legal scholars issued a Fatwa (edict) on Thursday declaring that terrorism and extremism violated the spirit of Islam. The ruling by the Fiqh Council of North America is signed by 18 Islamic scholars and endorsed by over 120 Muslim organizations, mosques and leaders. It follows a similar Fatwa issued by British Muslims in the wake of the London bombings.

The edict, issued at a largely attended joint press conference in Washington, notes that Islam condemns terrorism, religious extremism and violence against civilians. The scholars said the judicial ruling was a response to the bombings this month in London and Egypt.

They said they wanted the message to reach non-Muslims who believed that Islam supported terrorism, as well as Muslims in North America and elsewhere, especially youths who could be susceptible to Islamic extremism.

“Young people might not have had the opportunity to understand the teaching of Islam in depth,” said Jamal Badawi, chairman of the Islamic Information Foundation in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a member of the council issuing the Fatwa. “We are trying to be proactive, not wait until something happens.”

The Fatwa cites the Quran and other Islamic texts to demonstrate that making targets of innocent people is forbidden (Haram) and that those who commit such violence are “criminals” and not “martyrs,” as supporters of suicide bombers have often claimed.

In a joint statement, scholars representing various Muslim sects and schools of thoughts declared: “We have consistently condemned terrorism and extremism in all forms and under all circumstances, and we reiterate this unequivocal position. Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives.”

“We issue this Fatwa following the guidance of our scripture the Quran and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners.

“We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of our country United States and its people. We pray for the safety and security of all inhabitants of this globe. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and every where in the world.”

In a statement read at the news conference, Nihad Awad, executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said: “United, we can confront the terrorists and frustrate their goal.”