By VIVIAN SALAMA, Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) — The immolation of a Jordanian pilot by the Islamic State group has brought a unified outcry Friday from top religious clerics across the Muslim world — including a prominent jihadi preacher — who insisted the militants have gone too far.
Abu Mohammed al-Maqdesi, considered a spiritual mentor for many al-Qaida militants, said the killing of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh is “not acceptable in any religion.” He spoke in an interview with Jordan’s Roya TV a day after being released from more than three months in detention.
At Friday prayers in neighboring Iraq, where the militant group has seized territory in a third of the country, top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declared in a sermon that the “savage” act demonstrates the extremists know no boundaries and violate “Islamic values and humanity.”
Religious groups, often at odds with one another over ideologies or politics, are increasingly speaking out in unison against the militants, who continue to enforce their rule in Iraq and Syria through massacres, kidnapping, forced marriages, stonings and other acts of brutality.
Iranian Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani claimed in his sermon that militant groups like the Islamic State are created by Western nations as a means for promoting “an ugly picture of Islam.”
Earlier this week, Islamic State militants released a video of al-Kaseasbeh, a Muslim, being burned to death in a cage. While the beheading of hostages from the U.S., Britain and Japan brought condemnation from most religious sects within Islam, the gruesome images of the airman’s slaying served as a unifying battle-cry for Muslims across the world.
Jordan joined a U.S.-led military coalition against the militants in September, but said it would intensify its airstrikes in response to the killing of its air force pilot. On Thursday, dozens of fighter jets struck Islamic State weapons depots and training sites, Jordan’s military said.
Outrage escalated in the capital of Amman following Friday prayers, with demonstrators unfurling a large Jordanian flag and holding up banners supporting King Abdullah II’s pledge for a tough military response to avenge al-Kaseasbeh’s death.
“We all stand united with the Hashemite leadership in facing terrorism,” one banner read.
It is unusual to see such a unified response from religious institutions, because moderate camps often represent drastically different views to those of hard-line minority groups. The recent attacks on journalists at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, for instance, brought a range of responses in the Muslim world, with many condemning the death of innocent people but disagreeing on whether the publication crossed the line in its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Sept. 11 attacks in the United States spurred a hint of celebration and praise from anti-American radical groups, including al-Qaida, the group behind the hijackings, but condemnation from moderate Islamic factions. Now, even al-Qaida has grown more outspoken against the Islamic State group, which originally was an al-Qaida offshoot in Iraq. That criticism has left the IS extremists in an increasingly isolated position.
Even clerics aligned with the Islamic State group are said to be speaking out against the pilot’s killing. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said extremists dismissed one of its religious officials in Aleppo province after he objected to how the Jordanian pilot was put to death.
The religious official, a Saudi cleric known as Abu Musab al-Jazrawi, said during a meeting that such killings contradict the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, Abdurrahman said. Other clerics in the meeting in the northern town of Bab began a verbal attack against the Saudi cleric, who was later sacked and referred to a religious court, he said. The incident could not be confirmed independently.