Acting on behalf of the International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish Peop, which is headed by Osama bin Laden, the Markaz-ud-Dawa (MUD) of Pakistan, which is the political wing of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), is reported to have issued a fatwa calling upon the Muslims to kill Pope Benedict XVI for a recent speech of his delivered on September 12, 2006, which has been projected as anti-Islam by Al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorist organisations of the world.
The issue of the MUD fatwa came a few days before the latest video message of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's No.2, in which he has made a severe attack on the Pope.
A report on the the MUD fatwa to kill the Pope has been carried by the Pakistani journal Ausaf in its issue dated September 18, 2006. It has reported as follows
"Pakistan's Jamaat-ud-Dawa has issued a Fatwa asking the Muslim community to kill Pope Benedict for his blasphemous statement about Prophet Mohammad. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa has declared death to Pope Benedict and said that in today's world blasphemy of the Holy Koran and the Prophet has become a fashion. The leaders of the Jamaat were speaking at a Martyrs' Islamic Conference in Karachi. Prominent Jamaat leader Hafiz Saifullah Khalid said that in the present circumstances, jehad has become obligatory for each Muslim. Muslims are being declared terrorists and our battle for survival has already started. The Muslim world has rejected the Pope's apology and decided to continue protests and demonstrations in big cities. The Pope's apology is just a drama and no political leader has any power to pardon him. It is part of a crusade initiated by the US in the name of terrorism. Instead of accepting fake apologies, Muslims should realise Europe's enemity towards Islam and Muslim Ummah should prepare itself to defend its faith. Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Abdur Rahman Makki said the West and Europe have started a campaign against the Holy Koran and the Prophet and have abused jehad. We should take appropriate steps to deal with the champions of crusade. It is time for Muslim leaders to open their eyes and understand that the West had never been a friend of the Muslims and will never be so."
In his video message disseminated through the internet on September 29, 2006, Zawahiri called Pope Benedict XVI a "charlatan" and stated that the Pope "accused Islam of being incompatible with rationality while forgetting that his own Christianity is unacceptable to a sensible mind."
The LET has secret cells in the UK and France, but there is no confirmed information of any LET activity in Italy so far. It is likely that the task of executing this fatwa might be entrusted to one of its cells in the UK or France.
The US State Department categorises the JUD as well as the LET as terrorist organisations. President General Pervez Musharraf has rejected the US categorisation of the JUD as a terrorist organisation. He treats it as an Islamic charity organisation, which, according to him, has been doing humanitarian relief work in Pakistan and he asserts that it has nothing to do with the LET. The media had recently reported that a move in the UN Security Council to order the freezing of the accounts of the JUD under the Security Council Resolution No.1373 failed because of Chinese opposition. According to the media, China supported Pakistan's contention that the JUD is not a terrorist organisation. The Security Council acts as the Monitoring Committee for monitoring the implementation of the UNSC Resolution No.1373. The JUD issue has come up before it in its capacity as the Monitoring Committee.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.