MOGADISHU - In the first fatwa targeting the militant group, Somali religious scholars have condemned al-Shabab's use of violence, saying the group had no place in Islam.
It's like a gang that comes together to kill Somalis... without any legitimate reason or justification," Sheikh Hassan Jaamai, a Muslim scholar who flew over from the US to take part in the conference, told The BBC on Thursday, September 12.
"The only thing they want is to create chaos in the country so that they can survive, another participant from the Gulf, Sheikh Abdikani, added.
The Muslim scholars were speaking at the end of the four-day conference which tackled the phenomenon of extremism in Mogadishu.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who took office a year ago in a UN-backed bid to end two decades of violence, opened the government-organized conference that drew Somali scholars, elders and imams from both within the country and abroad.
The conference aimed at issuing a fatwa, or Islamic opinion, on whether the group had legitimacy or not.
Attended by nearly 160 scholars, they condemned al-Shabab's use of violence as un-Islamic.
Some of the scholars referred to bomb attacks on a restaurant in central Mogadishu that killed 15 people on the opening day of the meeting.
Al-Shabab said it carried out the attacks.
Somalia has lacked an effective government since the ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
More than 14 attempts to restore a functional government have since failed.
Over the past couple of years, Somalia has sunk into abyss over the deadly fighting between government troops and militants of Al-Qaeda-inspired Al-Shabab militants.
Despite being pushed out of key cities in the past two years, it still remains in control of smaller towns and large swathes of the countryside.
At the end of the conference, Muslim scholars summed up main points of the religious edit, or fatwa.
"Al-Shabab has strayed from the correct path of Islam, leading the Somali people onto the wrong path. The ideology they are spreading is a danger to the Islamic religion and the existence of the Somali society, the fatwa, read out by Muslim scholar Sheikh Abdirizak Ahmed Mohamud, said.
"The Somali government is an Islamic administration; it is forbidden to fight against it or regard its members as infidels.
The fatwa declared Al-Shabab as an extremist group, banning Somali youth from joining its troops.
"Al-Shabab, an extremist group, must atone to God and must cease its erroneous ideology and criminal actions, Sheikh Mohamud added.
It is forbidden to join, sympathize or give any kind of support to al-Shabab.
Moreover, Muslim scholars have also prohibited Somalis from offering shelter to the group members.
"It is a religious duty to refuse shelter to al-Shabab members, who must be handed over to Somali institutions responsible for security, he said.
"It is a taboo to negotiate on behalf of al-Shabab members in custody or release them from jail.
"Somali officials have a religious duty to protect the Somali people from the atrocities of al-Shabab. The Somali public also has an obligation to assist the government in its security operations against al-Shabab."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net