Deobandi ulema openly condemn terrorism

Deobandi ulema openly condemn terrorism

Religious scholars could play an important role in bringing peace to Pakistan, religious and government officials say.

By Abdul Rahman


ISLAMABAD – Pakistani scholars adhering to the Barelvi and Deobandi schools of Islamic thought have found common ground, agreeing that suicide attacks are haram.

Majlis-e-Sautul Islam (MSI), a Karachi-based Deobandi organisation, held a two-day seminar March 10-11 at the conclusion of a one-year training session for some of its intellectuals. There, it openly opposed suicide attacks.

“MSI was not only the first to declare suicide bombings un-Islamic and haram, but we also announced disowning all those movements and individuals who are shedding the blood of innocent Muslims,” MSI Chairman Mufti Abu Huraira Muhiyuddin said. “They have nothing to do with Islam, Pakistan or humanity.”

Though several Deobandi scholars, such as the late Maulana Hassan Jan, in the past have opposed suicide bombings and the killing of innocents, the fresh commitment by the MSI is being lauded as a significant development.

The Barelvi school of thought also opposes suicide attacks and bombings and has openly declared them haram. But the Deobandi action is significant because the Taliban draw their ideology from the Deobandi school of thought.

In the past, militants killed some religious scholars, including Jan, for explaining what Islam says about such acts. Jan was assassinated in suburban Peshawar in 2007.

Support from religious scholars needed

Several government officials spoke to the newly trained scholars.

Those who addressed the seminar included Pakistan Muslims League Nawaz (PML-N) leader and senior politician Raja Zafarul Haq, Senator Talha Mahmood, Maulana Abdul Qayyum Haqqani, Maulana Fazlur Rahman Ashrafi, Dr. Yousuf Farooqi and Dr. Dost Mohammad Khan.

Religious scholars can play an important role in bringing an end to terrorism and ensuring peace, all the speakers agreed.

Federal Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Mohammad Yousuf also spoke and thanked religious scholars, especially MSI, and asked that they continue to promote peace and harmony in society through their sermons.

“They [religious scholars] can show that [true] jihad does not equal qital (killing of people),” Dr. Khadim Hussain, an intellectual and educator, said. “Scholars can put forward the discourse of secular democratic nationhood.”

“We have trained 3,000 religious scholars from all over Pakistan who will support any step by the government to restore peace in the country and oppose any kind of terror act,” Muhiyuddin said. “People are being killed all over the country, and we must play a role in improving the situation.”

“They will convey the real message of Islam, which is peace and love,” he added.

PUC joins Pakistan against terrorism

Just two days after MSI’s announcement, the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) announced its support for government efforts to restore peace.

Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif March 13 addressed a 10-member PUC delegation, saying that extremism could be curbed only by following the teachings of Islam.

Religious scholars should not only promote the message of peace in the society but also do their part to promote the positive image of Pakistan in the global community, The News reported Nawaz Sharif as saying.

“Those who are carrying out bombings must be dealt with strictly by the government,” PUC Chairman Allama Tahir-ul-Ashrafi said. “We will support the government in any action against terrorists.” 

Subookh Syed
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 
From Print Edition



ISLAMABAD: More than 300 Ulema from the Deoband school of thought on Monday termed suicide bombings Haram and said the teachers and students of seminaries invite Allah Almighty’s curse upon terrorism and its perpetrators.


This is probably for the first time that the Deoband school of thought has so openly declared suicide bombings as Haram. All groups of Deoband school of thought attended the seminar.The open condemnation of suicide bombings by the Deoband Ulema carries significance, as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also belongs to the Deoband school of thought.


The Deoband Ulema had also outlawed the armed struggle against the state of Pakistan around three years back duringa conference in Lahore. However, analysts had termed it a political gimmick.


Addressing a seminar here under the auspices of Majlis Saut-ul-Islam, the Ulema said just formal condemnation of terrorism was not enough and now was the time for them to come out and defend Madaris (seminaries) against the propaganda that these were the sanctuaries of terrorism.


PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq, Senator Talha Mehmood, Mufti Abu Hurera Mohi-ud-Din, Maulana Zahid, Maulana Abdul Qayyum Haqqani, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahim Ashrafi, Maulana Muhammad Ishaq, Maulana Dr Yousaf Farooqi, Maulana Dr Tahir Hakim, Rabita Alam Islami Director General Abda Muhammad Ateen, Sheikh Zaid Islamic University, Peshawar Director Dr. Dost Muhammad Khan and others addressed the seminar.


Mufti Abu Hurera Mohi-ud-Din said they welcomed the National Security Policy but it was tragic that seminaries were also included in it.Later, certificates were distributed among the successful students.


KARACHI: Senior clerics of India’s top seminary whose version of Islam the Taliban claim to follow have denounced the actions of the hardline militia, saying the group does not qualify to enjoy affiliations with the historic madressah.

In an interview with a correspondent of the BBC Urdu Service, the rector and the head of faculty of Darul Uloom (Waqf) Deoband said attacks by ‘vigilantes’ in which innocent people died was not jihad but ‘individual zulm (oppression)’.

Seen in this light, attacks on shrines, barber shops and educational institutions were all un-Islamic. Maulana Saalim Qasimi went to the extent of characterising the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which was ousted by the US forces in 2001, as ‘un-Islamic’.

He said the Taliban did not comprehend fully the tenets of Islam even though much was made of their ‘Islamic government’.

He said Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who supported the Afghan regime, was not a religious scholar. ‘He is more of a politician than a scholar.’ ‘However, his father, Mufti Mehmood, was a scholar,’ he said.

Maulana Aslam Qasimi, great grandson of Qasim Nanotvi, the founder of the madressah, said the recent statement by Sufi Mohammad that judiciary in Pakistan was un-Islamic was based on misconceptions and ignorance.

He said that Islam embraced concepts like democracy. ‘The spirit of democracy is very much there in Islam, though concepts like democracy have been taking new shapes and forms.’


against Terrorism: Indian Deobandis Condemn Violence
Thanks to Kamala Kanta Dash
Since ‘9/11’ and the global war on terrorism that followed, Muslim clerics and intellectualsin India have been under pressure from various quarters to publically denounce terrorism.This demand has come from media, political parties and fellow non-Muslim citizens. On 31May 2008, the leading Islamic Seminary Darul-Uloom Deoband (based in Uttar Pradesh)issued a public “Fatwa against terrorism” at a public rally of no less than 100,000 Islamicclerics in Delhi. This paper analyses the background to the declaration, the contents of theFatwa by the Deobandis and the responses from the ruling Congress Party government, theright wing (Hindu fundamentalist) opposition BJP, the Delhi Police and also Muslimintellectuals. What is the significance of this Fatwa, can the declaration make a difference,and why have terrorist explosions rocked New Delhi since this declaration (most recently, inearly September 2008, 5 bombs went off in Delhi)?
On May 31 2008 more than a hundred thousand clerics, under the banner of 
 Darul Uloom Deoband 
issued a fatwa on terrorism and declared violence to be un-Islamic.
 The fatwa was also highly critical of the Indian government and police treatment of Muslims. It demanded deeper community engagement and greater sensitivity towardsMuslims.
The paper was presented in the International Conference on
 Radicalisation Crossing Borders
, GlobalTerrorism Research Centre (GTReC), Political and Social Inquiry (PSI), Monash University, 26-27November 2008. The author wishes to thank Dr. Pete Lentini for his encouragement and Prof. MarikaVicziany for her valuable insights, inputs and comments. The usual disclaimers apply. The author isthankful for the helpful suggestions received from anonymous referees.
 Darul Uloom
(can be translated as house/abode of knowledge, others regard this as house of science),the most influential Islamic educational institution in South Asia, is located at Deoband in the districtof Saharanpur of Uttar Pradesh, India. This seminary was established in 1866 during the Britishcolonial rule. The Deobandis represent the majority Sunni denomination of Islam and follow the
School of thought. A renowned centre of Islamic learning (
), the Darul Uloom is alsoknown for their nationalist orientation which played an important role in the Indian freedom struggle.In India Muslims constitute around 14% of the 1.1 billion populations and close to 90% of Muslimsfollow Sunni Islam. For more details on Deoband see the official site: For a brief introduction on the seminary see The Milli Gazette,
 Darul Uloom Deoband For moreon the history and impact of the Deobandi movement refer to Metcalf (2003) and Tabassum (2006),and for Muslim population details, refer to the official Census of India website: 
For the May 2008 fatwa against terrorism see CNN-IBN (2008). For more information on earlierinitiatives in this direction see the
 Fatwas against Terrorism,
Muslims for Secular Democracy (2008), 
 2This paper analyses the Deobandi fatwa as a community initiative and the Indiangovernment’s response to it. It also evaluates the responses of the major politicalparties. It compares the fatwa with a police encounter six days after the Delhibombings in September 2008. The situation after the bombings raises the question of why and how the Indian government failed to engage the community in dealing withterrorism, even though the Muslim community had come forward to cooperate.
Fatwa on Terrorism and the Deobandis
comes from the Arabic root word
which means to describe or enlighten.”(Abdulaziz al-Gharyani, 2007) 
A fatwa seeks to explain, analyse or interpret the different facets of Islamic life.
 Hence a fatwa is issued to clear doubts and set guidelines for proper behaviour. Withthe passage of time the fatwa has acquired a quasi-legal status, and its rulings arewidely accepted and followed. Therefore the fatwa can be defined as an edict orinstruction issued by a recognised body of Islamic scholars or a well-qualified Islamicscholar on different matters pertaining to socio-political, cultural and public affairsaspects of a Muslim society.
 Ironically the word ‘fatwa’ became internationally known when Ayatollah Khomeiniof Iran issued one against Salman Rushdie in 1989 for his controversial book 
TheSatanic Verses
(Guardian, 1989). A decade later Osama Bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa towage
against the United States and its allies made international headlines.
 These fatawa have created an incorrect stereotype that suggests that fatawa aretypically oppressive or violent. Despite this, and especially since 9/11, many Islamic scholars and centres of learninghave denounced violence and issued fatawa against terrorism.
Until now, however,there have been very few studies of these kinds of fatawa. Because the Deobandi
is singular,
is plural.
For a detailed analysis of fatwa see Bar (2006: pp. 1-18).
For a detailed analysis of this fatwa see Ranstorp (1998: pp. 321- 330) and National Commission onTerrorist Attacks (2004).
9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission onTerrorist Attacks Upon the United States
. New York. W.W. Norton & Company.
For a detailed list of such fatawa see
 3fatawa of 31 May 2008 is such a powerful symbol of Islamic peace initiatives, it isparticularly worthy of study.
 The Deoband School was established in Uttar Pradesh against the backdrop of theanti-colonial struggles in 1866.
The Deobandis were closely associated with thesecular-oriented Indian National Congress Party, and the Deobandi clergy opposedthe idea of the ‘two-nation theory’ and the creation of a separate state of Pakistan.Ironically today the Deobandis are ideologically powerful in Pakistan and arerepresentative of the different sectarian groupings into which Muslims fall.
Incontemporary India the Deobandi opposition to Pakistan’s formation has long beenforgotten, and it is now commonly assumed that the Deobandis are merely Islamicfundamentalists. This misunderstanding perhaps explains why the fatwa discussed inthe next section was not taken sufficiently seriously.
India’s Fatwa on Terrorism:
Text and Context
After 9/11, institutions and intellectuals in Muslim societies across the world,especially leading seminaries like Deoband, were placed under serious scrutiny andaccused of being silent sympathisers of fundamentalist Islam. There were persistentdemands from all quarters in India that the Deobandis denounce terrorism. With eachterrorist attack Indian Muslims were targeted and arrested, and a pattern of witch-hunting of Muslim youth by police has been clearly visible (Sikand, 2008). By thistime a dominant stereotype has also developed that Muslims do not want to engagewith the state or with non-Muslim communities.Since Independence in 1947, Indian Muslims have faced difficult questions abouttheir loyalty to India and how national identity can be reconciled to their faith. The
Deobandi ideology and movement is being seen as inspiration to the Taliban. The
9/11 commission Report,
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, p.63.  
For details see Metcalf (2003)
and Tabassum (2006)
Abdullah Hussain Haroon Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN ‘linked the Deobandseminary to Taliban fighters in NWFP and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)’ and spoke of the need a fatwa from Deoband to stop terrorism in Pakistan, quoted in The Times of India (2008).
After 9/11 there were initial efforts in India to denounce violence and terrorism as un-Islamic butthey all remained confined to their local milieu. The Deoband initiative is the first of its kind that hasbeen able to reach the national level. For a detailed analysis of fatwa see
Bar (2006).


Deoband ulema term all Taliban actions un-Islamic

Deoband first: A fatwa against terror

NEW DELHI: For the first time ever, Islamic seminary Darul-Uloom Deoband issued a fatwa against terrorism on Saturday, stating Islam had come to wipe out all kinds of terrorism and to spread the message of global peace. The Darul-Uloom had denounced terrorism for the first time in February, but had not issued a fatwa so far. (Watch 

Saturday’s fatwa, signed by Darul-Uloom’s grand mufti Habibur Rehman, asserts that “Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence, breach of peace, bloodshed, murder and plunder and does not allow it in any form”. 

Citing the “sinister campaign” to malign “Islamic faith…by linking terrorism with Islam and distorting the meanings of Quranic Verses and Prophet traditions”, Mahmood Asad Madani, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, had wanted Deoband to spell out the stand of Islam on world peace. 


The fatwa, issued before a huge gathering of Muslims in Delhi’s Ramlila Ground for the Anti-Terrorism and Global Peace Conference, went on to say, “It is proved from clear guidelines provided in the Holy Quran that allegations of terrorism against a religion which preaches and guarantees world peace is nothing but a lie. The religion of Islam has come to wipe out all kinds of terrorism and to spread the message of global peace. Allah knows the best.” 

The conference was addressed by Jamiat chief and Darul-Uloom’s deputy rector Hazrat Maulana Qari Sayed Mohammed Usman. 

He called the conference historic as Muslims of different sects and ideologies — including Nadwatul Ulama Lucknow, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and All India Muslim Personal Law Board — ratified the fatwa against terrorism. 

The exclusively-male turnout that read an “oath of allegiance” to the fatwa cheered most lustily as speakers attacked the US. 

Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind leader Madani, an MP, stated that the fatwa should be welcomed by the entire Islamic world. 

“Killing of innocent people is not compatible with Islam. The biggest challenge faced by us today is terrorism (which) threatens to strike at the very root of the secular structure of our society besides causing irreparable loss,” stated Madani. 

Notwithstanding the caveats like “unjust” and “innocent”, which may make it appear falling short of an 
unequivocal condemnation of terrorism, the fatwa is viewed by many as a significant step forward towards rallying the public opinion against terrorism. 

Coming after the February 25 denunciation, it is seen as reflective of the growing recognition on the part of clerics to counter misgivings about interpretations of scriptures. 

Deoband has lately been under intense focus because many of the terrorist groups — from Taliban to Jaish and Harkat — are widely perceived to be Deobandi in orientation. 

However, it was when the deputy rector of Deoband, Usman, came down heavily on “the dual policy of America” that the massive crowds cheered the most. “Whenever Christian and American interests are hurt in any part of the world, they take prompt action to set things right even at the cost of human lives. They maintain silence though when Muslims are the victims,” he said, further criticizing the US for its support to Israel. 

According to Usman, Jamiat recently held a series of conferences and meetings with madrassas in Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Kanpur, Surat, Varanasi and Kolkata to carry forward the anti-terror movement which was initiated at Deoband in February. Usman said that many people, especially in the West, were carrying out a propaganda that terrorism was synonymous with jehad. 

He said that while terrorism is destructive, jehad is constructive. “Terrorism is the gravest crime as held by Quran and Islam. We are not prepared to tolerate terrorism in any form and we are ready to cooperate with all responsible people,” he said.


Senior clerics of India’s top seminary whose version of Islam the Taliban claim to follow have denounced the actions of the hardline militia, saying the group does not qualify to enjoy affiliations with the historic madressah.

In an interview with a correspondent of the BBC Urdu Service, the rector and the head of faculty of Darul Uloom (Waqf) Deoband said attacks by “vigilantes” in which innocent people died was not jihad but “indivi- dual zulm (oppression)”.

Seen in this light, attacks on shrines, barber shops and educational institutions were all un-Islamic.

Maulana Saalim Qasimi went to the extent of characterising the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which was ousted by the US forces in 2001, as “un-Islamic”.

He said the Taliban did not comprehend fully the tenets of Islam even though much was made of their “Islamic government”.

He said Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who supported the Afghan regime, was not a religious scholar. “He is more of a politician than a scholar.” “However, his father, Mufti Mehmood, was a scholar,” he said.

Maulana Aslam Qasimi, great grandson of Qasim Nanotvi, the founder of the madressah, said the recent statement by Sufi Mohammad that judiciary in Pakistan was un-Islamic was based on misconceptions and ignorance.

He said that Islam embraced concepts like democracy. “The spirit of democracy is very much there in Islam, though concepts like democracy have been taking new shapes and forms.”



 JUL 17TH, 2014
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The former NSA and CIA agent Edward Snowden revealed that the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi was trained in Israel, various Iranien sources reported.

Snowden added that the American CIA and the British Intelligence collaborated with the Israeli Mossad to create a terrorist organization that is able to attract all extremists of the world to one place, using a strategy called “the hornet’s nest”.

The “Hornet’s nest’’ strategy aims to bring all the major threats to one place in order to track them, and mostly to shake the stability of the Arab countries. The NSA agent revealed that the ISIS “Calif”,  Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi went trough intense military training in the Israeli intelligence “Mossad”.

Besides military training, Al Baghdadi studied communication and public speaking skills in order to attract “terrorists” from all the corners of the world.

Related Post:  “Al-Baghdadi Should Take Off his Mask and Declare Loudly and Clearly that He Is a CIA Agent,” Chechnya President Kadirov

The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), an independent non-profit organization in the province of Quebec, Canada, which focuses on research and media, relayed a story about this as well, adding that “three countries created a terrorist organisation that is able to attract all extremists of the world to one place,” using the aforementioned “the hornet’s nest” strategy.

“The only solution for the protection of the Jewish state is to create an enemy near its borders,” Snowden was reported to say.

Related Posts:

 (Video included) Israeli Sniper Shoots and Kills a Wounded Civilian Palestinian Literally Like “a Dog in the streets”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Time Magazine has released on July 19, 2014 an article arguing that this story, which was reported by many Iranian sources including Iran News Agency, is a conspiracy theory from Iran and that it is not true. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that though the piece of news went viral on the net, Snowden did not refute the claims of the Iranian News Agency. 



NSA documents add more detail to plan to destabilize Middle East
NSA Doc Reveals ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi is U.S., British and Israeli Intelligence Asset


Editor’s note: The validity of the document mentioned below cannot be verified due to the exclusivity of the Snowden cache. Cryptome sent a letter to various sources in possession of the documents, including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, Barton Gellman, Laura Poitrias, Glenn Greenwald, ACLU, EFF and others demanding an accounting. The allegation about ISIS and al-Baghdadi, however, pairs up with other information demonstrating ISIS is an intelligence asset.

According to a document recently released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, now the Islamic State, is an intelligence asset.

The NSA document reveals the United States, Israel, and Britain are responsible for the creation of ISIS.

Earlier this month Nabil Na’eem, the founder of the Islamic Democratic Jihad Party and former top al-Qaeda commander, told the Beirut-based pan-Arab TV station al-Maydeen all current al-Qaeda affiliates, including ISIS, work for the CIA.

ISIS is a well-armed and trained terrorist group now in control of large areas of Iraq and Syria.

The NSA document states the group was established by U.S., British and Israeli intelligence as part of a strategy dubbed “the hornet’s nest” to draw Islamic militants from around the world to Syria.

Prior Evidence of al-Baghdadi Link to Intelligence and Military

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “took intensive military training for a whole year in the hands of Mossad, besides courses in theology and the art of speech,” the documents explain, according to Gulf Daily News, a Bahrainian source.

In June a Jordanian official told Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily ISIS members were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan. In 2012 it was reported the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi.

Corporate media has added weight to myth of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, repeatedly exposed as an intelligence asset.

Al-Baghdadi was reportedly a “civilian internee” at Camp Bucca, a U.S. military detention facility near Umm Qasr, Iraq. James Skylar Gerrond, a former U.S. Air Force security forces officer and a compound commander at Camp Bucca in 2006 and 2007, said earlier this month the camp “created a pressure cooker for extremism.”

“Circumstantial evidence suggests that al-Baghdadi may have been mind-controlled while held prisoner by the US military in Iraq,” writes Dr. Kevin Barrett.

Creating a Fake Terror Threat

The hornet’s nest strategy was designed to create the perception that Israel is threatened by an enemy near its borders.

According to the personal diary of former Israeli prime minister Moshe Sharett, however, Israel never took seriously an Arab or Muslim threat to its national security.

“Sharett’s diary reveals in explicit language that the Israeli political and military leadership never believed in any Arab danger to Israel,” writes Ralph Schoenman. “They sought to maneuver and force the Arab states into military confrontations which the Zionist leadership were certain of winning so Israel could carry out the destabilization of Arab regimes and the planned occupation of additional territory.”

In 1982 Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist with links to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, wrote The Zionist Plan for the Middle East.

The white paper proposed “that all the Arab states should be broken down, by Israel, into small units” and the “dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run.”

The destruction of the Arab and Muslim states, Yinon suggested, would be accomplished from within by exploiting their internal religious and ethnic tensions.

For more background see our ISIS and the Plan to Balkanize the Middle East.

Muslim scholars against ISIS

Whenever something hateful is done by a group of Muslims the question arises, “where are the moderate Muslims and how come they did not speak up and condemn such act?”

Most of the time these acts are condemned by Muslims but they do not get the media coverage they deserve. So when ISIS began doing the most heinous acts of killing other Muslims, beheading the innocents and imposing medieval punishments, the majority moderate Muslims, represented by the many Muslim associations and scholars, have condemned ISIS acts for their inhumanity, brutality and for contradicting the teachings of Islam.

In September 120 Muslim scholars, representing over 35 countries, wrote an open letter to the leader of the ISIS group, Abu bakr Al-Baghdadi. The scholars used the Quran and Sunna (Prophet Muhammad words, actions and customs) to question and refute what he and ISIS followers are doing. This article is a summary of their letter.

The scholars began by questioning the simplistic legal ground used by Al-Baghdadi to issue a fatwa (legal opinion) to establish what he called the Islamic State. The letter questioned his scholarly authority to issue such a fatwa reminding him that it is forbidden to cite a portion of a verse from the Quran or part of a verse to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Quran and Hadith (Prophet Muhammad saying) teach related to that matter. He was also reminded that it is forbidden in Islam to declare a caliphate without the consensus from all Muslims.

The letter unequivocally stated that killing the innocents is prohibited in Islam. The innocents that cannot be harmed include emissaries, aid workers, women, the children, the elderly, journalists and anyone who did not declare war on you. Nowhere in the Quran the words beheading, crucifixion, torturing, disfiguring the dead are mentioned and therefore are considered haram or prohibited. The worst of sin in Islam, the letter stated, is attributing these heinous acts to God.

The letter questioned his claim that what ISIS is doing is Jihad forgetting that Jihad means to struggle against oneself and that Jihad, as in fighting, is only allowed against those who fight you and even then the Muslim cannot be the aggressor. The letter also stated that Jihad is a defensive war and cited many verses from the Quran and the Prophet tradition to refute his claim to Jihad

The letter reminded him that denying the rights to women, children, and people of the scripture (Jews, Christians and Yazidis) is prohibited by Islam. Also forcing people to convert to Islam is forbidden as the Quran says “No compulsion in religion.”

Imposing the Sharia (Islamic law) without following the correct procedures that ensure justice and mercy is forbidden in Islam the letter instructed. Reintroducing slavery, destroying graves and shrines and declaring Muslims as non-believers are also forbidden in Islam.

The letter is comprehensive, refutes all ISIS claims and proves by evidence that all the claims and actions of ISIS followers are against the teachings of Islam. Whether Al-Baghdadi reads the letter and abides by its recommendations is questionable. However it declares to the world that the majority moderate Muslims are opposed to ISIS atrocities and hopefully their voices will stop ISIS drive to recruit the youth and the uniformed.

Prominent Muslim Sheik Issues Fatwa Against ISIS Violence

Prominent Muslim Sheik Issues Fatwa Against ISIS Violence

In a speech before the U.N. General Assembly laying out a blueprint for the global battle against the group that calls itself the Islamic State, President Obama called on the world to take a stand against religious extremism. “The ideology of ISIL or al-Qaida or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed and confronted and refuted in the light of day,” Obama said.

Sheik Abdullah bin Bayyah is interviewed about his fatwa explaining why ISIS is wrong to claim that Islam supports violence and the establishment of a caliphate by force.

Dina Temple-Raston/NPR

Then he singled out one organization and one man leading that charge: the new Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and Sheik Abdullah bin Bayyah. Describing the group’s purpose, the sheik said, “We must declare war on war so the outcome will be peace upon peace.”

Bin Bayyah, 79, is a prominent Muslim cleric and, as a respected religious scholar, has issued edicts to explain why groups such as the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, are misguided and should reverse course.

Last week, key clerics from the Muslim world issued two fatwas, or religious edicts, against the group.

One came from senior religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, and the other came from bin Bayyah. His fatwa calls for dialogue about the true tenets of Islam and, over the course of many pages, questions just about everything for which ISIS says it stands. The fatwa says establishing a caliphate by force is a misreading of religious doctrine. Killing of innocents and violence, the fatwa declares, are wrong too.

Bin Bayyah said in an interview with NPR that he hopes the religious ruling will slow the group’s momentum. “Primarily [the fatwa] is really about addressing the mistakes, and it’s really warning them and advising them that what you are doing is clearly wrong,” he said.

Bin Bayyah is known as a scholar’s scholar. He was born in the North African country of Mauritania and studied in Islamic centers there. He served as a judge of the High Court in Mauritania and had a number of ministerial positions. Now he’s a lecturer at the Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

What The Fatwa Can Do

What’s more, when it comes to interpreting religious doctrine to curb violence, he has a track record. He issued a fatwa in May against Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls, to great effect.

Officials there said it had an impact on the nature of the conversation in Nigeria. Christians and Muslims came together in a way they hadn’t before bin Bayyah interceded, said William Vendley, the secretary-general of Religions for Peace, a global multi-religion organization that works in 90 countries. Sheik bin Bayyah is a member of the group.

“Within the discussion of the Islamic community and far beyond it, it is a vital voice at a vital moment for authentic teaching,” Vendley said. “He’s providing a counterexample to all this violent extremism. He’s providing the counternarrative. It’s not a cure-all pill. It won’t stop everything, we know that, but without it, where are we?”

When a figure like Sheik bin Bayyah issues a fatwa, it doesn’t have an immediate effect. Instead, it filters down, from scholars to teachers, to local imams to people on the street.

“This isn’t going to stop a young Muslim based in Europe or the U.S. who is going to fight for ISIS — I don’t think this will alter that person’s decision calculus,” said Peter Mandaville, a professor of Islamic studies at George Mason University. “What it will do is give those who might otherwise sit this out an argument, something to think about. It shows that the things that ISIS does, its objectives, the methods it uses, have no basis in classical Islamic jurisprudence and teaching.”

Bin Bayyah, for his part, said he has no illusions that a fatwa will stop the violence overnight. “These people won’t suddenly lay down their weapons and come to the peace table,” he said. “But in the middle range and the long range, if enough scholars come on board and really begin to address these issues at this level, the level of ideas, it will have an impact, lessening the effects of the radicalization of the youth. But it is going to take time.”

Military Tactics Against ISIS Aren’t Enough

He said it is time worth spending because military action alone — airstrikes and Tomahawk missiles — won’t work. “The problem is that even if you defeat these ideas militarily by killing the people, if you don’t defeat the ideas intellectually, then the ideas will re-emerge.”

That’s what his Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies is trying to do, Vendley and Mandaville said. It hopes to correct concepts of Islam that have been hijacked by extremists.

Still, bin Bayyah is somewhat controversial in the U.S. His detractors say he’s anti-Semitic and that he has called the killing of American soldiers in Iraq justified. Those criticisms are linked to his role as a vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, an organization headquartered in Qatar and headed by Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Al-Qaradawi is an Egyptian theologian who has close links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

And while bin Bayyah has never formally broken with al-Qaradawi, he said he left the International Union of Muslim Scholars a year ago because he didn’t agree with many of the group’s positions. He added that he tried to change the group from the inside and decided he could be more effective starting his own organization to promote peace.

At the U.N. on Wednesday, Obama said it was time for the Muslim world to explicitly reject the violent ideologies that fuel terrorism, and I asked bin Bayyah what he thought of people who left home to join forces with ISIS. “I actually consider these people to be mentally imbalanced,” he said, “and I personally stand behind that statement. These people don’t have religious knowledge, so their understanding is shallow and they are completely incorrect.”

Fifty Muslim scholars issue fatwa against Taliban

Fifty Muslim scholars issue fatwa against Taliban

Published Oct 11, 2012 04:26pm


Members of Sunni Ittehad Council in a meeting – File Photo


LAHORE: At least 50 Islamic scholars belonging to ‘Sunni Ittehad Council’ on Thursday declared Taliban’s attack on Pakistani children’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai as un-Islamic, DawnNews reported.

Sunni Ittehad Council represents ‘Barelvi‘ sect of Islam which is  influenced by Sufism and defends the traditional Sufi practices from the criticisms of Islamic movements like the ‘Deobandi’, ‘Wahhabi’ and ‘Ahl al-Hadith’.

The scholars issued a combined ‘fatwa’ (Islamic ruling) in Lahore which said that the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam was incorrect and was deviant from the actual interpretation of the Shariah.

The fatwa added that Taliban were misguided and their mindset was driven by ignorance.

“Islam does not stop women from acquiring education and by attacking Malala the Taliban have crossed the limits of Islam,” the fatwa added.

“Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had regarded the sanctity of Muslim’s life and property more important than the sanctity of the ‘Kaaba’ (sacred Muslim place),” adding that the fatwa stated, “Murder of one innocent human being is equivalent to murder of entire humanity.”

The Islamic ruling added that United States was the enemy of Islam and Pakistan; any kind of cooperation with the US was not in compliance with the Shariah.

In response to Taliban’s interpretation of killing females for the greater good of the religion, the scholars said that Islam discourages killing of the females. Adding that, they said, “Even apostate women are not allowed to be killed in Islam.”

The assassination attempt on the life of the young National Peace Award winner has drawnwidespread condemnation from the government, political parties and civil society groups, terming it a bid to silent voice for peace and education.

The banned militant organisation Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had issued a statement Wednesday, using Islamic Shariah to defend the attack.

Pakistani Taliban had said that although they do not believe in attacking women, “whom so ever leads a campaign against Islam and Shariah is ordered to be killed by Shariah.”

TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had argued that it is “not just allowed … but obligatory in Islam” to kill such a person involved “in leading a campaign against Shariah and (who) tries to involve whole community in such campaign, and that personality becomes a symbol of anti-Shariah campaign.”

Malala had won international recognition for highlighting Taliban atrocities in Swat with a blog for the BBC three years ago, when the Islamist militants burned girls’ schools and terrorised the valley.

Her struggle resonated with tens of thousands of girls who were being denied an education by the militants across northwest Pakistan, where the government has been fighting the local Taliban since 2007.

American Rabbi Calls for Extermination of Muslims

American Rabbi Calls for Extermination of Muslims

American Rabbi Calls for Extermination of Muslims

New York – In an alarming hate speech that went unreported in American mainstream media, an American Rabbi called simply for extermination of Muslims and a “holy crusade” against them.

In a sermon he delivered on September 29, Rabbi Shalom Lewis from Congregation Etz Chaim in the state of Georgia, said Muslims are “guilty” of terrorism and should be “exterminated.”

This sermon against Islam comes three years after another sermon where he compared Muslims to Nazis.

But this time around, he toughened his rhetoric and calls for the extermination of Muslims.

“Three years later on this bima, on this very same day, standing at this podium, I cry out not ‘Ehr Kumpt – they are coming,’ I cry out, ‘Ehr daw – they are here’,” the rabbi said.

Lewis estimated the number of Muslims worldwide to stand at 1 billion, adding 5% of them are “committed terrorists and murderers.”

“There are one billion Muslims in the world and authorities agree that 5% are committed Islamists who embrace terror and wish to see, by any means possible, the Muslim flag fly over every capital, on every continent. I was relieved when I heard only 5%. Thank God it’s only 5%.”

But the furry of the rabbi against Islam did not stop there. He went on to add that all Muslims are guilty of terrorism be default.

“But what disturbs me is, where are the other 950 million Muslims who are not terrorists? Who are not bomb-blasting, acid-throwing zealots? (…) I want to believe that we have partners who dream the dreams we do and wish upon the same star. I want to believe – – but where are they? A silent partnership is no partnership. Sin is not just in the act of commission – it is also in the act of omission. Most Germans were not Nazis – but it did not matter. Most Russians were not Stalinists – but it did not matter. Most Muslims are not terrorists – but it does not matter.”

For the American rabbi, there is only one choice for what he calls the free world to live in peace and enjoy freedom is to exterminate the “evil” represented by Islam.

“The fury of ultimate evil is upon us and we must act – not to contain it. Not to degrade it. Not to manage it. Not to tolerate it, but to exterminate it utterly and absolutely,” he said.

“If we fail in this holy crusade, we will live in a world bereft of color. Empty of music, of art, of romance, of laughter, of freedom, of invention. A world barren of all beauty. Depleted of all virtue,” he concluded

How An Illinois Mom Converted To Islam And Found Peace And Joy During Her Very First Hajj

How An Illinois Mom Converted To Islam And Found Peace And Joy During Her Very First Hajj

Posted: Updated: 

Kristin Szremski is a 53-year-old mom from Palo Hills, Illinois. Born into a Missouri-Synod Lutheran family, she first converted to Catholicism before finding her place in Islam. This year, Szremski was one of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who were drawn to Mecca between October 2 – 7 to complete the fifth pillar of Islam, the Hajj.

She tells Huffington Post about her experience below. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

1. How did you come to Islam and what was it about the religion that moved you?

I was a special assignment reporter for the Star Newspapers in suburban Chicago in 2000. I was assigned to cover the Arab community. At that time, I didn’t know anything about Islam — I was raised as a Missouri-Synod Lutheran and we had been taught that all religions and prophets that came after Jesus were false.

During the six weeks I had for research, I interviewed many, many Arab Muslims. My conversion was not something that happened overnight; it probably took more than 18 months. I was fascinated to learn that Islam had all the same stories as the Bible as well as the same characters.

To back up a bit — I was raised Lutheran, but converted to Catholicism when I was about 40. I always wanted to belong to a large community and I was intrigued by the Catholic Church. Since my husband at the time was Catholic, I decided to join the church. That had a huge impact on my later conversion to Islam because where the Lutheran church believed in the Bible literally, the Catholic Church encouraged knowledge, questions and also gave us the historical context for the books contained in the Christian canon. This allowed me to open my mind to the possibility that the Quran was truly the revealed word of God.

Once I came to believe this, it was an easy step to believe Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the messenger and prophet. The harder part was letting go of my belief that Jesus was the Son of God. Ultimately, it was the passages in the Quran where God tells us that He was not begotten nor has He begotten and similar ones that finally helped me. Also, Jesus figures prominently in Islam so I wasn’t letting go of him, but just the idea that he is God.

In the end, my conversion came while I was praying. The date was July 21, 2001. I was in a hotel room in Washington DC, where I’d gone to cover a meeting for a magazine I was writing for. I had the Quran open on the bed before me and I was actually on my knees praying, asking God to lead me to the truth when suddenly I declared the Shahada –- that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger. I later made a public declaration in Arabic but for all purposes it was at that moment that I became a Muslim.

I love Islam because of its purity, its simplicity and its truth. The Muslims I had met were truly pleasant, patient and well-mannered people.

2. We understand this is your first hajj. Were you nervous at all?

I was very nervous about this trip because it is a heavy spiritual journey, which means there’s a lot of personal reflection. It is also a very physical experience, with many different components taking place over several days. I’ve had two surgeries on my neck and lower back because of the degenerative arthritis and it has left me with some slight neurological deficiencies. One of the biggest of these is weakness in my legs, which things like overuse, fatigue, lack of sleep, extreme conditions can exacerbate.

3. Was there someone who showed you around? How did you know what to do?

I was traveling with a tour group, called Noor Travel, out of Milwaukee. The tour guide was extremely helpful. Plus, my lovely roommates are Arab American women who can help with the language as need be. There are also people in the group who have done this before who can offer advice. When all is said and done, though, 3 million people in one small place is pretty overwhelming and daunting so I pretty much learned as I went along.

4. Are there any parts of the hajj that you were particularly looking forward to? 
Muslims pray in the direction of the Kaaba from wherever they are in the world. Being in the presence of God in Mecca, at the very center of the Earth, where Adam and Eve came to earth from the Garden of Eden, where Abraham and Ishmael rebuilt the Kaaba, and where Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived and received his first revelations from God is a tremendously invigorating and rejuvenating experience. To be able to see the Kaaba right in front of me after all these years was powerful and something I don’t believe I will ever forget.

5. How did it go?
I did much better physically than I expected. I’m actually feeling better now than before I left for the trip, mainly due to an improved state of mind that this trip brought about. In addition, Islam is always about moderation and the religion is not meant to be difficult. Therefore, certain accommodations are possible during the rites of Hajj.

There are three types of Tawafs, or circumambulations of the Kaaba. During each Tawaf, Muslims circle the Kaaba seven times.

I was able to use a wheelchair to circumambulate the Kaaba the first time.

During the second Tawaf, called Tawaf Al-Ifadah. I wanted to walk by myself so I could really concentrate on ‘talking to God,’ in my supplications and in worship. I also wanted to make the physical effort for God, as so much of Islam is about taking action with the help of God. This was an extremely beautiful experience for me, extremely spiritual. I finished the entire rite in just under three hours. Then it took me about one hour to make the usual 10 minute trip back to the hotel because I had overdone it a bit.

I was not able to finish the third Tawaf, called Tawaf Al-Wada or the Farewell Tawaf, because I was unprepared for the millions of people who were there at the same time as me. I was getting hurt and not strong enough to withstand the crush of people. So, sadly, I had to leave without completing it. To expiate for missing that rite, I paid to have a sheep slaughtered and its meat given to the poor.

Throwing stones at pillars that symbolize the spots where Satan tempted Abraham, who was preparing to sacrifice his son, is another rite of Hajj. Because of the sheer physicality it takes to walk up a steep hill to the throwing area and the danger of being in a crowd of a few million people throwing what are supposed to be pebbles but sometimes turn out larger, women, the elderly and people with health conditions can ask someone to throw the stones for them. I took advantage of this and asked some other group member to throw for me.

An integral part of the Hajj is the visit to Mount Arafah, where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prayed on the ninth of Dhul Hijjah when he made Hajj. The Day of Arafah is a day of atonement, when we stand in prayer from just after the sun reaches its zenith during midday until sunset. This year, it was about six hours. We were at Arafah long before that, though. We stayed in sweltering tents. It was 108 degrees outside and hotter inside because the air conditioning did not work.

If one stands in Arafah in sincere devotion and sincerely repents of his sins, all his sins will be forgiven. And we also believe that supplications on this day made sincerely will be answered. Standing is key, although allowances are made for older people or people, like me, with health conditions. I stood a great deal of the time but had to sit from time to time.

It was probably the most difficult physically and spiritually of the entire trip. But it was also extremely beautiful and cleansing. The most beautiful time came when it was close to sunset and hundreds of people gathered on a hillside, facing the Kaaba in the West, to make supplications while the sun was setting. All this was done while one imam made the supplications, called du’as, out loud. It was extremely powerful and many people, including me, were crying.

I think there’s a recurring point here. Hajj requires extreme effort but then offers extreme beauty, peace and joy in return.

6. What were you searching for during this pilgrimage? Did you find it?

What I wanted most out of this journey is to find a deeper relationship with my Creator, to get to the place where I have the confidence of my conviction that God is all I need or will ever need. I was praying for this absolute, intuitive trust because who have attained this level of faith are never worried or discouraged.

I believe I absolutely found what I was looking for, although I also realize that this is something I have to work on every day. In Mecca, in the presence of the Kaaba, I felt God’s presence in a way that I never have before at any time in my life. There was an overwhelming feeling of love that inspired trust and confidence. I could pour my heart out, ask for anything and worship God.

Now that I have experienced this pure connection to God, I want to maintain and grow it. The onus is on me to make the changes necessary to help this happen. For instance, I plan on attending congregational Fajr (dawn) prayers at the mosque everyday, God-willing.

7. What did you hope would change about you after hajj, on the inside? Did this happen?

The last 10 years have been difficult ones for me – I got divorced, moved, had two major surgeries related to the degenerative arthritis, lost my house in economic crisis, and am beginning to feel worn down by the rampant Islamophobia in this country. Islam is the perfect religion, but I am not living it perfectly. Instead of complaining, I should be thanking God for what I’ve experienced in the past few years.

I think the biggest thing that happened to me was that I realized how spoiled I am as a privileged American, how ungrateful I’ve been for my conversion to Islam and for the life that I have.

People from all corners of the world come to Hajj and many of them do not have the means to stay in hotels, let alone tents. People leave their villages with not much more than a small sack of possessions, knowing they will be sleeping without shelter on a plaza, hillside, or on the street. Would I have that kind of devotion? I would hope so, but somehow I rather doubt it. It was these people, who inspired me to walk the second Tawaf, described above.

A person’s Hajj can be invalidated for complaining, arguing, or gossiping so it is extremely important to avoid all this. Dealing with crowds of millions requires massive doses of patience, which can only happen when you start looking at individuals in the crowd as just that – individual human beings deserving of respect and gentle treatment. Exercising this kind of patience for two weeks brought about a deeper sense of humility, which I hope to remember as I go about my daily life.

Finally, God says in the Quran that He guides whom He wills to Islam. As I mentioned, I’d been struggling lately because of things like Islamophobia. Instead of cherishing the fact that God called me to the religion, I’ve been focusing on superficial things that distract me from the real beauty of what it means to be Muslim. This experience showed me that I have been taking the great gift of this faith for granted.



How the Ansari X Prize Altered the Trajectory of Human Spaceflight

How the Ansari X Prize Altered the Trajectory of Human Spaceflight

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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SpaceShipOne in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Ad Meskens via Wikimedia Commons)

Looking up into the bright Mojave sky in 2004, I strained to keep my eyes on the tiny spaceship 50,000 feet up. “Three, two, one… release, release, release!” came the call over the loudspeakers.

I held my breath as I watched the rocket motor ignite and the spaceship ascend on a plume of fire with Mike Melvill at the controls. The contrail started to corkscrew and my heart dropped to my stomach in terror. A few seconds later we got the “all clear” signal that Mike had make it to space and was okay thanks to some cool nerves and some excellent piloting. Mike reminded us that day that there is a reason we call this “rocket science”.

Five days later on October 4, 2004, SpaceShipOne flew to space again, this time with Brian Binnie at the controls. With the craft’s successful return to Earth, Scaled Composites, its manufacturer, and its funder, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, won the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

Left to right, Anousheh Ansari, Amir Ansari, Peter Diamandis, Burt Rutan, Brian Binnie and Sir Richard Branson celebrate the X Prize victory on October 4, 2004 in Mojave, Calif. (Credit: X Prize Foundation)

Looking back on that historic moment 10 years ago, it’s clear that the Ansari X Prizewas a huge victory for the winners, but it is also the success story of X Prize Foundation chairman Peter Diamandis and the power of his Steve Jobs-like ability to bend reality to his will.

People told him, “It’s not possible,” and gave him polite attention while silently thinking that his idea would never work. But sometimes with enough audacity, the extraordinary really is possible. And if anyone has proven that again and again it is Peter.

In May 1996 he boldly announced that the X Prize Foundation would award $10 million to the first team that could build a privately funded spaceship capable of carrying three people on a sub-orbital spaceflight twice within two weeks.

When he made the announcement, X Prize did not have enough money to cover the purse. This is not a strategy for the faint of heart to emulate. It took a relentless, protracted experience of pounding the pavement to fully fund the prize.

Anousheh Ansari in her spacesuit. (Credit: NASA)

Finally in 2002, Anousheh Ansari, a newly minted tech millionaire who dreamed of going into space since she was a young girl in Iran, and her brother-in-law Amir agreed to put up the funds needed to fully fund the prize, which became known as the Ansari X Prize. Anousheh and Peter were birds of a feather; she had also learned the power of believing in her tech company even when no investors would!

Together they would alter the history books and swing the door for commercial human spaceflight wide open.

When I asked Anousheh what she was most proud of about the Ansari X Prize she said, “It is my pride and joy and the best investment our family has ever made. The Ansari X Prize has changed the trajectory of human access to space and kick started a whole new industry for private space companies, accelerating the pace at which we explore our universe.”

A year after the Ansari X Prize was won, Eric Anderson of Space Adventures asked Anousheh if she would want to come to Russia for six months to train as a backup for their next customer, Daisuke Enomoto. Feeling one step closer to her childhood dream, she agreed.

Enomoto was medically disqualified on August 21, 2006 and Anousheh was suddenly moved up to prime crew with less than a month’s notice for their September 18 Soyuz launch and 10-day space mission, which included a stay on the International Space Station. Even so, she was able to create a website and blog to chronicle her experience that was read by millions around the world, including many young girls in the Middle East.

When asked about her flight Anousheh said, “My flight to space has impacted me on a very deep level and has made me look at life in a whole new light. I hope as people now get a chance to experience this for themselves there will be a whole new generation of space explorers who will become the stewards of our world and make a positive impact on how we live our lives on Earth as well as the way we will extend our species into other parts of this vast and beautiful universe.”

SpaceShipOne carried aboard the WhiteKnightOne mother ship. (Credit: D. Ramey Logan via Wikimedia Commons)

Part of the Ansari X Prize legacy is also that it inspired Richard Branson to take action on his dreams of spaceflight as well. At the 2004 Ansari X Prize flights he announced a deal to commercialize the new technology and create the world’s first spaceline,Virgin Galactic (Disclosure: My husband, George T. Whitesides is the CEO and President of Virgin Galactic).

Anousheh’s sentiments about her time on orbit are exactly what motivated me and my now husband, George, to buy our Virgin Galactic tickets to space in 2005.

In the ensuing years, Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic took SpaceShipOne andWhiteKnightOne (SS1′s mother ship) designs and created much larger versions of them. So large that Virgin Galactic had to build a bigger hangar just to fit them.

SpaceShipTwo (aka VSS Enterprise) took her first powered test flight in April 2013 and Virgin is now getting ready for her next few powered test flights this fall.

Eleven-year-old Barbara Schloss at the Ansari X Prize flights in 2004. (Courtesy of Barbara Schloss)

This is an exciting moment in history, the moment just before Virgin Galactic begins commercial service. It is a good time to pause on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of SpaceShipOne’s Ansari X Prize-winning flights and reflect on how far we have come and what an extraordinary endeavor we are embarking on. There is the potential for hundreds of Galactic astronauts to make a real difference as space ambassadors, sharing their experiences in countries around the world, in different languages and with a wide diversity of cultures, religions, professions, orientations and styles, just as Anousheh has.

The Apollo astronauts used to say, “We should have sent a poet…” Well, now we are about to.

(If you would like to apply to get Land Roverto fly you and three of your friends on a Virgin Galactic spaceflight, you have till October 31 to upload your 30-second video explaining why.)

This summer I had the pleasure of leading a workshop for the Virgin Galactic interns. I opened by asking them to share how they came to be interested in spaceflight. MIT senior Barbara Schloss said that she had been inspired by seeing the Ansari X Prize flights as a kid.

MIT aerospace engineer and Virgin Galactic intern Barbara Schloss in front of SpaceShipTwo WhiteKnightTwo in 2014. (Courtesy of Barbara Schloss)

“Being in Mojave at 11 years old to watch this historic launch definitely influenced me,” she said. “I was so excited about it that I had SpaceShipOne and WhiteKnightOne painted on my closet doors at home. I knew that it was a smaller company without much space background that had pulled off such an incredible feat, so I figured if they could do it, why not me? I determined that I wanted to be an aerospace engineer and now I am a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying Aerospace Engineering.”

I really look forward to the impact that we can have on millions of kids around the planet when SpaceShipTwo starts flying to space. I can’t wait to inspire them to dream big, to not be daunted by “no’s” and hopefully also to do the work required to never give up, until they too have done the impossible. Hopefully we will inspire the next Peter Diamandis, Anousheh Ansari or Barbara Schloss. If so, I can’t wait to meet them in ten years when they start their first space internship.

Loretta Hidalgo WhitesidesAbout the Author: Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides has over five hours of weightless time in a 727 aircraft as a Flight Director for Zero-G Corporation. She and her husband George Whitesides are also signed up to take a sub-orbital spaceflight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. Trained as an astrobiologist at Stanford and Caltech, Loretta has been to the Canadian Arctic to study plant life in extreme environments and to the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean with Titanic director James Cameron to film a 3D IMAX documentary, Aliens of the Deep. Loretta’s passion is using human space exploration to inspire humanity with what is possible. Follow on Twitter @lorettahidalgo.