Top European Muslim calls for Aubenas release

10th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

DUBLIN, June 10 (AFP) - One of the Muslim world's most influentual figures in Europe called Friday for the unconditional release of a French journalist who was kidnapped in Baghdad five months ago, as well as a prompt withdrawal of US and other foreign military forces in Iraq.

DUBLIN, June 10 (AFP) - One of the Muslim world's most influentual figures in Europe called Friday for the unconditional release of a French journalist who was kidnapped in Baghdad five months ago, as well as a prompt withdrawal of US and other foreign military forces in Iraq.  

Sheikh Hussein Halawa, secretary general of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, said he was ready to go to Iraq if necessary to secure the release of Florence Aubenas.   Aubenas, a senior correspondent for the French newspaper Liberation, and her interpreter Hussein Hanun al-Saadi went missing after leaving the journalist's hotel in Baghdad on January 5.  

They are among more than two dozen foreigners still unaccounted for after being taken captive in Iraq. Demonstrations of support for the missing pair took place across France last weekend.  

"I must say that I am very much against the captivity of the French journalist," Halawa, speaking in Arabic through an interpreter, told AFP in Dublin on the 155th day of Aubenas's disappearance.  

"I would like to state that this is against the Islam that I believe in and I call on them to release her and all the captives they have taken."  

Halawa felt confident that his appeal would be heard by the kidnappers, five days after a similar plea was sent out from Saudi Arabia by Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Bayya, vice president of the International Organisation of Ulema and a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research.  

"After the call made by Sheikh Ibn Bayya, and after my call today, I think this will touch their hearts (those of the hostage takers) and that they will soon release the captives," he said.  

"I am ready to go and ready to do anything that may assist in the release of the captives."  

Serge July, co-founder and director of Liberation, said last weekend that there were "a number of indirect pieces of evidence which guarantee" that Aubenas is alive, but acknowledged that there was "no direct proof of life."  

Based in Ireland, the European Council for Fatwa and Research is a private foundation, created in 1997, that brings together more than 30 Muslim religious leaders, jurists and other prominent figures living in Europe, the Middle East, Mauritania, Pakistan and Sudan.  

Halawa said the overall situation in Iraq, more than two years after the US and British invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime, remains "very painful," and he urged foreign military forces to leave as soon as possible.  

"I call on people in Iraq to renounce fanaticism and tribalism and come together and unite," he said.  

"I also call on the occupying forces to leave Iraq. The day they leave Iraq, then the people of Iraq can unite, I trust the Iraqi people and I think they can look after themselves and manage their own affairs."  

Referring to the Aubenas case, Halawa said: "I think the kidnapping has a negative impact on those who don't understand the true image of Islam."  

"But there are a lot of people who do understand the true image of Islam and are still taking these kind of actions," he added.  

"I call on those who have kidnapped to take into consideration the fact that this is not in harmony with Islam, and also to think of the Islamic Dawa and the Muslims who have good relations with people of different parts of Europe."  

"Such a behaviour is not good with regard to the Muslim relations with the European people who have opened their lands to Muslims. This is against Islam as a religion. We condemn this and we condemn all kinds of violence all over the world."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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