Could a fatwa save the tiger?
From the tiger to the orangutan, Indonesia is home to some of the world’s most threatened animals.
And now the country’s highest Islamic body has issued a fatwa declaring that the hunting and trading of endangered species is immoral.
While many people might associate fatwas with death threats, after the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a threat against Salman Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses, a fatwa is simply a call to action – in this case, to save animals from extinction.
Hayu Susilo Prabowo, a member of the Indonesian Council of Clerics, said the edict was developed in consultation with environmental activists and academics affiliated with the National University in Jakarta.
While council edicts have no legal weight, the announcement shows the impact of conservation efforts in the country.
The fatwa is aimed at encouraging people to protect the environment, including endangered animals such as rhinos and elephants that also live in the country, said Mr Prabowo, head of the council’s environment and natural resources committee.
‘We want to make people aware that damaging the environment is immoral and killing endangered species violates Islamic teachings. Animals have to be protected, either at zoos or in the wild,’ he said.
The edict means that the moving or killing of endangered animals is ‘haram’ or forbidden and there is a chance that the message could resonate strongly with people living in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population.
The fatwa also urges the government to review the licences of palm oil plantations, which damage natural habitats and make life even harder for many endangered species.
The Indonesian Council of Clerics is not the first religious body to get involved in the protection of animals.
In 2005 the Dalai Lama called upon his followers to end trafficking and South Africa’s Nazareth Baptist (Shembe) Church, a traditional Zulu church, has begun to use fake leopard skins in its ceremonies to protect real creatures living nearby.
© Daily Mail, London