Reuters RABAT: An Egyptian Islamic scholar has irked Morocco by telling its young people it s okay to take out a mortgage to buy a house, even though Sharia religious law bans interest payments as usury. A religious council appointed by King Mohammed said Youssef Al-Qaradawi, who is influential among Muslims around the world, had no right to issue a fatwa, or edict, on the matter. Morocco entrusts fatwas only to the High Council of Oulemas (Scholars). No other body, individuals or groups can interfere, the council said in a statement carried on Tuesday by all main newspapers. The country is prickly about defending its moderate Islamic identity and the row centered on who has the right to pronounce on issues affecting Morocco rather than on what was said. Young Moroccans sought Qaradawi s opinion when he was holidaying in the North African country earlier this month. They told him they could not afford to buy houses without borrowing but felt uneasy seeking interest-paying loans. Qaradawi, in response, said that as Morocco had no interest-free banking, as is common in much of the Islamic world, it was acceptable for people there to take out mortgages in the same way Muslims in Europe do. This mufti (scholar) lives far away from Morocco and he ignores its reality, its habits and customs. Moroccan scholars are well placed to understand its reality and the country s institutions are the only ones able to issue fatwas over matters of interest to Moroccans, the council said. This mufti was also prejudicial to the interests of Morocco and the Moroccan people as he compared the kingdom to immigration countries. A Qaradawi spokesman was quoted by Moroccan newspapers as saying he issued the fatwa to help Moroccans get houses and he had not wanted to stoke controversy. Rabat is on alert against radical Islamists since bombings in 2003 killed 45 people in Casablanca.
It says the suicide bombers responsible were inspired by Middle East fundamentalist Salafist Islamic currents which, it argues, clash with its official moderate Malekite strain of Islam.