Court issues fatwa on cartoonists
An Islamic court in India has issued a fatwa, or religious decree, condemning to death the 12 artists who drew the controversial images of the prophet Mohammed.
The decree was issued on behalf of the Idar-e-Sharia Darul Kaza Islamic court in northern Uttar Pradesh state by its religious head in the state capital, Lucknow.
"Death is the only penalty for the cartoonists who had drawn sacrilegious cartoons of the prophet," Maulana Mufti Abul Irfan, the religious head of the court, said overnight.
The court's ruling is binding on Muslims, but can be challenged under Indian law.
Mr Irfan said it was clearly written in the Muslim holy book, the Koran, that anyone who insulted the prophet deserved to be punished. He said the fatwa was applicable wherever Muslims live.
Jaffaryab Zilany, a member of the authoritative national body of Muslim clerics, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, said however that although the fatwa was legitimate under Islamic law, it had no legal binding in India.
The sentence comes days after a minister in the state government, Mohammed Yaqoob Qureshi, offered a reward of $US11.5 million ($15.6 million) for the beheading of any of the cartoonists.
The cartoons, drawn by 12 artists, were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September and later reprinted in other mainly European dailies. They have sparked protests worldwide, some of them deadly.
On Saturday, a cleric in Pakistan offered a $US1-million ($1.35 million) reward and a car for the death of any of the cartoonists responsible for the drawings, one of which portrayed the prophet with a bomb in his turban.
Muslims consider any depiction of the prophet to be blasphemous.
Muslims make up about 130 million of mainly Hindu India's billion-plus population. While there have been large demonstrations against the cartoons in India, they have been mainly peaceful.