KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) _ Sudan's Islamic scholars have issued a religious edict calling on the president not to travel to an Arab summit because of the international warrant against him on war crimes charges, state media reported Sunday.
The scholar's fatwa, a nonbinding religious opinion, joins increasing calls in Africa's largest nation for President Omar al-Bashir to skip the summit in Qatar at the end of this month for fear of an attempt to implement the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.
"The enemies would like to see us split and thrown to the four winds, and if you are harmed then the whole nation would be affected,'' the scholars argued in their fatwa.
"From a Sharia (Islamic law) standpoint, you must not travel abroad,'' they added, saying it was part of their role as Islamic scholars to advise the president on matters that affect the lives of Muslims in the country.
On March 4, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, a vast arid region in Sudan's west where a civil war has claimed up to 300,000 lives and displaced 2.7 million people.
Only a few Arab countries are signatories to the ICC bound by its rules, and the Arab League has publicly stated that al-Bashir would be welcome to the March 27 summit to be held in Doha, the Qatari capital. Arab League chief Amr Moussa said last week that the 22-nation group would not act on the arrest warrant.
Despite the calls for him to stay home, the Sudanese president said he will attend the summit.
"I insist on taking that decision since their arrest warrant is meant to restrict my movements and put me in a prison inside Sudan,'' he was quoted as saying in an interview published Saturday in the Egyptian weekly al-Osboa.
Al-Bashir caused an international outcry by expelling 13 international aid organizations from Darfur after the warrant was issued. He accused the groups of spying for the tribunal.
He said in the interview that he was ready to expel more organizations and even ambassadors if they overstepped their mandate.
"I want to say from here that we are ready to expel the ambassadors if they exceed their diplomatic duties since our concern in Sudan is not to appease the others,'' he was quoted as saying.
A group calling itself the Popular Committee for the Support of the President of the Republic, meanwhile, announced Saturday it will stage a sit-in until the president agrees to cancel his trip.
Sudanese columnist Tayeb Mustafa, an influential former head of the state press agency, took it one step further and suggested the Sudanese block the road to the airport to keep al-Bashir in the country.
"If the president insists on traveling to Doha, we call on all Sudanese political organizations to come to the airport and prevent his departure,'' he wrote in his column Sunday.