By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (Worthy News)-- An Islamic conference of 160 Somali scholars recently issued a fatwa declaring that al-Shabaab doesn't represent Islam and Muslims shouldn't support this militant Islamist group, according to Voice of the Martyrs.
Al-Shabaab is an al-Qaeda affiliate operating freely in Somalia, a failed African nation that already struggles with rampant lawlessness.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman with Voice of the Martyrs USA, said the fatwa was the first time that religious leaders have openly challenged al-Shabaab, but as it already controls vast rural areas of this small African nation, al-Shabaab's members will not receive the religious ruling lightly.
"Al-Shabaab would say, 'We're the true Muslims, and we're conducting jihad because we're the true Muslims and those who are not living up to the edicts of the religion should be punished,'" said Nettleton.
With less than one percent of its majority Muslim population being Christian, Somalia ranks fifth on the Open Doors World Watch List of the top 50 countries known for persecution its of Christians.
"Our Christian brothers and sisters are going to be under fire in Somalia, regardless of who's in charge," said Nettleton. "The government is an Islamic government. They're not going to support the church. They're certainly not going to support Muslim converts. However, in the scheme of things, they're probably less violent and less of a threat than al-Shabaab is."
As al-Shabaab has vowed to eradicate all Christians from Somalia, most of them have become closet believers who secretly meet in house churches. But as the murder of Muslim converts to Christ becomes more common, more Christians continue to flee Somalia.