Mayday: Mars One urges U-turn on Islamic fatwa

Mission organizers say the Quran encourages exploration after fatwa ruled one-way trip to Red Planet as ‘haram’

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A one-way trip to Mars is not “tantamount to suicide,” the organization planning the first manned mission to the planet said on Friday, in response to UAE clerics who had ruled that a colony on Mars would be un-Islamic.

In a fatwa (edict) issued earlier this week, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) in the UAE claimed a trip to the Red Planet was prohibited by Islam as it “poses a real risk to life.”

In response, the Mars One mission organizers pointed out that the Quran encourages exploration in a written response to the Fatwa.

The statement highlighted a verse in Islam’s holy book that says “and among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know (Quran 30: 22).”

“The Muslim world has a rich tradition of exploration. The verse from the Quran [above] encourages Muslims to go out and see the signs of God’s creation in the ‘heavens and the earth.’ The most influential example of this was the Moroccan Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta, who from 1325 to 1355 travelled 73,000 miles, visiting the equivalent of 44 modern countries.”

The one-way journey to the distant planet, which is reportedly costing the Dutch company $6 billion, is set to take off in 2022.

Mars One also challenged that the mission was tantamount to suicide. The UAE committee had warned that those who participate in the “hazardous trip” will likely die for no “righteous reason,” causing them to be liable to a punishment of those who commit suicide.

But the organization said: “Space exploration, just like Earth exploration, will come with risks and rewards. It may seem extremely dangerous to send humans to Mars today, but the humans will be preceded by at least eight cargo missions.

“Robotic unmanned vehicles will prepare the habitable settlement. Water and a breathable atmosphere will be produced inside the habitat and the settlement will be operational for two years, even before the first crew leaves Earth.

“If we may be so bold: the GAIAE should not analyze the risk as they perceive it today. The GAIAE should assess the potential risk for humans as if an unmanned habitable outpost is ready and waiting on Mars. Any progress requires taking risks, but in this case the reward is ‘the next giant leap for mankind.’ That reward is certainly worth the risks involved in this mission.”

It added: 'Mars One respectfully requests GAIAE to cancel the Fatwa and make the greatest Rihla, or journey, of all times open for Muslims, too. They can be the first Muslims to witness the signs of God’s creation in heaven, drawing upon the rich culture of travel and exploration of early Islam.

“The lives and journey of the first Mars settlers will tell us more about our place in the universe than any other humans before us. As Ibn Battuta also wrote: ‘Travelling - it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.’”

Over 200,000 applications from 140 countries volunteered to participate in the mission, including 500 Saudis and other Arabs. The second round of selection will start in 2014, where the candidates will be interviewed in person by a Mars One Selection Committee.

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