A Syrian soldier displays a poster of President Bashar al-Assad
Loyal Syrian soldiers are under a fatwa to desert Reuters

More than 100 Islamic scholars from across the Muslim world have united against the Syrian regime and imposed a fatwa, or religious ban, on serving in its army. Soldiers in the army have a "duty" to desert, said the scholars

The 107 scholars from Syria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Morocco, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt, and Yemen have signed a statement strongly condemning the Syrian bloodshed and urged defections to the Free Syrian Army.

Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi, president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Dr Ali Gomaa, grand mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Rachid al-Ghannouchi, founder of the Ennahda party in Tunisia and Dr Haitham al-Haddad from the UK Muslim Research and Development Foundation have signed up.

"The signatories reaffirm the absolute prohibition of bloodshed in the Koran and the Sunnah [the Muslim way of life according to the prophet Mohammed] and the sanctity of all the rights which Islamic law grants and protects. In the Koran God associates shedding the blood of innocents with unbelief".

The statement goes on: "It is not permissible to remain in service in the Syrian army and the security forces in the current circumstances. It is a duty to desert the forces and to stand against them.

" We call for the support and the strengthening of the Free Syrian Army. Members of the regular army and security forces should join it in order to protect civilians, cities, and public institutions. We also call on Muslims and on the free world to support and assist this army in any way possible, materially and morally, in order for it to carry out its mission and to organise its ranks."

They also call on states to step up pressure on China and Russia, and urge the Syrian opposition to put their differences aside.

The signatories said "support committee" were being set up around the world to help Syrian refugees.