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Jewish World Review April 12, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder | While the headlines wrap themselves around Ariel Sharon and his refusal to oblige what one might call President Bush's "unhelpful" request to withdraw from the West Bank, they ignore a far more deleterious affront to the president's authority. After all, Sharon is attempting to demolish the Palestinian terror network, save Israel and uphold the Bush Doctrine; what's going on in Arab nations, however, despite Bush's stated requirements, is outright incitement.

Last week, Bush denounced the grotesque Iraqi practice of paying out a small fortune -- $25,000 -- to the families of what enemies of civilization call "successful" suicide bombers, and pronounced Iraq guilty of "soliciting murder of the worst kind." Secretary of State Colin Powell, during his rounds on the Sunday talk shows, grudgingly admitted that Saudi Arabia, another state paymaster for civilian-killer kin, was an accessory to this same kind of crime. But money isn't everything. It turns out that suicide bombers, assured that their loved ones will be rolling in dough by Palestinian standards, may now turn for religious approval to the government clerics of Egypt.

That's because the top imam of Al-Azhar University, the Cairo Islamic center constitutionally affiliated with the Egyptian government, has finally seen the spiritual light. Where Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi was once reluctant to sanction the targeting of civilians in suicide bombings, he now concludes that such bombings "against any Israeli" do indeed have the Islamic stamp of approval.

According to a report translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (, Sheikh Tantawi recently "demanded that the Palestinian people, of all factions, intensify the martyrdom operations against the Zionist enemy, and described the martyrdom operations as the highest form of Jihad operations." He further stated, the report continued, "that the young people executing them have sold Allah the most precious thing of all." All of which is marrow-chilling stuff.

The government cleric went on to emphasize that "every martyrdom operation against any Israeli, including children, women, and teen-agers, is a legitimate act according to (Islamic) religious law, and an Islamic commandment, until the people of Palestine regain their land and cause the cruel Israeli aggression to retreat." Only one of two things is possible: Either Islam doesn't mean "peace" exactly, or another hijacker just climbed on board the religion.

Make that two hijackers. Egypt's new mufti, Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, is also out there plugging suicide bombings. According to a MEMRI translation of the mufti's recent remarks, Al-Tayyeb has determined that "the solution to the Israeli terror (sic) lies in a proliferation of Fidai," or martyrdom (suicide attacks). Such attacks, the mufti continued, should "strike horror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah. The Islamic countries, peoples and rulers alike, must support these martyrdom attacks." Needless to say, such murderous preaching fails to mesh with what Bush had in mind last week when he called on Arab governments to "stop inciting violence in state-owned media" and "telling suicide bombers they are martyrs."

The American media, having asked many questions about the timing of the president's decision to send Powell to the Middle East, would do well to wonder about the timing of the decision by Egypt's government clerics to sanction suicide attacks. Why now? Maybe because they see that suicide attacks, far from isolating the Palestinians, are unexpectedly (and indirectly) bringing U.S. pressure to bear on the Israeli government. Meanwhile, what is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak prepared to do about the hate-speak coming from the government mosque? Powell will be meeting with Mubarak this week. Let's just hope he asks.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


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02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West