April 7, 2002
Distributed by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, an
independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of
the Middle East.
Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, the top Egyptian cleric of Al-Azhar
University, has shifted his position regarding the targeting of civilians in suicide
bombings. While he previously stated that Palestinians should refrain from
targeting civilians, he recently declared that martyrdom (suicide) operations and
the killing of civilians are permitted acts and that more such attacks should be
carried out. Tantawi’s positions were posted on Llailatalqadr, a website
associated with Al-Azhar.
The following are excerpts from the report:
The great Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, 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 says that the young
people executing them have sold Allah the most precious thing of all.
Sheikh Tantawi] emphasized that every martyrdom operation against any Israeli,
including children, women, and teenagers, is a legitimate act according to
religious law, and an Islamic commandment, until the people of
Palestine regain their land and cause the cruel Israeli aggression to retreat.
These words were spoken at a reception held by Sheikh Tantawi for Israeli Arab
Democratic Party leader Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Darawsheh and the delegation that
accompanied him. During the meeting, Al-Darawsheh stressed the depth of
relations between the Palestinian and Egyptian peoples, and stated that the
Palestinian people was steadfast, would not abandon its land and would
continue in its path until it achieved one of two good things: victory or
Egypt’s new mufti, Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, also expressed his support for
suicide attacks. Sheikh Al-Tayyeb took office when the term of his predecessor,
Sheikh Nasr Farid Wasil, was not renewed due to his opposition to Sheikh
Tantawi’s previous religious rulings against suicide attacks.
Until now, in all of his interviews with the Egyptian press since becoming mufti,
Sheikh Al-Tayyeb has avoided discussing suicide bombings. But since Sheikh
Tantawi’s call for suicide attacks, Sheikh Al-Tayyeb has declared that:
“the solution to the Israeli terror lies in a proliferation of Fidai
attacks that strike horror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah.
The Islamic countries, peoples and rulers alike, must support these martyrdom
It should be noted that a March 18, 2002 demonstration at Al-Azhar University
featured eight students who had been trained to carry out suicide attacks
against Israelis. Volunteering for suicide bombings against Israelis has become a
popular expression in Egypt – so much so that Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a Hamas
leader in Gaza, told the Israeli Arab weekly Kul Al-Arab, “Two days ago, in
Alexandria, enrolment began for volunteers for martyrdom . Two
thousand students from the University of Alexandria signed up to die a martyr’s
death. This is the real Egyptian people.”