A North American Muslim leader says he supports Saddam Hussein’s call for jihad and believes Middle East Muslims should take up arms to expel U.S. troops from Iraq.

“If I were there, I would fight with them,” said Gamal Solaiman, imam of the mosque in Canada’s capital, Ottawa.

Imam Gamal Solaiman at protest in Ottawa against Israel one year ago

“I would fight the Americans with my nails and teeth,” he declared Sunday in an interview with the CanWest News Service.

Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes told WorldNetDaily he does not recall hearing such explicit support for holy war against the U.S. from any other North American cleric.

“This statement is an overt manifestation of something that typically stays overt, and as such it is useful as a sign of the beliefs in at least some mosques,” said Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum.

Solaiman’s interview came after an appearance on the Canadian current affairs television show “Ottawa Inside Out.”

On that program, he expressed support for the call for a jihad against the United States issued by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and many Middle Eastern religious leaders.

“I do [support the jihad],” Solaiman told the television panel. “Because to my mind [the U.S.-led action] is not a war for justice. It is not a war for principle.”

On April 1, Iraq’s information minister read a statement purportedly from Saddam Hussein that declared: “The aggression that the aggressors are carrying out against the stronghold of faith is an aggression on the religion, the wealth, the honor and the soul and an aggression on the land of Islam.”

“Therefore, jihad is a duty in confronting them,” said the statement, read by Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf in a national television broadcast.

Al-Sahhaf added: “Those who are martyred will be rewarded in heaven. Seize the opportunity, my brothers.”

Not on American soil

Solaiman clarified that he does not advocate terrorist attacks against Americans on U.S. soil.

“Not every American is against Arabs,” he said. “So it is not open to go and kill Americans. No. The Americans who are coming to kill you, yes, you can face them to defend your country.”

Ottawa mosque

He added, “When any Arab goes to America and makes mischief, that is totally objectionable.”

Solaiman said Middle East Muslims should fight alongside Saddam because, he believes, Iraq is only the first step in an American plan to overthrow Arab countries.

The imam maintained that a Muslim should not support coalition troops even if he is opposed to Saddam’s regime.

“He can join to fight against the Americans, and after that he can settle his accounts with Saddam Hussein,” Solaiman said.

David Pratt, chairman of Canada’s House of Commons defense committee, said he was worried about Solaiman’s comments, according to the Montreal Gazette.

“He certainly appears to be encouraging those in the region to be widening the conflict,” the Liberal Member of Parliament said.

Raeed Tayeh, public affairs director of the Muslim American Society in Washington, D.C., insisted that Solaiman’s support of jihad against the U.S. is not the policy of 99 percent of American Muslims, though most oppose the war in Iraq.

“We are in loyal opposition,” he told WND. “We are Americans … to call for a jihad against Americans would be to call for a jihad against ourselves.”

‘Jihad becomes a duty’

Pipes noted that calls for holy war are common among Muslim leaders in Europe, including England, where Solaiman was the Imam of London’s Central Mosque for 20 years before coming to Ottawa in 1998.

In February, a London sheik known for his inflammatory sermons against the West was removed from his position at the Finsbury Park mosque. Egyptian-born Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri said after the Columbia shuttle disaster that the spacecraft was “a trinity of evil against Islam” because it had Americans, an Israeli and a Hindu on board.

Solaiman was a professor at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the Aligarh Muslim University in India and the Muslim College in London.

Last month, Islamic scholars at Al-Azhar, considered the most powerful moral voice of the world’s Sunni Muslims, declared the U.S. war in Iraq a “new crusade.”

“According to Islamic law, if the enemy steps on Muslim land, jihad becomes a duty of every male and female Muslim,” the university’s Islamic Research Academy said in a statement.

Arabs and Muslims must be ready to defend themselves and Islam, the scholars said.

“Our Arab and Islamic nation, and even our faith, are a main target of all these military buildups,” said the statement.

Along with Sunni sheiks, Shiite imams also are calling for a holy war at Friday prayer services across the Middle East, according to monitors such at the Middle East Media Research Institute.

In response to the war in Iraq, Syria’s leading Muslim authority, Sheik Ahmad Kaftaro, urged suicide bombers to head to Iraq.

“I call on Muslims everywhere to use all means possible to thwart the aggression, including martyr operations against the belligerent American, British and Zionist invaders.”

The Syrian-based Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad has vowed to send thousands of suicide bombers to Iraq to attack U.S. and British targets and to “fulfill the holy duty of defending Arab and Muslim land.”

Muslim scholars in Saudi Arabia have urged youth to fight in defense of Iraq in spite of warnings on the country’s state-controlled television to not support Saddam’s regime.

As WorldNetDaily reported, a Baghdad sheik who hoisted a gun as he preached, called for Muslims and Arabs everywhere to engage in jihad against “Satan and his army,” the coalition forces.

Sheik Abd al-Ghafour al-Qaysi said in a Friday sermon broadcast March 28 that it is the personal duty of every Muslim to engage in this jihad.

“To refrain from jihad today would constitute a violation of Allah’s commands,” he said. “It is a sin. Long live the jihad! The evil has arrived! The forces of disbelief have mobilized armies.”

“This war has demonstrated who the men of faith are,” the sheik said.

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