The top Egyptian cleric of Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi – after previously advising against the targeting of civilians in suicide bombings – has now declared that martyrdom (suicide) operations and the killing of civilians are permitted acts according to the Koran, and that more such attacks should be carried out.

Tantawi’s positions were posted on lailatalqadr.com, a website associated with Al-Azhar. The following are excerpts from the report, as translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI, an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.

    The great Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, demanded that the Palestinian people, of all factions, intensify the martyrdom operations [i.e. suicide attacks] 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 [Islamic] religious law, and an Islamic commandment, until the people of Palestine regain their land and cause the cruel Israeli aggression to retreat …

According to lailatalqadr.com, the statements were made by Tantawi at a reception held for Israeli Arab Democratic Party leader Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Darawsheh and his delegation. During the meeting, Al-Darawsheh stressed the depth of relations between the Palestinian and Egyptian peoples, and stated that the Palestinian people were steadfast, would not abandon their land and would continue in their path until they achieved one of two good things: victory or martyrdom.

According to the MEMRI translation, Egypt’s new mufti, Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb also voiced support for suicide attacks. Ironically, 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,” notes MEMRI, “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 [martyrdom] attacks that strike horror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah. The Islamic countries, peoples and rulers alike, must support these martyrdom attacks.'”

A March 18 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 so popular in Egypt, notes MEMRI, 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 [operations]. Two thousand students from the University of Alexandria signed up to die a martyr’s death. This is the real Egyptian people.”

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