The following are excerpts from interviews with the director of the Al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies, Dr. Hani Al-Siba'i. The first aired on Al-Jazeera TV on July 8, 2005; in it, Al-Siba'i discussed the London bombings. (To view this clip, visit http://memritv.org/clip/en/748.htm. ) It is followed by an interview he gave on AMB TV which aired on February 22, 2005. (To view this clip, visit http://memritv.org/clip/en/576.htm.)
(Editor's note: Ellipses in text represent a pause in speech.)
The London Bombings
Al-Siba'i: "I think that British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a grave error when he spoke before the investigation and claimed that the perpetrators of these acts were acting in the name of Islam. I think that he will pay the price for this grave error in the future. No possibility should be ruled out. We do not rule out the possibility that it was done by the intelligence agency of another Western country hostile to Britain. We do not rule out countries... or some Zionist Americans who wanted to overshadow the G-8 summit. But at the same time, we do not rule out the Al-Qa'ida organization. It's been claimed that Al-Qa'ida died in Afghanistan, and was buried in the caves there. And behold: it was resurrected after the American occupation of Iraq. Moreover, Al-Qa'ida controls the war agenda in Iraq. It is the Al-Qa'ida organization in the Land of the Two Rivers [Iraq], headed by Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, that imposes its policies, to the extent that the Egyptian government was forced to... It was forced to recall [its ambassador], and other countries are afraid to send ambassadors there."
Host: "He was not an ambassador, but rather a representative that was murdered, and then Egypt lowered its level of representation."
Al-Siba'i: "He previously worked in the so-called 'Israel.' What I want to ask is: can this organization do this? Is it conceivable that it did it? Yes, it is. Why? In the year... We must not forget that on April 15, 2004, Sheik Osama bin Laden released a taped message, in which he said... He gave... He reached out for reconciliation..."
Host: "Just to recall, you are referring to the Madrid incidents, in which some 190 people were killed."
Al-Siba'i: "After the Madrid incidents, he addressed the Western and European nations. Obviously, he didn't address the leaders whom he does not recognize. He talked to the Western nations about reconciliation..."
Host: "Excuse me. He gave them three or four months. But, forgive me, targeting civilians... You, as a Muslim and as the director of a center for Islamic history... Is targeting wretched civilians considered brave or manly?"
Al-Siba'i: "I think... The man [bin Laden] addressed these peoples so that they would pressure their governments. He told them: We did not attack you. You have been attacking us for more than two centuries, and your campaign continues. He said to them simply: Withdraw your soldiers from the Arabian Peninsula, withdraw from Afghanistan and Palestine..."
Host: "Excuse me, Is Sheik Osama bin Laden a religious scholar, who issues fatwas, or is he the head of Al-Qa'ida?"
Al-Siba'i: "First of all, he is one of this [Islamic] nation. Allah... We have no clergy, or a pope, or anything like this. Anyone can carry out his religious duty, even if he is by himself."
Host: "Mr. Hani, issuing fatwas is done by religious scholars."
Al-Siba'i: "He has a Shura council, he has religious scholars... He wanted to debate with other scholars, but they refused. He asked to discuss matters with them, but they refused."
Host: "The question, in short, is whether the religious scholars... Sir, the religious law assembly in Mecca at the end of last month issued a fatwa forbidding the killing of civilians. Should we follow it or Osama bin Laden?"
Al-Siba'i: "These assemblies resemble the assemblies of the Church. These assemblies forbid young people from going to Iraq to fight the Jihad. These assemblies... The Higher Religious Authority [in Saudi Arabia] are the ones who allowed the presence of Crusader forces in the Land of the Two Holy Places (Saudi Arabia). These assemblies..."
Host: "Mr. Hani, make no mistake. The same assembly ruled that Jihad in Iraq is allowed against soldiers. Even Sheik Osama [sic.] Al-Makdisi, Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi's mentor... Okay. Abu Hani, okay... He asked Al-Zarqawi not to kill civilians and to attack only the Americans... I mean, only soldiers..."
Al-Siba'i: "The term 'civilians' does not exist in Islamic religious law. Dr. Karmi is sitting here, and I am sitting here, and I'm familiar with religious law. There is no such term as 'civilians' in the modern Western sense. People are either of Dar Al-Harb or not.
"These institutes, like the Islamic Association [of Britain], represent white-collar people, the effendis, people with 'prestige.' They only represent their own interests and do not mix in society. They don't know... Ask other Muslims... People see them only on their TV screens. They don't participate in the demonstrations for the poor. They are not interested in people's problems. We invite them, and they don't show up."
Host: "The Muslim Association of Britain represents 400 Islamic organizations..."
Al-Siba'i: "These are all interest groups. With all due respect, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Sheik Moududi group do business with one another."
Host: "Are you claiming they are not Muslims?"
Al-Siba'i: "They are behind all these movements. They promote some people nobody has heard of. Then they promote some journalists."
Host: "Excuse me, who do you want to promote? Those who want the banner of 'There is no god but Allah' over the Queen of England and Buckingham Palace? Those who want to establish a caliphate and turn the Queen of England into a captive? Those who say [England] is Dar Al-Harb and property there can be plundered? Are those the kind of people you want?"
Al-Siba'i: "These associations do not represent the Muslim public. They collaborate with the British police for certain interests. They want an 'English Islam,' and not the Islam that was sent to the Prophet Muhammad. If Al-Qa'ida indeed carried out this act, it is a great victory for it. It rubbed the noses of the world's eight most powerful countries in the mud. This victory is a blow to the economy..."
Interview on ANB TV
Al-Siba'i: "As for the slaughtering and the recordings used [by Al-Zarqawi] - we must consider these people's mentality. What is their source of authority? The problem is that our sheiks, our clerics, and the religious institutions - especially official ones - are constantly running away from the truth."
Host: "The truth? What is the truth?"
Al-Siba'i: "That is the question I'd like to answer. Do these people base themselves on Islamic law or not? They claim that they do, and to support it, they say that slaughtering appeared in a hadith by the Prophet, which was pronounced authentic by Sheik Ahmad Shaker. The Prophet told the Quraysh tribe: 'I have brought slaughter upon you,' making this gesture. But these are religious issues that may be disputed."
Al-Siba'i: "The Mujahideen say: 'This is the time for Jihad jurisprudence. Iraq is an occupied country, so we must study Jihad jurisprudence, which is exceptional law. In this case, there is no need to ask permission – a wife does not need to ask for her husband's permission to fight.'"
Host: "There is no consensus here. This is just one opinion."
Al-Siba'i: "This is the opinion of the greatest clerics."
Host: "But there are other clerics who criticize and condemn what is happening…"
Al-Siba'i: "The problem, Dr. Muhammad…"
Host: "Does the problem lie with Al-Zarqawi or with the religious scholars?"
Al-Siba'i: "The problem lies with the religious scholars. When they are asked to confront these [ Mujahideen ], to talk with them and respond to the evidence they present. [The Mujahideen ] tell the Prophet drove nails into and gouged out the eyes of people from the 'Urayna Tribe. They were merely a group of thieves who stole from sheep herders, and the Prophet drove nails into them and threw them into the Al-Hrara area, and left them there to die. He blinded them and cut off their opposite legs and arms. This is what the Prophet did on a trifling matter – let alone in war. What else could they do when a 1000 lb. bomb lands on a house or a shack belonging to poor people, and the world doesn't shed a tear, but cries only about the slaughtering? All they have is a knife… "
Host: "Dr. Al-Siba'i, do you personally condemn anything they do? Can you say that even though you support these groups' case, they use such means? Is there a single method you are willing to condemn?"
Al-Siba'i: "I, myself… I condemn the occupation, which is the cause of all these tragedies. The occupation caused all these disasters. The country was safe and peaceful, until the Americans came, and we are expected to blame those who fight in defense of their honor?! When people hear me say… I received a picture over the internet, and when I opened it I saw a woman being raped by seven men. An Iraqi woman in prison – this is on American websites now – and when I saw her, I couldn't sleep a wink. A woman being raped, completely naked, in prison."
Host: "This is a despicable picture, worthy of condemnation."
Al-Siba'i: "You expect me to criticize them for using a knife to slaughter some American?!"
Ali Al-Saraf, Iraqi Journalist: "Dr. Hani said the Prophet gouged out a man's eye, killed another, and threw…"
Al-Siba'i: "This is a true tradition in the collection of Al-Bukhari."
Al-Saraf: "Excuse me, the Prophet did not do this to innocent people, like this riffraff in Iraq. They kill people who have nothing to do with…"
Al-Siba'i: "Do you mean the Americans?"
Al-Saraf: "I mean the riffraff – American or not – who kill innocent people."
Al-Siba'i: "The only riffraff I know are the Americans."
Al-Saraf: "If the Americans kill innocent people, they are riffraff, and if your guys, the Islamists, kill innocent people they are riffraff too."
Al-Siba'i: "Excuse me, don't say 'your guys.'"
Al-Saraf: "There are innocent people who are being murdered for no reason. Margaret Hassan shouldn't have been slaughtered, nor Kenneth Bigley, who was about to retire. He was put in a cage smaller then a chicken coop. I don't know what human sentiment has the audacity to call despicable actions 'resistance.'"
Al-Siba'i: People believe lies and falsehoods. Allow me to disagree with Mr. Ali. Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi himself issued a communiqué – and I believe Mr. Kamil and people who follow the press know this – he issued a communiqué that appeared on all TV channels, in which he called upon the group that kidnapped Margaret Hassan to release her, and said she was innocent. She was slaughtered by [Iyad] Allawi's gang… They don't even acknowledge the term 'civilians.'"
Host: "Who decides what the term means?"
Al-Siba'i: "The religious legal authority. One reads in history… I have an historical religious source of authority. Islamic history has no term for 'civilian' in the Western sense. This is a Western term. In our Islamic rules of war, one can be a 'combatant', a 'non-combatant', or 'protected by an agreement.' A person can be a combatant even if he does not carry a weapon. In other words, a person who came to wash and cook for the American soldiers in order to free them to fight – like the Nepalese – such a person is considered a combatant."