July 23, 2002 Special Dispatch No. 402

Egypt's Mufti: We Condemned the September 11 Attacks, But Since Then Our Feelings Have Changed

July 23, 2002
Special Dispatch No. 402

In an interview with the Egyptian Islamic website, Egyptian mufti Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb discussed Western civilization, suicide bombings, September 11, and the American war on terror. The following are excerpts from the interview: [1]

Our Feelings Have Changed Regarding September 11
Q: "Is what happened on September 11 in the U.S. a kind of terror?"

Mufti Al-Tayyeb: "All the Muslims, and the Arab world, rejected and condemned the event, because they wouldn't want it to happen to them, so they don't want it to happen to others. We say this because Islam prohibits such attacks on peaceful civilians. But the truth is that our feelings have changed somewhat, or considerably, because we have discovered that the American administration used this event [i.e. September 11] as a pretext to cause damage, killing, and exile throughout the entire Islamic world - and I refer primarily to Afghanistan and Palestine. Today, we still read in the Western [newspapers] that the perpetrator [of the September 11 attacks] cannot be determined with certainty, yet it was claimed from the first moment that Osama bin Laden was responsible!"

Israelis Might Have Done It
"Several days ago, we saw on television a group of Israelis deported from America because they had filmed the event - that is, they knew it was going to happen. I am not saying that the event was perpetrated by the Jews, the Muslims, or anyone else; these are things we do not know. But if it is not easy to determine who carried out the deed, how is it that the Afghan people was destroyed because of an accusation that is as yet unproven?"

"…The U.S. used these events as a pretext and an excuse to destroy the Islamic world and to accuse Islam of being a religion of terror and extremism. It destroyed Afghanistan and is now occupying the land of Palestine, killing the people and massacring the children, because of these false charges."

What the Palestinians Do Is Not a Crime
Q: "You said that what happened on September 11 was a crime. Aren't the Palestinians doing the same thing?"

Mufti Al-Tayyeb: "No. The situation is completely different. What the Palestinians are doing is self-defense, defense of their religion and their homeland. They are responding to the killing and to a barbaric enemy. This situation is different than what happened in America."

Q: "Does this mean that killing Israeli civilians is permitted according to Islamic law?"

Mufti Al-Tayyeb: "I will tell you: If Israel existed within its borders and was not occupying the West Bank, and the Palestinians were entering, destroying, and killing Israelis - I would tell you that this was forbidden. But if Israel is the aggressor and the American government is behind it, and the West stands by observing, it is the Palestinians' right to blow up whatever they want. I ask [the French]: If, say, Germany were to again attack France and occupy your land, would they refrain from resisting?"

On The 'Clash of Civilizations'
Q: "In the West, the term 'Clash of Civilizations' emerged when the Westerners noticed that they were being accused by the Islamic world of being corrupt and having no values. What do you make of this?"

Mufti Al-Tayyeb: "Western civilization is different than Eastern civilization, primarily in its attitude towards religion, which is divine inspiration. For us in the East, religion is sacred, and is the apex of honor in the pyramid. In contrast, in the West - as I saw when I was in France for a time - society is not interested in religion. Even if there are religious people, it is a society with a particular position on religion, a secular society. Yet this does not mean that we do not respect Western civilization. On the contrary - we absolutely respect and value it. We also think that the Muslims helped create it during the Middle Ages - though the West denies it. However, the problem arises when the West tries to impose its civilization on us. Then the clash breaks out."

"I'll give you an example. Several foreign elements maintain that sexual perversion [i.e. homosexuality] is justified. We think that it is forbidden. If these elements wish to impose this on us, under the banner of human rights, we are opposed. The West is entitled to our respect for its culture and its civilization, if we are in its country… By the same token, we too are entitled to the West's acknowledgement of our religion-based civilization, without its attempting, every so often, to sow among us certain elements that conflict with the religion… There are many good elements in Western civilization, but we are not required to accept everything it brings…

On Freedom, Women's Rights and Art
Q: "What is your position on the following issues: individual freedom, equality between man and woman, general moral freedom, state intervention in the affairs of the individual within his home, and literature and the cinema?"

Mufti Al-Tayyeb: "This brings us back to the previous question, and to the answer about the difference between Western and Eastern civilization in all things regarding religion. If the Western man, say, wants to satisfy his lusts and passions, he is not restricted by religion, whether in sex, food, or drink. No prohibitions apply. In contrast, we in the East are restricted by religion in all of our ways of behavior…"

"With regard to equality between man and woman, Islam demands certain things of both, whether in marriage or in life in general. Therefore, perhaps, it is claimed that the Western woman is more liberated than the Eastern woman. But the truth is that in our [society] there is equality between man and woman, except in a few matters concerning inheritance. A very few matters. There are many matters in which the woman is comparable to the man, and even gets more than him… The man is fully responsible for the woman. As the Prophet said: 'Women are the sisters of men.' Moreover, we maintain that the Muslim woman is more indulged than the man. It must be remembered that Islam liberated the woman 14 centuries ago, giving her rights that Western women received only in the 19th century."

"With regard to the arts, Islam has a single goal, and that is to serve the peace-seeking human nature. Anything that actualizes this is welcomed. The problem is that there are arts that reduce man's honor, and these Islam rejects. I refer to cinema, theater, and other arts…"

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