November 19, 1999 Special Dispatch No. 59

Highest Ranking Official Cleric in Egypt Calls for Arabs and Muslims to Acquire Nuclear Weapons to Counter Israel

November 19, 1999
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 59

On November 16, 1999 a conference on the future of nuclear strategy was convened at the University of Asyut. Participants included: Mubarak’s political advisor, Dr. Usama Al-Baz; Deputy Secretary-General of the Arab League and chief of the Arab League’s disarmament policy, Muhammad Al-Fateh Al-Naser; Alla Kheiri Issa, the representative of the Egyptian Foreign Minister; the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr. Muhammad Sayyed Al-Tantawi; and dozens of experts on weapons of mass destruction. The Sheikh of Al-Azhar is appointed by the President of Egypt and is the highest-ranking religious official in Egypt and one of the most prominent leaders in the Muslim world. The following excerpts on the conference were taken from the PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 18, 1999.

Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr. Tantawi called upon the Arabs and the Muslims "to acquire nuclear weapons as an answer to the Israeli threat and [to possess] nuclear readiness in order to counter the Israeli intransigence which rejects the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty."

Tantawi continued, "The instruction that our master Khalifa [Caliph] Abu Bakr [the first successor to the Prophet] to Khaled Ibn Al-Waleed [one of the first Muslim commanders] when he called upon him to fight the enemy was: 'if they fight you with a sword fight them with a sword; if they fight you with a spear fight them with a spear.’ If Abu Bakr had lived today he would have said, 'if they fight you with an atomic bomb you must fight them with an atomic bomb.’"

Tantawi said, "Our demand that Israel join the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty does not prevent us from learning and advancing in knowledge until we are superior and until we act according to the words of our Master Abu Bakr 'fight them with the same weapons with which they fight you.’ Islam welcomes any force that was [designed] to serve the right and to defend the people’s honor, Islam condemns any offensive, unjust force and mandates to fight it no matter what its power is… If Israel has nuclear weapons it will be the first to be defeated because it lives in a world in which there is no fear of death. We are not afraid of the Israeli nuclear weapons. What we are afraid of is the [possibility] that we will not rise up and that we will not advance."

Mubarak’s political advisor, Usama Al-Baz, warned Israel, "There will be no real peace nor stability as long as Israel keeps to be the only one to hold nuclear weapons in this region."

He drew attention to the fact that "There are other options to balance this flaw in the military balance of power with the Israelis" and hinted at the possibility that the Arab states will acquire chemical or nuclear weapons.

A representative of the Foreign Minister warned Israel "about their [military] superiority complex against the Arabs" and recommended equal security for all parties. He recalled last week’s statement by Foreign Minister Amru Musa that "There will be no peace, stability or regional order as long as Israel continues to possess a nuclear arsenal."

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