Huda Al-Husseini, a correspondent for the Saudi owned London Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, conducted an extensive interview with Saudi Ambassador to London Ghazi Al-Qusaibi. The following are excerpts from the interview:
I Had to Take a Stand on Suicide Bombers
Answering a question about a poem he had written in praise of female suicide bomber Ayat Al-Akhras that sparked a media reaction in Britain, Al-Qusaibi stated:
"I wrote this poem for two reasons that affected me psychologically. First, I saw her talking in the video broadcast on television. It was obvious that she was a woman who wanted only to die as a martyr and defend her homeland. She was young, 17, and I imagined her to be my daughter. I felt that she was a girl whom despair, frustration, and rage had brought to a point where she was willing to kill herself for her homeland."
"Second, some time after her martyrdom, the American president George Bush said that all Arabs should call the perpetrators of suicide operations – and I, by the way, object to this term because these are martyrdom operations – criminals and murderers. I said to myself: the humiliation in which we live is bad enough, but maybe the day has come when they impose on us not only what to do but also what to say. Will the man influenced by Israel [referring to President Bush] determine who is a Muslim martyr and who is a Muslim criminal? I had no choice but to take a stand on this issue. I could have written an article, but emotion has found expression in my poem. I knew that the poem would spark debate, but sometimes a man must take a stand."
Asked whether he encourages young people to carry out 'martyrdom operations,' Al-Qusaibi replied: "Whether I encourage it or not is irrelevant… My personal position has no connection to events. Yet the position of my government or of other governments is another matter. I think that it is the right of every man to defend his homeland by any means. A man who defends his homeland and dies doing so is a martyr, and in no case must we consider him a suicide [bomber]."
"In the Koran… it is written that anyone who dies for the sake of Allah is a martyr. When the Prophet Muhammad was asked about the meaning of 'for the sake of Allah,' he said, 'Anyone who fights so that the words of Allah will be supreme.' Namely, he who kills because he wants to be a hero, or to be brave, will not be a martyr, no matter what he does…"
My Son Makes His Own Decisions…
Al-Qusaibi was asked whether he would encourage his son "to martyr himself," and whether he would permit him to go to Palestine to fight. He answered, "My son is 24 and he makes his own decisions… If he decided to martyr himself, it would be his decision…"
"What hurts is that the Zionist journalists write that a man carries out an operation because he gets 70 black-eyed women in Paradise! Whoever wants 70 girls goes to a Tel Aviv whorehouse, and does not kill himself. Is it conceivable that a heroic martyrdom operation would be defiled in such a manner?…"
Saudi Arabia is Giving Aid to the Families of Palestinian Martyrs
Al-Qusaibi was asked whether Saudi Arabia gave aid to the families of suicide bombers. He replied: "All the Palestinians, all the martyrs, and all their families are needy… How will they be able to live without the help of their Arab brethren? Let's assume that they are murderers; by what law are the families of murderers punished? [Timothy] McVeigh, who murdered 450 people, received money from social security until his last day!… I do not know what Saddam Hussein's intentions are [when doing the same thing], but I approve of the aid going to the families of the martyrs, the families of the wounded, and every needy Palestinian. This is what Saudi Arabia is doing."
Al-Qusaibi was asked whether he feared that in the future, suicide attacks would become a weapon against the Arab regimes. He answered: "I cannot compare the Palestinians' situation with that of any other person… The Palestinians are currently the only people in the world under a colonialist regime. I wrote in an article that I was not demanding human rights for them, but animal rights… Britain is about to pass an animal rights bill that would give animals the right to eat, drink, and express themselves. There are four million Palestinians who have no way of moving or working, and they are slaughtered.”
The interviewer reiterated, "You demand freedom of expression as they demand here for animals. But the Palestinians under Israeli occupation are not the only ones denied this. There are many like them in the Arab world."
"There is no room for comparison," replied Al-Qusaibi. "There are varying degrees of [repression] in the Arab world. In the worst cases, a man can leave… The Palestinians cannot do this…"
On the Culture of Death
Al-Qusaibi also commented: "I have not changed my position regarding the Palestinian problem since I was 16… I wrote about the first suicide bomber, [a] Lebanese woman [named] Sanaa Al-Muhaeidly… My position is not new. What is new is the state of horror and tension that caused the Fidaai [martyrdom] attacks in Israel. In the past, the Israelis didn't care if we said 'martyr.' Now they have begun to really fear what they call 'the culture of death' which I call the 'culture of martyrdom.' When the culture of martyrdom spreads among the Palestinians and the Arabs, the myth of Israel will come to an end…"
The Saudi Initiative: Israel's Last Chance
"The initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah was, in effect, a warning to the world: This is the minimal border. Do not demand any more of us, because we cannot [give more]. This is a last-chance message to Israel. This is a message not directed at the Likud or Sharon. Prince Abdullah knows well that nothing positive will come from Sharon, but he saw matters deteriorating to the point where it would be difficult to control them. He thought that it was his obligation to convey the message – an initiative that is not directed at all to Sharon, but to the world.”
“Another message was directed to the Israeli people: 'We, 22 [Arab] countries, have now offered you peace before things get out of hand…'”
“You ask me how can it be stopped. Can I stop it by [telling] the martyr not to martyr himself? We have seen in demonstrations in Arab countries that everyone wanted to martyr himself. Only a viable Palestinian state will stop the violence…"
"[The borders of this state] are clear: the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, and the dismantling of the settlements. The Arab initiative clearly explained this. When the final borders of the state are declared, I will be able to find work opportunities for the young people and to enable the 17 year-old girl to wait for a husband. When a man thinks of sacrificing himself, it means he has reached a dead end. Accordingly, the solution for stopping the violence will not come from my condemning the violence or refraining from [giving] aid [to the Palestinians]…"
Yes, I Want Peace With Israel
The interviewer asked Al-Qusaibi "as a private individual" whether he wanted peace with Israel. "Yes," he answered, "I will tell you why, and I said this to the fanatic Zionists. I said it to Lord Levy, Barbara Amiel, and Lord Conrad Black, and I am willing to say it to anyone. I said, 'All my life, I thought there was a need to liberate all of Palestine. But in the last 20 years, I have begun to think that a new generation has arisen in Israel which knows no other place. I can tell Sharon, for example, to return to Russia. But the new Israeli generation knows no other land, and does not know that the land on which it sits is usurped. What will become of this generation?… Therefore, if a viable Palestinian state will arise alongside the State of Israel… I will have no problem coexisting with Israel…'"
"I Long to Die as a Martyr"
The interviewer said, "Uri Avneri wrote that you are a dangerous man. He called you the 'ambassador of death.'" Al-Qusaibi said, "That is incitement to murder… It is true that I have many faults, but fear of death is not one of them… I do not fear death – on the contrary, I long to die as a martyr, although I am at an age that does not allow me to carry out a martyrdom operation. My weight does not permit this. But I still hope to die as a martyr…"
A Cultural Gap Between Islam and the West
Al-Qussabi referred to the experience he had accumulated during his many years in London: "There is a cultural gap. We make fools out of ourselves when we say there are no differences between Islam and the West. The fundamental difference is that in Islam many of the rulings – those included in the right texts – don't change, and people cannot change them. Yet the rulings in Western culture are the complete opposite. For Muslims, a ruling that has changed is not fit for human beings. Thus, this is not a question of public relations."
Flogging, Stoning, and Amputations Are in Muslim Eyes "The Core of the Islamic Faith"
"On the other hand… democracy in Britain can do what it wants. In law school, we learned that the English Parliament can do anything except make a male into a female and a female into a male. Now it can do that too. In contrast, according to the Islamic view, no one – the nation cannot, 1,200,000,000 Muslims cannot –make the forbidden permissible and cannot make the permissible forbidden. [In Islam] punishments have been set, and no matter what we say, the West will see them as barbaric and primitive. According to the Western view, flogging is illogical. Execution is unacceptable, and the same goes for amputating hands and stoning. These are things that in Muslim eyes are at the core of the Islamic faith."
"For this reason, there is a genuine cultural gap that cannot be bridged by hiring the services of a PR company – but only by West and East respecting each others' culture. If we say that Western culture is preposterous, and that it is a wicked and inferior culture, and if they say, your culture is primitive - we will get no results. I maintain that the mature position is to accept the Westerners with their culture, and for them to accept us with ours…"
For other materials on the Saudi Ambassador to London Ghazi Al-Qusaibi please see:
Special Dispatch No. 372, The Saudi Ambassador to London's Ode to Suicide Bombers, The Saudi Ambassador to London's Ode to Suicide Bombers;
Special Dispatch No. 256, Saudi Ambassador to London: "Bush Has Complexes…": 'The Entire World Fears a Future in the Shadow of Dubya,' Saudi Ambassador to London: Bush Has Complexes… 'The Entire World Fears a Future in the Shadow of Dubya';
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 5, 2002.
 See Special Dispatch No. 251, The Saudi Ambassador in London - 'We Must Not Rule Out the Option of War with Israel,' The Saudi Ambassador in London: We Must Not Rule Out the Option of War with Israel.