Muslim Religious Leaders Condemn the Attacks

Within Islam, Splits Linger Over Legitimacy of Suicide Terrorists

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ROME, SEPT. 13, 2001 ( Muslim religious leaders worldwide condemned the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and stressed that these brutal acts are not justified by the Koran. But within Islam there linger disagreements about the legitimacy of suicide assailants.

Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the grand imam of al-Alzhar University of Cairo, the most prestigious of the Muslim world, told the Italian newspaper Avvenire that the «killing of men, women and children is a horrible and brutal action, which cannot be approved by the monotheist religions nor by sane men.»

Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel, Egypt´s mufti, was more incisive: «We condemn and deplore what has happened in the United States against innocent civilians, as Islam condemns all forms of terrorism, regardless of where it happens, and it prohibits aggression against noncombatant civilians of all societies, because Islam is a religions that offers peace and security to every human being, regardless of his society, race, religion, language or color.»

«At all times and in all places, Islam and peace are two sides of the same coin,» the Egyptian mufti concluded.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Mosque and spiritual head of the French Muslim community, raised his voice in Europe.

In statements to Adnkronos agency, he said that the terrorist acts in the United States «do not, at all, reflect the Islamic religion,» and that he is in total agreement with John Paul II´s words of condemnation.

Boubakeur has called a meeting of leaders of several religions «to pronounce a joint denunciation and to direct our sympathetic thoughts to the victims of these terrible acts.»

«Terrorism is not a teaching of Islam, and the kamikazes´ actions are not part of our culture,» the rector of the Paris Mosque concluded.

His position, however, isn´t shared by all Muslim ulemas. In recent years, doctors of Islamic law have split over the legitimacy of a suicide attacker´s actions.

In Egypt, a veritable war pitted the previous grand imam of al-Azhar against the mufti. In addition to questions like the justness of banking interests … and certain abortion cases, the two leaders were divided on the issue of considering Palestinian suicide attackers as «martyrs.»

Such attackers justify their acts by quoting from the Koran. The issue divides religious and political leaders. In televised statements last April, a Palestinian minister said that «suicide attacks are a legitimate means used by Palestinians to combat the enemy. … The objective is to serve God, to fight for the faith and the fatherland.»

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