MER Comment
Special Dispatch - Egypt/Jihad and Terrorism Studies
July 23, 2002 - No. 402

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

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

"...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

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

"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..."