- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

While the headlines wrap themselves around Ariel Sharon and his refusal to oblige what you might call President Bush's "unhelpful" request to withdraw from the West Bank seeing how Mr. Sharon would prefer to demolish the Palestinian terror network, save Israel and uphold the Bush Doctrine they ignore a far more deleterious affront to the president's authority. After all, Mr. Sharon is acting to eradicate terrorism. What's going on in Arab nations, however, despite Mr. Bush's stated requirements, is outright incitement.

Last week, Mr. Bush denounced the grotesque Iraqi practice of paying out a small fortune $25,000 to the parents of what enemies of civilization call "successful" suicide bombers, and pronounced Iraq guilty of "soliciting murder of the worst kind." Secretary of State Colin Powell, during his rounds on the Sunday talk shows, grudgingly conceded that Saudi Arabia, another state acting as paymaster for civilian-killer kin, is an accessory to this same crime. But money isn't everything. It turns out that suicide bombers, assured that their loved ones will be rolling in wealth, by Palestinian standards, may now turn for religious approval to the government clerics of Egypt.

That's because the top imam of Al-Azhar University, the Cairo Islamic center constitutionally affiliated with the Egyptian government, has finally seen the light. Where Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi was once reluctant to sanction the targeting of civilians in suicide bombings, he now concludes that such bombings "against any Israeli" do indeed have the Islamic stamp of approval.

According to a report translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (www.memri.org), Mr. Tantawi recently "demanded that the Palestinian people, of all factions, intensify the martyrdom operations against the Zionist enemy, and described the martyrdom operations as the highest form of jihad operations." He further stated, the report continued, "that the young people executing them have sold Allah the most precious thing of all." All of which is marrow-chilling stuff.

The government cleric emphasizes that "every martyrdom operation against any Israeli, including children, women, and teen-agers, is a legitimate act according to [Islamic] religious law, and an Islamic commandment, until the people of Palestine regain their land and cause the cruel Israeli aggression to retreat." Only one of two things is possible: Either Islam doesn't mean "peace," exactly, or another hijacker just climbed on board Islam.

Make that two hijackers. Egypt's new mufti, Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, is also out there plugging suicide bombings. According to a MEMRI translation of the mufti's recent remarks, Mr. Al-Tayyeb has determined that "the solution to the Israeli terror lies in a proliferation of Fidai," or martyrdom, i.e., suicide attacks. Such attacks, the mufti says, should "strike horror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah. The Islamic countries, peoples and rulers alike, must support these martyrdom attacks." Such murderous preaching fails to match up with what Mr. Bush had in mind last week when he called on Arab governments to "stop inciting violence in state-owned media" and "telling suicide bombers they are martyrs."

The American media, having asked many questions about the timing of the president's decision to send Mr. Powell to the Middle East, would do well to wonder about the timing of the decision by Egypt's government clerics to sanction suicide attacks. Why now? Could it be because they see that suicide attacks, far from isolating the Palestinians, are bringing U.S. pressure to bear on the Israeli government? Only yesterday, the president's press secretary repeated the president's demand that Israel has a "responsibility" to withdraw from the West Bank and all the Arab nations have to do is "exercise statesmanship, create an environment for peace by condemning terrorism" and crack down on irresponsible newspapers. Nothing about a responsibility to arrest anyone. Meanwhile, what is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak prepared to do about the hate-speak coming from the government mosque?

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