- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

The claim by a Saudi diplomat that Palestinian suicide bombers are "martyrs" is not justified by the Koran, many Islamic leaders say.
Checks with a half-dozen mosques or Muslim organizations in the Washington metropolitan area found only one Muslim a woman who said she does consider the suicide bombers to be martyrs.
Other Islamic religious leaders reached in telephone calls made Friday, Saturday and Sunday declined to use that term. However, most did not directly condemn the actions of the suicide bombers.
"They are martyrs, of course they are defending the lives of their families and their land," said Fatima Hussein, who described herself as a member of the Idara Jaferia Islamic Center in Burtonsville.
Mrs. Hussein said the Palestinians are strapping bombs to their bodies "as a last resort," because they have "only stones and sticks" to use against an enemy that has powerful modern weapons.
"I'm not saying that what's going on is right, but when you have no other choice, it's right," Mrs. Hussein, who said she came to this country from India, told The Washington Times.
Ghazi Algosaibi, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to London, called the suicide bombers "martyrs" in a poem he wrote that appeared on the front page of the pan-Arab daily newspaper, al-Hayat, on April 13.
In the poem, Mr. Algosaibi singled out for praise an 18-year-old Palestinian girl, who blew herself up outside a Jerusalem supermarket, killing two Israelis. "She kisses death, laughing happily, while from death the leaders flee," the envoy wrote.
Sheik Saad-al Braik, a Saudi cleric, told Agence France-Presse that Mr. Algoaibi spoke for all Muslims, "who support martyrdom operations against the Israeli enemy." Sheik Braik recently organized a telethon that raised $160 million for the Palestinians.
Sheik Braik told AFP the Saudi ambassador had merely expressed the views of Muslims who feel "martyrdom" is legitimate, when there is no other means of self-defense.
A Saudi adviser Sunday defended the ambassador on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"The ambassador is a very well-known poet. He has been writing poetry for decades, and when he writes poetry, he does so in his personal capacity," said Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign-policy adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. "He was expressing the anger and frustration that people feel."
Asked if suicide bombers are martyrs or murderers, Mr. Al-Jubeir said, "The term 'martyr' refers to anyone who has died innocently. Now, unfortunately, people have interpreted it to mean martyrs equal suicide bombers."
Saying that top Saudi religious rulers have condemned suicide bombing, Mr. Al-Jubeir said, "We have to look also at the cause of what causes it. Palestinians are desperate. They are taking desperate measures."
Area Islamic leaders offered mixed views of bombers as martyrs.
Imam Shamshad A. Nasir of the Bait-Ur-Rahman Mosque in Silver Spring, which he described as one of the largest in the region, said he could not presume to speak for other mosque members.
Mr. Nasir, a native of Pakistan, did not use the term "martyr" to describe the suicide bombers. "Islam condemns suicide but [the Palestinians] are protecting their country. No media are covering this side of the story," said the imam, who compared the Palestinian suicide bombers to the Japanese kamikaze pilots during World War II.
"The killing of innocents is not the right way," Mr. Nasir said, but added, "I feel the mission of the Israelis has been to kill the innocent."
A religious leader at the Masji dush-Shura mosque in Southeast Washington, who did not wish to be identified, made some of the same arguments as Mr. Nasir.
"It's clear in the Koran that one does not take innocent lives, even their own," he said. "It's very clear suicide is not something Muslims do, except where there is a judicial reason, as in a war."
The cleric at Masji dush-Shura does not consider the suicide bombers to be martyrs. "You don't become a martyr deliberately," he said.

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