Sunni authority calls war against Iraq ‘new crusade’

Islamic Research Center says jihad is religious duty
Islamism, Mar. 11, 2003

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — The highest authority in the Sunni Islamic world on Monday declared that war against Iraq will be a “new crusade” compelling every Muslim to perform “jihad.”

The Islamic Research Center at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the world’s leading teaching institution from Islam’s Sunni sect, did not elaborate, however, on what form any jihad — or “holy struggle” — should take.

“Everybody thinks that the aggression against Iraq is inevitable,” according to a statement issued by the center Monday and obtained by The Associated Press.

According to “Islamic law, if the enemy descends on the land of Muslims, jihad becomes an Islamic obligation on every male and female Muslim because our Arab and Islamic community will be facing a new crusade battle targeting our land, honor, faith and nation.”

The center urged Arabs and Muslims worldwide to “be ready to defend themselves, their doctrine and to be united … (and) not to be weakened in the face of this aggression because God is capable of defending his religion.”

The main targets of a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq were the “Arab and Islamic communities (and) … our religious faith,” the center said, adding the “rest of the Arab world” would be targeted next.

“Anti-Islamic and -Arab forces have announced that after controlling Iraq it will divide and reorganize the situation in the Arab region in a way that would achieve American and Israeli interests and halt the resistance of the Palestinian people,” the statement said.

The center was apparently referring to comments made last month by U.S. President George W.Bush, who said ending the “direct and growing threat” of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would pave the way for Mideast peace and encourage democracy throughout the Arab world.

While anti-American sentiment has been spreading throughout the Islamic and Arab worlds, Muslim states like Kuwait and Qatar are assisting U.S. war plans. Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan are also seen as American allies.

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