man of the cloth? despatch him to allah!

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    May. 23, 2003
    Senior Lebanese Muslim cleric defends Palestinian terrorism against Israel
    BEIRUT, Lebanon

    Lebanon's top Shiite Muslim cleric has condemned the terror bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco as acts that cannot be condoned by Islam, but strongly defended Palestinian suicide attacks against Israel as "legitimate".

    "The real battlefield is the field of a Jihad (holy war) against the Israeli occupation in occupied Palestine where the attacks are legitimate in confronting the occupiers and usurpers (of land)," Grand Ayatollah Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press late Wednesday.

    "The Palestinian martyrdom operations are a means for the Palestinians to defend their existence in the face of an Israeli war against the entire Palestinian existence," he said.

    Fadlallah, who strongly supported Lebanese guerrilla attacks against Israel's 18-year occupation of a border zone in southern Lebanon that ended three years ago, said the Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel "are not aimed at killing (Israeli) civilians, but at killing Israeli security which is striving to overrun Palestinian security."

    He urged militant Muslim groups that want to carry out suicide attacks against Western targets in the Arab and Islamic worlds to do so in Israel where "martyrdom operations are legitimate."

    "Therefore, Palestine is the land where the Jihad action is purified and where martyrdom dons the cloth of pride and dignity," Fadlallah said.

    On Monday, Fadlallah, 67, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, prohibiting suicide attacks against civilians like the bombings in Morocco and Saudi Arabia. He condemned the attacks in Casablanca and the Saudi capital, Riyadh, as "brutal acts," saying they harmed the reputation of Islam and Muslims, like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

    The suicide attacks in Casablanca last week killed 28 bystanders and 13 of the 14 bombers. Moroccan police blamed the blasts on Islamic militants.

    Militants linked to the al-Qaida terror network killed 34 people in the May 12 car bombings on Western housing compounds in Riyadh.

    In his statement, Fadlallah said the Riyadh bombings "did not have any religious justification because they were attacks on civilians."

    "The danger of these operations is that they distort the image of Islam in the world and give a pretext to the arrogant powers to step up their war on the Arab and Islamic worlds," he said.

    American support for Israel and "continuing U.S. pressure" on the Arabs and Muslims had nurtured the "terrorism phenomenon" in the Arab and Islamic worlds, Fadlallah added.

    Fadlallah, who was once viewed as the spiritual mentor of the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah which Washington classifies as a terrorist group, is still seen as a harsh critic of U.S. policies in the Middle East, where many Arabs consider America as biased toward Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians and Arabs.

    In his Friday prayer sermons, Fadlallah has repeatedly called on the Palestinians to continue their intefadeh (uprising) against Israel, saying this was the only way for them to attain statehood.
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