Al-Azhar, of course, is the most prestigious and influential institution of higher learning in the Islamic world.
Following is an excerpt from an interview with Al-Azhar University President Ahmad Al-Tayyib, former mufti of Egypt, which aired on Al-Mihwar TV on October 10, 2007:
Ahmad Al-Tayyib: We do not permit the killing or terrorizing of peaceful people, when two countries, two armies, or two forces confront one another. This is forbidden, even if the Muslim forces are being defeated. But with regard to Palestine and Israel, this is not the case, and to say otherwise is to confuse things. We are facing a country, which is armed to the teeth with a hellish weapon...
Interviewer: It has lethal weapons.
Ahmad Al-Tayyib: Exactly. We are facing tyranny and oppression, while the world watches from the sidelines. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are defenseless and have nothing, and they want to defend their country, their faith, and their homeland. The only method they have is [martyrdom operations], and employing it is very difficult for them. Is it easy for a Palestinian to bring his life to an end? No, it isn't. He too is a human being, who wants to live. What makes him resort to this method? It is not despair, as is claimed by many people who try to interpret martyrdom operations as suicide operation driven by despair. No. That is not true. The Palestinian martyrdom-seeker knows that he is free to go to this operation, in order to please Allah and enter Paradise, in defense of his religion, his country, and his land.