Egypt's top Islamic cleric clarified a comment in which he expressed support for Palestinian suicide bombings against Israel, saying Sunday that they should not target women and children.
In a sermon at Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque on Friday, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi told worshippers: "One who blows himself up among those (Israeli) aggressors is a martyr, martyr, martyr, and whoever says otherwise is a ... liar."
In comments to reporters who questioned him Sunday about this statement, Tantawi said that by "aggressors" he meant Israeli troops, AP reported.
He said no Muslim should intend to blow himself up "in the midst of children or women, but among aggressors, among soldiers who sabotage, kill, and attack," he said. In the past, Tantawi has said several times that women and children should not be targeted.
Tantawi said Sunday that that killing children and women "is not manly, even if the Jews do so" and that Islam does not sanction it.
However, he said that a would-be suicide bomber may find it impossible not to harm civilians when attacking guards of a Jewish settlement in the Palestinian territories. Even if a bomber were to harm civilians in such an attack, "he is a martyr," Tantawi said.
Last year, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abdulaziz al-Sheik, declared that "any act of self-killing or suicide is strictly forbidden in Islam" and consequently "the one who blows himself up in the midst of the enemies is also performing an act contrary to Islamic teachings."
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