Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, a reformist who, as the grand sheik of Al Azhar University, was one of the first clerics to condemn the September 11 attacks and to dismiss Osama bin Laden’s jihadi credentials as fraudulent, ruled that attempts to resist an American attack are a “binding Islamic duty”, and he asked Arab leaders to block any aggression against Iraq.
Maligned previously as a pro-Western reformer, despite his support for Palestinian suicide bombers, Tantawi’s new stance shows the extent of the realignment. Moderates and radicals now appear to be united and determined to oppose the American war.
The big questions now are: how will the new calls to arms be translated in operational terms, and will the battlefield be limited to the Iraqi theatre?
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