Abdullah al-Turki, secretary general of the Muslim World League and a former Saudi minister of Islamic Affairs, was part of a delegation of Muslim scholars and jurists who appeared at the National Press Club as part of a good will tour of the United States in 2002. According to a news release, the delegation hoped to meet with American media, interfaith communities, academics and government to discuss "critical post 9-11 issues pertaining to Muslims and Islam" as well as interfaith dialogue aimed at "a collaborative initiative toward establishing peace, justice, mutual tolerance and bridges of understanding across faiths, societies and civilizations."
A reporter asked al-Turki, who earlier had condemned terrorism, about a recent suicide bombing by Hamas that killed 19 Israelis, including two children on a bus. Through a translator, al-Turki defended what, in Arabic, he called an "operation":
Reporter: Hi, I'm [unintelligible] from the New York Sun. I had a couple questions about your statements about Israel. One: In discussing what represents terrorism, I have some question as to where you stood on the suicide bombings in Israel. It seemed on one hand that you were condemning them, on the other hand you were saying you would condemn suicide bombing, killing of any innocents, and I don't know if you consider Israeli civilians innocents in this case.
Speaker: Could we just do one, because we have the time.
Reporter: OK, OK.
Speaker: OK, OK, Thank you.
[al-Turki responds in Arabic, followed by the translator. Note: al-Turki refers to "operations" in his answer. The translator uses the term "suicide bombing."]
Translator for al-Turki: We can also reverse the question by asking the questioner: "What do you think of the, um, Israeli oppression against the Palestinian people?" Could that be called terrorism as well? Is it coming from-is it based on religion? This is a question. In regards to the suicide bombing, we shall state that first of all, Islam is against the killing of innocent people, civilians, and non-warring people. Those who are involved in so-called 'suicide bombing' in fact were put in a very dark [unintelligible]. They have no way-no other alternative. What could be the alternative for them? They came into a state of oppression, and no hope. It's a hopeless case for them. And because there is a strong and organized terrorism being waged against them, so they have no other choice except to do what they do and we shall not look at the issue from only a religious perspective, but rather we shall look at it as a matter of aggression being forced on them, and they had no other choice except that.