|Even though that
Mubarak was ... preach[ing] democracy ... in reality there is no democracy
whatsoever. ... Absolute dictatorship. With only difference that [the US is]
giving him $2.8 billion a year [to] oppress the people more.|
The United States gives $2.8 billion in our tax money?
So, to the people who are involved, let's say with bin Laden, ... they feel
the United States is the friend of their enemy.
Yes, they do. ... The American government has one enemy ... the Islamic
movement all over the world, whether it's armed struggle or peaceful ... . I
mean, you can see it. You can see it from Algeria to Afghanistan.
United States is at war.
Yes, to a certain extent, yes.
Yes, even though that President Clinton would say differently. But who
believes him? He said he never had sex with Monica, so I mean, you want me to
believe that he's not at war with Islam?
The World Trade Center, the bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, are
really part of a war?
Yes. I look at it, yes, it is a part of a war. A
war declared by the American government. And some people try to react. And
their reaction comes out sometimes as acts like this. The World Trade Center,
or the embassy bombing in Nairobi and [the assassination of] Sadat. ...
You're going to see the same feeling everywhere in a Muslim country toward
Americans right now. In Syria, in Lebanon, in Palestine, in Egypt, in Saudi
Arabia, in Morocco, everywhere you go, you're going to have the same feeling
that there is a war declared by the West on Islam, and in particular, the
United States of America on Islam. And ... something has to be done about it.
[The] reaction ... could be like the bombing in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. It
could be some demonstrations in front of American embassies throughout the
Islamic world that we saw before. Could be kidnapping of Americans.
In Yemen, for instance.
In Yemen, and let's not forget in Iraq. ... What bothers me really [is what
has] happened to the relationship between America and the Islamic world. I
remember as a kid in Cairo, 1973, when President Nixon came to visit Egypt for
the first time. Thousands of people ... went out to greet him, and cheer him.
Because America was seen as hope?
America was seen as hope. America was seen as an oasis of democracy. ... It's
preaching of freedom [of] religion, freedom of expression. [It was] the land of
milk and honey to those people. People looked at you here, that you are the
hope of the world. This picture, 25 years later, has changed dramatically.
Now, the people, especially in the Arab and Islamic world, look at you the same
way they look at the British and the French occupation forces in the mid-30s
and '40s. You are an empire that will do anything to oppress people outside
the United States borders.
How can you say that? When Iraq was going to invade Kuwait, a Muslim
country, and Iraq threatened Saudi Arabia, we sent our troops to defend
Well, yes, we really appreciate it very much. You send your troops to defend
us. Nobody asked for the American troops to go there. You went there to
protect your own interest. You went there to protect some corrupted regimes
that are working against their own people. You went there not to get rid of
Saddam Hussein, and if you did, it would have been very, very nice of you. But
you decided not to, so you can keep a foot and a hand into Syria. You did not
go there for the people or for the Arabs or the Muslims. ... Why you didn't
intervene in Kosovo where Muslims--not ethnic Albanians, this is not an ethnic
Albanian thing, this is Christian crusaders against Muslim--when Muslims have
been slaughtered like this? So, do not give me that you were there to protect
the people. ... If you want to protect the regime of King Fahd, that's a
different story. But your policy in this area has nothing, and I mean nothing,
to do with the people.
To some people looking in, you would look ungrateful. We have our young
people there in the middle of a desert in Saudi Arabia willing to give their
lives. And you're saying you don't want them there.
No. We don't want them there. Get out. ... Leave us alone. ... For the
longest time since 1991 'til now, [the US says], "We send our troops, we send
our sons and daughters to liberate Kuwait and protect Saudi Arabia. Once it's
over, we will get out, once the threat is over, we'll get out." And you get on
the other hand, some American officials like Defense Secretary Cohen, and
Defense Secretary Cheney before him [saying] on American TV, "We will not get
out as long as we have interest in this area." ... This is not a statement by
helping force, this is a statement by an occupying force. ...
So, when bin Laden says these things, there are many people in the Islamic
world who agree?
When we were in the Sudan, Hussein al Turabi and other people said the
reason the US can send cruise missiles to the Sudan, to Afghanistan, to Iraq
is because the US government doesn't have to explain to its people that there
are people who live here--"We're just dark skinned Muslims, we're not people to
True. ... To the average American on the street, they didn't care. It was like
watching a movie. ... It was just like a video game, watching the smart bombs
as they called them, going down from an airplane. ... It's like my kid, when he
sits and plays a video game, he kills hundreds of people, and he does not get
the sense of that he's doing anything wrong. Same thing ... . In the Gulf War,
we took 250,000 people. And we did not feel ashamed of ourselves. That tells
you that there's something is wrong here. Something morally wrong when you
kill this many people, and you don't feel ashamed.
People listening will say the people who bombed the World Trade Center or
Nairobi embassy killed or injured innocent people.
Don't they feel ashamed?
I'm not going to say how the people who committed this act feel because I
really don't know how they feel, okay? But what I am going to say ... [is] the
World Trade Center bombing became an excuse ... to oppress Muslims here, at
least in this country.
Yes, but this is a personal question. You are a Muslim, you have sympathy
for the people who feel alienated from the United States. You feel some
solidarity with the Islamic opposition [in Egypt]. When something like the
World Trade Center happens, or the Nairobi bombing or the Dar es Salaam
bombing, do you feel ashamed?
I will condemn it, and I did. Because you know, killing innocent people,
it's not the way. Even though I might agree with your ideas of opposition and
the principle. But killing innocent people is not going to be the solution.
[In the] same way that I condemn the killing of Iraqi children, of Sudanese in
the Al Shifa Pharmaceutical Company ... . Killing is killing, it doesn't
matter where it happened. I will condemn it to the full extent.
When the US government says that the bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam
have been masterminded by a man named Osama bin Laden and his worldwide network--you're smiling...
I have a smile, because it seems like this is the same old story happening
again, and again, and again. American government don't get it. ... The
American government [is] deceiving the American people. They're not telling
them what's really going on. You can kill Osama bin Laden today or tomorrow.
You can arrest him and put him on trial in New York or in Washington. ...
Tomorrow you will get somebody else, his name probably will be different,
Abdullah, or Muhammad. ... It's not going to end. Until you, take a hard, and
a good look at your policies in the Islamic world and the Muslim world, as long
as you're supporting dictators like Mubarak ... as long as you are giving aid
to regimes that [are worse] to their people than Saddam Hussein, things will
get ugly, and you cannot control the emotion of people when you are tortured in
Egyptian prison by an American trained Egyptian officer. He is torturing you,
and he is bragging that he was in the United States getting his training, when
the equipment that he is using is American made. ...
You've been close to the [Muslim] community here. Is there the feeling
that bin Laden has a network of people? Or, is he just a symbol of an
inspiration to these people?
I believe that he is just a single inspiration to people. I believe that
you give him an image of an activist all over the world. You know, his
network is working here, and his network is working there. And he will do
this, and he will do that. He's the most dangerous man in the world ... .This
is nonsense. The man is hiding in a cave in Afghanistan. And you're still
making a big deal out of him.
Have we made him into sort of a folk hero?
I believe you did. ... Last year, if you asked the average man on the
street of downtown Cairo ... who was the son of bin Laden, he would have not
known. Now, ask a five or six year old, who's Osama bin Laden, they'll tell
you exactly who is Osama bin Laden. He is our hero. This is how he is going
to put it to you. A man, a single man is standing up to the only super power
in the world. You made a hero out of him.
I sense you have some admiration for him.
I have an admiration for anybody who will stand up to a tyrant and tell him,
"You are a tyrant" whether this tyrant [is a] man named [Mubarak] or [the]
government of the United States of America.
Of course, he had some reputation in Saudi Arabia before because of his
activities in the Afghan War.
How important was the Afghan war to this movement of Islamic
It was very important. ... There [was] a Muslim country occupied by another
power and thus the Muslim people who need[ed] ... help, and [the young people]
flew there, and they fought side by side, and ... they put this idea into
practice, that we are Muslims before anything else. ...
You're one religion, one country, one government, one society. The Afghan
War put that into practice.
Put that into practice. So, people from all over the Arab world, especially
the Arab world, went there and fought there side by side for the Afghanis. ...
And that was a great thing. That gave them a sense of pride. "Well, we can do
things. We can achieve things." ... The Afghan mujahedeen ... were fighting
[an] occupying force, ... the Soviet Union, the second military power in the
world, [and] some people ... were fighting with AK47s and some hand grenades,
and defeated them. Nobody can imagine this. ... It was a dream come out to
life. And why not do it somewhere else?
You mean, if you can defeat the evil empire. . .
Yes, if I can defeat the evil empire, I can defeat anybody else. ...
You've told us that you have a very close relationship with the "blind sheik."
[Note: Interviewer is referring to Sheik Omar Abdel Al Rahman who was
convicted of conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks. Al Rahman is
serving a life sentence. Investigators also suspected him of being involved with the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, but did not have sufficient evidence to charge him in that case.]
He is your friend, your associate?
My friend, my mentor, my sheik, my imam, my father...
That [relationship] must make you a suspect...?
It does. I've been pointed at, or suspected of being a terrorist. I've
been called that by law enforcement agencies in this country. I've been
followed days and nights, under surveillance 24 hours a day sometimes. I've
been visited by FBI agents in my job trying to prejudice my co-workers against
me. My life was dramatically changed because of my relationship with the
sheik. To me, am I a terrorist? Nope. I am a father. I am a man who
believes in his religion. ...
But you believe, as does the sheik, that armed opposition to the government
of Egypt, the friend of the United States, is justified.
When it is in self defense, yes. The young people in Egypt did not raise
the arms except to defend themselves. From 1984 to 1991-92, more than 80 of
Egyptian or Islamic leaders in Egypt were assassinated on the streets of Egypt
by the government. It was a broad daylight assassination. And when you take
arms in your hand and defend yourself, this is legitimate. But the problem is
now where can we go from there. Because once the genie out of the lamp, there
is no control on it. You cannot control it.
It would be correct to say that, as does the sheik, you have sympathy for
those who conspired to bomb the World Trade Center or the embassy in
I cannot say that I have sympathy for the bombers. I never said that. The
sheik never said that. I have sympathy for the people who show hate, or let's
say I have some kind of understanding of why people show their hate toward the
United States, for the government of the United States.
But I would suspect that law enforcement in the United States, the counterterrorism task force here in New York, believes that you know a lot.
That you know a lot of people who also know a lot.
And that you could help them figure out who has been involved in these
This is where we don't agree. ... An act like the World Trade Center or
Oklahoma City Bombing or the bombing in the embassy in Nairobi does not need
many people to do it. Could be Joe Shmoe and another person with him, like in
Oklahoma City. Could be four or five people like in the World Trade Center.
So, acts like this, nobody will walk on the street and say, "Yeah, I'm
going to do such and such." The law enforcement thinks that everybody, if you
have an association with Mahmoud Abouhalima, oh, you know Mahmoud Abouhalima,
so you have to be part of the conspiracy to blow up the World Trade Center.
... Some of the people who have been identified as suspects in Nairobi, some of
the Egyptians whose names we've seen who have not been apprehended--it seems to
be a whole group of people who have not been apprehended who were a step above
the people who were on the ground.
I'll tell you something. When the World Trade Center occurred here, the
American government released a list. 173 names. And they called them
co-conspirators of people who were living in this country, and people living
abroad. 173 names. So, let's not just jump to conclusions because the
American government, you know, released a name that he must be a part of it.
Ramzi Yousef, the American government does not know until now what's his
real name. The reports you guys made, about him, that he was in the
Philippines, going to bars and drinking and going out with women. This is not
an Islamic act, if you know us, the so-called fanatics, or fundamentalists or
whatever you want to name them. We don't do that. ... You don't know his real
name until now. You don't know where he came from, whether he was born in
Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or Kuwait. Is he an Iraqi citizen or Kuwaiti or
Pakistani? And money-wise ... they don't know where Ramzi was getting his
money from. The thing is to convince the American people that this person is
dangerous. This is one person you have to make a connection, you have to make
a whole group so you can sell the idea. So, everybody knows everybody,
everybody cooperating with everybody, to destroy us, and to destroy our way of
Well, one of the things that's come up is that there was a bombing in
Nairobi, and a bombing in Dar es Salaam on the same day, similar kinds of
bombs, showed some coordination, more than three or four people involved. And
it turns out, a large number of the people identified are Egyptians. When we
ask the question, "Why Egyptians?" we are told because the Egyptian opposition,
the Islamic Jihad of Egypt and other organizations, have a lot of experience.
More experience probably than most organizations in armed resistance.
No, I can't say that. ...
Well from the Muslim Brotherhood to the present, they have been in struggle
with the secular governments of Egypt. They've managed to survive through all
kinds of repression. They've managed to inflict casualties ... on the street
That's just recently. I really don't know how to explain why too many
Egyptians--if what you're saying is true by the way--why too many Egyptians'
name[s] appeared [in connection with the embassy bombings]. ... Amar Zorohi.
... He's in Afghanistan with bin Laden, does ... this make him anything? That
makes him guilty of blowing up?
No, but newspapers in the Arab community in London and elsewhere report that
there is some discussion amongst the Islamic opposition in Egypt about whether
or not they should stay alive with bin Laden. This has been a controversial
decision because it makes the United States their direct enemy.
That's true, and I told you before, when bin Laden formed his front to fight
the crusaders and the Jews, the Islamic group said, "We are not part of it."
... And they pulled out of it
completely. This is the biggest opposition group in Egypt. They said we are
Out, but sympathetic.
Out, but of course, sympathetic. But I'm not going to use or to agree about
the methods or the things that you are doing.
Would you condemn it?
Do I condemn the bombing in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam? Of course I
Would you help the authorities to figure out who did it?
If they want the truth, yes. And I told them this long, long time ago. I
said, "If you want the truth, yes, we will help you as Muslims in this
country." But unfortunately, you don't want the truth. You want somebody to
[lie] to you and deceive you. And then, give you at the end, you know, what
you want to hear. I'm not willing to sell myself and my soul to you.
Just for the record--Ahmed Salem is the informant?
Ahmed Salem is the informant, yes.
Former military man.
A double agent, if you want to put it this way.
Who helped put the sheik away in the [New York City] landmarks case?
Some would say he created the [New York City] landmarks plot.
Absolutely. He wrote the story, made the scenario, and directed the whole
show, and there's a profit, a million and some dollars. And unfortunately,
they just were so dumb. It's unbelievable.
You mean, the guys we saw on the video?
No, no, ... I'm talking about the FBI agents. They were so stupid. I mean,
at the beginning, the guy was just playing them anyway he wants. And right
after the World Trade Center, just, they said, "Hey, you have to come and save
us here." He was just, you know, feeding them information that did not exist.
We did hear that you were the real thing. I mean, when I asked about you, I
was told you were right on the edge of the whole thing. I don't know if
they're convinced that you're a conspirator or what you are--this is the
government of the US--they said that you would speak to us with two faces,
articulate, intelligent, peaceful, but that beneath that is another face that
is willing to commit acts of violence or promote them, but that you would never
show that to us.
The American government, or the intelligence community, can think whatever
they want. If you're not with them, you are against them. I was offered to
work for them. [They] tempted me with money, and tried to put the fear in me
by [saying], "We're going to send you to prison for the rest of your life." It
didn't work. I will show you that I don't believe in killing innocent people.
And I truly don't. Last time I had a gun in my hand was in 1981 when I left
the Egyptian army, never had anything to do with guns after that.
Do I plead in self-defense? Yes, I do. Do I promote in self-defense?
Yes, I do. I'm not going to stand up or sit down and you smack my right
cheek, and I give you the left one. No, you smack my right cheek, I will
punch you right in the face. This is it. And if you see something wrong with
that, that's too bad... Keep away from me, and I will keep away from you.
This is the way I believe. Many people don't like that; that's their opinion,
too. They're entitled to it. They say many things about me. ... You have
something against me, come forward with it. You have something else, that you
don't like, that I practice my rights as an American citizen in this country,
you did not give me this right. There is people before you who fought in this
country, and were called terrorists. They fought, and gave me and gave you
that same right. And I will practice it so full. And I will protect it also
when it comes to the time when I see somebody is trying to take it away from me
and my kids.
What is a terrorist?
There is a very thin line between a terrorist and a freedom fighter. ... A
terrorist who, somebody does something that you don't agree with, a freedom
fighter is somebody who does something that I agree with. ... George
Washington was called a terrorist. Menachem Begin, originally who was wanted
by the British government, [was] called a terrorist. Anwar Sadat, your hero,
was called a terrorist by the British. You know, he actually spent a months or
years in prison. So, today's terrorist is tomorrow's freedom fighter. Or
today's freedom fighter could be tomorrow's terrorist. And it's proven by the
Afghanis' experience. During that year, they were freedom fighters, now they
are terrorists. ...