And those are?
[The leaders] of Saudi Arabia, of the Gulf countries, of Egypt, of most of the
Arab countries, including also some Muslim countries like Pakistan and other
areas. But specifically to Arab countries, and because we are dealing very much
with a Saudi phenomenon here by the huge list of Saudi names, more specifically
of Saudi Arabia. So this is the second element.
Then you have the third element of the personality of bin Laden himself, where
people are eager to see somebody who is faithful to what he believes in and who
has abandoned his luxury to fight for what he believes in.
Then you have another American element -- not in the sense of hatred, but in
getting the certificate to bin Laden that he is the hero people are waiting
for. That came after the Nairobi bombing.
We gave him a certificate. Do you mean saying that he was the mastermind
No. You gave him the certificate that he is the proper antagonist, the proper
challenge to the arrogant superpower which is hurting Muslims.
To someone watching this, bin Laden is involved in taking human life, in
terrorist acts. Yes or no?
Well, that is the short cut of the story.
He's been indicted in the United States for the Nairobi bombing. He's
publicly said that he approves of these kinds of acts and it appears that he is
allied with, if you believe what you read and see, a group of people
internationally who are focused on killing Americans and Jews. That's what they
said, and they seem to be doing it.
If you talk about Nairobi bombing, we were monitoring people's response to the
bombing. And there was a big controversy whether this act is bad or good. In
the first few days after the incident, people were very upset with the scene of
Africans and civilians with a lot of blood after the incident.
This is people in the Islamic community.
In the Islamic world, including Saudi Arabia. There was a lot of controversy
whether this act was good or bad. And indeed, the tilt was towards that it is
When the Americans responded by throwing missiles to bin Laden and President
Clinton stood on the platform saying, "Bin Laden is my enemy and bin Laden has
inflicted hurt on me," being the biggest authority in the United States to
admit that bin Laden is his antagonist, the controversy, the discussion, the
argument on who did the Nairobi bombing vanished, disappeared completely.
Nobody turned his head to what has been said about whether this was bad or
good. All the focus was that bin Laden is the hero because he inflicted hurt on
America to the degree that the president of the United States himself
acknowledges this fact, and to the degree that America is forced to respond to
The point that I make is it did not stop there. It went on -- making
statements, behaving politically and behaving in every other domain as if bin
Laden is an ongoing danger to the United States. If bin Laden had paid billions
of money for any company to make a PR service for him, he would not have
achieved the same thing. ...
You say people hate America, but millions of Muslims come to America, want
to live in America, come for education, and can travel freely. For people in
America, this is a contradiction -- if you say they hate us, but they want to
come to our country -- at the same time, and we let them in.
... There's an important point here that this hate is not the natural hate
people have to a prosperous superpower. It's not that sort of hate. It's very
specific hate for the sake of policies in the Middle East, which people
perceive or understand that those policies are very much directed against them
in terms of their identity, being Arabs and Muslims.
They ask themselves why, for God's sake, America sacrificed its interests for
the case of defending Israel. The interests of America are in oil in the Gulf
and other areas. Why would America lose money and lose face and get continuous
embarrassment for the sake of defending the aggressive, very, very bad policies
of Israel, and keep declaring that nobody should touch the security of Israel,
and stand in a way in which America with all its huge machine becomes a tool
for Israel to manipulate?
If it has interests in the region and it hates Saddam Hussein, why does
[America] not contain Saddam alone and leave the people alone? Let the people
eat and drink. Why should America starve 20 million people and Madeleine
Albright stand up and say it is the price? ...
You're talking about continuing the embargo of Iraq.
Yes. She said killing half a million children is a price worth paying. She's
justifying the killing of civilians. Not only killing them -- starving them to
death, and forbidding medicine and food from them.
If they see this going on and going on and going on, that will continue feeding
terrorism hate to America. Not because it is a prosperous superpower; it's
because of what they believe. They may be wrong, but they believe that it is
intentional damage to them and their identity.
That is the dangerous consequence we will have now. The people are perceiving
the American response to the incident, the Tuesday incident, the New York
incident -- they perceive it as if it is a matter of identity. They see all
this political campaign, military campaign, whatever President Bush does deny
that it has nothing to do with Islam. They have a blind eye, a deaf ear on
that. They understand it's a campaign again Muslims. If America wants to deal
with terrorism, it has to go to the roots, to the reasons, why did this
phenomenon take place?
The question was raised to me the other day, why doesn't the United States
take the same view of the IRA or Christian right groups in America that have
fed people like Timothy McVeigh? This was coming from the Egyptian ambassador.
Why is it always Muslims? Is that what you mean, that we're always focused on
Islam as being the source of terrorists?
Well, this is a separate issue. This is also a point which has got to do with
Muslims in America. They are very upset why they are singled. What matters for
many Muslims in the area of the Middle East, especially Arabs, is the behavior
and policies of the United States. Even if an earthquake happens, even if it's
not terrorism, even if there's a single ordinary natural disaster happening [in
the U.S.], they will feel some sort of satisfaction. It's God's punishment to
them. They've been hurting us. Well, God wanted to punish them. That's the way
they see things.
So since the Nairobi bombing, has there been an upsurge of support for bin
Laden in Saudi Arabia?
In two intervals. There was huge emotional support from the ordinary person. It
became almost like a stigma for you if you don't support or respect bin Laden
on the ordinary street level.
On a specific level, people started asking how to go and get trained under the
auspices of bin Laden's groups. Since the Nairobi bombing, there was a new
big wave of recruitment going to Afghanistan.
From Saudi Arabia?
Yes. All the active groups of bin Laden now are new recruits. Most of his old
recruits from the Afghan Soviet era have vanished or disappeared or changed
their mind. Very few of them are still loyal to him. After the successful PR
service of the Americans after the Nairobi bombing, hundreds and thousands of
people flocked into Afghanistan to get trained under bin Laden and to convey a
message for others to consider that. ...
Has bin Laden been successful in fundraising in Saudi Arabia?
There are two answers to this. First, there are some funds going to bin Laden
activity or any other violent Muslim activity. But those funds are very little,
and they never use the classical Western way of transfers. All the people
speaking about bank statements and charities is foolish for people who
understand the way bin Laden and his group mobilize money.
What do you mean? They don't use banks?
They don't use banks, simple. They don't use the West for the transfer of
So how do they move their money?
There's plenty of money in the Gulf region, and there's a huge cash culture in
the area. If you are an ordinary real estate owner and you want to buy a big
building, it's very normal in our society to bring $1 million in your bag. It's
not something sinister or abnormal or worrying or throwing questions. So a cash
culture is normal in our country. Even if they go and look for cash, they
can't. Everybody is getting cash. Nothing to ring a bell when you see somebody
carrying any cash.
And Islamic banking, as I understand it, is also different?
In Islamic banking, they don't take interest, because interest is forbidden in
Islam. But again, Islamic banks are the most cautious, because of their name, not
to have links with bin Laden. They are even [more] over-cautious than ordinary banks.
If you would expect bin Laden as a group to mobilize their money, they would
not consider Islamic banks, because they don't want a close eye on them on that
But I will go to the other answer to [the earlier] question, and that is that
most of those incidents like the Nairobi bombing, the Cole bombing, even the
last incident, they don't need millions. It has been calculated the recent
bombing, which was a huge process, the whole cost might have not exceeded
I heard $300,000 yesterday from a government official.
Well, still in terms of this complex logistics, it's still not very expensive.
If you talk about the Nairobi bombing, it might have cost hardly $40,000.
Somebody told me the  World Trade Center first incident was hardly
$10,000. So you don't need a lot of money. You need devoted people. You need
skill and training.
You were laughing before because President Bush has announced that he's
going to go after bin Laden's money and the money of all his associates.
I'm laughing because I know that bin Laden never used bank accounts in a
[non-]Muslim country even before indulging himself in this business. He's got
very strong belief that he should not put his money in a non-Muslim country,
nor investment, nor bank accounts in those countries, let alone America.
So when they say they're going to freeze his assets?
It's inconceivable for me. I cannot understand what they're talking about, what
assets he has in America. Can they tell us?
Worldwide. They're going to go to all the banks in the world, all the
countries in the world.
If [his assets] have been there since the Nairobi bombing, then it is an
admission by them that they have done nothing since then.
You had an analogy before that what's going on here is like it's an Egyptian
joke or an Egyptian saying.
I'm describing what's happening now, picking people here and there who the
evidence about their link with bin Laden is minimal and making a big story
about them is similar to this Egyptian joke:
Somebody lost his money in this street and he's looking for the money somewhere
else. Why? He says because there is light here and there's no light there. But
the money is there.
He looks on a street where there's a streetlight because there's a
streetlight there, even though he lost his money on a dark street.
Exactly. They have accessed two people in America and Europe. So they extend
their stretch for the legal chance to arrest them and interrogate them and
maybe even prosecute them to the maximum, while the bulk of people are outside
Europe and America. They are there in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia and some other
Arab countries. And I can tell you with confidence followers of bin Laden, real
supporters of bin Laden in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf countries are probably
fivefold or tenfold the people in Afghanistan.
Has there been more activity in the mosques in Saudi Arabia in support of
bin Laden in the wake of the World Trade Center bombing?
Unfortunately, we are dealing with a very oppressive regime where there's no
freedom of expression, no freedom of assembly.
In Saudi Arabia?
Yes, which ends up giving you the wrong impression about what's going on.
And the regime did not replace this lack of information by giving sincere,
correct information to the States through its intelligence channels. It has always been deceiving the United States on the reality of what's going
on inside Saudi Arabia. It does not want the American government, the American
authorities, to get the impression that the royal family is losing control in
Saudi Arabia, and hence, the American government will lose faith in them as
keepers of their interests. ...
My question was since the bombing on Sept. 11, have there been people
in the mosques talking about what has gone on?
Not in a public way. The sentiment is very strong. People are very jubilant
over what happened. ...
You're saying that, under the surface, there's a lot of jubilation that
there was a successful attack on the United States.
The first thing that happened after the incident, people received a message in
their mobile phones, "Congratulations." And then the next message in the mobile
phone was, "Our prayers to bin Laden."
That was very natural. Not in the religious circles, in the zealot circles
or the Islamically devoted circles, [but] very much in the liberal and corrupt
circles, people who do not observe Islam, who do not [go] to mosque or [are]
maybe involved in drinking or women or even drugs. They were very jubilant and
happy and looking at bin Laden as a hero. People started killing sheep and
killing camels and making big feasts and inviting their relatives and friends
to celebrate the big event in America.
You cannot see those things. There's no freedom of expression. There's no
freedom of assembly. There's no way to expose those feelings. ...
Is it true, as some people have said to me, that the Wahhabi sect in Saudi
Arabia, which is a very strict fundamentalist version of the Islamic religion,
is in fact close to the Taliban in terms of its roots and its nature? Not the
person, but the practices, there's a kind of sympathetic feeling
here between the cultures.
Not in the sense of names of the sects, but in terms of adherence to Islamic
values, regardless of the name of the sects, there is a huge sympathy between
the Saudis and the Taliban. Indeed, Saudi Arabia as a state regards itself as
inheriting the legacy of what they call Tawhid, which is the puritan values of
Islam. Among those values is the relation between Muslim states and non-Muslim
states, and especially when there is a conflict between a Muslim state or a
group and a non-Muslim state or a group. What is your position?
What's happening now, the Saudi rulers are abandoning those values, as people
perceive them. They are abandoning this legacy, while Taliban are sticking to
them and becoming the natural inheritor of those values. ...
So [the Taliban] have become, in a sense, more legitimate as an Islamic
government or Islamic way of life?
More than that. Even in the narrow sense of the Tawhid legacy of the position
regarding non-Muslim in times of conflict, the position of Taliban is very much
closer to the Wahhabi sect than the Saudi rulers. So the shift of allegiance
has somehow gone away from the royal family towards Taliban.
So what you're saying as a background may help explain why there appear to
be so many Saudis involved in this Sept. 11 catastrophe.
There are other reasons as well for Saudi involvement. Bin Laden himself is
Saudi. Whether his nationality is that or not does not make any difference. His
roots are there. His family is there. His relatives are there, his friends, and
other links are there. Bin Laden's network is most active in Saudi Arabia.
There is huge Islamic sentiment in Saudi Arabia, the nature of society at
least. The majority of people have got good Islamic ideals.
And then recently, there has been an element by the regime itself where it's
becoming more and more and more corrupt and people became resentful to the
regime. They are looking for anybody with better credentials than the
It appears almost a classic example, because it's an authoritarian regime
that has become corrupt, and people are not given an alternative. They go to
the one existing alternative -- in this case, a Muslim fundamentalist ideology
and movement that has been able to survive and succeed.
Yes, and that's explained very much by the continuous crackdown on the peaceful
opposition, which started after the Gulf War -- a massive crackdown which
reached its climax in 1994, where even very senior, respectable scholars were
thrown into jail, university professors, judges. Imagine a judge in jail only
because he does not like the government policies in a very peaceful way. So the
people gave up. Peaceful means do not work, so the only means left over are
The U.S. recently was going to set up its command operation in Saudi
Arabia, the Defense Department, at one of the airbases there, and apparently,
the Saudi government said, "We don't want you doing that."
I think the Saudis are in a very, very awkward position. The Saudi government
cannot say no to the Americans. They are very much in the orbit of America.
They cannot go outside the orbit of the United States.
At the same time, they are faced with a nation which is supporting bin Laden,
and there are smaller groups which are not all supporting bin Laden. They are
ready to do something against Americans in Saudi Arabia or the royal family
themselves if they go ahead and support a non-Muslim force against a Muslim
nation like Taliban. So they are in a very awkward position.
They were asked by the Americans to give all the intelligence information they
have. They were asked for logistical support. They were asked for a real
contribution by Saudi forces, like any other country. Of course, there's no way
they can send Saudi forces. If they send any Saudi force, it can very easily
shift to Taliban and fight the Americans.
Intelligence ... they will be extremely economic on what they give the
Americans, and that has been their policy all the time. They will not [give]
the Americans the real story of bin Laden's supporters, bin Laden's extent
inside the country.
Regarding logistics, if they would give logistics to the Americans, they would
ask them not to tell that, for this to be discreet and secretive. And they will
avoid any Saudi personnel involved in this, because every Saudi in this
conflict with this huge sentiment against America, whoever he is -- if he's in
the army, in the National Guard, or any civil servant -- every Saudi is a
potential bin Laden candidate. So you can never trust a single Saudi in the
airport to suddenly decide to hit an American airplane.
The Saudis know this. So if they would agree, they would agree in a very
discreet, secretive way where no Saudi personnel are involved. And they will go
on asking the Americans to make a very low profile about it and to tell the
rest of the world that there is no support from Saudis. ...
Do you see Saudi Arabia as being completely destabilized if the United
States were, for instance, to begin bombing Afghanistan?
Very much so. I think they will be destabilized not only because the bombing
campaign has started, but because there has been a huge accumulation of two
First, the resentment again the regime itself and seeing it as a stooge to the
Americans and conspiring with Americans to loot the country's resources, which
is another element for the hatred, by the way.
The other reason is because the regime has involved its official clergy
establishment too far in issuing very much artificial decrees to justify its
non-Islamic stance. So it has bent completely its official clergy
establishment, and it's completely unreliable now to justify the regime's
Were there clerics in Saudi Arabia who criticized the fatwa that was issued
in Saudi Arabia condemning the bombing of the World Trade Center? My
understanding is that there were some public dissent.
Since the Gulf War, the religious establishment had a huge division between the
independent scholars and the official scholars. This rift was going on and
getting wider -- that is, the definition of non-official scholars who people
believe and take decrees from much more reliably than the official scholars.
There was recently the first stand regarding the position of a Muslim regime
supporting America against Taliban was from an independent scholar in the
country. He said it very frankly this is treason to Islam and this is hostility
to Islamic values.
And he said this publicly.
He said it publicly and his statement was published on the internet. It was
published in leaflets. Everybody knows about it. He was summoned to the local
governorship in his area and he was asked if he really published that. He
confessed that he did publish that and he stands by it and he takes full
responsibility for it.
But that is only in Saudi Arabia. If you go to Jordan, if you go to Egypt, if
you go to the Gulf area, there has been something like seven or eight or ten
fatwas saying the same thing.
So there is a growing public opinion supported by the clergy that they
cannot support a war by the United States against Afghanistan.
Yes. I mean, when the [Sept. 11] events happened, there was controversy whether
they were justified or not. Most of the people were against them. They are not
justified. Most of the clergy--
--were against the alleged bin Laden attacks?
No, no. They did not mention bin Laden. They said killing civilians is not
acceptable. So there was controversy. But the same thing happened after
Nairobi. All the controversy is lost now. There is a new problem and that is
America is going to fight Taliban, and Muslims dissenters [want the] Americans
to fight Taliban.
What is the Islamic position? There is almost a consensus now in Egypt, Jordan,
Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, by the scholars that this is absolutely
forbidden. And many went as far as saying if it happens, then the jihad is a
must with Taliban against America, even though they did not approve of the
incidents in New York.
So the reaction of the United States to what happened here could actually
make the situation worse.
It's actually going further than making it worse. America is doing exactly with
bin Laden wants. Bin Laden wants America to respond by a massive,
comprehensive, worldwide campaign against Taliban, against him, against
Muslims. They don't say that -- against Muslims -- but whatever they say, it
would appear in front of people in the area as if it is a campaign against
Muslims. And it's going to be an ongoing campaign.
America is going to have a hard time in fighting Afghanistan. And this program,
once it is rolled, once it starts, America is not going to be able to control
it. Imagine complications happening in Saudi Arabia, complications happening in
Egypt, complications happening in the Gulf region. Very fragile regimes. What
is America going to do with them?
Is it [going to] deal with an Afghani dilemma that's going to last for 20 years
of fighting in the mountains? Is it going to deal with troubles in Saudi
Arabia, where 25 percent of the world's oil is being pumped? So I think America
has dug its own grave by responding in this way, and that is what bin Laden
Before you were talking about U.S. policies creating this resentment in the
Muslim world and particularly in Saudi Arabia. How do U.S. policies hurt people
in Saudi Arabia? We buy Saudi Arabia's oil. We defend the country when it's
threatened with attack. We're friendly with the royal family. We assist in
That is a basic problem with American mentality or approach to things. They are
very simplistic. They like the human intelligence, which makes them understand
what's going on. They rely on what the regime tells them. They also rely on
their satellites and computers.
Does American policy create poverty in Saudi Arabia?
Well, it is an irony that most of the resentment in the Arab world to America
is not from the very poor countries. It's coming from Saudi Arabia itself,
where allegedly it's a better life than the poorer countries.
I would not be exaggerating if I say hate to America in Saudi Arabia is more
than hate to America in Palestine. The reason for that -- and that's why I say
there is a complete failure of American human intelligence in Saudi Arabia --
has got a lot to do with Saudi politics, Saudi culture, the Saudi way of life,
and the current and recent events in the country.
It goes like this. You've got a fairly religious country. Many people are
devout Muslims and they look at their land as a holy land, a sacred land
prohibited from non-Muslim groups or units or buddies to settle on it, let
alone military units with domination. So even if you are not military, even if
you are a community staying alone in a non-Muslim community, according to
Muslim text, you are not allowed to settle in the Arabian Peninsula. But if it
is a military unit, then it is a huge and massive insult and humiliation to
Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula to accept this sort of presence. That is one
The other factor, which is also specific to Saudis, is that they always look at
America as conspiring with their leaders, with the royal family in looting the
country's resources. Who can believe that a country pumping nine million
barrels a day with a small population, between 15 million and 20 million, is in
a $200 billion debt now? Why would this country go into this debt? This country
has had an income of $3 trillion in the last 25 years, 20 or 25 years. Why
would we end up with a $200 billion debt, 130 percent of our GNP?
Why would this happen unless their people say unless there is a massive loot of
our resources by a conspiracy between the royal family and the Americans? So
that is a specific reason for hate inside Saudi Arabia.
But I'm talking about standard of living, real harm done to people.
Oh, things have changed dramatically. The unemployment now in Saudi Arabia is
30 percent, 35 percent. People put it out to 40 percent. Services have
collapsed completely. Health services, education services are horrendous.
Transport is bad. Everything is bad in the country. You don't see things as if
they were in the early 1980s, where there was an abundance of money. ...
Now, in addition to that, you are not seeing something to relieve people by
some political reform. You're not seeing any improvement on freedom of
expression, no improvement on freedom of assembly, no improvement on power
sharing. They take taxes. They don't allow representation. It has always been
said "no taxation without representation."
The royal family, on the other hand, still behaves as if we are living in the
1980s. Their wages, their contracts, their commissions are extremely high. They
enjoy life in big palaces and Rolls Royces, although they are in the thousands.
They always travel by private jets. They're always treated
high class. They don't go to courts. They'll never be punished.
So people are no longer asleep. The people are no longer in the dark. They have
satellites. They have the internet. They see the way the rest of the world is
Islam sounds to me like the Protestant religion, with many different
denominations. Some allow for preachers who just preach. Anyone can get up and
be a preacher. And people listen. They have credibility. It is not hierarchical
in the sense of the Roman Catholic Church. Is that correct?
Yes. There's no ordination, no certification, and there's no hierarchy.
When this gentleman was preaching the other day on television in the Islamic
world, about, "It was treason for Islam to support the United States," does he
Yes. His credibility is not a matter of certificates or stamp or ordination.
His credibility comes in a very gradual way, of fulfilling or satisfying
Muslims. In terms of dealing with Islamic matters in a way which is credible,
you are a learned person when you say you're supported by enough textual
evidence. And then your argument to fix this point on this textual evidence is
very impressive. This is one point.
The other point, which is in Muslim history, is very interesting. The most
popular scholars are the scholars who do not side by the regimes. When you are
opponent the regime, when you don't like the regime ... you are most popular.
You are more credible, usually, than the persons who are aligned with the
So there is status in being a dissenter?
Status in being a dissenter, yes. Very few scholars in Muslim history were
regarded as very popular when they were siding by the rulers, and those only
when the rulers were very just and very good in their Islamic adoption. ...
Can you explain this concept of Umma? That's a collective of all Muslims?
The concept of Umma is a short term to summarize the meaning of universality of
Islam. There's no boundaries. There are no nationalities. Every Muslim is a
brother of other Muslims. ...
When Saudis hate America because of what's happening in Iraq or what's
happening in Palestine, this is natural. You don't need to be Palestinian to
have opposition against America or to be Iraqi, to have opposition against
[America]. And indeed, people's readiness to go on fighting in Palestine, fight
the Israeli occupation in Saudi Arabia is very high. ...
This universal meaning of Islam has to be understood by non-Muslims to know how
to deal with those complex matters.
So the idea of the U.S. putting its troops on the ground in Afghanistan or
in other Muslim countries because we're angry and we want revenge, and we want
to wipe out terrorism -- could in fact blow up in our faces?
It probably more than could. It would blow up on the faces of America. It's
going to be very much natural response [when] a non-Muslim force attacks a
Muslim country. Especially if you add to this element what people perceive now,
the reason is because they are Muslims; they are people of principle, of Islam.
They're holding to their values of Islam.
This is the Taliban?
This is the Taliban. Because they don't want to ... hand over our Muslim to
non-Muslim force. They've been offered everything to do that in the past.
They are now facing the whole world to fight. They've never given up. This is
something which can never underestimate how impressive it is on the minds of
many Muslims who lived for 100 years under treason after treason after treason,
under obedience to the non-Muslim powers. ...
Some people who believe in violence, who support what bin Laden apparently
is involved in, do live in the United States. It presents
in this culture, as you know, politically, a big problem, because we allow
freedom of movement. We allow freedom of expression. We allow people of
different nationalities to come and go freely. And in fact, as it's turning out
in this investigation, it's that freedom that allowed, in a sense, the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon to be vulnerable.
... The nature of Western societies and political assistance are in their basic
structure, vulnerable, and you can never protect them by security means. The
only way to protect them by security means is to abandon this openness,
democratic life, and go back to military life, and close the country and live
in box. The only way to deal with the matter is to go to its roots and prevent
it, rather than dealing with it by intelligence and security.
What you're saying is that we better understand where this came from,
because that's the only way we may be able to preserve our way of life?
Yes. This vulnerability of the West [is] because of the very basic nature of
the political system. The only way to prevent this thing happening again is to
understand the whole phenomena and look for prevention rather than treatment.
If you just see the record of three years between Nairobi bombing and Tuesday,
Sept. 11, you can see the hopeless fundamental failure of security and
intelligence departments in preventing this incident -- because they looked at
it only from that angle.
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