Dr Mohammed Saeed Ramadan Al Bouti.
The operation carried out by the Palestinians in the occupied territories is martyrdom and far away from being suicidal in nature, said an Islamic scholar yesterday.

"Those who sacrificed their souls to defend their brothers, their right, homeland and religion are definitely martyrs. Those who describe them as suicide bombers are hypocrites who attempt to please those who export terrorism to us," said Dr Mohammed Saeed Ramadan Al Bouti, Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Damascus, in a lecture at Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up.

Dr Bouti, also a Member of Oxford Academy Board, praised a statement by Makkah scholars defining jihad in Islam as opposed to terrorism.

Muslim scholars meeting in the holy city of Makkah early this year stressed that terrorism is alien to Islam, which the West has often associated with terror since the September 11 attacks on the United States.

In a statement issued after a six-day meeting, a group of scholars affiliated to the Muslim World League spelled out their definition of terrorism, saying it applied to "any unjustified attack by individuals, groups or states against a human being."

This includes attacks on a person's "religion, life, property and honour," they said. The scholars said: "any act of violence or threat... designed to terrorise people or endanger their lives or security" also amounts to terrorism.

"Damaging the environment and public or private facilities, and endangering natural resources" is equally an act of terror, as are "murder and banditry."

But jihad (holy war or struggle) cannot be equated with terrorism, the scholars said, adding that "struggling against occupiers and colonial settlers who drive people from their land and against those who help them" is legitimate in Islam.

Struggling against "those who renege on their commitments" or prevent Muslims from "peacefully preaching" their religion is a form of jihad, they said.

They described acts by the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation as a form of jihad and legitimate self-defense and called for a joint effort to counter anti-Islamic campaigns.

Dr Bouti called on nations and people of the world to distinguish between legitimate jihad against oppression and acts of terror.

"Jihad is meant for upholding right, ending injustice, ensuring peace and security and establishing mercy. Terrorism and violence committed by the aggressor, who usurp the land, desecrate holy sanctuaries and loot wealth cannot be compared to the practice of the right of legitimate defense as used by the oppressed, seeking to gain their legitimate rights to self-determination."

He said: "Failure to apply justice in solving human conflicts while pursuing a policy of arrogance and force in international relations is one of the causes behind many wars and conflicts. Indifference towards solving the Palestinian issue on just principles has created a focal point for conflict and violence," he said.

Dr Bouti added that terrorism as defined by the US is any effort, thought or project that contradicts its interests regardless of the rights of others.

He attributed the war launched by the West against Islam to the spread of Islam in the western communities, the possibility of an Islamic awakening which may jeopardise gains of the West and the Euro-Asian countries endeavour to build a so-called Euro-Asian bridge.

Al Bouti quoted Lyndon Laroche, a US presidential candidate, as saying in a web lecture last year that the Israeli forces abroad will prepare for a war in the Middle East to prevent European and Asian countries from building their bridge or economic grouping.

"The Euro-Asian project will eliminate the Zionist hegemony of the world economy and financial system. A religious war must be launched and Europe must be dragged into it to uproot this project."

He said that the definition of 'terrorism' in western sense is cooked in certain suspicious circles. "An article published in the Foreign Affairs Magazine in the US in October 1992 warned of so-called threat of Islam.

"The article concluded that threat should be avoided by widening the gap between Islamic nations and the West on the one hand and to widen the gap between Muslims and their regimes on the other hand,"he said.

Dr Bouti quoted Bernard Louis, the author of 'the Middle East and the West' that westernising Arab region could be achieved through arousing sectorial confrontation. Moreover, in 1991 the American National Council said in a report that Islam is threatening the western societies and should be exterminated.

The report included ten items to start application of this 'project'. The first item was arousing contradictions in Islamic thoughts. The second was instigating Muslims against themselves. The third item was recruiting Asian labour force instead of the Arab Muslims in the Gulf region.

The west also warned of Islamic awakening especially as the region is rich in oil. Finally Dr. Bouti concluded his speech by adding that Islam is not entitled to agree with American interpretation on terrorism and Islam should not be guarding of American interest in the world.