An Islamic leader gives his view
The leader of the Shiite community in Pakistan has lashed out at the Taliban. He has also said he opposes the U.S. military strike against Afghanistan. El-Sayed Sajid Al-Naqawi, leader of the Islamic Shiite Ja'afaria movement, was interviewed by Khaled Dawoud for Cairo's Al-Ahram Weekly.

More than 25 per cent of Pakistan's 140 million people are Shiites, who consider themselves victims of the Taliban. Extremist fundamentalist Sunni groups describe Shiites as infidels. They have been launching attacks against their religious leaders and followers, maintaining training camps in the Afghan city of Jalalabad. The Taliban has rejected official Pakistani requests to hand them over for trial.

These attacks on Shiites, said to have killed 2,000 Shiites over the past 10 years, pose a major security threat to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and his military regime.

When asked for his reaction to the U.S.-British military strike against Afghanistan, El-Sayed Sajid Al-Naqawi said the should not have taken place.

"The majority of victims will end up being the Afghan people themselves," he said. "Their houses, properties and airports will be destroyed. The Afghan people are deprived, oppressed and poor, and they committed no sin to warrant suffering the consequences of the U.S. attack.

"Meanwhile, America did not provide any evidence to back its claim that Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban movement are terrorists or that Osama, in particular, was behind the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington. However, we cannot deny that there are terrorist training centres in Afghanistan. There are Pakistani terrorists who have been receiving training there for years under the Taliban's protection."

When asked for his view concerning the call for jihad against Christians and Jews, as issued by Bin Laden and his followers, he replied: "I don't accept this kind of jihad. Killing innocent civilians, as we saw in the World Trade Centre in New York, can never be a form of jihad. These kinds of attacks cause damage to Islam and its reputation. . . Killing innocent civilians cannot be justified, even if America has been attacking civilians in Iraq. We strongly condemn what America does in Iraq, but we also condemn what happened in New York."

He was asked how America should have reacted to the Sept. 11 attacks.

"America should think of the roots and reasons behind what it describes as terrorism. If we assume that the man who smashed the plane into the World Trade Centre was a Muslim, then his heart must have been filled with fire. Why did he have such immense anger and hatred in his heart? The main reason behind this is the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians by the real terrorists in Israel. If this killing continues, so will what America describes as terrorism. Such terrorism will not stop by killing Osama Bin Laden and his associates.