Zawahiri slams France's veil ban, urges women to resist
Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri slammed France's move to ban Islamic face veils, saying Muslim women must hold on to their veils at any cost, in an audio tape posted online Tuesday.
"In France, the pioneer of secularism, there is an overt and shameless war on hijab (veil) and niqab (face cover)," he said in the tape posted on an Islamist website.
"What France is doing, which is spreading across Europe and the West, should prompt us to hold on to our true religion in face of their deviant ideologies," he said in the message whose authenticity could not be verified.
"My Muslim sisters, hold on to your hijab, even if it would cost you your money, education and jobs. You are mujahedat (female holy warriors) in the most important battlefield," he said.
The law to ban the Muslim face cover, which was passed overwhelmingly by French lawmakers, reveals that freedom in the West is confined to "fighting Islam ... and insulting the prophet, while banning anything touching anti-semitism, or questioning the Nazi Holocaust," he said.
"France cannot remove the head cover of a nun, but aggresses every Muslim woman wearing niqab, and every student covering her head," he said.
"Europe is revealing its real face, telling Muslims that all the (European) citizenships they obtained ... do not grant them the freedom and peace that they were imagining," Zawahiri said.
France is home to Europe's largest Muslim community. Other European countries, including Belgium and Spain, are working on bills similar to France's law to ban full Islamic veils in public places.
Zawahiri resurfaced last week in an audio message in which he slammed Arab leaders as "Zionists" and mocked US President Barack Obama's claim that Taliban would never return to power in Afghanistan.
It was his first tape since December.
In the latest, Zawahiri also mocked Yemeni clerics who warned in January of calling for jihad if foreign troops joined Yemen's war against Al-Qaeda, claiming that US missiles had already hit Al-Qaeda militants in the south.
He was referring to raids against Al-Qaeda on December 17, including a strike against a suspected training camp in Abyan, in which the Yemeni government said 34 Al-Qaeda suspects were killed.
"Sadly, these clerics do not have the courage of Human Rights Watch organisation which said in its report early June that US Tomahawk missiles, carrying heads of cluster bombs, were used in the attack on Abyan," he claimed.
"It is a known fact that such missiles are guided from a control room in the United States," he added.
"What more do they need to see to call for jihad? Are they waiting for missiles to rain on them to realise then that America had intervened? Or are they waiting to see American soldiers roaming Sanaa in their tanks?" he exclaimed.
He also accused Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh of being ready to "do anything to please America."
Zawahiri also urged Turks to assume the traditional leading role of the Ottoman Empire as the protector of Islam, and force their government to abandon relations with Israel and withdraw its troops from coalition forces in Afghanistan.
"The Turkish people should assume responsibility in forcing its government to stop recognising those who have occupied the land of Palestine, and (stop) taking part with the Crusaders in killing Muslims in Afghanistan," he said.
He also said the role of Turkey in supporting the Palestinians should not be confined to sending aid ships to the Gaza Strip, referring to the Turkish-led aid flotilla hit by a deadly raid by Israeli commandos on May 31.
"Ottomans were the defenders of Muslims and their lands for five centuries. The role of the Muslim Turkish people in defending Muslims cannot shrink to just sending a few boats of aid to Gaza," he said.
© 2010 AFP