CAIRO, Egypt – Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri criticized the West for its insult to Islam's prophet, complaining in a video broadcast Sunday on Al-Jazeera that the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus "are not sacred anymore."
Referring to the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have been printed in a number of European newspapers, al-Zawahri said: "They did it on purpose and they continue to do it without apologizing, even though no one dares to harm Jews or to challenge Jewish claims about the Holocaust nor even to insult homosexuals."
Al-Zawahri, wearing a black turban and seated in front of a curtained window, spoke insistently and waved his right hand to emphasize his words.
"The insults against Prophet Muhammad are not the result of freedom of opinion but because what is sacred has changed in this culture," he said. "The Prophet Mohammed, prayers be upon him, and Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, are not sacred anymore, while Semites and the Holocaust and homosexuality have become sacred."
He said the West repeatedly insulted Muslims and their holy book, the Koran.
"In the eyes of the West, they have the right to occupy our land, rob our wealth and then insult us and our religion, and humiliate our Koran and our prophet, prayers be upon him," al-Zawahri said. "After that they give us lessons in freedom, justice and human rights."
In the video broadcast on the satellite network, Al-Zawahri also offered his support to Hamas, the militant Islamic group that is forming a new Palestinian government after sweeping legislative elections.
He complained that the previous Palestinian leadership had "sold Palestine."
"Recognizing those people is against Islam's principles. They are criminals in the Islamic balance," he said. "Palestine is not their own property that they can give up."
Speaking of Palestine and Iraq, al-Zawahri said: "We have to be aware of the American game called 'political process."'
"Bush, the caller for democracy, threatened Hamas in his State of the Union speech to cut assistance unless it recognizes Israel, abandons Jihad and abides by the agreements of surrender between the (Palestinian) Authority and Israel."
"I would like to tell my brothers in Palestine that reaching power is needed to implement Islamic rule," he said.
An Al-Jazeera official declined to say who gave the videotape to the network.
Al-Zawahri, Usama bin Laden's deputy, has issued several video and audiotapes in the past year. His last video came on Jan. 31, in which he threatened a new attack against the United States.
Bin Laden and al-Zawahri are believed to be in hiding along the rugged Pakistan-Afghan border.