CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
November 13, 2002
(CNSNews.com) – President Bush wasted no time, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in exonerating Islam and reminding Americans that the violence had been committed by freedom haters. Islam, the religion the terrorists claimed to represent while carrying out their attacks, actually
stood for peace, the president insisted.
Fourteen months after the attacks, the 19 hijacker/terrorists are still considered heroes by certain elements of the Islamic community around the world.
A would-be shoe bomber, Richard Reid, and an alleged would-be dirty bomber, Jose Padilla, have seen their attack plans foiled in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001. But the accused Beltway Sniper, John Muhammad, and his alleged teenaged accomplice John Malvo, are believed responsible for a
multi-state shooting spree that culminated in the killings of ten people in the Washington, D.C., region, before they were captured.
Reid, Padilla, Muhammad and Malvo all had one thing in common – a devotion to Islam.
Robert Spencer, author of Islam Unveiled and an adjunct fellow at the conservative think tank Free Congress Foundation, believes Islam’s theological foundation is creating many of today’s terrorists and would-be terrorists.
Spencer’s book takes a critical look at the religion of Islam, its holy book, The Koran, its prophet Muhammad and concludes that the religion is producing violent behavior in a significant numbers of its adherents.
“The religious motivation [for terrorism] is paramount for millions of these people and if we don’t recognize that, we are going to be ill equipped in the face of what we are up against,” Spencer told
Spencer believes the U.S. is not prepared to fight a war on terrorism because the nation fails to understand the true nature of Islam.
“[Our leaders] are intent on insisting that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, when it has everything to do with Islam,” Spencer said. “When you are in a conflict and you don’t know the true nature of your opponent, you are at a tremendous disadvantage,” he added.
According to Spencer the “mainstream interpretation” of the religion of Islam is responsible for violent behavior because the text of the Koran has many passages inciting followers to violence.
“When the Koran says, ‘Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them,’ the extremists can point to that and many other verses of that kind and say: ‘Look, this is what the religion teaches,'” Spencer said. Moderate Muslims are “in the unfortunate position of saying: ‘No that is not actually what it means,'” and can be “easily portrayed by extremists as being the disloyal party, the ones that don’t take the Koran seriously,” he added.
Moderates have a difficult time explaining away verses that incite violence because Islam teaches that the Koran was dictated word for word by Allah (God), according to Spencer.
“Muslims teach the Koran is the literal words of God in a stronger sense than Christianity believes the Bible is the word of God … the Koran is more than inspired, it is dictated, it is actually God speaking. There is no human element,” Spencer said. “The moderates who might be fighting against Islam’s dark side, have the disadvantage of having to go against the plain words of the text of the Koran,” he said. “There is no theological or geographical or denominational or any other
kind of firewall between extremist Islam and moderate Islam,” he added.
‘Religion of Peace’
Islamic scholars and Muslim advocates dispute Spencer’s research and the
premise of his book.
Michael Young, editor of Islam For Today, rejects the notion that the
religion of Islam is to blame for terrorist activities. “Islam promotes itself first and foremost as a religion of peace … Islam spread throughout Southeast Asia and Africa entirely by peaceful means,”
Young told CNSNews.com. Young believes many people mistakenly believe Islam is a violent religion because of the “local culture” of some Muslim nations. “Very often when Islam is in society for so long, people fail to distinguish between what is Islam and what is their own local culture,”
Young explained. Young did concede however, “There are vocal people within in Muslim
community who do harbor Taliban sympathies.”
‘Defamatory attacks on Islam’
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was more blunt in defending Islam from
charges that it encourages terrorism. “When people of other faiths commit crimes or violent acts, people don’t generalize to the whole faith, but when a Muslim commits a violent act, somehow it is an indictment to their entire faith,” Hooper told CNSNews.com. “Muslims occasionally do bad things, so do Jews, so do Christians, so do Hindus, so do Martians,” he added. Hooper believes that since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, there has been “a new cottage industry of defamatory attacks on Islam.”
“If you want to make a buck now, attack Islam,” Hooper said. “When it is
done to Christianity or Judaism, people in authority object. When it is
done to Islam, it gets a pass,” he added.
Young believes Islam’s tarnished image among some Westerners is the result
of some Muslim followers misinterpreting passages of the Koran, something
that could happen in any religion, he said. “If you are intent on committing a violent act, you can always find some religious text that smashes the heads of babies against rocks. If you choose to interpret in a certain way, you will find what you are looking for,” Young said.
But Spencer, agreeing that many religions of the world have inspired violence among its adherents, believes Islam is by far the most culpable. “There is no doubt that Christians and Jews and everybody else bearing every other name of every other religion have done terrible things, but
that doesn’t mean that every religious text is equal in capacity to inspire that kind of thing,” Spencer said.
According to Spencer, the Koran takes the “Seventh Century warrior,” Muhammad, and “canonize[s] him as the supreme example of human behavior.” “So that instead of being a Seventh Century warfare pattern that we ought not to follow, [Muhammad] becomes the model for how we should always behave. So this is the defect, this is the difficulty,” Spencer said.
Larry Johnson, a former CIA and State Department officer and counter terrorism expert, believes media and government officials are not dealing forthright with the threat of Islamic terrorists, because there is a “bit of political correctness still running afoot.”
“We like to portray as a nation, Islam as a religion of peace, and it really isn’t,” Johnson said. “As it is widely practiced, [Islam] doesn’t encourage peace and it encourages violence, Part of that is that it has not had its own version of The Reformation. It is stuck in Middle Ages as Christianity or Judaism once was,” he added. “[Moderates] do not represent the majority thought in the Muslim world. They are very much on the defensive,” Johnson said.
Johnson believes the radical Islam movement is the greatest national security threat facing the U.S.
“There is no other significant threat confronting us … it gives people a reason to do what they do and to take risks and make sacrifices,” Johnson said.
Johnson thinks a modern “crusade” may be necessary to battle Islam. “I think George Bush was right when he called for a crusade, but it’s not a crusade of Christians against Islam, as was a hallmark of the first Crusades. This is a crusade of [modern societies] versus a medieval thought process,” Johnson said.
‘50,000 Muslim Men’
In order to fight what he sees as a growing Islamic threat, Spencer proposes that the U.S. impose strict immigration limits on Muslims entering the U.S. “Why were 50,000 Muslim men admitted to the country from Muslim countries since September 11?” he asked. When are we going to start being sane about immigration law?” Spencer would also like to see mosques monitored by law enforcement for anti-American sentiment and any inciting of violence, ideas Hooper finds offensive.
“I live here too. I don’t want to be attacked, but battling terrorists and defaming Islam are two different things,” Hooper countered.
Spencer is not optimistic the U.S. will take the security threat of Islam seriously. “Everyone is so afraid of being called a racist that they are afraid to take measures that are necessary to defend oneself,” Spencer said.