From the Muslim world, words of hope

September 19, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

President Bush recently pronounced the war on terrorism unwinnable, then, after taking the predictable beating for the statement, he reversed field and said it is indeed winnable.

The flip-flop brought a renewed chorus of criticism, but the truth is, he may have been right on both counts. The war on terror is winnable, but the United States will not be the one to win it - that victory will be achieved by the Muslim community itself.

For us, terrorists are a tar baby - the harder we hit, the more we stick in the goo of anti-U.S. anger and hatred. But when the attacks come from within the Muslim community itself - from the terrorists' "own people" - suddenly they have nowhere to turn, no avenue for defense and no ability to hit back.

The first real rumblings that this may be occurring surfaced last week following the tragedy in the Russian schoolhouse that killed or wounded hundreds of children.


Writing in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat and as reported by The New York Times, influential commentator Abdel Rahman al-Rashed called the terrorists acts "Shameful and degrading" and said:

"The majority of those who manned the suicide bombings against buses, vehicles, schools, houses and buildings, all over the world, were Muslim. What a pathetic record. What an abominable 'achievement.' Does this tell us anything about ourselves, our societies and our culture?"

Writing in the Jordanian daily Ad Dustour, columnist Bater Wardam acknowledged there is still an overwhelming tendency among the Arab people as a whole to "place responsibility for the crimes of Arabic and Muslim terrorist organizations on the Mossad, the Zionists and the American intelligence.

He went on to add, however, "But we all know that this is not the case. They came from our midst. They are Arabs and Muslims who pray, fast, grow beards, demand the wearing of veils and call for the defense of Islamic causes. Therefore we must all raise our voices, disown them and oppose all these crimes."

The war in Iraq has been justified in some primarily Christian-world circles with the examples of Japan and Germany - enemies of humanity that were reformed by foreign occupation.

But Islam is not a state. A religion cannot be occupied. You cannot replace the Koran with a Constitution. Were this so, those same Christian voices would have been snuffed out long ago in Rome. Even the single greatest systematic destruction of mankind in history could not eliminate Judaism.

For a time, the Christian church itself was wont to burn witches and torture infidels - acts of terror that only ended when Christians themselves recognized the horror. No "occupying force" brought an end to the iron maiden.

With hindsight, it is easy to say the war in Iraq was a mistake. Yet it may have had an unintended but important consequence of giving these terroristic forces validity in their own eyes and free license to go berserk.

The war gave them the rope they needed to begin forming a noose. With the infidel attack, surely all of Islam would be behind them now as they wantonly slaughtered kids, lopped off heads, downed airplanes, murdered Nepalese cooks and took hostages to try to force the France to change its school dress code.

Instead, this "license to kill" may be showing the rest of the Muslim world precisely what beasts these hard-liners, "neo-Muslims," as they are beginning to be called, really are.

It would seem, of course, that the murder of nearly 3,000 people itself would have been seen throughout the entire world as "crossing the line." Yet Muslims danced in the streets - much as the citoyens did at the executions of Louis and Marie Antoinette.

A blow had been struck by the little guy against the establishment. Forget for the moment, that one of Marie Antoinette's greatest crimes in the eyes of the people was to refuse to give birth in public.

Had the Terror ended there, the forces of Robespierre and St. Just might have made a success of the French Revolution. But these men listened to the cheers, became Gods in their own minds, and began chopping the heads off of anyone who sneezed.

They showed themselves for what they were - not democratic idealists in the mold of Jefferson and Adams, but animals interested only in furthering their own personal power. Within a couple of years, the necks of Robespierre and St. Just themselves had been neatly sliced.

This isn't to say we lay down our resolve and continue to absorb body blows until the terrorists punch themselves out. Nor should it inspire a false hope that we're on the brink of victory.

But the clear message of history is this: People of poor character have no greater enemy than a taste of success. To a group that scores success by a death count, this is bad news. And in the end, the vanquishers of the terrorists are likely to be the terrorists themselves.

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