In light of the fundamentalist Islamic terror attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last week, American is wondering: Is Islam inherently violent?
The answer is "yes and no." The religion of Islam is a complex of branches, offshoots and undercurrents that defend peace, call for war, or sit somewhere in between. Over nearly fourteen centuries, Islam has become as ideologically, religiously and politically fractured as Christianity or Judaism.
But consider this question: Does the ideology of fundamentalist Islam foster violence? The answer here is a resounding "yes." Fundamentalist Islam has been spreading throughout the Middle East and around the world since the 1920s.
Inspired by a fear of the capitalism, individualism, and consumerism of the modern West, Islamic fundamentalism attempts to resist these forces by seeking to implement a strict interpretation of the Quran and Sharia, or Islamic law.
The result has been a complete rejection of America, its values, and its power. America, as these Islamic fundamentalists see it, stands in the way of building an Islamic world order.
Accordingly, the anger towards America is severe and bitter. Kalim Saddiqui, an Iranian fundamentalist in London, asserts that Western civilization is "a sickness ... a plague and a pestilence."
The deputy leader of Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), Sheikh Ali Belhadj, mocks Western civilization as "syphilization."
But perhaps it is Tunisian terrorist, Fouad Salah, who can best sum up the anti-Western ideology of fundamentalist Islam: "We Muslims should kill every last one of you (westerners)."
Over eight decades, dozens of groups have emerged that ascribe to this hatred. The culprits include Osama bin Laden's al-Qai'da network, the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah in Lebanon, Egypt's Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the Palestinian Hamas, and Muslim Brethren chapters throughout the world.
From rock-throwing to navigating planes into the World Trade Center, these organizations sanction the use of violence against American, Western, and even Muslim interests.
Repeated Terrorist Acts
Bin Laden created his organization to "kill the Americans and their allies - civilian or military." He has said, "You cannot defeat the heretic with" the Quran alone. "You have to show them the fist."
His group was behind the 1998 bombing of two American embassies in Africa. But America's battle is not against bin Laden alone. There are a host of other dangerous groups that support his objectives.
According to the State Department, Hizbullah poses "a significant terrorist threat to US interests globally from its base in Lebanon." Americans should never forget the words of the group's religious spokesman: "The oppressed nations do not have the technology and destructive weapons America and Europe have. They must thus fight with special means of their own."
Then came the suicide truck bombing in 1983 that killed 241 US servicemen.
The Egyptian Gama'a al-Islamiyya is cut from the same cloth. In 1993, its spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar Abd al-Rahman, spoke in Brooklyn about America as the foremost enemy of Islam. "We must be terrorists," he said, "and we must terrorize the enemies of Islam and frighten them and disturb them and shake the earth under their feet."
Rahman's followers were soon found guilty in the first World Trade Center attack that left six Americans dead and more than 1,000 injured.
Horrors Demand Response
Looking back, the list of Islamic terror attacks against American targets is long and horrifying. Indeed, fundamentalist Muslims have gone after Americans again and again for more than two decades.
In 1979, Iranian radicals held 54 Americans hostage for 444 days. In 1983, Islamic radicals blew up the U.S.'s embassy in Beirut.
In 1991, Islamic fundamentalists bombed the U.S. embassy in Kuwait. In 1996, the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia resulted in the death of 19 servicemen. In 2000, a suicide bomber killed 17 U.S. soldiers in an explosion that crippled the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen.
Today, our country mourns the loss of the more than 5,000 victims from the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. And these are just a few examples of the terrorism wrought by Islamic fundamentalism.
Given this history, punishing fundamentalists is not only appropriate, it is long overdue.
In the end, America's fight is not against Islam, as such. Rather, it is with those who have interpreted it to justify extreme ends. The American people must now clearly focus their energy and anger on uprooting the cells and preventing the destructive acts of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in the future.
Moreover, America should be relentless, uncompromising and brutal in its battle against those who support such acts - especially here in America.