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ISLAM and terrorism

The Commission to study 9/11 held a hearing in Washington at which three Middle East experts spoke. Rachel Bronson, director of the Middle East program of the Council on Foreign Relations, seemed to be the only one who had much enthusiasm for the war on Iraq. An attractive, forceful speaker, she is Jewish and this must color her views. Dennis Ross is director of the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy. Steven Emerson is the author of American Jihad. The Terrorists Living among Us. The most interesting of the witnesses was a Frenchman (also probably Jewish), Gilles Kepel, author of Jihad, the Trail of Political Islam. He referred to the debate going on among Muslim scholars about suicide bombers. It involves the difference between suicide, for which the punishment is hell, and martyrdom, which leads to heaven., They ruled that the attack on the World Trade Center was not justified and therefore was suicide. On the other hand, the suicide bombings in Israel were justified and therefore constituted acts of martyrdom. There were several references to the Pew report on hostility to the US around the world, but this was the closest the panel came to admitting that the cause of Islamic terrorism is Israel, strongly backed by the United States. Kepel discreetly expressed resentment at US criticism of France. He said the world is convinced that in Iraq the US is simply pursuing its own interests. Originally it was to be called Operation Iraqi Liberty, but since the acronym would have been OIL, the name was changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the Islamic world bin Laden is viewed much as Che Guevara or Fidel Castro are viewed in Latin America. While the panel was excellent, there was no Muslim spokesman. Perhaps there will be in future hearings. There were repeated calls for an Islamic reformation, as though going back to true Islam would bring peace. The overlooks the basic fact that, unlike Christianity, Islam has its roots in military conquest.

Ronald Hilton - 7/12/03