Charles Krauthammer

     British Islamists had spoken of a ``covenant of security'' under which Britain would be spared Islamic terror so long as it allowed radical clerics free rein. Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, for example, a Syrian-born, exiled Saudi cleric granted asylum 19 years ago, openly preaches jihad against Britain. He is sought by the press for comment all the time. And, a lovely touch, he actually lives on the British dole -- even though he rejects the idea of British citizenship, saying, ``I don't want to become a citizen of hell.''

     One of the reasons Westerners were so unprepared for this wave of Islamist terrorism, not just militarily but psychologically, is sheer disbelief. It shockingly contradicts Western notions of progress. The savagery of Bouyeri's act, mirroring the ritual human slaughter by Zarqawi or Daniel Pearl's beheaders, is a return to a primitiveness that we in the West had assumed a progressive history had left behind.

     Our first response was, therefore, to simply sweep this contradiction under the rug. Put the first World Trade Center bombers on trial and think it will solve the problem. Even today, there are many Americans and even more Europeans who believe that after 9/11 the United States should just have done Afghanistan -- depose the Taliban and destroy al Qaeda's sanctuary -- and gone no further, thinking that would solve the problem.

     But the problem is far deeper. It is essentially a civil war within a rival civilization in which the most primitive elements are seeking to gain the upper hand. 9/11 forced us to intervene massively in this civil war, which is why we are in Iraq. There, as in Afghanistan, we have enlisted millions of Muslims on the anti-Islamist side.

     But what about the vast majority of European Muslims, the 99 percent who are peace-loving and not engaged in terror? They must also join the fight. They must actively denounce not just -- what is obvious -- the terror attacks, but their source: Islamist ideology and its practitioners.

     Where are the fatwas issued against Osama bin Laden? Where are the denunciations of the very idea of suicide bombing? Europeans must demand this of all their Muslim leaders. They must also dismantle and destroy all ``known'' Islamist cells before trains and buses are blown up.

     A modest beginning might be removing the likes of Sheik Omar -- and Bouyeri -- from the teat of the infidel taxpayer. ``He (Bouyeri) had the time to plan this,'' van Gogh's mother told the court, ``because for three years he was on unemployment benefits.'' Decadence is defined not by a civilization's art or music but ultimately by its willingness to simply defend itself.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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