Kathleen Parker

``... disbelievers will be cast into an eternal fire. But Allah is also ever merciful, and the West can change its ways and turn to the purifying power of Islam ...'' -- Kidnapped Fox reporter Steve ``Khaled'' Centanni, channeling his captors.

We don't often get to watch our media people convert to Islam, so the footage of Fox News' Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig has been riveting.

Some people can't get enough of watching planes fly into the World Trade Center towers; I can't get enough of Centanni and Wiig pledging allegiance to Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him.

The common thread between the two is disbelief. I keep rerunning the tapes, now posted on the Web, trying to read the kidnapped men's body language and translate the meaning of deep breaths and eye movements.

Trying, alas, to imagine being in their place.

As everyone knows, reporter Centanni and cameraman Wiig were released several days ago after being seized in Gaza City by masked gunmen and held hostage for 13 days.

It's not clear exactly who their kidnappers were, whether part of the Holy Jihad Brigades, as claimed, or whether they had ties to Hamas or the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah.

You need a scorecard to keep up with all the region's disaffected. Apparently, when three or more angry Muslims gather in a garage, a new jihadist group is born.

What's perfectly clear is that video is the new weapon of mass destruction. A billion people manipulated into religious frenzy is a formidable force. It is also clear that the West's continued existence -- at least from the perspective of Islamist militants -- depends upon our willingness to bow to Islam.

Those two conclusions are made possible by the images of Centanni and Wiig holding up an index finger and proclaiming allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad.

Says Centanni: ``My name is Steve. I'm an American. After I entered Islam, I changed my name to Khaled. I have embraced Islam and say the word Allah, and my leader is the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him.''

Wiig -- new name ``Ya'aqob'' -- repeats the liturgy.

Then the two men proceed to read a script outlining all the reasons why the West is wrong -- from invading Afghanistan and Iraq to the tortures of Abu Ghraib. They also ask that all prisoners be released from Guantanamo and that President Bush cease referring to Islamic fascists as ``Islamic fascists.''

It's not nice, and it makes the kidnappers mad.

``Yeah, they were very angry about that,'' said Wiig in an interview after his release.


Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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