Lesson of 9-11: Never give in to fear and hatred

Posted: Sep 10, 2002 12:00 AM
As we commemorate the deaths of the innocent men and women who were murdered last Sept. 11, we also honor those public servants and private heroes who risked and gave their lives to save the lives of others. As I said after visiting Ground Zero, I felt I was standing on hallowed ground, not unlike the battlefield at Gettysburg, sanctified not only by the sacrifice of human life but also by the courage and heroism of the rescue teams of police, firefighters and everyday folks who put their own lives at risk to save others and search for survivors. In the words of Elie Wiesel, the great chronicler of the Holocaust, "Indifference to evil is evil," and that is why the entire world rallied to our support as we took military action to root out and destroy the evil ones who perpetrated these murderous acts. As we reflect back on the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, we are also compelled to contemplate the course of our war against terrorism and remember specifically who attacked us and why. We must remember to prevent making unjustified, unwise and dangerous decisions in the name of the war on terrorism. Unambiguously, we were attacked by fanatical Islamic terrorists who used box cutters to hijack commercial airplanes and turn them into guided missiles aimed at America and innocent civilians from 28 other countries. But that was not their first hijacking. Years before 9-11-02, they used propaganda, extortion and hate to hijack Islam. They indoctrinated and brainwashed their captives, turning them into an army of fanatic jihadists willing to become human weapons of mass destruction. In a very real sense, while Sept. 11 marked the formal declaration of America's war against terrorism, it also was the day that America became the latest victim of an ongoing civil war within Islam. In many respects, the situation in the Islamic world today is not unlike the situation in France after 1940, when the Nazis installed French fascists to rule part of France (Vichy) while German fascists occupied the rest. Many French were oppressed and terrorized under the Nazi occupation, and the French Underground and the military forces of Gen. Charles de Gaulle in exile were some of our most loyal allies in the war against fascism. However, we were also at war with the French Vichy government, which enjoyed widespread popular support. The French collaborators were as much our enemies as Nazi soldiers, and the Vichy French contributed as much to the Jewish Holocaust by participating in Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution" as did many Nazi sympathizers. The situation within Islam is similar. Most Muslims do not agree with or collaborate with the jihadists. But increasingly, fanatical jihadists and those sympathetic to their hatred are taking over a number of mosques, operating schools of hate and indoctrination, and in those Islamic nations where jihadists do not rule directly, they use extortion to coerce the rulers to protect and give them succor and support. Islamic jihadists believe that it is a religious duty of every Muslim to convert or kill "infidel" civilians in the name of Allah. Hundreds of years ago, the crusaders out of Europe also killed and conquered in the name of God. Just as the crusaders' actions violated the Third Commandment that God gave to Moses not to take God's name in vain, today's jihadists violate the Koran's command, "Make not God's name an excuse to your oaths." Yet a few weeks ago Al-Qaeda's spokesman, Abu Geith, said, "The entire Earth must be subject to the religion of Allah -- to no ideology and to no path except for the path of Allah." The jihadists' motive for attacking the United States is not our foreign policies. They are fighting against the core values of Western liberal democratic societies: freedom, tolerance, equality, openness and human rights for all. I believe it is a mistake to view the global war on terrorism as a clash of civilizations or a religious war pitting Islam against Christianity and Judaism. Yet I think it is equally wrong to view the war on terrorism as a secular war of ideology. It is first and foremost a religious civil war within the Islamic world, and the jihadists are attempting to force the rest of Islam to choose between their Islamic brothers and the "infidel" West by making war on the rest of the world in the name of Allah. Therefore, our most important ally in the war against terrorism is the truth, as well as Muslims willing to wage their own personal struggle against the heretics who defile and corrupt Islam. But the war won't be won until the silent majority of Muslims find their collective voice to speak plainly, clearly and publicly that Islam is a religion of peace, that terrorism is always wrong and that terrorism can never be justified, no matter what grievances one may have. That is why this Sept. 11 we must not forget exactly who our enemy is and precisely why we fight. We must not allow the defensive war on terrorism, which is a morally just war supported by the entire Free World, to expand into a broader unilateral war against Arab dictators and despots, despicable as they may be, unless there is clear and convincing evidence that they also pose an immediate and mortal threat to our safety and security, and that of our allies. And that is why as we pursue and destroy the evil movement of terrorists that perpetrated 9-11, we must never give in to fear or hatred.