So you want a holy way?

Posted: Oct 03, 2001 12:00 AM
Whatever is or is not authentic transcription of Islamic dogma, we do know that the people who ran the airliners into the World Trade Center believed that a Koranic voice was telling them to do what they did. We have the four-page document that told them not only what to do, but what to think. "Kill them, as God said; no Prophet can have prisoners of war."

They would not cavil, their clerical dispatcher knew, but even so there was a reiteration of the sacredness of their mission. "Recognize ... what God has prepared for believers in endless happiness for martyrs. ... Be steadfast and remember (that in) God you will be triumphant."

Here is a strategic suggestion from the Western high command. Declare in full voice that Islam is widely profaned and mistaught. That if it isn't -- if the Koranic high exegetes are paralyzed with doubt whether such as the Ladenites are true to their faith -- then the faith being practiced must be disavowed by the legitimists. Say as much, and say also that the Western world is prepared to denominate the imposters as such and to call for a restoration of a Muslim religion consistent with civilized conduct.

We have done such a thing in the political world. Without using the language of excommunication as such, what we got around to doing in the postwar world was to exclude communism as an acceptable model for the organization of political life. We did this because, by our experience with communism in practice and by the exercise of reason, we judged it incompatible with irreversible advances in human behavior.

When finally the United States abolished slavery, the word went out: No more. No Christianity cum slavery. One or the other.

We have now Islam to deal with. We do not need to make the point that its political and economic record is miserable, that only one of 18 Muslim states (Turkey) is democratically governed. There are those who are willing to advertise the individual hypocrisies. A spokesman from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, while calling on his faithful to overthrow the government of Pakistan for the sin of maintaining equable relations with the United States, sends his own two sons to the United States to school. The Taliban has taken unmarried women detected in pregnancy and buried them to neck level before execution. Where is Islamic condemnation of such practices? For that matter, where is condemnation of Saudis chopping pickpockets' hands off?

We read of the mobs in Karachi who denounce the United States and flaunt signs that call out to "CRUSH AMERICA." In a pinch, we have to gamble. Perhaps human nature isn't reliably self-interested enough to prefer liberal democracy to protracted tyrannical misery. But we have to hope that the raw instinct is there to welcome relief. There were Kuwaitis who prostrated themselves with gratitude to liberating GIs, even as there are millions of Afghans who flee the wretched world of their Muslim oppressors where they have been kept alive by American food shipments to Afghanistan and bank now on American food shipped to Pakistan, where they will reasonably hope that before America is entirely CRUSHED we will have stored enough food for them and their children.

It is thought to be a sign of toleration to defer to Islam as simply another religion. It isn't that. It is a form of condescension. Carefully selected, there are Koranic preachments that are consistent with civilized life. But on Sept. 11 we were looked in the face by a deed done by Muslims who understood themselves to be acting out Muslim ideals. It is all very well for individual Muslim spokesmen to assert the misjudgment of the terrorists, but the Islamic world is substantially made up of countries that ignore, or countenance or support terrorist activity.

Mustafa Kamal Uddin, a 32-year-old body-and-fender man in Karachi, explained it to a New York Times reporter. You see, he said, holy wars come about only when Allah has no other way to maintain justice, times like now. "That is why Allah took out his sword" on Sept. 11.

We demand to know: Who taught Mustafa Kamal Uddin to reason in that way, and the crowds in Karachi to support such thinking? Pending an answer to the question, and the unmistakable assumption by reputable Muslims of the responsibility to extirpate such misteaching, renounce modern Islam. Either restore the proper Allah -- or get ready for a holy war.