The missing declaration

William F. Buckley
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Posted: Oct 29, 2001 12:00 AM
The world community is prepared to believe that terrorist activity is not an expression of the Islamic faith. We say this because credible Koranic experts tell us so, and because the sense of religion is elementary respect for human life.

The United Nations, in September, passed two resolutions, one in the Security Council, one in the General Assembly. The Security Council voted unanimously its condemnation of the terrorism. The Assembly didn't take the vote of its members individually, but the resolution was passed by a standing vote. Azerbaijan's representative called movingly for blood donations by U.N. representatives -- "We do love this city, we love New York, and we want to help it."

Adrian Karatnycky, the president of Freedom House, reminds us soberingly in National Review that it is misleading to think of the terrorists as pure emanations of a foreign culture. We are reminded of the leading terrorists of the century and their ties to the West. Lenin of Zurich, Pol Pot and Ho Chi Minh of Paris. Che Guevara the cosmopolitan doctor. The ringleader of the contemplated bombing of a 400-room hotel in Jordan was an American-born Muslim, Raed Hijazi. He grew up in a privileged family, studied business administration at Cal State and, according to Jordanian prosecutors, got his taste of radical Islamic teaching at a mosque near his Sacramento campus. His mullah there put him progressively in touch with Osama bin Laden.

Yes, the West is the generator of America's Weather Underground, Germany's Baader-Meinhof Gang and Italy's Red Brigades, but never mind that Mohamed Atta, who led the terrorists on Sept. 11, lived an urbane life, was brought up by a middle-class family or that he had years of experience living in Germany and in the United States. That doesn't vitiate the faith by which the terrorists died, which was hardly Western.

"Kill them, as God said; no Prophet can have prisoners of war." That was a sentence in the text the terrorists were guided by, found in the abandoned car in which one of them drove to the airport, to seal his fate and that of 5,000 New Yorkers. "Be steadfast and remember (that in) God you will be triumphant," his catechism went on.

Ms. Aasma Khan of New York is co-creator of Muslims Against Terrorism. According to Robin Finn of The New York Times, the "month-old coalition of urban professionals (is) dedicated to educating fellow New Yorkers -- and beyond -- that Islam neither endorses nor tutors terrorists." She is an "angrily articulate advocate intent on disproving any link between Islam and the fugitive who dominates her nightmares, Osama bin Laden."

Now all of this is reassuring. But we have every day, in the press and on television, accounts of public acclaim in the Islamic world for the deeds of Sept. 11. Quoted before in this space was the 32-year-old body-and-fender man in Karachi, who explained to a reporter that 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.

The Judaeo-Christian West does not have the authority to proclaim Islamic doctrine. However persuaded we are of the profanity of Sept. 11, declarations to that effect need to come, to be sure from theological exegetes, but most pointedly from political leaders. The United States, in company with Christian leaders of the West, should ask for specific affirmations from presidents and prime ministers and caliphs of the more than 50 Moslem countries. It would not be untoward to ask that, in the tradition of international signatories in recent history, on the order of the Atlantic Charter, they affix their names to a declaration. It would read:

"We, political leaders of the community of Islamic nations, reject such terrorism as was practiced on September 11, 2001. The men who took this action in the name of Allah were impostors who profaned the word of the prophet."

Not more would need to be said, but that Declaration of Islamic Doctrine and Modern Terrorism, with names and titles of world leaders, should appear everywhere, in parliaments and mosques, subway stations -- and airports.