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Professor Ali Khan
Washburn University School of Law
JURIST Guest Columnist

It is no longer a secret who perpetrated the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. We now know that all the perpetrators were Muslims. The attack has stunned all of us, reinforcing the already lingering suspicion among many Americans that Muslims are capable of committing horrendous acts, even against the innocent, in the name of Allah. The American anger is legitimate and the pain is real. Feelings of retribution, if not revenge, permeate public commentaries, political statements and popular reactions. Muslims in America, including my family, are worried that they will be assaulted and discriminated against. Muslims abroad are apprehensive that the wrath of the United States will hit their cities and citizens.

Once the grief has subsided and the pain is a little more bearable, Americans are most likely to ask: 展hy did they do it? There will be plenty of answers. Some will suggest that Islam breeds terrorism. Some will defend Islam but criticize fundamentalism. Some will doubt whether the terrorists were 途eal Muslims at heart. Others will focus on the clash of civilizations. Still others will argue that 奏hey hate us for what we stand for. No one answer can fully capture the motives and the context that might have prompted the September Calamity. In this short commentary, I would like to provide a few insights into the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism.

Islamic Terrorism

I use the term 的slamic terrorism not to diminish Islam, which is my own religion, but to explain that although Islam is predominantly a religion of peace, it does seem to allow 鍍errorism to combat, for example, the state of zulm, that is, exceptional circumstances of oppression, misery and helplessness.

Over the centuries, Islam has restrained its followers from unleashing unlawful violence for which there is no clear basis in teachings of the Quran. And whenever a ruler ordered unlawful fighting, his orders were criticized and condemned. This is so because the Quran decrees Muslims 渡ot to take life--which Allah has made sacred--except for just cause.

For many Muslims, however, the Islamic message of peace yields to a more militant call when an Islamic community, like that of the Palestinians, is suffering under foreign occupation and economic misery. And it is in fighting zulm that the nexus between jihad and terrorism becomes fused and inseparable.

The text of the Quran, when read in its fullest context, affirms hope, peace and spiritual intelligence. It also lays out the law of war. Yet, one may read the Quranic verses in isolation to undertake a terrorist course of action. The Quran, for example, states that Muslims engaged in fighting may strike 鍍error in the hearts of the enemies. Note the word 鍍error. This terror may be caused by a willingness to kill and die or by the innovative use of weapons (steeds of war). To produce terror, militant Muslims may invoke two additional verses of the Quran. 徹 Prophet, rouse the believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred. Thus a small number of Muslims may opt to go to war against a mighty enemy. The other verse, which the militants may invoke, underscores the vulnerability of strong structures: 展herever you are, death will find you out, even if you are in towers built up strong and high.

To the most learned in the text of the Quran, these verses must be read in the context of many other verses that stipulate the Islamic law of war---a war that the Islamic leader must declare after due consultation with advisers. For the less learned, however, these verses may provide the motivation and even the plot for a merciless strike against a self-chosen enemy. Note that the September Calamity was propelled by about twenty Muslims who brought down the twin towers 澱uilt up strong and high. For these Muslims, terrorism--if it means causing credible harm and the associated fear--was not outside the teachings of the Quran. They acted upon their faith, even though their acts disgust many Muslims across the world.

Despite the controversy over the legitimacy of their act, the question remains why the September warriors of Islam chose the United States as their prime target.

Why American Targets?

To Muslims generally, and to militant Middle Eastern Muslims particularly, the United States has done too many things to be qualified as an enemy subject to the Islamic law of war. The United States, for example, has bombed Libya, the Sudan and Afghanistan. The attacks on Iraq continue. American bombers have 鍍errorized major Arab cities: Baghdad, Tripoli and Khartoum. Several Muslim States, including Syria and Iran, are on the US list of terrorist states. The United States politicians demonize Islamic leaders but embrace undemocratic rulers, such as the ones in Algeria. To add to this all, the US troops are stationed not too far away from Mecca and Medina, the holiest cities of Islam.

The militants see more than the US bombing of Muslim countries. They see that the United States has imposed economic sanctions against almost the entire Islamic world. Even Islamic states, such as Pakistan, which have supported the United States in its wars, are not immune from economic sanctions. Perhaps, the most serious case is Iraq where the economic sanctions have resulted in the death of thousands of children, for want of medical facilities. The rest of the international community is willing to lift these sanctions. But the United States continues to exercise its veto.

For Muslims who hate the United States, the most dramatic scenes come from the Israeli siege of Palestinians. There is a general perception among Muslims that the United States has failed to be a neutral peacemaker in this conflict. In fact, they conclude that Israel will be much more willing to end its occupation if the United States withdrew its money and weapons. Thus, the militants see the United States as the ultimate enemy against the liberation of Israeli occupied territories. This perception is further reinforced when the United States openly supports Israel in its public statements and blocks Security Council resolutions that might benefit the Palestinians, resolutions such as stationing international observers around the occupied territories.

What Should be Done?

Terrorists cannot dictate what the United States should do. No self-respecting nation, much less an unrivaled superpower, will formulate its policies according to the wishes of those who inflict harm on its innocent citizens.

Accordingly, the United States is justified in 都moking out the terrorists who planned the September Calamity. But the United States must do more. It must take into confidence more than a billion Muslims, through the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Conference--an inter-governmental organization composed of 53 Islamic states. Under no circumstance will it be wise to pursue a foreign policy that alienates a sizeable portion of the international community. It will be equally unwise to pursue a foreign policy that endangers the lives of Americans here and abroad. No nation, not even a superpower, will act upon a foreign policy most likely to harm its people and property. During the Cold War, the United States did not attack the Soviet Union. That was the right thing to do.

Likewise, the United States must reconstruct its foreign policy towards the Islamic world. The new policy should be based on respect for Islam, for Muslims and for their countries. The United States should highlight the role it played in the protection of Bosnia, and in the liberation of the Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. It should also highlight the freedom of religion that Muslims enjoy in the United States. American Muslims will testify to the fact that the name of Allah is being called aloud, with no restrictions, from mosques built all across the United states.

More should be done to reconstruct the US foreign policy. Instead of bombing Muslim nations, the United States should engage them in diplomacy. Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Sudan, all these states can be influenced more by talking to them, less by punishing them. Instead of imposing economic sanctions against a legion of Islamic countries, the United States should interweave them into commerce and trade. In the Middle East crisis, the United States can indeed play a more effective role in ending the misery of Palestinians and the insecurity of Israel.

In short, America isn稚 anti-Islamic. Nor does it need to be. America and Allah are not at odds. Nor do they need to be. If the United States fails to alter the course of its foreign policy and if it continues to be perceived as anti-Islamic, Islamic terrorism may not go away with missiles and bombs. In that event, more than six million Muslims, now living in the United States, may suffer persecution that American Indians, African-Americans and American citizens of Japanese descent have experienced in the past. In that event, America will also fail from within.

Ali Khan is Professor of Law at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas, where he teaches International Law and Human Rights. He welcomes comments on this essay at

September 17, 2001


  • I would like to see the country as you describe. However, I am skeptical regarding whether or not that is possible at this point. I believe that talking has been tried. I believe that the economic sanctions are in place to try and prevent these countries from preparing for war and that if their leaders invested money in food and medicine, their people would not starve despite US sanctions. And furthermore, the sanctions would be lifted.

    As a Christian and American citizen, I do not want to hurt anyone unnecessarily. I would be most supportive of increased security measures within our own country and a worldwide, multinational anti-terrorism coalition that would seek out individual terrorist groups and put a stop to their violent acts. I would want my government to do this whether the terrorists were Muslim, Christian, Buddist, or Pagan. I am not interested in seeing my government attack another country just because it is ruled by Muslims, but if those people, who happen to be Muslims, are protecting other people who happen to be terrorists against the United States, it may be necessary.

    I don't really want to fight.

    Caryn Pierce
    Washington State, USA

  • I agree with Prof. Ali khan. It seems that people are invariably associating Islam with war, but prof. khan has rightly pointed out how it could be misinterpreted by a few people. As a human being and a Muslim, I deplore the WTC attack, and I deplore pearl harbour attack, but I also deplore the nuclear attack on Japan, the holocast, the killings by Israelis, the killings of innocent civilians in Iraq, the killings of Bosnians, and in general any killing of innocents. The terrorism was always there, and the US is very much part of it (e.g., by arming rival groups in fighting). It is only now that it has reached US residents as a serious concern. No doubt that the giant the US is has woken up but let us hope it is not Goliath. The US should not only review their foreign policy, but they should do a thorough introspection of its direct/indirect involvement.

    Sultan M. Yaseenuddin

  • I can't really add to the comments already made by Caryn Pierce. However, I'd like to bring up something that has already been rubbed into the ground by "news analysts" and such around the world. These acts of terrorism are not justifiable by any means at all. Terrorism has to be stopped completely. If that means going to war with another nation, so be it. I am not real happy about the idea that the USA will be responsible for yet more deaths in the third world, but that is the price of protecting civilization from barbarians.

    The thing that really saddens me is that the terrorists are simply being impatient. The US has been undergoing a slow evolution of thinking for quite some time. Citizens here are slowly becoming aware of the fact that the world does not revolve around the USA. The kinds of societal injustice that the US has perpetrated against other sovereign nations and their peoples have been exposed to the US public, with the result that USAians are questioning out loud the wisdom of our overseas policy. Had there been more time allowed to pass without a catastrophic event as happened last Tuesday then the world would have seen a mellowing of the effects of US policy on oppressed people around the world.

    Now all that is changed. If anything the US will become even more knee jerking in its reactionary responses to third world demands for justice, particularly from Arab and Persian nations and peoples. This is all just so sad.

    Marty Schrader
    Chicagoland, Illinois, USA

  • To Professor Ali khan and all Muslims:

    I want to apologize for the ignorance of some people in this country and all over the world who condemn a whole religion and whole nations for the terror committed by a few. But I know in my heart that my aplogy will not help the pain that you and all Muslims must feel when you are blamed for acts of others.

    Our country is now at war and it is a war that has been long in coming. We need to all pray to our God that we all survive what could become a world hollocaust once again.

    Please remember when an ignorant person does something hurtful to people of your religion that not all Americans are hateful and most understand and distinguish between the murders who have done these horrible acts and most people of the Muslim religion. Above all Americans should be aware of how a few make the majority feel a need to apologize for their ignorance.

    Margo McKinney
    Kansas City, Missouri
    United States of America

  • As an American Citizen who remains outraged over the recent attack, I found myself in agreement with most of the opinions expressed in your article. Unfortunately, for right or for wrong, our US government will retaliate against the Islamic states that support the terrorists. But I am in total agreement that in order for us to make the world a safer place, we need to change our foriegn policy. We will need to reach out to the international muslim community and do a better job of making sure that these countries share in the prosperity that the western nations are now enjoying. Unfortunately again, this will not happen until we militarily retaliate against this horrible terrorist attack but hopefully after the dust settles we will stop and think about what is really at the root of the problem.

    I enjoyed your article very much.

    Peter Kelman
    New Jersey

  • America, a country to which I have every reason to be grateful, has not been fair and evenhanded in its attitude towards Muslims and Israelis. The plight and the misery of the Palestinians, which have lasted for decades never really touched the main stream of American public opinion. On the other hand, human rights violations and atrocities committed by Israel have never elicited the criticism and the attention that they deserved. A more balanced Near East policy by the US and its European allies could have mitigated or even avoided some of the difficulties we now face. War against terrorism is necessary. But its results will only last if we succeed in establishing a more balanced world order. On this point, Mr. Bush and his government have been strangely silent. I hope that this omission does not reflect serious deficiencies in their knowledge of the world and their morality.

    Jrgen Drews, MD
    Bavaria, Germany

  • I think people will be divided along religious lines. Turns and twist have been the problem in the legal system. Human being cannot be unbiased as was seen during the election time - opinions divided among party lines. If we really want to rootout problems we need to find the real causes of the same and then address it accordingly. Religious belief is such a thing that cannot be wipped out like the "isms". Media needs to modify its terminology like "Islamic terrorism". Why cannot they drop the word "Islamic" from terrorism. When media profiles Islam as terrosit religion, we cannot blame the common people when they are angry with Muslims. When terrorism occurs in Northern Irland, the media does not say "Christian terrorism".

    Let me emphasise again that we need to find the real causes of "terrorism" and try to address from that perspective insstead of making turns and twists, as it happens in judicial system so that the innocent is protected.

    Guy Praiseworthy
    Virginia, USA

  • Your piece is important, especially in the way it offers a viewpoint into some form of Islamic thinking.

    There are, however, some doubts as to the conclusions sugested. Isn't it, for example, overly simplistic to invoke the US role in the Bosnia conflict as a form of positive comparison?

    I, for one, would certainly question the motives leading to North American involvement in the Former Yugoslavia conflict.

    It is also necessary to delve further into the history of US and British foreign policy in general, not only that directly affecting the Middle East, in order to identify at least some of the reasons that led to this attack and, more importantly, will influence the way the current and future US administartions are likely to react to it.

    We also need to question the way that the US sees itself in relation to the rest of us, including the mixing of fact and reality - the thin line between CNN and Hollywood, if you like?

    Richard Armstrong
    Lima Peru

  • Let us hope that after we have satisfied our lust for revenge and bombed more innocent people "back to the stone age", we will hold our so-called leaders and our media accountable for getting us into this situation in the first place. Our country supports brutal regimes in Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, and Israel and is propping up the corrupt monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Our policies have maimed and killed thousands in Iraq, Sudan, and Palestine. Until now, the US oil barons, the military industrial complex, and the media have kept us dumb, fat, and happy and have forced us to sacrifice our hard earned tax dollars. Now they are going to force us to sacrifice our constitutional rights and our children.

    Wake up America, our ignorance, arrogance, and complacency is about to claim our children!

    Munir Bhimani
    California, USA

  • Just a short query: what's exactly so wrong with stationing US troops 'not far away' from Mecca and Medina? Are these holy places occupied? Does the US, or indeed any other non-Muslim country, claim them? And secondly, is it true to say that the Muslims should support the Palestinians, the Bosnian Muslims, Taleban, Iraq, whoever, against the Jews, Christians, or Hindi, automatically, just by virtue of their being Muslims?

    Sandy Berkovski
    Balliol College
    Oxford, UK

  • The US does need to get out of foreign states (and their civil wars) where we do NOT belong. Are WE as an American people, a supposed Christian Nation (I abhor that term) willing to go to war against a people who believe they are going to the highest heaven if they die in trying to achieve their religious agenda. Are WE willing to turn this into a Holy War, which is what THEY see it as?

    The US has meddled in the affairs of other governments for too long. It is far past the time that we as a nation should rise up and let our leaders know that we do NOT want war with other nations, we do not want to support other governments against their citizens, and that we support democratic (Israel is definitely NOT democratic) and humanitarian aid where ever in the world it is needed.

    Craig Whitehead
    North Carolina, USA

  • I think it is no accident the word "democracy" appears nowhere in Professor Ali khan's article.

    In his compact prose we are treated to many twists and turns to avoid the obvious: U.S. involvement in the Middle East has been moderate, legal, supportive of democracy, and fully in accordance with international law.

    To citizens of the U.S., Islamic nations have no special right to exceptional treatment, nor anything special that makes their feelings of more concern than those of any other nation.

    If the U.S. supports Israel, this is what it as a DEMOCRATIC nation has chosen to do.

    If Islam's feelings are hurt by this, it will just have to learn to cope.

    Steve Antler
    Illinois, USA

  • America is a country built on a diverse people with many religous, national, cultural backgrounds. We as a people value the free exchange of ideas and values. We choose to live in an open and free society. We are not perfect and with that recognition we change.

    Sudan is still engaged in slave trading. Iraq, who attacked their Islamic brothers, seeks weapons of mass distruction. The Talaban provide refuge to a person and organization who has killed thousands of people in Africa as well as the United States.

    The argument convicting the United States as a zulm due to its international policies is deeply troubling. Would the Protestant or Catholic people of the world be equally justified taking actions against others based on their policies towards Nothern Ireland? Would the same be true of the Eastern Orthodox or Catholic people be so based on the Balkans?

    How do you explain to any person, who believes their actions are sanctioned by God, that acts of this sort will not be tolerated by free societies.

    Yes America is a threat. It is a threat to any society who allows only one way of thinking, who oppress their women, kill those who are diffferent, and hate any who believe differently.

    America will remain a threat to them. That is our strength and their weakness.

    F Goldwyn
    New York

  • I agree to a certain extent with the article, but unfortunately I think that this country is afraid to offend, and you of course cannot make every one happy. This country is based on liberty and freedom, but without a bases these words are empty and meaningless. This country was not originated on a religion that spreads by the sword, like islam. We can no longer tolerate death in our country because someone believes in allah.

    Many arabs were saddened by the events that took place. Most of them were immigrants of the 60's through 80's era. They blended into society and wanted to become American. Today we see a group of immigrants that will not blend but rather want to change the country. All I could think of when I saw so called Arab-Americans laughing over the tragedy was if you don,t love it then leave it.

    If Islam spreads in this country we will turn into a nation like my home land,Egypt, where christians are discriminated against and considered infidels for not believing in Islam.

    For the Islamic nation in the middle east, I believe that immigration laws should change and no longer allow then to enter this country. For those already here we should not allow this religion of violence to spread.

    Richard Nagy
    United States

  • I would just like to say that I am appalled at the fact that Americans, some my own neighbors, would openly commit such acts of atrocity. We are all Americans, we have all suffered a tragic loss. We should not discriminate against people because of their race, to do so will make us no better than the monsters who orchestrated the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The people who are responsible are of a different race, that of evil, it is this race of evil people that I will discriminate against, and curse at and hope that in the end, my God will truly make them pay. If we attack our neighbors because of their race, we are attacking innocent people, much the same way that these men of evil attacked America. During this time of heartache and fear, we should all unite against the race of evil.

    Tanya Lin
    Baylor University
    Texas, USA

  • I am familiar enough with the teachings and writings of several different religions of the world to know that what you have stated in your commentary is true in re- gard to the writings being isolated to serve a purpose. My life ex- perience has taught me that anyone can (and many do) take "holy" writ- ings and isolate portions which serve to give permission for their sometimes horrible and terrifying acts against other human beings.

    I am grateful for your commentary, since it helped me to make some sense of the terrible events of last week. I, too am concerned for my many Muslim neighbors' well being in the days to come. I know that most of them are truly peace loving people and certainly do not deserve to be mistreated on behalf of an isolated group within their religion.

    I live in a neighborhood and city where people from all over the world live together in close prox- imity happliy and peacefully. My children have grown up knowing that each man and woman should be judged on his or her own behavior and merit, regardless of what others in a group they belong to may choose to do.

    I, too grieve over the suffering and loss of life and quality of life that people all over the world are suffering at the hands of various governments and groups. My hope is always that somehow mankind will learn to settle their differ- ences without killing, oppression, and terror.

    Maybe ... some day.

    Bethanne Kelsey
    Ann Arbor, MI

  • This action that the United States will take is not about religion or taking away rights of others. It is needed to set boundaries of what is tolerated by this country and others. We all can not engage in acts of war just to make a point of what we think culture should or should not be in a country.

    If you look at nature, sooner or later all acts of violence is acted out in the food chain or in territory fights (an example would be Lions). They hunt and fight in their area and defend it. We are no different. Throughout history this is how the human population has expanded.

    It is very dangerous for any group or country to agree or disagree with the US in this matter. The truth is all of us need to remember those that casued the acts must be held accountable.

    If the people who organized the strike are found and tried in court then at least justice will be done. If not....many people will lose their lives because of this attack on the United States.

    David T. Walsvik
    North Dakota, United States

  • I think Professor Khan makes a some very good points. I particularly agree with the fact that the US will have to change its foreign ploicy with Islamic Nations. We can not resort to sanctions and punishment as a mean of dealing with these states. It will only lead to more instablity and allow more events like Sept.11.

    Let us look at the past to learn. Germany was blamed for WWI and had to pay reparations an deal with sanctions. It was a bad policy and resulted in the rise of the Nazis and lead to more war. The end of WWII was a period of investement in Europe and Japan. The result is stablity, peace and prosperity. This can not be denied and should be considered in our handling of the rest of the world.

    Naseer Abboushi
    California, USA

  • Dear Prof. khan,

    Thank you for your article. Your words have helped to broaden my understanding of Islam.

    What is important to me also is that members of the Islamic world broaden their understanding about the United States. Is the veto of lifting sanctions so much the fault of the U.S. or is it the fault of those nations which continue their belligerence in word, tone and deed?

    It may be that the U.S. is tilted toward Israel in peace negotiations. But what do you think any of the Islamic nations have done to promote peace, or to solve the suffering of the Palestinians? Why do they continue to criticize the speck in our eye when they ignore the beam in their own. The Islamic nations surrounding Israel are always saber-rattling. They have attacked Israel how many times? They do not exactly inspire confidence and a sense of peace-loving.

    I may well be uninformed, but what Islamic nation had done anything to help the Palestinians? Iraq has attacked its own Islamic neighbors and poured billions into weapons and arms building when they might have created industries and more diverse economies and helped their Palestinian brothers.

    There is much more to say. I think there is a problem, however, when our boys, who would just as soon not be in the Middle East, are looked at as some kind of desecration because they are stationed in Saudi Arabia. The real desecration, it would seem to me, is harboring and condoning terrorism simply because the perpetrators acted in the name of Allah, or even looking the other way because Americans are not of the same faith as those who committed the suicide bombings.

    There is a great deal of suffering throughout the world, even in my America. Ideally, we would all put down our guns and find a way to help each other propser, and to worhsip freely in accord with our convictions.

    T. Saenz
    Florida, United States

  • First let me applaud the professor's honesty. It took courage to point out that much of the Islamic world has reasons to hate the United States. Unfortunately, this attack is going to make things worse. The best thing American Muslims can do is first, remind other Americans that these acts are not repersentative. The professor's argument is a good start. Second they must organize politically. Only then will they have the clout to change U.S. policy.

    Bob Smidt
    California, U. S. A.

  • Excellent, well thought out. The Professor's framing of the question and approach to the problem--that we have to take a look at the policies and acts which put us in the terorists' bullseye--are nowhere to be found in the statements of our political "leadership" & mainstream media. We are right now heading down a slippery slope greased by mindless demagoguery. All this war talk will lead to more insecurity--not less--witness the Israelis. Are they more secure than they were a year ago before they undertook their current jihad against the Palestinians? Those of us with some sense better show some moxie and ring out danger, ring out warning!

    Francis Furey
    San Francisco, CA

  • Ask anyone from France, Belgium, Sweden, Holland, Britain, Finland etc. who lived there between the years of 1939 and 1945 whether or not the US should get involved in wars with other countries. I am sure that most of them would express nothing but thanks. Its very easy to say don't get involved when you have lived under the very freedom that such foriegn intervention has provided.

    This is not a war against Muslims. This is a war against those whose sole purpose is to kill innocent people. Perhaps if some of those countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq or the Sudan would prevent instead of support those people who would kill the inncoent then US involvement would not even be required.

    For anyone still not convinced come take a walk with me though the streets of New York today and compare that in your mind to the streets of Kabul. In NYC I see pain and suffering brought about by a foriegn power. In Kabul you can see pain and suffering brought about by its own leadership.

    Chris Bead
    New York, USA

  • Mr. khan, your words are very wise and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Let's hope that the changes you suggest at least try to be implemented by our government. I never believed that war and death could bring about peace. I am sick at heart that this could escalate to the taking of more innocent lives. That would be a tragedy of it's own.

    Laurie Allen
    Pennsylvania, USA

  • Diplomacy without action will never be a sufficient response to the events of last Tuesday. Such a response would be viewed by many as appeasement, which history has proven time and again does not work.

    In the face of extremist actions and extremist ideology, the only chance for long-term success is a collaborative, international effort to find the leaders and networks of terrorists, and destroy them, either by incarceration or by execution.

    We must crush terrorism at every turn, and make it clear to the world that the human race, all of us, will never accept terrorism as a valid way of dealing with problems.

    The heads of state from every nation must make it clear to the world that terrorism will not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form. In addition, nations that support or host terrorists must be dealt with harshly, starting with economic and diplomatic sanctions, and possibly leading to military action if that is deemed necessary.

    Steve Cammarata
    California, USA

  • Terrorism, attacks on innocent people, are despicable acts. The United States, being the power it is, can and will continue to pursue diplomacy with those nations acting in good faith. Nations that train and harbor terrorists will not be the beneficiaries of diplomacy. Instead, they will be the recipients of punishment, beyond what they experience now, in the most systematic and mightiest of ways.

    We know very well that the United States is the 'envy of the world'..We have paid the price of such sentiment in the past, and are paying the price of all prices right now. The United States is mostly envied not only for some of its foreign policy, but also because of its economic and technological power. We should ask, Why is it that a nation that is barely over 200 years old can amass such power, can offer its citizens such high standard of living, can dominate the financial markets, can be a leader in technology, research, and education? Likewise, why is it that so many other nations, much older and mature than ours, have lingered in poverty for so many years, have not improved their standard of living, have remained, literally, buried in antiquity? Wherever the blame is placed, it can hardly be placed on the achievements of the United States and the hard work of its citizens.

    The United States has been a paragon of hope for many countries, playing a huge role in promoting and supporting world peace and economic stabilization. This time it is no different. Diplomacy is the preferred route to creating and sustaining a stable global climate. However, in the face of incredible acts of terrorism, diplomacy will take a back seat, albeit temporary, to swift and comprehensive action against those groups or nations who choose to carry out indescribable criminal acts on the free world.

    Frank Soler
    De Anza College
    California USA

  • Thank you, Professor Khan, for a very interesting tour of US foreign policy shortcomings with respect to the Islamic world.

    What is frustrating to me is that the USA tried to broker a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and just when it looked like something would go through, the radicals in the area geared up the stone throwing and provoked an Israeli retaliation. We had been working on that peace process spanning three American Presidencies, at least.

    It seems that the Palestinians must shoulder some responsibility here, it looks like they will never agree to a peace deal.

    By the way, I called up a Palestinian engineer I worked with a decade ago to make sure that he and his family were being well treated. I suspect that gestures like this are going on all the time around the United States.

    Keep the faith, bad times always pass.

    Jim Lynch
    Grand Island, New York

  • I believe the time for talking was brought to an abrupt halt September 11th, 2001. Ended by extremists that were not controlled by their own countries and communities. I believe that even if the U.S. were to "interweave them into commerce and trade" that we would still be targetted out of jealousy and spite. There is nothing that we can do to improve relations with these terrorists. They will always be filled with hatred for us and our lifestyle. Instead of helping themselves out of economic degredation, they simply blame it on other nations. Why not rise up and make their countries great, as we did and continue to do in the United States.

    At this point, war is inevitable.

    Jennifer Fischer

  • Thanks for publishing this on the web. Professor khan's comments are thoughtful and constructive.

    In our just reaction to last week's attack, we must resist the pressure from the religious Christian right to make this a religious war. I cringed when Pres. Bush characterized our initiatives as a "Crusade" yesterday.

    We have a tremendous opportunity at this time to revolutionize the international political landscape, but only if we have the will to resist medieval religious interests.

    Jonathan Hunt
    New Jersey

  • While you make a few salient points, I find your article blindly sympathetic to muslim nations who have long histories of human rights abuses aimed at their own people and terrorist attitudes toward Democracy and western culture. The United States has engaged in futile negotiations with leaders of each of the countries you reference to no avail. What you fail to see, and what Ms. Pierce observed, is that Sanctions have not caused children to die, the fanatic tyrannical leaders of their countries have. How much governmental monies is Saddam Hussein earmarking for the health and welfare of peasant children? None. He's spending the money on weapons of mass destruction. Rather, the dictators of these muslim nations carefully and intentionally place military encampments and installations inside civilian areas so that if and when the U.S. and it's allies strike, they will be able to issue propaganda telling the world that the U.S. or Israelis killed their children. It's a cowardly, reprehensible tactic, an

    I have several close friends of Arabic descent (my best friend is Lebonese). I have no wish to see Islamic people or any Arabic people persecuted unjustly. That's not what this country is all about. The U.S. SHOULD UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ease its policies toward terrorist nations simply because the unfortunate, suppressed citizens of those nations (who's information is controlled by their government/military) are being filled with propaganda inflaming them with the notion that America is anti-Islamic. What you propose plays right into the hands of these madmen. My advice to an educated person like you would be to spend less time inaccurately criticizing the very nation that gives you the right to live, worship and speak freely (despite the apparent ungrateful and misguided nature of your speech) and join the fight to liberate Arabic peoples from the likes of Khaddaffi, Hussein, the Taliban, etc. so that they too can enjoy the benefits of true freedom.

    Kai Harper

  • OK. So I read the article and all of the responses. So what did I get out of this? Basically, that Islam, or any religion can be miss-used. You think Islam is bad. In the Old Testament, after Moses is refused entry into the "Promised Land", Joshua becomes the leader of the Jews. After crossing the Jordan he is told by GOD to kill everyone not Jewish. Think about it. GOD not only condoned genocide, he commanded it.

    Stop giving the terrorists excuses. By that standard, the Israelis are justified in what they are doing to the Palestinians in that they are just finishing what Joshua was supposed to do.

    Religion has been the one constant in the world that has caused death and despair. And it doesn't really matter the name of whatever god you choose to select.

    These terrorists are just that, terrorists. Don't invoke passages from the Quran, or any other text to even tacitly explain it because what is fair is fair. And to do that is wrong. Any religion that condones death is not a religion I want to be associated with.

    Further, if other nations became less militant, don't you think capitalism would embrace them? Each and every one of the people in those countries is a potential customer. Each and every one of the people in those countries is a potential employee. But each and every one of those people needs to realize that capitalism isn't the master of our lives. It allows us to live in whatever manner we wish. And that scares some leaders because they lead by religious right. But if everyone can choose their religion, their right disappears.

    Religion intertwined with power is the culprit. Not just the Muslim religion. Not just the Christian religion. Not just the Jewish religion. All religions that intertwine themselves with governments.

    Scott Rankin
    Chicago, IL USA

  • Thank you for printing something with some real answers from us non-Muslims who are struggling to understand! As Southern Baptists, we are praying for our fellow American Muslims and realize that even amongst our own ranks, as Christians, people pick and choose which individual verses of the Bible best fit their lifestyle. Unfortunately the verses of the Quran these terrorists chose were more deadly than, for example, Christians choosing to ignore the scripture that says we must tithe 10% of our salary. The terrorists are guilty of taking verses out of context. Christians are guilty of picking and choosing which of God's instructions to carry out. Both distort the way of life God asked us to live.

    Atlanta, GA

  • Unfortunately, I don't think we Americans will ever understand the thought processes which breed these horrible terrorist acts. I find it interesting that comparisons are made to the American bombing of Japan to end WW2, a nation bent on world domination. America has no interest in taking over the world, our aim is free trade and civil liberty worldwide. Many comments are made about the "west" attempting to force our will and lifestyle on other cultures. In my opinion, we offer the freedom to make a personal, individual choice. I seems to me that the majority of Islamic countries are fanatically concerned with forcing citizens to live to the exact letter of the Quran. Personal freedom is not just discouraged, but outright banned in some countries. This is a sad situation as many of the innocent citizens in these countries have no perception of American culture, other than the misinformation which is spoonfed to them by their corrupt leadership.

    Herman Arlington
    New Jersey, USA

  • This essay cracked me up. It wasn't anything like an objective analysis. This country was founded upon the Judeo-Christian ethic. It tolerates other beliefs but it endorses only one. The US has always been a harbor for those seeking refuge from an undesirable country. If one finds our country's foundation objectionable, they should not be here. The US has fed the world while many of her own children were starving, helped to build more hospitals worldwide than all other countries combined, restored shaken economies, spent its own money on the development of medicines and technology used freely by the whole world. Has this bred an appreciative respect? Created a global brotherhood? Anything but. Muslims who take advantage of our society and profit from the freedoms our Judeo/Christian ethic has afforded and then try to justify "religious" reasons for their former countrymen and womens' hatred for America are worse than those who remain in their native land and criticize from afar.

    A. M. Harrison CA, US

  • "Likewise, the United States must reconstruct its foreign policy towards the Islamic world. The new policy should be based on respect for Islam, for Muslims and for their countries. "

    I agree with the above, yet I fail to see the effort within these countries to change their foreign policies. For that matter where is the effort to better themselves and their people. The USA is not to blame for everything. As an American that spent 15 years living overseas in East Africa, and Greece, I have a unique perspective on world politics. I have seen the average person hurting, poor, needing. I have seen first hand the inner fighting that occurs these countries and the greed that rules mens hearts. These are Muslims in name only. Let's call this God that is worshiped by it's real name "Money". Oppression doesn't come from govenments it comes from mens hearts. Where are the Men of Pure hearts in the Muslim world? Men that care about their people. I challenge these leaders to arise. Then the world will take notice, and Governments will listen.

    Matt Norman
    North Carolina

  • Excellent, insightful article. I'd like to provide a bit of historical context.

    It seems that only war can be the final arbiter of governments. Let us not forget, after all, that it was the entrance of the Ottoman Empire into WWI that made all of the land within her territory, including Palestine, susceptible to acquisition -- perhaps arbitrary distribution -- by whomever should prevail.

    A nation gives up all rights to sovereignty when it attacks another country and creates harm. Therefore, if the attacking country is not victorious in its endeavor, its lands may be occupied by a foreign nation or other entity that has been forced to defend itself. Or worse: in the case of Palestine, Britain was left to determine how to parcel out the lands after World War I, and had the legal (by virtue of winning the War) prerogative to create the State of Israel, depsite the fact that the country had not existed in more than 2,000 years.

    Applying this to the "September Calamity" as it is called above, historical precedent clearly points to the occupation or even dissolution of an existing government that has provided refuge for Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda affiliates. Indeed, if President Bush plans to "make no distinction" between the terrorists and their hosting nations, then a UN -- or unilateral US -- invasion and dissolution of these goverments is entirely within the bounds of war.

    In an age of terrorism, countries must be responsible for the actions of groups to whom they provide sanctuary as if these groups were part of their own governing body. Otherwise, they must face the high probability that they will no longer have the sovereignty to make such decisions with the backing of a worldwide consensus.

    Finally, the United States has learned from the Persian Gulf War that Waging war against a country without making sytemic changes is utterly futile. The incentives built into these policies only solidify the position of the despot and ensure the rapid decline of living standards among the populace. The only resolution for the United States and similarly "developed countries" is to draw a clear tie between the harboring of fugitive terrorists and the certain loss of sovereignty for countries that will.

    M. Dewey

  • Kudos to Professor Ali Khan for a well-reasoned and insightful look into the Muslim view of America. It is sometimes uncomfortable to see oneself though other's eyes. On the other hand, America is still a very young experiment on the world stage. Two hundred and twenty five years old barely qualifies it to hold a candle against some of the ancient cultures on this earth. We are a loud, brash and sometimes obnoxious country. (As so many other youngsters are.) BUT we are also a compassionate and caring country. We don't ask for much and give a lot. America has been the hotbed of invention and innovation. We've given the world electricity and flight, medicine and the computer chip. We send our people to other countries NOT to expand our borders or convert the people No, we send our people to help with floods or droughts, earthquakes, typhoons, famine and all other disasters, natural or man-made. The first to arrive is often the American Red Cross and the last to leave is often our state department officials f

    Terrorism can NEVER be justified so America will grudgingly pick up its weapons once again and do what it has been called upon to do. The people of America can differentiate between the good guys and the bad. We will not paint an entire people with a single brush and while it is very important for every American to try to see themselves through other's eyes it would be hypercritical to not say the same of others in regards to America.

    Tim Watson

  • I found Prof. Khan's essay tempered, rational, and truthful. I hope it is widely read, especially by those who know little or nothing about Islam or Arab culture. I am most grateful for having lived 8 months in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia and having socialized with Arab families in their homes, in stores, and in my own American home prior to living in Saudi Arabia. I believe that if we all strive to learn more about each other and personally meet and talk with those of diverse cultures, we will find that we are more similar than dissimilar, and all are brothers and sisters together.

    Nancy Turner
    Texas, USA

  • I agree that part of the solution involves aggressive action against terrorism. However, I think it is dangerously naive that we, as Americans, not consider the possibly that we helped create the very monster that we have sworn vengeance against. At some level all Americans, by way of their apathy, ignorance, or failure, have had a hand in the process that has culminated in the death of over 5000 people. I'm certainly not saying the terrorists involved and the governments that harbor them are not accountable. I am simply saying we are also accountable.

    I fully support the aggressive attack on terrorism that is to come. But that battle will have to be fought within our hearts as well as on some distant battlefield. Let's not spill innocent blood, including the blood of our own children, under the false belief that we are blameless. Our rage is not righteous--we must proceed with great consideration.

    Shawn Brooks
    Texas, USA

  • The most bitter irony I find in Mr. Khan's self-righteous apologia is that in most Muslim-ruled countries, he would not have access to a professional position or the high standard of living he no doubt enjoys in America. Nor would he be allowed to communicate freely to others his ideas which might oppose those in power. He certainly would not be able to enter and leave the country at will.

    Further, the concept of "zulm" which he uses to give legitimacy to acts of terror gets really fuzzy for me because most "oppressed Islamic communities" are actually in Islamic-ruled countries. In fact, I'd venture to say that most are. I don't see any terrorist activities against the oppressors in those cases. That's probably because any popular uprisings are brutally smashed. In fact, there is an e-mail currently making the rounds which purports to be from an ordinary Afghan citizens who describes in detail the death, destruction and devastation the Taliban has visited upon the people there.

    And clearly, the notion of "zulm" does not cover the oppression of non-Muslims. I am thinking specifically of the Jews on Middle Eastern countries (the few who are left, that is) who live the most marginal of lives under the iron fists of Muslim rulers.

    Then, of course, there is the much-trumpeted oppression of the Palestinians. I note that out of the all the Muslim countries in the world, few are willing to take these people in, because they are so useful as cudgels against one of the "powerful oppressors" in the world - the Jews. The Jews, who have been oppressed, terrorized, beaten down, tortured, killed as individuals and as whole communities, run out of almost every country on earth for thousands of years. The Jews, who - unlike Muslims who are welcome in almost every country in the world - have a only a tiny little country between the desert and and Mediterranean as a safe haven. Yet their very existence on the face of this earth is such an offence that even such august personages as Mr. Khan turns to his holy book to explain, in calm and rational terms, why there is so much support for terror against Israel and its ally, America.

    Mr. Khan, you have explained nothing to me. I know only that which I knew before I read your commentary - that you and many other Muslims feel that it is commendable to hate the tiny population of Jews in the world and the Americans who support them. Your quotations from your holy book do not explain the unholy atrocities committed against innocent people.

    That's because no matter what terms you use, what books or verses you quote from, it's simply inexplicable to the ordinary decent person.

    D. Brennan
    New Jersey, USA

  • Having read your article on the Internet, I am writing to say that I found it well-written, calm, and utterly appalling. I found particularly chilling your quite convincing illustration that fanatics could find within the Koran a rationale for these barbarous murders, even taken out of context. Was that supposed to be comforting? How many more misinterpretations, taken out of context, must the world endure? When will the true Islamic religious leaders step forward and reassert, before a waiting world, the true meaning of the Koran? Somehow, you and others like you--experts in Islamic law and religion--have utterly failed to uphold the real force of your own religion. You have abdicated the field, and left it to the lowest, most base elements of human nature. Let's call this what it is, an utter abdication of moral responsibility.

    True, the U.S. has made many mistakes in foreign policy. But nothing we have done warranted what happened last week. Nothing. And your partial apologia/explanation is weak and mean in its aftermath.

    If the Arab and moslem worlds are so opposed to Israel's actions in Palestine (as they may well be on the merits) why do they not attack the Israeli army? Why don't the leaders of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan openly make war on the Israeli state? That would be the honorable course. Instead, defenseless Palestinian children are urged to stand in the crossfire. Four-year-olds are blown up at pizza parlors. Amoral monsters are sent to third countries to murder innocent men, women and children. It all adds up to the grossest act of cowardice and evil perpetrated in modern history since the Holocaust.

    A look at the record will indicate that the U.S. has not been a persecutor of Arabs or moslems. We provided materiel and assistance to guerilla fighters in Afghanistan (a huge mistake, as it turns out). We intervened to halt ethnic cleansing of moslems in Bosnia and Kosovo. All these actions were within the past two decades--Kosovo within the past two years. In addition, the U.S. has tried for decades to broker an agreement in Palestine, with no real help from the Russians or Europe. Is this the reward for that effort? If so, the Palestinians and Israelis can go ahead and fight over that postage-stamp-sized piece of rock for the next millenium. It's not worth a single life sacrificed in its name.

    The bombings you refer to in Libya and other places were not done for sport, or to further any U.S. aim at expansion or aggrandizement. They were all responses to egregious, unacceptable terrorist actions (including the unwarranted invasion of an independent country, Kuwait) and barbarous atrocities, including the poison gassing of Kurds and murdering of Shiites in southern Iraq. Where was the Koran then? Why did not the world's moslems rise up in protest at those actions, which turned out to be just warm-up acts for the bloody pageant unleashed on the world last week. And what else is in store?

    Nor has the U.S. "demonized" Arab leaders, as a general rule. The U.S. has not demonized King Abdullah, nor did it do so to his father. King Faud has not been "demonized," nor have the presidents of Egypt, Syria, or Lebanon. There has actually been a great deal of positive ink in the U.S. about the President of Iran. And if you're looking for the demonization of Yasser Arafat, check the Israelis.

    No, the truth is, any sane person would find what happened last week to be as inexplicable as it was demonic. As long as these madmen do this in the name of Islam, they taint the entire religion--unless the rest of Islam rises up to repudiate them, unequivocally and relentlessly. And as long as anyone apologizes for them, or even embraces their causes, they are morally complicit. Don't tell the U.S. what it should consider doing. Get your own house in order. Or there is going to be plenty of zulm to go around.

    John Alden

  • Professor Ali khan's article made some great points but I don't think you can talk about this subject without mentioning the word "oil". All US foreign policy concerning the Middle East revolves around oil. If it were not for the oil, the US wouldn't be involved. If a cheap alternative energy source were discovered today, we would loose all political interest in the region.

    Before I go on further, let me say what happened on September 11th was pure terrorism. The media tends to label any act against the US as terrorism even if it was conducted against our military in a foreign country. But make no mistake, what happened here was the most horrible, despicable terrorism the world has ever seen. Those responsible must be brought to justice.

    However, as a US citizen, I really despise how our government deals with monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and supports other corrupt governments. When George Bush senior said we must restore Kuwait's "rightful ruler", I just had to laugh. We preach democracy but we're willing to support anyone who can sell us cheap oil on a consistent basis. Part of the problem is US citizens don't care about foreign policy during elections. They take a back seat to domestic issues. It's all about "what are you going to do for me?" and not about what's going to be done for someone who lives thousands of miles away.

    What is the deal with countries being run by religion? It scares me to no end. First, how can you base a government on religion and not discriminate against people of other religions. When I hear about special laws in Israel that only apply to Jews, it bothers me. In the United States, we have religious freedom. When I drive to work every mourning, I pass churches, temples and masques. I don't give it a second thought. My son plays with a boy down the street from Jordan. What religion is he? Couldn't tell youI never needed to ask. If a crime is committed, we don't ask the person his religion and then consult some holy text to determine his punishment. We have laws based on what makes sense for a world filled with different people from different backgrounds. What I fear most is the day god starts talking to the leaders of religious countries. One-way communications with god that nobody else can hear with leaders of any group is always a recipe for disaster.

    Honestly, I feel the world was changing for the better. Europe has come together. Russia is no longer an enemy. (Were they ever?) The Internet is a new and great way to communicate and express opinions around the world. I think the rest of the world was just getting into a position to start putting pressure on the US to be more responsible. Now, everything is hold if not going backward.

    Robert Bordwell
    California, United States

  • Fanaticism is extreme and repugnant whether it is loosely based upon Christian or Muslim traditions or any other.

    The piece of Muslim teaching that made me think of the "East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet" dictum is the part that says that a Muslim must follow the political dictates of the religious leader. That is the fatal politcal flaw that our forefathers forsaw and protected us from.

    That is also the piece of such teaching that, as I understand it currently--and I may not understand, allows the more repressive Muslim nations like Afganistan to repress women in such a dastardly fashion.

    However, this is one world, despite our several religious understandings of it. And I thank the professor for giving us some hope about a political reconciliation with the more open Moslim societies.

    Alice Wahl
    Maryland, USA

  • A very informative piece, I am glad to see that so many people have evidently taken the time to read the above article and think about, especially in reference to how most people are feeling after the unpardonable acts of last week.

    There is one area which has not been covered in all the press that I have seen, and that is 'How legal is the forthcoming military campaign?' At the present time it a case of all the big boys coming together to give an errant pupil a thoroughly good kicking, whilst the smaller lads scramble around trying not to get caught in the middle. This is much more reminiscent of 19th century colonial 'Gun boat' diplomacy, than of 21st century global politics.

    There must at least be an attempt to bring this situation to an end by following legal procedures, ie through the UN. However positive the State Dept. is that the attack was orchestrated by Osama bin Laden, they surely have to prove it in a court of law.

    As someone stated before, we live in a democratic society, and as painful as it is we have to work under the premise that Osama bin Laden is innocent until proven guilty. If we allow the prevailing lynch mob mentalilty to govern our actions, what chance do we stand in governing our own societies? Are we to see the rule of law thrown away for a quick fix empty 'feel good' retribution? If a country can dispense 'justice' without the rule of law, then what is to stop citizens dispensing 'justice' to the Muslims who are guilty of being Muslim in an anti-Muslim climate?

    Please take a moment to think before we start raining death on each other, and end up with a gulf between our cultures that might be unbridgable.

    Robert T.
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • I am concerned about the unwillingness of most of the Islamic world to face up to the reality of their faith. I believe Professor khan has tried to sidestep the problems with the Koran, the authoritative "holy" document of Islam. He acknowledged that the Koran does authorize the use of terror to achieve its end but that this requires agreement and approval of religious leaders in determining whether a state of "zulm" exists. How can such a process be consistent with any free and democratic society? I believe it is fortunate that most Muslims, like most Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and others, are born into their faith not by personal faith and conviction, but rather by family ties and social traditions. Therefore it makes great sense, as Professor khan explained, that the vast majority of Muslims deplore such acts of terrorism because it goes against their natural sense of right and wrong. I believe that it is time for the vast majority of Muslims to examine the Koran, the key article of their faith, and be willing to judge Islam for what it really is.

    There is a stark contrast between the morals and value systems taught in the Koran versus the Bible. For example, Jesus taught us to love our enemies. This message runs consistent throughout the New Testament. This teaching is based on the principle that we, as sinners, were all God's enemies at one time and that God still loved us enough to save us through His sacrifice. We therefore should love our enemies to honor God's mercy. The Koran does not teach this. According to the Koran, man is not saved by God's love and personal sacrifice, but rather through the believer's sacrifice. Therefore in the Koran, there is no basis for any reason to love your enemy. Instead the Koran says, "O ye who believe, take not my enemies (and yours) as friends, offering them love....any of you who do this have strayed from the straight path." It is clear that there is a different god being spoken of in the Koran and that the value system is different.

    As for freedom of religion, the Islamic countries of the world are well known for their lack of tolerance. This behavior follows logically from the Koran. The majority of Muslims, however, may find this lack of tolerance again goes against their natural sense of right and wrong. I find it strange that Professor khan, who was advocating tolerance, neglected to mention the well documented facts of religious persecution and intolerance in Islamic countries. The clear fact is that the Koran singles out Christianity and Judaism in particular for intolerance: " O ye who believe, take not the Jews and the Christians to be your friends and protectors. They are but friends and protectors of each other. And he amongst you who turns to them for friendship is of them." It is no wonder then, in light of what the Koran teaches, that radical Muslim radio broadcasts in Indonesia, the largest Islamic state, call for the death of any Muslim found doing business with a Christian.

    Professor khan cited that "the United States has imposed economic sanctions against almost the entire Islamic world". I wonder if this is not the result of some insidious plot by the United States, but rather the result of a value system promoted by the Koran which causes Islamic nations to behave badly. I implore all thinking and rational Muslims to ask themselves the key question,"Why am I a Muslim? Do the articles of my faith really reflect what I know in my heart to be right and wrong?" Maybe it will become apparent to many that they aren't really Muslim after all.

    Rick Plavidal
    United States

  • The United States unfair foreign policy in the middle-east coupled with its neverending misunderstanding of the "Orient" again has led a few fanatic reactionaries into drastic measures. Who knew that overtly biased and uneven diplomacy regarding Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, and Chechnya would result in serious casualties and economic dishevel. Heck....last tuesday, our government was running scared from their own buildgings!!!!!!

    I truly feel that if we were evenhanded and treated certain disadvantaged peoples with fairness, we wouldn't spark their wrath, and the execution of these heinous acts. seems that we've played a hand in producing the conditions of certain peoples who feel that since they have nothing else to lose because they might get bombed by an Israeli attack, or a Russian army tank, or a Indian missle, or a U.S. Tomahawk missle in the no-fly zone, that they might as well do something drastic.

    Jorge Silverstein
    Schlomoburgh, Israel

  • As many others above have said, this kind of essay is necessary to clarify the real issues involved in the U.S. reaction to Tuesday's attack. Prof. khan, and others, shrink from the essence of that which is driving the crisis: Religion, the moral compass for the weak-minded, has taken reason out of the equation.

    We in the U.S. have also wrestled with the designs of our native supernaturalists, but our economic & political system have- at least in the latter part of the Twentieth Century- protected us, and with us, much of the world from disaster. We should support true democracies and reason-driven countries throughout the world, but there is little to support in the Middle East.

    Israel, although a religious state in principle, is the only near-democratic nation in the region...maybe to a limited degree, Jordan is nearing democracy as well. But, the Islamic states- every one- commit injustices daily on their people and their neighbors. To be freed from their kings, princes, and generals into the "warm", deadly embrace of their clerics isn't much of a victory either.

    As a free people, it has always been the responsibility of Americans to interfere with those nations who truly oppress their citizens and others. But, sadly, we seldom answer the call until thoroughly provoked. It took years for us to finally go into Bosnia, dragging our reluctant NATO allies with us, when it was clear that we belonged there the first week "ethnic cleansing" began.

    Perhaps the NY/DC disaster will provide that incentive to move in the Middle East as we should have done in the last few decades. And when we do that, Prof. khan, only the Israelis will be with us as we, and they, liberate the Muslims in the area from their true oppressors. Ironic, isn't it, that the "Great Satan", together with the "Zionists", may be the best thing that's happened since the sixth century for the Muslims of the Middle East?

    Mike Bainum Lake Quivira
    Kansas U.S.A.

  • The leadership in this country, at every level, needs to address and redress the problems of backlashes against 'brown' Americans and immigrants. This is especially true in areas where people are, in general, less educated (such as AZ, TX, OH). This is an area where our local leadership could actually make some contributions. Most Americans are still in a period of mourning and shock. But others have moved on to anger and revenge. While these are normal human reactions, they must be controlled and we must not equivocate in our attitude towards this type of behavior or thinking. Too often I've heard people add a 'but...' to statements regarding backlashes, as though they are understandable in our current circumstances. This is simply not true. Even those so long on the wrong side of racism (Black Americans) are quick to point the finger at other people in this country, based only on their appearance.

    There is a consensus building in this country that targeted intelligence in the form of increased wire-tapping and racial profiling is okay in order to fight our current terrorism problems. It should be noted that it is easy for people who will not be [unconstitutionally] targeted to say these things. Once this is done, it will not be easy to undo. And if they can target me, they can (and eventually they will) target you. People like Sheldon and Ashcroft are currently using the strong public sentiment to wage war on our constitution. This cannot be allowed. We have to be careful that the solutions we create for our problems now do not turn into problems from which we cannot turn back from in the future. Suspending the Bill of Rights for certain segments of our population should not be so easy in this country. If this is allowed to happen, then we are defeated.

    When we turn on each other, we will be doomed.

    S. Gupta

  • Why is it so hard for people to distinguish between explaining an action and excusing it? No one is being called upon to excuse last week's acts of terrorism. But if we ignore all explanations of those acts, we're liable in our ignorance to react in ways that just make the situation worse.

    Muslim extremists--and even some Muslim moderates--see the United States as an amoral, expansionist force that must be driven back by any means necessary, just as we in World War II (correctly) saw the Nazis as an amoral, expansionist force that had to be driven back. If we want the terrorism to stop, we have to prove that we are not amoral, are not expansionist and are not trying to destroy Islam. This is not capitulation to terrorists--this is living up to the standards we've set for ourselves and our society. We mustn't disregard those standards just because certain other countries don't live up to them.

    Keith Amman
    Oak Park, Illinois

  • Thank you for sharing your views. However, I disagree with some of your points in that I believe the US has bent over backwards to be diplomatic. But, there are some rulers and governments who will not be influenced by diplomacy. One of the most recent examples is when the entire world, especially the Muslim community, begged the Taliban govt not to destroy those giant Buddah statues. Pakistan, one of only two nations to recognize the Taliban, also urged them not to destroy these historic pieces of art. How well did diplomacy work then? As impoverished as Afghanistan is, they would not even accept money to sell the statues and remove them from the country. Regardless of your religion, it's barbaric to destroy the works of art created by people hundreds of years ago. This Taliban government should be wiped out of existence in order for the Afghanistan people to step into the 21st century.

    Chris Cheung
    CA, USA

  • To say that "America was not founded by a religion that spread by the sword" (as one responder wrote)is patently ridiculous. Christianity does not owe its massive success only to sweetness and light. The "Holy" Crusades, the "Holy" Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, and too many "holy" wars to count, are cases in point. If one were to divide up the number of people slaughtered by proponents of various religons, I'm sure Christianity would be right up there. That does not make Christianity a religon of murder and torture any more than it makes Islam a faith based on terror.

    The propensity of our species for slaughtering each other in huge numbers cuts across almost any faith I can think of. The fact that the Bible, the Koran (Quran? I was ignorant of that spelling,as of many things, so thank you, Professor Ali khan) 99 theses, and so many others formulations of faith, have been used to justify atrocities, does not mean religion is evil, merely that evil people are often creative enough to twist religon to their purpose. I'm sure the commonly used phrase "the devil can quote scripture to suit his purpose" has it's cognates accross the worlds' religions.

    I have long since given up hope that there will be world peace in my lifetime, or my children's. America must respond effectively to the butchery of thosuands of civilan citizens on its soil, and this will mean more death. It is inevitable, and I can think of no good alternative.

    This will be a fool's errand, however, if we do not put our democratic beliefs into real action in our international politics. Too often we reserve the right of self-determination to ourselves, and support any fascist or abusive government whom we believe will help us keep access to most of the world's resources.

    Until we truly put our actions into congruence with our USA ideals of freedom and equality for *everybody*, we will feed the resentment that gives malevolent, charismatic sociopaths like Osama Bin Ladin their power.

    Roy Jones
    New Hampshire USA

  • The attack on the WTC was not just an act of terror on America, it was an attack on humanity. This has been going on, at least for the last century. I wonder if Americans can remember the thousands of innocent Koreans who were killed just because American Marines could not distinguish them from the enemy? Do Americans remember the millions of Vietnamese,Cambodians and Laotians who were killed by B52's dropping their 1000 lb bombs from 50000 ft? Not surprisingly the Western Media have not tried to seek the opinion of the Vietnamese on the recent tragedy in New York. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister accused the USA of double standards. Sri Lanka has been experiencing Tamil suicide squads for the past 19 years and the USA have always told the Sri Lankans that the lack of civil rights was to blame.

    If America were to improve its civil rights position at home and uphold these same ideals internationaly, it would in one blow suffocate the spirit of terrorism.

    Chng Kooi Seng

  • Would it be too McCarthy-esque to offer Muslims who disagree with the actions of the terrorists the opportunity to disassociate themselves from these events? And would it then be McCarthy-esque to consider expulsion for those who chose not to? If the atrocities of last week were a genuine act of war, and the media was correct in its interpretation of the declared Jihad (and the subsequent threat to Americans et al), this would appear justified. If this was an act of terrorism, it would not.

    Matthew O'Connor
    London, England

  • Thank you for your insights. My ignorance is vast in these topics, but I have eaten in a Palestinian's home in the Gaza Strip, and seen the blood stained streets in Jerusalem. There is so much pain.

    How would new US policies be perceived, for example, if the United States helped create free Palestinian State and rebuild Iraq? Would the same militant extremist view these attempts as further attacks against their culture/religion? Is there ever an end to a Holy War?

    Do we stop the economic sanctions of goverments/ruling parties that violate our notion of human rights? I must admit that US policy certainly look the other way with regards to China since there is an economic opportunity on the horizon. But, what do you do for example, when a goverment supports stoning a woman for aldultry, or forbidding education of women. Economic sanctions don't seem to be working (i.e. Iraq, Myanmar, etc....)?

    Can you explain why such hatred is condoned by the Moslem culture? Are the images shown by the US media of anti-US rallies with American flag burnings the norm or the extremist few? Are they similar to the tragic events that have occurred across American against the Arabs living here by the ignorant minority? Even in New York, I致e not seen any Anti-Bin Laden rallies of any sort? I haven稚 seen hatred fueled into a public frenzy like I致e seen so many times in images from middle eastern countries.

    I think our government and citizens need to understand the problem better. I think there is hypocrisies in US foreign policy that need corrected. I think further violence, intolerance, and ignorance is NOT the answer. BUT, my guess is that the militant Moslems groups will not compromise or be rational. How do you see these moves being received by the rest of the Moslem communities and countries? Will such moves gain their support?

    Bradley J Gall
    Chicago,IL / USA

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