Critiques and Facts: Islam

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Islam has become its own enemy Ziauddin Sardar

Muslims in denial

Ziauddin Sardar Sunday October 21, 2001 The Observer

Muslims everywhere are in a deep state of denial. From Egypt to Malaysia, there is an aversion to seeing terrorism as a Muslim problem and a Muslim responsibility.

The meeting last week of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Qatar condemned the 11 September attacks, but refused to accept any responsibility. Instead of taking the lead in tackling the problem, once again they are being railroaded into joining a 'global coalition'.

Terrorism is a Muslim problem for some very good reasons. To begin with, most of the terrorist incidents actually occur within the Muslim world. In Pakistan, for example, terrorist violence is endemic. Marauding groups of fanatics, such as Sepa-e-Shaba ('Soldiers of the Companion of the Prophet') and Sepa-e-Muhammad ('Soldiers of Muhammad'), have spread terror throughout the country. In Egypt, militants of Islamic Jihad have killed tourists, and members of the extremist organisation Gama-e-Islami have made the life of ordinary Muslims a living hell. The Abu Sayyaf group of the Philippines, far from fighting for 'liberation', is nothing more than a band of ruthless kidnappers who kill other Muslims without hesitation.

Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Algeria, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Iran - there is hardly a Muslim country that is not plagued by terrorism.

It goes without saying, then, that the bulk of victims of terrorism are also Muslims, 11 September notwithstanding. This is particularly so when we consider that violence and brutalisation has become the norm in unending quests for self-determination in such places as Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya. Terror and counter-terror forms an endless cycle that has cost countless Muslim lives.

Thus, terrorism, the horror it provokes and the consequences it breeds, are more familiar to Muslims than to any other people.

Yet, while they have been shocked and sympathise with the victims of the atrocities in the US, Muslims have stubbornly refused to see terrorism as an internal problem. While the Muslim world has suffered, they have blamed everyone but themselves. It is always 'the West', or the CIA, or 'the Indians', or 'the Zionists' hatching yet another conspiracy.

This state of denial means Muslims are ill-equipped to deal with problems of endemic terrorism. Indiscriminate violence, terror by governments against their own people, by opposition groups and between factions, has now become such an integral part of the political discourse of failed polities that it is taken for granted.

In the US-led coalition against the Taliban, liberal Muslims have found an ideal substitute for self-examination and the critical, internal struggle needed to address home-grown problems.

The coalition now waging war against terrorism in Afghanistan harbours another danger for Muslims. In the indiscriminate politics of coalition, the first people that the hesitant Muslim states will turn against are the few voices of sanity in their midst. As Anwar Ibrahim, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and a rare lucid voice, points out, the democratic cause in Muslim countries 'will regress for a few decades as ruling autocrats use their participation in the global war against terrorism to terrorise their critics and dissenters'.

Anwar has to know. The article was written from the prison cell where he is serving a 15-year sentence. His crime? To stand against the tyranny of Mahathir Muhammad's government.

This is not the time, he says, to stir up anti-American sentiments, or sermonise over US foreign policy. It is time to ask 'how, in the twenty-first century, the Muslim world could have produced a bin Laden'.

The answer has two components. Anwar hints at the first. There is simply no place in the Muslim world to express dissent. Autocratic, theocratic, despotic regimes allow no political freedom, all thought is outlawed, and brute suppression is the norm. In such circumstances, violence is seen as the only way of expressing dissent.

In his youth, Anwar Ibrahim founded a dynamic Islamic movement. I also spent my youthful days working for various Islamic movements; it was how we first met in the borderless internationalism of the worldwide Muslim community. And it is in the Islamic movements that we must look for the second reason for the violent state of affairs in Muslim societies.

In the Sixties and the Seventies, the Islamic movements, such as Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, represented hope, the language of justice, the ideal of self-reliance for the masses languishing in misery. A plethora of Islamic movements and initiatives made their appearance; and we toiled against autocracies and despotism in Muslim societies.

But the movements became a mirror image of what they were fighting. The leadership passed from intellectuals to semi-literate demagogues. What the Islamic movements have generated is fanatic militancy, a fundamentalism that is as autocratic, illiberal and repressive as the established order they seek to dethrone. Instead of allowing debate, and a rethinking about the contemporary meaning of Islam, fundamentalist notions became something to die for and finally something to kill and destroy for in pure hatred.

The failure of Islamic movements is their inability to come to terms with modernity, to give modernity a sustainable home-grown expression. Instead of engaging with the abundant problems that bedevil Muslim lives, the Islamic prescription consists of blind following of narrow pieties and slavish submission to inept obscurantists. Instead of engagement with the wider world, they have made Islam into an ethic of separation, separate under-development, and negation of the rest of the world.

The struggle against violence in the Muslim world is much more than a struggle against murdering fanatics like the Taliban. Or despotic leaders like Saddam Hussein and Mahathir Muhammad. It is also a struggle against the Islamic movements whose simplistic and virulent rhetoric often ends up sanctifying the fanatics and demonises everything else in the absolutist, unquestioning terms of all totalitarian perspectives.

The answers to the problems of the Muslim societies are not hard to find - merely difficult to initiate. Political freedom, open debate, the liberation of society to be civil, plural and humane - these are obvious remedies. But the Islamic movements have become a barrier to them.

We need reasoned creativity and critical awareness. These used to be favourite phrases of Anwar Ibrahim. But his most frequent prescription was humility. The humility to acknowledge one's own mistakes and shortcomings.

Ziauddin Sardar's Introducing Islam is published by Icon Books, £8.99

Rushdie attacks 'paranoid Islam' BBC Friday, 2 November, 2001, 16:23 GMT

Salman Rushdie has enraged Muslims in the past Novelist Salman Rushdie has entered the debate over the war in Afghanistan by saying world leaders are wrong to insist that terrorism and the fight against it were not about Islam.

He pointed to worldwide Muslim demonstrations in support of Osama Bin Laden as evidence of a "jumbled, half-examined" version of Islam among some believers.

The author of the controversial Satanic Verses argued Islam was being hijacked by political fanatics and needed to have its own process of reformation.

And the London-based writer said "paranoid Islam" was the quickest growing form of the religion and needed to be opposed in the Muslim world and the West.

Mr Rushdie has spent years with the threat of death hanging over him following a "fatwa" by the now deceased Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeni for his novel. The late revolutionary leader's 1989 religious decree declared Muslims had a duty to kill Mr Rushdie for his alleged blasphemy.

Writing in the New York Times, Mr Rushdie said western leaders were guilty of repeating a "mantra" that "this war isn't about Islam".

Self-incriminating statements "The trouble with this necessary disclaimer is that it isn't true," he wrote. "If this isn't about Islam why the worldwide Muslim demonstrations in support of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda?"

Mr Rushdie said that for many "believing" Muslim men, Islam was a "jumbled, half-examined" cluster of customs and prejudices.

Radical movements The writer maintained these included a loathing of modern society and a fear of the West's way of life taking over.

"Highly-motivated organisations of Muslim men have been engaged over the last 30 years or so in growing radical political movements out of this mulch of belief," he said.

"This paranoid Islam, which blames outsider, 'infidels', for all the ills of Muslim societies and whose proposed remedy is the closing of those societies to the rival project of modernity is presently the fastest growing version of Islam in the world.

"It would be absurd to deny that this self-exculpatory, paranoiac Islam is an ideology with widespread appeal."

Mr Rushdie said many Muslims were beginning to question this version of Islam after 11 September and whether the Islamic world, not America and the West, is largely responsible for its own problems.

But he said the movement was half-hearted and needed the active encouragement of West.

Another Islam "I'm reminded of the way non-communist socialists used to distance themselves from the tyrannical socialism of the Soviets; nevertheless, the first stirrings of this counter-project are of great significance," he said.

"If Islam is to be reconciled with modernity, these voices must be encouraged until they swell into a roar.

"Many of them speak of another Islam, their personal, private faith.

"If terrorism is to be defeated, the world of Islam must take on board the secularist-humanist principles on which the modern is based, and without which Muslim countries' freedom will remain a distant dream."

The Saudi Connection Stephen Schwartz
Spectator (The Dominion 13 Oct 2001)

The first thing to do when trying to understand "Islamic suicide bombers" is to forget the cliches about the Muslim taste for martyrdom. It does exist, of course, but the desire for paradise is not a safe guide to what motivated last month's suicide attacks. Throughout history, political extremists of all faiths have willingly given up their lives simply in the belief that by doing so, whether in bombings or in other forms of terror, they would change the course of history, or at least win an advantage for their cause. Tamils blow themselves up in their war on the government of Sri Lanka; Japanese kamikaze pilots in World War II flew their fighters into United States aircraft carriers.

The Islamic-fascist ideology of Osama Bin Laden and those closest to him, such as the Egyptian and Algerian "Islamic Groups", is no more intrinsically linked to Islam or Islamic civilisation than Pearl Harbor was to Buddhism, or Ulster terrorists - whatever they may profess - are to Christianity. Serious Christians don't go around killing and maiming the innocent; devout Muslims do not prepare for paradise by hanging out in strip bars and getting drunk, as one of last month's terrorist pilots was reported to have done. However, numerical preponderance of Muslims as perpetrators of these ghastly incidents is no coincidence. So we have to ask what has made these men into the monsters they are'? What has so galvanised violent tendencies in the worId's second largest religion (and, in the US the fastest-growing faith)?

For Westerners, it seems natural to look for answers in the distant past, beginning with the Crusades. But if you ask educated, pious, traditional but forward-looking Muslims what has driven their umma, or global community, in this direction, many of them will answer you with one word: Wahhabism. This is a strain of Islam that emerged less than two centuries ago in Arabia and is the official theology of the Gulf states. It is violent, it is intolerant and it is fanatical beyond measure. Wahhabism is the most extreme form of Islamic fundamentalism, and its followers are called Wahhabis. Not all Muslims are suicide bombers, but all Muslim suicide bombers are Wahhabis - except, perhaps, for some disciples of atheist leftists posing as Muslims in the interests of personal power, such as Yasser Arafat or Saddam Hussein.

Wahhabism is the Islamic equivalent or the most extreme Protestant sectarianism. It is puritan, demanding punishment for those who enjoy any form of music except the drum. and severe punishment up to death for drinking or sexual transgressions. It condemns as unbelievers those who do not pray, a view that never previously existed in mainstream Islam. It is stripped-down Islam, calling for simple, short prayers, undecorated mosques and the uprooting of grave- stones (since decorated mosques and graveyards lend themselves to veneration, which is idolatry in the Wahhabi mind. Wahhabis do not even permit the name of the Prophet Muhammad to be inscribed in mosques or his birthday to be celebrated. Above all, they hate ostentatious spirituality, much as Protestants detest the veneration' of miracles and saints in the Catholic Church. Ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-92), the founder of this totalitarian Islamism, was born in Uyaynah, in the part of Arabia known as Nejd, where Riyadh is today, and which Mohammed notably warned would be a source of corruption and confusion. (Anti-Wahhabi Muslims refer to Wahhabism as fitna an Najdiyyah or "the trouble out of Nejd".)

From the beginning of Wahhab's dispensation, in the late 18th century, his cult was associated with the mass murder of all who opposed it. For example, the Wahhabis fell upon the city of Qarbala in 1801 and killed 2000 ordin- ary citizens in the streets and markets. In the 19th century, Wahhabism took the form of Arab nationalism versus the Turks. The founder of the Saudi kingdom, Ibn Saud, established Wahhabism as its official creed. Much has been made of the role of the US in "creating" Osama bin Laden through subsidies to the Afghan mujahedin, but as much or more could be said in reproach of Britain which, three generations before, supported the Wahhabi Arabs in their revolt against the Ottomans. Arab hatred of the Turks fused with Wahhabi ranting against the "decadence" of Ottoman Islam. The truth is that the Ottoman khalifa reigned over a rhultinational Islamic umma in which vast differences in local culture and tra- dition were tolerated. No such tolerance exists in Wahhabism, which is why the concept of US troops on Saudi soil so inflames bin Laden.

Serious Christians don't go around killing and maiming the innocent; devout Muslims do not prepare for paradise by hanging out in strip bars and getting drunk, as one of last month's terrorist pilots was reported to have done.

Bin Laden is a Wahhabi. So are the suicide bombers in Israel. So are his Egyptian allies, who exulted as they stabbed foreign tourists to death at Luxor not many years ago, bathing in blood up to their elbows and emitting blasphemous cries of ecstasy. So are the Algerian Islamist terrorists whose contribution to the purification of the world consisted of murdering people for such sins as running a movie projector or reading secular newspapers. The Iranians are not Wahhabis, which partially explains their slow, but undeniable, movement toward moderation. The Taleban practise a variant of Wahhabism. In the Wahhabi fashion they employ ancient punishments - such as execution for moral offences - and they have a primitive and fearful view of women. The same is true of Saudi Arabia's rulers. None of this extremism has been inspired by US fumblings in the world, and it has little to do with the tragedies that have beset Israelis and Palestinians.

But the Wahhabis have two weaknesses of which the West is largely, unaware. The first is that the vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful people who would prefer the installation of Western democracy in their own countries. They loathe Wahhabism for the same reason any patriarchal culture rejects a violent break with tradition. Bin Laden and other Wahhabis are not defending Islamic tradition; they represent an ultra-radical break in the direction of a sectarian utopia. Thus, they are best described as Islamo-fascists. In the US, 80 per cent of mosques are estimated by the Sufi Hisham al-Kabbani, born in Lebanon and now living in the US, to be under the control of Wahhabi imams, who preach extremism, and this leads to the other point of vulnerability: Wahhabism is subsidised by Saudi Arabia, even though bin Laden has sworn to destroy the Saudi royal family. The Saudis have played a double game for years, more or less as Stalin did with the West during World War II.

They pretended to be allies in a common struggle against Saddam Hussein while they spread Wahhabi ideology,, just as Stalin promoted an "antifascist" coalition with the US while carrying out espionage and subversion on US territory. The motive was the same: the belief that the West was or is decadent and doomed.

ONE key question is never asked in US discussions of Arab terrorism: what is the role of Saudi Arabia? The question cannot be asked because US companies depend too much on the continued flow of Saudi oil, while US politicians have become too eosy with the Saudi rulers. Another reason it is not asked is that to expose the extent of Saudi and Wahhabi influence on American Muslims would deeply compromise many Islamic clerics in the US. But it is the most significant question Americans should be asking themselves today. If we get rid of bin Laden, who do we then have to deal with? The answer was eloquently Put by Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, and author of an authoritative volume on Islamic extremism in Pakistan, when he said: "If the US wants to do something about radical Islam it has to deal with Saudi Arabia. The 'rogue states' (Iraq, Libya, and so on) are less important in the radicalisation of Islam than Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the single most import- ant cause and supporter of radicalisation, ideologisation, and the general fanaticisation of Islam."

From what we now know, it appears not a single one of the suicide pilots in New York and Washington was Palestinian. They all seem to have been Saudis, citizens of the Gulf states, Egyptian or Algerian. Two are reported to have been the sons of the former second secretary of the Saudi embassy in Washing- ton. They were planted in the US long before the outbreak of the latest Palestinian intifada; in fact, they seem to have begun their conspiracy while the Middle East peace process was in full, if short, bloom. Anti-terror experts and politicians in the West must now consider the Saudi connection. - The Spectator



Ibn Warraq is the author of Why I Am Not A Muslim

Given the stupefying enormity of the acts of barbarism of 11 September, moral outrage is appropriate and justified, as are demands for punishment. But a civilized society cannot permit blind attacks on all those perceived as "Muslims" or Arabs. Not all Muslims or all Arabs are terrorists. Nor are they implicated in the horrendous events of Tuesday. Police protection for individual Muslims, mosques and other institutions must be increased.

However, to pretend that Islam has nothing to do with Terrorist Tuesday is to wilfully ignore the obvious and to forever misinterpret events. Without Islam the long-term strategy and individual acts of violence by Usama bin Laden and his followers make little sense. The West needs to understand them in order to be able to deal with them and avoid past mistakes. We are confronted with Islamic terrorists and must take seriously the Islamic component. Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, do not understand the passionate, religious, and anti-western convictions of Islamic terrorists. These God-intoxicated fanatics blindly throw away their lives in return for the Paradise of Seventy Two Virgins offered Muslim martyrs killed in the Holy War against all infidels.

Jihad is "a religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of the Prophet Muhammad [the Prophet]. It is an incumbent religious duty, established in the Qur'an and in the Traditions as a divine institution, and enjoined specially for the purpose of advancing Islam and repelling evil from Muslims"[1].

The world is divided into two spheres, Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. The latter, the Land of Warfare, is a country belonging to infidels which has not been subdued by Islam. The Dar al-Harb becomes the Dar-al Islam, the Land of Islam, upon the promulgation of the edicts of Islam. Thus the totalitarian nature of Islam is nowhere more apparent than in the concept of Jihad, the Holy War, whose ultimate aim is to conquer the entire world and submit it to the one true faith, to the law of Allah. To Islam alone has been granted the truth: there is no possibility of salvation outside it. Muslims must fight and kill in the name of Allah.

We read (IX. 5-6):"Kill those who join other gods with God wherever you may find them";

IV.76: "Those who believe fight in the cause of God";

VIII.39-42: "Say to the Infidels: if they desist from their unbelief, what is now past shall be forgiven; but if they return to it, they have already before them the doom of the ancients! Fight then against them till strife be at an end, and the religion be all of it God's."

Those who die fighting for the only true religion, Islam, will be amply rewarded in the life to come:

IV.74: "Let those who fight in the cause of God who barter the life of this world for that which is to come; for whoever fights on God's path, whether he is killed or triumphs, We will give him a handsome reward."

What should we make with these further unfortunate verses from the Qur'an:

* Torment to Non-believers-IV.56
* Only Islam Acceptable- III.85
* No friends from outsiders-III.118
* No friends with Jews, christians-V. 51 * No friends with non believers-IV.144, III.28 * No friends with parents/siblings if not believers-IX.23 * Fight non-believers-IX.123 * Kill non-believers-IV.89 * Anti Jewish verses-V.82
* God a "plotter"-VIII.30
* Killing Idolators-IX.5
* Idolators are unclean just because they are idolator-IX.28 * Forcing non-believers to pay tax-IX.29 * The Torment of Hell-XLIV.43-58
* All except Muslims/Jews/Christians/Sabeans will go to
hell-II.62, V.69
* Cast terror in the hearts, smite the neck and cut fingertips
of unbelievers-VIII.12
* Smite the neck of unbelievers-XLVII.4 * Severe Punishment for atheists-X.4 ; V.10 ; V.86 * Severe Punishment for non-believers-XXII.19-22 ; LXXII.23,
* Punishing non-believers of Hereafter-XVII.10 * Punishing for rejecting faith-III.91
* Non believers go to hell-IV.140 ; VII.36 * Partial Believers
go to hell too-IV.150-1
* Sadistic punishments-LVI.42-43
* Punishment for apostates-XVI.106 ; III.86-88 ; III.90 ;
* Threat of punishement for not going to war-IX.38-39,
* God making someone more sinful so he can be punished
* Intentionally preventing unbelievers from knowing the
truth-VI.25 ; VI.110
* Intentionally preventing unbelievers from Understanding
* It is God who causes people to err and He punishes them for
* God could guide, if he chose to, but did not-VI.35 * Intentionally misguiding those whom he pleases to-XIV.4 * Willfully misguiding some-XVI.93
* God causes human to err-IV.143 ; VII.178 * God deceiving humans-IV.142

It is surely time for us who live in the West and enjoy freedom of expression to examine unflinchingly and unapologetically the tenets of these fanatics, including the Qur'an which divinely sanctions violence. We should unapologetically examine the life of the Prophet, who was not above political assassinations, and who was responsible for the massacre of the Jews.

"Ah, but you are confusing Islam with Islamic fundamentalism. The Real Islam has nothing to do with violence," apologists of Islam argue.

There may be moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate. There is no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism: at most there is a difference of degree but not of kind. All the tenets of Islamic fundamentalism are derived from the Qur'an, the Sunna, and the Hadith U2013 Islamic fundamentalism is a totalitarian construct derived by Muslim jurists from the fundamental and defining texts of Islam. The fundamentalists, with greater logic and coherence than so-called moderate or liberal Muslims, have made Islam the basis of a radical utopian ideology that aims to replace capitalism and democracy as the reigning world system. Islamism accounts for the anti-American hatred to be found in places far from the Arab-Israeli conflict, like Nigeria and Afghanistan, demonstrating that the Middle East conflict cannot legitimately be used to explain this phenomenon called Islamism. A Palestinian involved in the WTC bombings would be seen as a martyr to the Palestinian cause, but even more as a martyr to Islam.

"Ah, but Islamic fundamentalism is like any other kind of fundamentalism, one must not demonise it. It is the result of political, social grievances. It must be explained in terms of economics and not religion," continue the apologists of Islam.

There are enormous differences between Islamic fundamentalism and any other kind of modern fundamentalism. It is true that Hindu, Jewish, and Christian fundamentalists have been responsible for acts of violence, but these have been confined to particular countries and regions. Islamic fundamentalism has global aspirations: the submission of the entire world to the all-embracing Shari'a, Islamic Law, a fascist system of dictates designed to control every single act of all individuals. Nor do Hindus or Jews seek to convert the world to their religion. Christians do indulge in proselytism but no longer use acts of violence or international terrorism to achieve their aims.

Only Islam treats non-believers as inferior beings who are expendable in the drive to world hegemony. Islam justifies any means to achieve the end of establishing an Islamic world.

Islamic fundamentalists recruit among Muslim populations, they appeal to Islamic religious symbols, and they motivate their recruits with Islamic doctrine derived from the Qur'an. Economic poverty alone cannot explain the phenomenon of Islamism. Poverty in Brazil or Mexico has not resulted in Christian fundamentalist acts of international terror. Islamists are against what they see as western materialism itself. Their choice is clear: Islam or jahiliyya. The latter term is redefined to mean modern-style jahiliyya of modern, democratic, industrialised societies of Europe and America, where man is under the dominion of man rather than Allah. They totally reject the values of the West, which they feel are poisoning Islamic culture. So, it is not just a question of economics, but of an entirely different worldview, which they wish to impose on the whole world. Sayyid Qutb, the very influential Egyptian Muslim thinker, said that "dominion should be reverted to Allah alone, namely to Islam, that holistic system He conferred upon men. An all-out offensive, a jihad, should be waged against modernity so that this moral rearmament could take place. The ultimate objective is to re-establish the Kingdom of Allah upon earth..."[2]

It is surely time for moderate Muslims to stand up and be counted. I should like to see them do three things:

1. All moderate Muslims should unequivocally denounce this barbarism, should condemn it for what it is: the butchery of innocent people,

2. All moderate Muslim citizens of the United States should proclaim their Americanness, their patriotism, and their solidarity with the families of the victims. They should show their pride in their country by giving blood and other aid to victims and their families.

3. All moderate Muslims should take this opportunity to examine the tenets of their faith; should look at the Qur'an, recognize its role in the instigation of religious violence, and see it for what it is, a problematical human document reflecting 7th or perhaps 8th Century values which the West has largely outgrown.

While it should not be too difficult for moderate Muslims to accept the need to denounce the violence of Terrorist Tuesday, I am not at all optimistic about their courage or willingness to proclaim their love for their chosen country, the USA, or examine the Qur'an critically.

Too many Muslims are taught from an early age that their first allegiance is to Islam. They are exhorted in sermons in mosques, and in books by such Muslim intellectuals as Dr Siddiqui of the Muslim Institute in London, that if the laws of the land conflict with any of the tenets of Islam, then they must break the laws of the infidels, and only follow the Law of God, the Shari'a, Islamic Law.

It is a remarkable fact that at the time of the Gulf War, a high proportion of Muslims living in the West supported Saddam Hussein. In the aftermath of the WTC terror, it is now clear from reports in the media that many Muslims, even those living in the West, see these acts of barbarism as acts of heroism; they give their unequivocal support to their hero, Usama bin Laden.

Few Muslims have shown themselves capable of scrutinising their sacred text rationally. Indeed any criticism of their religious tenets is taken as an insult to their faith, for which so many Muslims seem ready to kill (as in the Rushdie affair or the Taslima Nasreen affair). Muslims seem to be unaware that the research of western scholars concerning the existence of figures such as Abraham, Isaac and Joseph or the authorship of the Pentateuch applies directly to their belief system. Furthermore, it is surely totally irrational to continue to believe that the Qur'an is the word of God when the slightest amount of rational thought will reveal that the Qur'an contains words and passages addressed to God (e.g. VI.104; VI.114; XVII.1; XXVII.91; LXXXI.15-29; lxxxiv.16-19; etc.); or that it is full of historical errors and inconsistencies.

Respect for other cultures, for other values than our own, is a hallmark of a civilised society. But Multiculturalism is based on some fundamental misconceptions. First, there is the erroneous and sentimental belief that all cultures, deep down, have the same values; or, at least, if different, are equally worthy of respect. But the truth is that not all cultures have the same values, and not all values are worthy of respect. There is nothing sacrosanct about customs or cultural traditions: they can change under criticism. After all, the secularist values of the West are not much more than two hundred years old.

If these other values are destructive of our own cherished values, are we not justified in fighting them both by intellectual means, that is by reason and argument, and criticism, and by legal means, by making sure the laws and constitution of the country are respected by all? It becomes a duty to defend those values that we would live by. But here western intellectuals have sadly failed in defending western values, such as rationalism, social pluralism, human rights, the rule of law, representative government, individualism (in the sense that every individual counts, and no individual should be sacrificed for some utopian future collective end), freedom of expression, freedom of and from religion, the rights of minorities, and so on..

Instead, the so-called experts on Islam in western universities, in the media, in the churches and even in government bureaus have become apologists for Islam. They bear some responsibility for creating an atmosphere little short of intellectual terrorism where any criticism of Islam is denounced as fascism, racism, or "orientalism." They bear some responsibility for lulling the public into thinking that "The Islamic Threat " is a myth. It is our duty to fight this intellectual terrorism. It is our duty to defend the values of liberal democracy.

One hopes that the U.S. government will not now act in such a way that more innocent lives are lost, albeit on the other side of the globe. One hopes that even now there is a legal way out in international courts of law. The situation is far more delicate and complex than a simple battle between good and evil, the solution is not to beat hell out of all Arabs and Muslims but neither is it to pretend that Islam had nothing to do with it, for that would be to bury one's head in the Sands of Araby.

[1] T.Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, entry "Jihad"

[2] E.Sivan, Radical Islam, New haven, 1985, p.25.


Robert Fisk: What drives a bomber to kill the innocent child?

'A battleship or Israeli tank is one thing: a three-year-old waiting for his mother to cut his pizza is quite another'

11 August 2001

I once asked the head of the Lebanese Hizbollah if he could explain to me how the mind of a suicide bomber works. Sayed Hassan Nasrallah was dressed in his black turban and robes. He had formerly been the Hizbollah's military commander in southern Lebanon and from his legions had emerged the first Arab suicide bombers who would - after more than a decade and a half - sap the morale of Israel's retreating army. Explain to me as a Westerner, I told Nasrallah, how a man can immolate himself.

"Imagine you are in a sauna," Nasrallah replied. "It is very hot but you know that in the next room there is air conditioning, an armchair, classical music and a cocktail." There was a pause as the Hizbollah leader moved his hand swiftly upwards, as if opening a door. "So you pass easily into the next room." I will not forget the smile he then visited upon me. "That," he said, "is how I would explain the mind of the martyr to a Westerner."

Nasrallah enjoyed metaphors, similes; like the Hizbollah's "martyr" posters which so often show the dead in paradise, surrounded by rivers and tulips and weeping willows. Is that where the suicide bombers really believe they are going, I used to ask myself? To the rivers of honey and the trees and - yes, of course - the virgins?

The idea that sacrifice is a noble ideal - and let us, for a moment, put aside the iniquity of murdering children in a Jerusalem pizzeria - is common to western as well as eastern society. Our First World War calvaries in France are covered with commemorations to men who supposedly "laid down their lives" or "gave their lives" for their country - even though most died in appalling agony, praying only that they would live.

When, years after our conversation, Nasrallah's own son was killed in a suicidal assault on an Israeli army position in southern Lebanon, the Hizbollah leader insisted that he receive not condolences but congratulations.

Nasrallah appeared on Lebanese television, laughing and smiling, beaming with delight as he spoke to wellwishers on the phone. His son's young fiancee also expressed her pride in her dead husband-to- be. But she did not smile.

If the idea of self-sacrifice is thus comprehensible, it is clearly not a natural phenomenon. In a normal society, in a community whose people feel they are treated equally and with justice, we regard suicide as a tragic aberration, a death produced - in the coroner's eloquent lexicon - when "the balance of the mind is disturbed". But what happens when the balance of a whole society's mind has been disturbed? Walking through the wreckage of the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut a few weeks ago - the same camps in which up to 2,000 civilians were massacred in 1982 and for which, on page 103 of its report, the Israeli Kahan Commission held Ariel Sharon "personally responsible" - I could only wonder at the stability of the survivors who still lived there amid the concrete huts and the garbage and the football-sized rats. If I lived here, I remember thinking, I would commit suicide.

And that, of course, is the point. When a society is dispossessed, when the injustices thrust upon it appear insoluble, when the "enemy" is all-powerful, when one's own people are bestialised as insects, cockroaches, "two-legged beasts", then the mind moves beyond reason. It becomes fascinated in two senses: with the idea of an afterlife and with the possibility that this belief will somehow provide a weapon of more than nuclear potential. When the United States was turning Beirut into a Nato base in 1983, Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Baalbek were promising that God would rid Lebanon of the American presence. I wrote at the time - perhaps being tongue-in-cheek - that this was likely to be a titanic battle: US technology versus God. Who would win? Then on 23 October, 1983, a lone suicide bomber drove a truckload of explosives into the US Marine compound at Beirut airport and killed 241 American servicemen in six seconds. I later interviewed one of the few surviving marines to have seen the bomber. "All I can remember," he told me, "is that the guy was smiling."

I spent months studying the suiciders of Lebanon. They were mostly single men, occasionally women, often the victims of Israeli torture or the relatives of family members who had been killed in battle with Israel. They would often receive their orders while at prayer in the "masjid" or mosque in their south Lebanese villages. The imam would be told to use a certain phrase in his sermon - a reference to roses or gardens or water or a kind of tree. The cleric would not understand the purpose of these words but in his congregation a young man would know that his day of "martyrdom" had now arrived.

In Gaza, even before the 1993 Oslo agreement, I discovered an almost identical phenomenon. As in Lebanon, the would-be "martyr" would spend his last night reading the Koran. He would never say goodbye to his parents. But he would embrace his mother and father and tell them not to cry if he were one day to die. Then he would set off to collect his explosives. Five minutes before he set off from the West Bank town of Tulkarem last week, a young Hamas member went through this very ritual. Five minutes later, an Israeli missile struck the car he was driving. But scarcely a week later - at two o'clock on Thursday afternoon - another suicider reached the doors of the pizzeria on the corner of Jaffa Street and King George's Street in West Jerusalem.

Yet there's a terrible difference with the suicide bombers of Palestine. However frightening, the Japanese 'kamikaze' pilots attacked battleships and aircraft carriers, not hospitals. The Lebanese largely followed this pattern: they usually went for military targets. I was puzzled why the Lebanese should have been queuing to watch Pearl Harbor when it opened in Beirut last month - until I saw the young men studying the cinema stills of equally young Japanese pilots tying their "martyrdom" bandannas around their foreheads. In similar fashion, the Hizbollah targeted the Israeli army and its militia allies. The Palestinians learned from all this. But more and more, their suicide bombers have targeted Israeli civilians. A battleship or an Israeli tank is one thing; a three year- old waiting for his mother to cut his pizza for him is quite another.

I called a Palestinian friend yesterday morning to ask about this, to ask how young Palestinian men - in Lebanon as well as Ramallah - could rejoice in the streets at the pizzeria massacre. She expressed her abhorrence at what happened - she was genuine in this - but tried to explain that the Palestinians had suffered so many civilian casualties since the "intifada" began that Palestinians found joy in any suffering inflicted on their enemy. There was a feeling that "they should suffer too"; which, of course - and the principle applies, though not the historical parallel - is exactly how Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris explained his area-bombing policy against German civilians.

But I go back to my own first reaction when I reached the Sbarro pizza house. Unforgivable. What did that eyeless, dead Israeli child ever do to the Palestinians? Could not the Palestinian bomber, in his last moments on earth, recognise this child as his daughter, his baby sister, his youngest cousin? Alas, no. He was too far down the road to his own death, too buried in his own people's tragedy. His was not an act of "mindless terror", the words Israeli spokesmen use. He was the logical product of a people who have been crushed, dispossessed, tortured and killed in terrible numbers. The pressure cooker of the West Bank was his sauna. And he passed through the door.


THE MARTYR STRATEGY What does the new phase of terrorism signify? BY JEFFREY GOLDBERG New Yorker

One day last month, I visited the terrorist Abdullah Shami at his home in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. Shejaiya is said to be a stronghold of Islamic Jihad, a group that conducts suicide attacks against Israeli targets, and Shami is the group's leader in Gaza. He lives on the third floor of a concreteand-plaster apartment house. Before I went upstairs, I met three of his sons in the sand-covered alleyway that leads to the building. The sun was boiling hot, and the building provided shade for the boys and their friends. They were playing a game called shuhada, which means martyrs. The youngest son, Ahmed, who is three, played the shaheed, the martyr, and charged a make-believe Jewish bunker. The other boys made the sound of rifles firing, and Ahmed dropped to the ground and pretended to be dead. His brothers Mahmoud, who is five, and Muhammad, who is six, then carried his limp body down the alleyway, and performed a mock funeral. The game ended when Ahmed rose from his imaginary grave, shouted 'Allahu Akhar!" and giggled. An Islamic Jihad official accompanied me to Shami's sitting room, which was furnished with huge red-and-gold couches. Framed photographs of the Dome, of the Rock hung on the walls. Shami, a genial and open-faced man of forty-five, greeted me warmly. He is tall, and has smooth skin and a carefully trimmed beard. He was dressed in a white djellabah and a gray cape with a gold fringe. The meeting took place during a particularly tense moment in Gaza. Three days earlier, a suicide bomber from the terrorist wing of Hamas, a fundamentalist group, had blown himself up in the middle of a crowd of teen-age girls outside a disco in Tel Aviv. The attack killed twenty-two people, including the bomber, who was infected with hepatitis B, and whose flying body parts may have infected some of the survivors. After the disco attack, Gazans were seized by dread: surely the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, would retaliate without mercy. But Sharon declared that "restraint is strength" and staved off right-wingers in his Cabinet who demanded severe reprisals. It was an uncharacteristic and widely praised (and presumably temporary) reaction on Sharon's part; but he seemed to sense, correctly, that the West had become repulsed by Palestinian terror attacks, and that such feelings could be exploited by his government. But, nine months into the Palestinian war of independence, the people of Gaza do not trust Sharon's declarations. As I drove through Gaza City with a Palestinian friend, I noticed dozens of men in the uniforms of the various Palestinian security services; they were afraid to enter office buildings that could be-or already had been-targeted by Israel. Shami, however, did not seem unnerved by the prospect of death at the hands of Israel, even though Israeli agents had assassinated the founder of his group, Fathi Shikaki, on Malta, in 1995. "Fear is a human sensation," Shami said. "If 1 say that I am not afraid, I am not human. But fear will not stop me from doing what needs to be done." What his group needs to do, he said, is kill more Jews. Over the past month, a platoon of international envoys and foreign ministers and would-be peace negotiators have attempted to keep alive a fragile ceasefire negotiated by George Tenet, the C.I.A. director. But few people outside the King David Hotel, in jerusalem, where these envoys have situated themselves (they are mostly alone in the hotel, tourism to the Holy Land having vanished months ago), believe that the ceasefire will lead to anything except its own failure. Among many Palestinians, in particular, there is depression, and a vow to increase the violence, which has so far gained them nothing except more than five hundred dead and the unfulfilled promise of aid money from the Gulf Arabs. Palestinian society, in its desolation, seems more susceptible than ever to the romance of martyrdom, which explains the resurgent popularity of Hamas and Islamic jihad, the two groups that sponsor suicide bombings. For Abdullah Shami, ceasefires are distractions, short pauses in the other wise unrelenting march to Jerusalem. "We must fight Israel until it is gone," he told me. The jews who are alive can stay in Palestine, he said, adding that "during history, the Jews were most secure under Muslim rule."

On the spectrum of Palestinian militancy, Islamic jihad stands alone. Unlike Hamas, which also runs schools and hospitals and mosques, Islamic Jihad is exclusively dedicated to terrorism. Hamas claims thousands of members, and hundreds of thousands of sup porters; Israeli and American experts say that the hard core of Islamic jihad consists of several cells in the West Bank and Gaza, with, collectively, several dozen members. (The group's para mount leader, Abdullah Ramadan Shalah, is in Damascus.) Hamas is a threat to the rule of Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by men from Fatah, Hamas's rival. But Islamic Jihad, though more radical than Fatah, is also regarded as more subservient to Arafat than is Hamas, Israeli experts say. "Arafat has excellent intelligence, and he could take apart Islamic Jihad quite easily," said Boaz Ganor, the director of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, in Herzhyya, a city north of Tel Aviv. "I believe that Arafat preserved Islamic Jihad in order to use its terrorists when needed. What he needed was another Black September. The whole idea is deniability." Black September was the group responsible for the 1972 attack on Israeli athletes in Munich. It was initially thought to be independent of Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, but it is now widely accepted that Black September operated under Arafat's control.

During my visit with Abdullah Shami, I hoped that he would comment on a recent controversy concerning a fatwa, or religious ruling, issued by the Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abd Al-Aziz bin Abdallah Al-Sheik, in which suicide bombing was declared contrary to the tenets of Islam. "This is not a part of jihad, and I fear that it is merely killing oneself," the Mufti was quoted as saying. 'Me ruling of the Saudi mufti was not motivated by moral or theological qualms about the murder of Jews. The questions he raised had to do with the threat that suicide poses to the eternal soul of the Muslim bomber himself Even so, the fatwa has been met with scorn in many quarters. The head of the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Islamic Scholars Association, Sheik Harned Al-Bitawi, stated that "Jihad is a collective duty... However, if infidels conquer even an inch of the Muslims' land, as happened with the occupation of Palestine by the Jews, then jihad becomes an individual duty, and, therefore, suicide attacks are permissible." Shami raised his eyebrows when I mentioned the mufti. He said, "There are some people who are ignorant of certain aspects of Shari'a' - Islamic religious law. "This is not suicide but martyrdom. It is a duty of Muslims. Islamic Jihad bombers, Shami explained, are not men who seek suicide. "We do not take depressed people. If there were a one-in-a-thousand chance that a person was suicidal, we would not allow him to martyr himself. In order to be a martyr bomber, you have to want to live." A recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found that seventy-six per cent of Palestinian respondents approved of suicide bombings that targeted Israelis. And Palestinian religious leaders have for some time been praising the virtues of suicide in the service of their cause. Three years ago, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheik Ekrima Sabri, who is the leading Muslim official in Palestinian-controlled territory, explained to me the role of martyrdom in Islamic thinking. "The Muslim embraces death," he said. "Look at the society of the Israelis. It is a selfish society that loves life. These are not people who are eager to die for their country and their God. The Jews will leave this land rather than die, but the Muslim is happy to die." The attacks have also won support in the wider Arab world. In a column published in May in the Egyptian newspaper Usbu (and disseminated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, in Washington, D.C.), the writer Amru Nasif called for mass suicide attacks against Israelis, and volunteered himself for a suicide mission. "Let us do some mathematical calculations," he wrote. "Two hundred and fifty Palestinians have signed up for martyrdom operations, and it is not impossible to raise this number to a thousand throughout the Arab world. The average harvest of each act of mart d yr om 1 's ten dead and fifty wounded. Thus, a thousand acts of martyrdom would leave the Zionists with at least ten thousand dead and fifty thousand wounded." Nasif also pleaded with Allah to let him "become a shaheed" and grant him "the honor of reaping as great a harvest as possible of Israeli lives." Many Palestinians worry about the glorification of suicide bombers. Ziad Abu-Amr, an expert on Islamic movements at Birzeit University, in the West Bank, and the chairman of the poetical committee of the Palestine Legislative Council, sees his Gaza constituents embracing suicide attacks as a response to their desperation. "The entire society is drifting toward religiosity, not necessarily because it has discovered God in the last eight months but because-in the sombre climate of destruction -war, unemployment, and depression cause people to seek solace, and they're going to Allah," he said. "On Friday, at the time of prayer, the streets are blocked now because of the number of people going to mosque. This is a new phenomenon."

One of Abdullah Shami's sons, Hussain, is eighteen years old. I asked Shami if he wants Hussain to become a suicide bomber. "Of course I do," he said. "But it's his own choice. I won;t push him in either direction." As the interview ended, Mahmoud, Ahmed, and Muhammad joined us in the sitting room. Ahmed, the three year-old, is chubby-cheeked and insouciant. He was wearing a striped yellow shirt, shorts, and sandals, and his hair had been neatly combed before he entered the room. It was impossible for me to understand the impulse that would prompt his father to contemplate sacrificing this child. "All children who are born eventually die," Shami said. "And death is painful, except in the case of martyrs, who feel no pain as they commit the act that leads to their martyrdom." He added, "Our bodies are the only weapons we have. We don't want to use our bodies as weapons. Maybe you should tell the Israelis to send us other weapons, like Katyushas. Then we won't use our bodies against them anymore." As I left, Ahmed gave me a black Islamic Jihad flag as a keepsake, and slapped me five.

On the moming of May 7th, Israeli surveillance aircraft patrolling the eastern Mediterranean began tracking the movements of a Lebanese fishing trawler called the Santorini. The Mediterranean is a parking lot of fishing boats and cargo ships and yachts, but the Santorini raised suspicions early. "It was a fishing boat that was not fishing," the commander of Israel's Navy, Admiral Yedidia Ya!ari, said one day at his office in Camp Rabin, the headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces, in Tel Aviv. Soon enough, two Israeli missile boats, joined by two attack boats, intercepted the Santorini on rough seas. Soldiers from Flotilla Thirteen, the naval commando unit, boarded the boat, meeting no resistance from the crew of four. The boarding party quickly discovered thirty-nine barrels filled with Katyusha rockets, antitank grenades, and Strella missiles. the crew consisted of veteran Lebanese smugglers, but they were in the employ of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, an extremist group based in Damascus and headed by an aging terrorist named Ahmed Jibril. The barrels were to be set in the water off Gaza at a pre-selected site-a kind of floating dead drop, Yocari said-where they would be retrieved by Palestinians sailing from Gaza. At a press conference in Damascus a few days later, Jibril, while conceding that the weapons were his, said that the Santorini was the fourth boat he had dispatched to Gaza and only the first to be intercepted. Weapons such as Katyushas and SA-7 Strellas pose little threat to the Israeli Army: they are strategic, not tactical. "These are pretty " Yalari said, "but the crappy weapons, 1 SA-7 can take down a Boeing 747." The seizure of the Santorini was a significant event-a foreshadowing of the sort of conflict that Abdullah Shami hopes to see. The Palestinian revolt, which is known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, after the mosque that sits atop the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem, has gone through three phases so far. The first was the seemingly spontaneous eruption of rock-throwing and protest that followed Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount last September, when Sharon was still the opposition leader. Then came a phase in which jewish settlers and Army outposts in the West Bank and Gaza - as well as the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem came under Palestinian rifle fire. The third phase was spearheaded by Hamas and Islamic Jihad: the suicide bombings, as well as mortar attacks launched against targets in Gaza and inside Israel by other factions. Today, the conflict teeters between ceasefire and a fourth phase, this one of violent escalation. The use of strategic weapons could initiate the kind of cataclysmic fighting between Israelis and Palestinians that would lead to a full-blown regional war. "There are three scenarios," Boaz Ganor, the terrorism expert, said. "One, Arafat stops the violence. Two, there's an ongoing war of attrition and Arafat waits for an Israeli mistaken Israeli shell is bound to hit some schoolchildren. This leads to an international outcry that requires Israel to make more concessions. Three, Arafat decides to escalate, starting a war. If he has the ability to shoot down an El Al plane, or to launch Katyushas from the West Bank into the Tel Aviv suburbs, he would force a powerful Israeli response. The disturbing part is that it is all in Arafat's hands." Israeli intelligence experts are convinced that forces controlled by Arafat were to be the ultimate recipients of the weapons on the Santorini. But Arafat's ways are mysterious, and it is difficult to shake from the Israelis hard proof-if it exists-of his intentions. In recent days, under American pressure, Arafat has ordered his security services to clamp down on certain types of anti-Israel attacks. In so doing, he undermined his own claim that he could not control the violence of the past nine months. But it also seems true that there are groups operating against Israel that exist outside his direct control. Among these, along with Hamas, are Jibril's Popular Front and the Lebanese Hezbollah, which is sponsored by Iran and which has allied itself with Islamic jihad. And factions loyal to Osama bin Laden, who many believe is trying to insert himself into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by violence, are not beholden to Arafat. So many splintered organizations make any Palestinian agenda confusing to the point of stupefaction, but it is fair to say that the ideological gaps among aN these groups have lately shrunk, with disturbing consequences.

In order to find out what Ahmed Jibril was planning for his intercepted shipment of rockets, 1 went one afternoon to a meeting of his Popular Front. The meeting was held at a wedding hall called the Casablanca, which is situated in the heights of Ramallah, on the West Bank, just north of Jerusalem. The meeting drew a large crowd, roughly five hundred people, including representatives from the main religious and secular fighting groups. Strung on a wire running across the ballroom were posters featuring the tired face of Jibril, a secularist who is more closely associated with the Red Army and the Baader-Meinhof gang of the nineteen-seventies than with the bin Ladens and Islamic jihads of today. The program was ponderous; each faction leader spoke in praise of Jibril and of the Palestinians killed in the current uprising. The local Hamas chief, Hassan Yusuf, rose to celebrate the poll results that showed strong public support for suicide bombings. Yusuf eareer told me that, shortly after a Hamas bomber killed several Israelis at a shopping mall in Netanya in May, he and his followers handed out candy at their mosque in celebration. The Casablanca was humid and filled with smoke, and men with guns circulated through the crowd. Sweet Turkish coffee, distributed in small plastic cups, kept everyone awake. Then Marwan Barghouti entered the hall, flanked by uniformed men carrying AK-47s. His presence caused a stir; he is the Fatah leader of the uprising in the West Bank, and is often mentioned as a possible successor to Yasir Arafat. It was surprising to see Barghouti at the Popular Front meeting. He is, after all, a Fatah man; Fatah is Yasir Arafat's faction, and Arafat and Ahmed jibril are antagonists. But Barghouti, whom I have interviewed several times over the past months, has changed. At the outset of the uprising, Barghouti was fond of noting that he counted among his friends several members of the Israeli Parliament. He no longer makes such claims. just two weeks ago, Israel accused him of being directly involved in the killing of a Greek Orthodox monk who was shot to death outside Jerusalem by gunmen who apparently mistook him for an Orthodox Jew. Barghouti is said to have provided the gunmen with their weapons, a charge he has denied. The day before the Popular Front meeting, I had talked to Barghouti in his office, on the third floor of a five-story residential apartment building in Ramallah. He is afraid of assassination - one of his deputies was killed by a missile fired from an Israeli helicopter - and this fear is apparently why he has placed his headquarters between apartments that house families with children. During the interview, I asked Barghouti an obvious question: What would Israel have to do to bring an end to the uprising? "We need one hundred per cent of Gaza, one hundred per cent of the West Bank, one hundred percent of East Jerusalem, and the right of return for refugees he said. I pointed out that former refugees, Prime Minister Ehud Barak had, at the Camp David summit last year, offered the Palestinians a series of dramatic concessions: a free Gaza, around ninety per cent of the West Bank, a capital in East Jerusalem, and so on. "No!" Nothing less than a hundred per cent is acceptable, he said. And if you get a hundred per cent? Will that end the conflict? Barghouti smiled, and then said something impolite for a Fatah man. "Then we could talk about bigger things," he said. Such as? "I've always thought that a good idea would be one state for all the peoples," he said. A secular democratic Palestine? "We don't have to call it Palestine," he replied. "We can call it something else." Perhaps no one better personified the enigma of Palestinian desire than Faisal Husseini, who was the chief P.L.O. figure in Jerusalem and who, at the time of his death, of a heart attack, in late May, was hailed as an exemplar of coexistence - a "political prisoner turned peace advocate," the Times called him. Two years ago, in his office in East Jerusalem, Husseini told me, "The only hope is for the Israelis to give up their dreams, and for the Palestinians to give up their dreams. It is the only way we win free ourselves from our nightmares." But in his last months Husseini spoke at a conference in Teheran which brought together leaders of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. And in a speech delivered in Beirut in April he said, "We may lose or win, but our eyes will continue to aspire to the strategic goal; namely, Palestine from the river to the sea from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. "Whatever we get now cannot make us forget this supreme truth." In recent months, it was as if Barghouti and Husseini had fired up a time-travel machine and taken us back to 1968, when the leaders of the PL.O. still spoke unabashedly of erasing Israel from the map of the world.

Dusk settled over Ramallah, and Ahmed Jibril's followers left the Casablanca. Husam Arafat, Jibril's representative on the West Bank, sat on a folding chair and answered questions. He is a lawyer, humorless and ascetic in appearance. He, too, spoke of a "Palestine from the river to the sea." When I told him I was surprised to see Barghouti at his meeting, he appeared offended, and waved over the Fatah leader, who was surrounded by a clutch of admirers. "He says you shouldn't be here," Arafat told Barghouti. "Why Barghouti asked me. "Because Yasir Arafat and Ahmed Jibril are enemies, and because your ideologies are so different." Barghouti took Husarn Arafat's hand. "We're all fighting together now," Barghouti said. I asked Barghouti about the Santorini. "It's too bad what happened," he said. "If someone sends you a gift, you should always try to accept it." After Barghouti and his men left the hall, I asked Arafat why his boss, Ahmed Jibril, was sending rockets to Gaza. "The General Command decided that it would provide a full range of military services to the uprising," he said. I asked him if he hoped to shoot down planes, but he just smiled wanly and changed the subject. It turned out that there was something on his mind. "Everyone keeps saying that Hamas and Islamic Jihad invented suicide bombing," he said. "But this isn't true. It was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command that invented the suicide bombing. We did the first one in 1974, before there was even a Hamas. I think people don't understand the proper role of the Popular Front in the history of the struggle. It was us, not Hamas." I promised him that this fact would be noted.

72 Black Eyed Virgins: A Muslim Debate on the Rewards of Martyrs By Yotam Feldner*

Approximately two weeks prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, DC a dispute emerged between the CBS network and heads of two Islamic organizations in the US regarding the motivation of suicide bombers in Israel. The dispute was forgotten following the attacks, but in their aftermath, another look at it is warranted:

The Translation Dispute
On August 19, 2001, CBS's 60 Minutes aired a report on the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas. Reporter Bob Simon interviewed Hamas operative Muhammad Abu Wardeh, who recruited terrorists for suicide bombings in Israel. Abu Wardeh's words were translated into English by CBS as follows: "I described to him how God would compensate the martyr for sacrificing his life for his land. If you become a martyr, God will give you 70 virgins, 70 wives and everlasting happiness." (1)

Some Muslim leaders contended that the English translation did not match the Arabic and accused CBS of fabricating the quote. Leaders of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a US organization, wrote to 60 Minutes and demanded a retraction, an apology, and time on the show for Islamic scholars to explain the religion's true teachings regarding violence and martyrdom.(2)

CBS News admitted that the English voiceover did not match the Arabic quote, but played an unaired portion of the interview for a Knight Ridder editor who speaks Arabic and for two native Arabic speakers. After viewing the tapes, Hafez Al-Mirazi Osman, Washington bureau chief of the Al-Jazeera television network, stated that in the portion that did not air the interviewee said: "Paradise has many things. It is said it has everything a man would wish for. It has 72 angels... or wives... It has the eternal blessing that people would receive there..."

CBS translated the Arabic term hur 'ayn (3) as "virgins." According to Osman and the other native Arabic speaker, Dr. Maher Hathout, a scholar at the Islamic Center of Southern California, the Arabic word has no sexual connotation or gender. Hathout said that a more appropriate translation would be "angel" or "heavenly being." CBS said its Arabic expert insisted on CBS's translations.(4)

MPAC's Executive Director in Los Angeles, Salaam Al-Maryati, said, "For Palestinians, this is about fighting aggression and occupation, not about opportunities for sexual fantasies." He added that the issue is important to the estimated 7 to 10 million Muslims who he claims live in the US, because it confirms their fears that media organizations are intent on defaming their faith.(5)

In a published report, Hathout added, "There is nothing in the Koran or in Islamic teachings about 70 virgins or sex in Paradise. This is ridiculous, and every true Muslim knows that." (6) According to Hathout, "the worst-case scenario is that there is a deliberate spinning of the news. It is very fashionable now to present the Muslims as particularly susceptible to being crazy or blowing themselves up."(7)

The Martyr's Reward in Islamic Tradition Maryati's and Hathout's claims aroused the ire of Sheikh Abd Al-Hadi Palazzi, head of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community. Sheikh Palazzi wrote: "The only ridiculous thing is that someone who claims to be an 'Islamic scholar' [i.e. Hathout] makes public statements which prove beyond any possible doubt that he has never read the Tafsir [Koranic commentary] of Ibn Kathir and the Sunan [religious rulings based on the customs of the Prophet] of Imam Al-Tirmidhi, which are basic books for the knowledge of Islam. Unfortunately, this attribution of chairs to ignoramuses seems to be the rule in American Islamic Centers controlled by the fundamentalist network of the Muslim Brotherhood."

According to Islamic tradition, Sheikh Palazzi states there are 72 wives for every believer who is admitted to Paradise, not only for a martyr. The proof is in a Hadith (Islamic tradition) collected by Al-Tirmidhi in the Book of Sunan (volume IV, chapters on "The Features of Paradise as described by the Messenger of Allah," Chapter 21: "About the Smallest Reward for the People of Paradise," Hadith 2687).

Sheikh Palazzi added that it is also quoted by Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir of Surah Al-Rahman (55), verse 72: "It was mentioned by Daraj Ibn Abi Hatim that Abu-al-Haytham Abdullah Ibn Wahb narrated from Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri, who heard the Prophet Muhammad saying: 'The smallest reward for the people of Paradise is an abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from Al-Jabiyyah [a Damascus suburb] to Sana'a.'" (8)

Sheikh Palazzi cites verse 74 of the same Surah, "[The chastity of the black-eyed] was not violated by man nor jinn" to prove that that they are virgins. In addition, the "black-eyed" are mentioned in three other Surahs in the Koran: Al-Dukhan 54, Al-Tur 20, and Al-Waqi'a 20. Women with "downcast eyes," that is, chaste women, are mentioned in three Surahs: Al-Rahman 56-8, Al-Safat 48, and S, 52.

Al-Azhar University in Egypt, the main authority for Sunni Islamic rulings, also takes "the black-eyed" seriously. Al-Azhar's unofficial website features a religious ruling section, in which the institution's clerics answer questions by readers from all over the world. An Australian Muslim asked the following: "If men [in Paradise] get the black-eyed, what do the women get?"

The answer, provided by the deputy director of Al-Azhar'[s Center for Islamic Studies, Sheikh Abd Al-Fattah Gam'an, read: "The Koran tells us that in Paradise believers get 'the black-eyed,' as Allah has said, 'And we will marry them to 'the black-eyed.' 'The black-eyed' are white and delicate, and the black of their eyes is blacker than black and the white [of their eyes] is whiter than white. To describe their beauty and their great number, the Koran says that they are 'like sapphire and pearls' (Al-Rahman 58) in their value, in their color, and in their purity. And it is said of them: '[They are] like well-protected pearls' in shells (Al-Waqi'a 23), that is, they are as pure as pearls in oysters and are not perforated, no hands have touched them, no dust or dirt adheres to them, and they are undamaged.'" It is further said: "'They are like well-protected eggs' (Al-Safat 49), that is, their delicacy is as the delicacy of the membrane beneath the shell of an egg. Allah also said: 'The 'black-eyed' are confined to pavilions' (Al-Rahman 70), that is, they are hidden within, saved for their husbands."

"Most of 'the black-eyed' were first created in Paradise, but some of them are women [who came to Paradise] from this world, and are obedient Muslims who observe the words of Allah: 'We created them especially, and have made them virgins, loving, and equal in age.' This means that when the women of this world are old and worn out, Allah creates them [anew] after their old age into virgins who are amiable to their husbands; 'equal in age' means equal to one another in age. At the side of the Muslim in Paradise are his wives from this world, if they are among the dwellers in Paradise, along with 'the black-eyed' of Paradise."

"If a woman is of the dwellers in Paradise but her husband in this world is not of the dwellers in Paradise, as in the case of Asia the wife of Pharaoh, she is given to one of the dwellers in Paradise who is of the same status... Regarding the woman who was married [during her life] to more than one man in this world, and all her husbands are dwellers in Paradise, she may choose among them, and she chooses the best of them. It is said that Umm Salmah asked the Prophet: 'Oh Prophet of Allah, a woman marries one, two, or four husbands in this world and later she dies and enters Paradise, and they enter with her. Which of them will be her husband?' [The Prophet] answered: 'She... chooses the best of them, saying, Oh Allah, this is the best of them that was with me in this world, marry me to him'... Thus it is known that the women of Paradise also have husbands. Every woman has a husband. If her husband in this world is of the dwellers in Paradise [he becomes her husband in Paradise], and if her husband in this world is an infidel, she is given to one of the dwellers in Paradise who is suited to her in status and in the [strength] of his belief."(9)

A Question of Belief
Dr. Hathout described the Koran passages as nothing more than folklore, saying that such descriptions of Paradise aren't meant to be taken literally, just as many Christians do not really believe heaven has "streets paved with gold."(10)

But the question is whether every "true Muslim" knows that "there is nothing in the Koran or in Islamic teachings about 70 virgins or sex in Paradise,"(11) as Dr. Hathout said. Do Muslims living in areas where Jihad has been declared - for example, the West Bank and Gaza Strip-- where political correctness is less a factor as it is where Hathout lives, in Southern California, also maintain that "such descriptions of Paradise aren't meant to be taken literally?" Moreover, the more important question is, what do the clerics say?

The death announcements of martyrs in the Palestinian press often take the form of wedding, not funeral, announcements. "Blessings will be accepted immediately after the burial and until 10 the home of the martyr's uncle," read one suicide bomber's death notice.(12) "With great pride, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad marries the member of its military wing... the martyr and hero Yasser Al-Adhami, to 'the black-eyed,'" read another.(13)

Al Risala, the Hamas mouthpiece, published the will of Sa'id Al-Hutari, who carried out the June 1, 2001 suicide bombing outside the disco near the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv that killed 23, mostly teenage girls. "I will turn my body into bombs that will hunt the sons of Zion, blast them, and burn their remains," Al-Hutari wrote. "Call out in joy, oh my mother; distribute sweets, oh my father and brothers; a wedding with 'the black-eyed' awaits your son in Paradise."(14)

The same view is also evident in news reports in the Palestinian press. Thus, for example, the reporter Nufuz Al-Bakri reported the death of Wail 'Awad as follows: "The mother of Wail 'Awad, from Deir El-Balah, did not plan on holding a second wedding for her eldest son, after his marriage on August 10, 2001 to his fiancee in a simple ceremony attended only by the family. But yesterday was Wail's real wedding day, and the angels of the Merciful married him, together with the [other] martyrs, to 'the black-eyed,' as all around [them] rose the cries of joy that his mother dreamed of on the day of his wedding [to his fiancee]."(15)

Hamas official Ashraf Sawaftah told of a ceremony honoring Izz Al-Din Al-Masri, who carried out the suicide bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in central Jerusalem on August 9, 2001: "His relatives distributed sweets and accepted their son as a bridegroom married to 'the black-eyed,' not as someone who had been killed and was being laid in the ground."(16)

The uncle of Nassim Abu 'Aasi, who died while he was attempting to carry out an attack, said that when the deceased was asked why he was not married, he would always reply, "Why should I relinquish 'the black-eyed' to marry women of clay [i.e. flesh an blood]?"(17)

"This is part of the Islamic belief," Hamas leader Isma'il Abu Shanab once explained to AFP. "Anyone who dies a martyr's death has a reward. If the martyr dreams of 'the black-eyed,' he'll get her."(18)

The Hamas movement educates the children in its schools, beginning in kindergarten, to believe that a martyr is given virgins in Paradise. Jack Kelley of USA Today visited Hamas schools in Gaza City, where he saw an 11-year-old boy speak to his class: "I will make my body a bomb that will blast the flesh of Zionists, the sons of pigs and monkeys... I will tear their bodies into little pieces and will cause them more pain than they will ever know." His classmates shouted in response, "Allah Akhbar," and his teacher shouted, "May the virgins give you pleasure." A 16-year-old Hamas youth leader in a Gaza refugee camp told Kelley, "Most boys can't stop thinking about the virgins."(19)

Along with the media, Palestinian Muslim clerics also help instill this belief. In an interview with the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, Palestinian Authority Mufti Sheikh 'Ikrima Sabri was asked what he felt when he prayed for the soul of a martyr. He answered: "I feel that the martyr is lucky, because angels bring him to his wedding in Paradise... I spoke with one young man, who told me: 'I want to marry the black-eyed women in Paradise.' The next day, he died a martyr's death. I am certain that his mother was filled with joy over his heavenly wedding. Such a son is worthy of such a mother.'"(20)

Sheikh Abd Al-Salam Abu Shukheydem, Chief Mufti of the Palestinian Authority police force, mentioned 'the black-eyed' as one of the rewards of martyrs: "From the moment the first drop of his blood is spilled, he does not feel the pain of his wounds and he is forgiven for all his sins; he sees his seat in Paradise; he is saved from the torment of the grave; he is saved from the great horror of Judgement Day; he marries 'the black-eyed'; he vouches for 70 of his family members; he gains the crown of honor, the precious stone of which is better than this entire world and everything in it."(21) In a Friday sermon broadcast on Palestinian television, Sheikh Ismail Al-Radwan declared: "He is given 72 'black-eyed.'"(22)

"The Americans and the eunuchs at their sides [i.e. the rulers of Arab and Islamic countries]... think that if they kill us, they will win," wrote Dr. Yunis Al-Astal, a lecturer in the Islamic Law Department at Gaza Islamic University, "They do not know that with their weapons they only expedite our arrival in Paradise. We yearn to reach Paradise; it is our abode, and in it are 'the black-eyed,' confined to pavilions, and also there are [women] with downcast eyes whose chastity has not been violated before us by either man or jinn. In contrast, the value of this world in which we live, which they [i.e. the Americans and the Arab rulers] think that they have attained, is in our eyes not worth the wing of a mosquito..."(23)

In an interview with the Israeli daily Ha'aretz,(24) Sheikh Raid Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and the most important political and religious leader of Israel's Arab population was asked "Do 70 virgins await a shahid (a martyr) in paradise?" Sheikh Salah replied: "On this matter, we have proof. It is written in the Koran and in the Sunna [the traditions about the life of Mohammed]. This matter is clear. The shahid receives from Allah six special things, including 70 virgins, no torment in the grave, and the choice of 70 members of his family and his confidants to enter paradise with him."

The suicide attackers who carried out the September 11 attacks also believed that 'the black-eyed' were one of the rewards awaiting them in Paradise. The letter of instructions found in Nawwaf Al-Hamzi's car mentioned 'the black-eyed' twice: "...Don't show signs of uneasiness and tension; be joyful and happy, set your mind at ease, and be confident and rest assured that you are carrying out an action that Allah likes and that pleases Him. Therefore, a day will come, Allah willing, that you will spend with 'the black-eyed' in Paradise... Know that the gardens [i.e. Paradise] have been decorated for you with the most beautiful ornaments and that 'the black-eyed' will call to you: 'Come, faithful of Allah," after having donned their finest garments."(25)

'The Black-Eyed' and Sexual Relations
Are "the black-eyed" available for sex? Some evidently think they are. The Israeli media reported on a suicide bomber caught before he managed to carry out his mission; he was wearing a towel as a loincloth to protect his genitals for use in Paradise.

The question of sexual relations was also brought up in an interview that Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi gave to the Egyptian weekly Aakher Sa'a. To the question "What is the meaning of the Koranic verse 'And we will marry them to the 'black-eyed?'" Tantawi replied, "This verse heralds to faithful believers that in the world to come, Allah will set 'the black-eyed' to serve them, so that they will have wives, along with the righteous women from this world."

Getting straight to the point, the interviewer asked, "Do people in Paradise have sexual relations?" "This issue is known only to Allah," said Tantawi. "It is enough that we know that Paradise offers [everything] to satisfy the soul and gladden the eye. Regarding other, private matters, only Allah knows. It is enough for us that the Koran says, 'It has [everything] to satisfy the soul and gladden the eye, and in it you have life everlasting.'"(26)

In a review of the Egyptian press in the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the veteran Egyptian journalist Hasanain Kurum explained that Sheikh Tantawi knowingly gave a vague answer to the question, so as to avoid a scandal like the one created a few years previously by the late author and journalist Muhammad Galal Al-Kushk. Al-Kushk wrote, "The men in Paradise have sexual relations not only with the women [who come from this world] and with 'the black-eyed,' but also with the serving boys." According to Kurum, Al-Kushk also stated, "In Paradise, a believer's penis is eternally erect."(27)

*Yotam Feldner is MEMRI's director of Media Analysis.


(1) As cited by Joyce M. Davis, Knight Ridder Newspapers, August 24, 2001 (2) Knight Ridder Newspapers, Joyce M. Davis, August 24, 2001.
(3) According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary ( the derivative English word "houri" entered the English language in 1737. A houri is "one of the beautiful maidens that in Muslim belief live with the blessed in Paradise" or "a voluptuously beautiful young woman."
(4) Knight Ridder Newspapers, Joyce M. Davis, September 6, 2001.
(5) The Final Call, September 4, 2001.
(6) The Final Call, September 4, 2001.
(7) Knight Ridder Newspapers, Joyce M. Davis, August 23, 2001 (8) The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition, September 6, 2001. (9) (10) Knight Ridder Newspapers, Joyce M. Davis, September 6, 2001.
(11) The Final Call, September 4, 2001. (12) Al-Ayam (Palestinian Authority), July 21, 2001. (13) Al-Istiqlal (Palestinian Authority), October 4, 2001. (14) Al-Risala (Palestinian Authority), July 7, 2001. (15) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), October 4, 2001.
(16) Al-Risala (Palestinian Authority), August 16, 2001. (17) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), September 11, 2001.
(18) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), August 17, 2001.
(19) USA Today, June 26, 2001.
(20) Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), October 28, 2001. (21) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), September 17, 1999.
(22) Palestinian Authority television, August 17, 2001. (23) Al-Risala (Palestinian Authority), October 11, 2001. (24) Ha'aretz, October 26, 2001.
(25) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 30, 2001. (26) Aakher Sa'a (Egypt), May 9, 2001.
(27) Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), May 11, 2001.

Three statements fromOsama Bin Laden Oct 2001

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Mercful Sunday, 6 Rajab.,1422 (Sept 22 2001)
And for martyrs from God their reward and light
To our Muslim brothers in Pakistan. Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and his blessings; I received with great sorrow the news of the murder of some of our Muslim brothers in Karachi while they were expressing their opposition to the American crusade forces and ther allies on the lands of Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

We ask Allah to accept them as martyrs and include them with prophets, their followers, martyrs, good doers and the like, and ask that their families be gifted with patience and consolation, and bless their children and money, and reward well for their Islam. Whoever of them left children behind, they are my children, and I am their caretaker, Allah willing. It is no wonder that the Muslun nation in Pakistan would rush to defend its Islam, since it is considered the first line of defence for Islam in this area, just like Afghanistan was the first line of defence itself and for Paistan before the Russian invasion more than 20 years ago.

We hope that those brothers are among the first martyrs in Islam's battle in this era against the new Chrlstian-Jewish crusade led by the big crusader Bush under the flag of Cross; this battle is considered one of Islam's battles ... (text illegible)

We incite our Muslim brothers in Pakistan to give everything they own and are capable of to push the American crusade forces from invading Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, said: Whoever didn't fight, or prepare a fighter, or take good care of a fighter's family, Allah will strike him with a catastrophe before Judgment Day. I announce to you the good-news my loved brothers that we are steadfast on the path of Jihad for the sake of Allah, following
the example of the prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) with the heroic faithful people under the leadership of our fighter emir, who is proud of his religion the prince of the faithful, Mohammed Omar. We ask Allah to make him victorious over the forces of infidels and tyranny, and to crush the new Christian-Jewish crusade on the land of Pakistan and Afghanistan. If Allah makes you victorious, none will defeat you and if He fails you, who after Him will make you victorious and on Allah the faithful shall trust. Your brother in Islam Osama bin Mohanimed bin Laden

Full text: Bin Laden's 'letter to Muslims'

Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 20:28 GMT A letter purportedly from Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden calls on Muslims in Pakistan to stand up for Islam as the country supports the US-led campaign against Afghanistan. Here is the full text of the letter:

"In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful.

"My Muslim brethren in the chaste land of Pakistan, civilians and military. God's peace and blessings be upon you.

"The crusade against Islam has intensified and the killing of the followers of Muhammad, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, has spread widely in Afghanistan.

Two camps

"The world has been divided into two camps: One under the banner of the cross, as [US President George W] Bush, the head of infidelity, said, and another under the banner of Islam.

"The Pakistani Government has fallen under the banner of the cross. The Almighty God says: To the hypocrites give the glad tidings that there is for them but a grievous penalty; yea, to those who take for friends unbelievers rather than believers: Is it honour they seek among them? Nay, all honour is with God.

"O supporters of Islam: This is your day to support Islam.

"Whoever believes in God and Doomsday must not rest at ease until he upholds right and its supporters and until God defeats falsehood and its backers.

'A Muslim's duty'

"Your stand against falsehood will strengthen us. But if they seek your aid in religion, it is your duty to help them. Prophet Muhammad, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, says: "A Muslim is a brother to fellow Muslims. He neither does them injustice, nor lets them down, nor surrenders them."

"Let God be my witness that I have conveyed the message.

"Let God be my witness that I have conveyed the message.

"Let God be my witness that I have conveyed the message.

"May God's peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you."

[Dated] 15 Shaban 1422 Hegira [1 November 2001]

[Signed] Osama Bin Muhammad Bin Laden

Bin Laden denounces Arab 'infidels'

Bin Laden's whereabouts are still unknown Saturday, 3 November, 2001, 20:09 GMT

Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden has condemned Muslims who support the US-led campaign in Afghanistan, accusing them of betraying Islam.

Bin Laden, chief suspect in the 11 September attacks on the US, also denounced as "infidels" Arab leaders who co-operated with the United Nations.

He said the conflict in Afghanistan was "primarily a religious war" between Christianity and Islam.

Condemning US President George Bush's "crusade," he said "it is a certain fact that Bush carried the cross high... Whoever stands behind Bush has committed an act that stands as annulment of their Islam".

UN accused

In his message, Bin Laden castigated the United Nations, saying it had stood by while crimes were committed against Muslims.

"Those who today are referring our tragedies to the United Nations and want to resolve them there are hypocrites, who try to deceive God and His prophet and the believers. Have our tragedies not resulted from the United Nations?"

He said the United Nations had given Arab land "to the Jews" in 1947.

"Those who claim to be leaders of the Arabs and who are still at the United Nations have disavowed what was revealed to Prophet Muhammad," he said.

"Under no circumstances should a Muslim - or any sane person for that matter - resort to the United Nations.

Muslims 'slaughtered'

"The United Nations is only one of the tools of crime. Every day we are being slaughtered and the United Nations does not lift a finger.

"For over 50 years, our brothers in Kashmir have been suffering the worst pain. They have been killed and slaughtered and their honour, blood, and homes are being violated and the United Nations did not lift a finger," he said.

"Today, without any evidence, the United Nations peddles the resolutions that support the unjust and tyrant America against a helpless people who have just come out of a fierce war against the Russian Federation."

He said there was no evidence linking Afghanistan to the 11 September attacks on the United States.

"The entire West, with the exception of a few countries, supports this unfair, barbaric campaign, although there is no evidence of the involvement of the people of Afghanistan in what happened in America.

"The people of Afghanistan had nothing to do with this matter. The campaign, however, continues to unjustly annihilate villagers and civilians: children, women, and innocent people," he said.

US curbs coverage

Al-Jazeera has previously broadcast statements by Bin Laden and a spokesman for his al-Qaeda organisation, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, which praised the 11 September attacks and warned that more would follow.

Five major US television networks have agreed to limit broadcasts of statements by Bin Laden and his associates.

The White House has said that broadcasts from suspected terrorists could contain anything from incitement to coded messages.

The US has put pressure on Qatar over the television station's coverage.

A foolish crusade Peter Oborne Sunday September 23, 2001 The Observer

Following in Lord Roberts's footsteps would be a fatal mistake for the West

War on terrorism - Observer special Guardian Unlimited special: terrorism crisis,6903,556536,00.html

Tony Blair is famously fond of telling Muslim audiences that he reads the Koran. To others, he sings different tunes. When interviewed by the Daily Telegraph before the election, he claimed that he was greatly enjoying the memoirs of Field Marshal Lord Roberts, the greatest and most belligerent of nineteenth-century imperialists, whose most noteworthy achievement was the march on Kandahar to relieve Lt General James Primrose in 1879. It took Roberts 22 days to move his army 313 miles across Afghanistan's hostile terrain. At the end of it, he obliterated the enemy.

Roberts is the only general to have emerged with flying colours from an expedition into Afghanistan in the last 200 years. One can only hope that his example hasn't given the Prime Minister the wrong idea. Some of the simple certainties, not to mention the underlying attitudes, of Roberts's campaign have been at large over the last 10 days. President Bush's call for a crusade and his demand to get bin Laden 'dead or alive' would have chimed with the jingoism of the Victorian empire.

It is hard to tell whether the President really means what he says, or what Tony Blair privately thinks. But judging from their public statements, the strategy of these two men looks 100 per cent wrong. The kind of retribution they are talking about seems self-defeating and mad.

The British, of all people, should know that talk of defeating terrorism through salutary punishment is hopeless. Our bitter experience with the IRA shows that. The IRA survived and flourished because it enjoyed the active or tacit support of the Catholic population in Northern Ireland, the sympathy of the southern Irish state and financial backing from the greater Irish diaspora. Reprisals, however rational or justified by IRA barbarity, merely had the effect of making matters worse. Just as the IRA enjoyed the support of the wider Irish community, so bin Laden's organisation enjoys support in the wider Muslim world.

That is because, whether we like it or not, both organisations are using a genuine grievance. Peace in Ulster has only become possible now that Britain has started to address nationalist concerns. Anyone who thinks that Arab terrorism can be defeated until the Palestine situation is resolved is dreaming. The thought of the West taking reprisals against bin Laden without demanding major concessions from Israel makes the blood run cold.

Clumsy reprisals will simply inflame Muslim opinion and that is bin Laden's objective. It is clear that his real aim is not the destruction of America but the eviction of the pro-Western regimes in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries.

It is not difficult to envisage a series of popular uprisings sweeping aside all moderate Muslim governments. Any attempt by the West to save, say, Saudi Arabia, might be greeted by terrorist reprisals that would make the World Trade Centre atrocity look like an aperitif.

The consequences of such a turn of events are far worse than oil at $100 a barrel and economic depression. A new Middle East power block would have emerged, allying twenty-first century technology with a medieval mind-set. It would have the wealth to buy nuclear weapons and delivery systems to go with them. A new Cold War would have started. But this time, the men with their fingers on the button would have a proven disregard for human life, including their own. This is one possible future if George Bush and Tony Blair miscalculate over the next days and weeks.

In any case, action against Afghanistan and other Muslim powers, while appeasing public sentiment in America, would achieve nothing. The great point about last week's atrocities is that they were inside jobs. The same will apply in the future. Many of the hijackers were educated in the West. If any country can be accused of abetting terrorism it is Britain, where terrorists can use our asylum laws to obtain entry and resist extradition through our human rights legislation.

We do not guard our borders effectively and it is inconceivable that fresh terrorists will not make use of this weakness. It is criminally negligent of the Government to allow such a situation to persist.

So Blair and Bush seem to have got it the wrong way round. Abroad, they are targeting Afghans and others who present no threat. At home, they are failing to take the tough steps that would protect their citizens from an insidious deadly menace.

This war, if it is a war, is a conflict between Old and New Testament. It is between those who value human life and those who do not. If the West goes down the way of revenge, as Bush especially seems ready to do, than it will lose. Both the President and the Prime Minister affect to be Christians. They might care to contemplate, before they order troops into action, how Christ would have reacted.

We have heard plenty of talk about retribution. It would now be fine to hear both men say that the West does not believe in taking innocent lives. That is what the terrorists did on 11 September. If we respond in the same way, they will have won.

US 'planned attack on Taleban' Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK BBC

The wider objective was to oust the Taleban By the BBC's George Arney

A former Pakistani diplomat has told the BBC that the US was planning military action against Osama Bin Laden and the Taleban even before last week's attacks.

Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani Foreign Secretary, was told by senior American officials in mid-July that military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October.

Mr Naik said US officials told him of the plan at a UN-sponsored international contact group on Afghanistan which took place in Berlin.

Mr Naik told the BBC that at the meeting the US representatives told him that unless Bin Laden was handed over swiftly America would take military action to kill or capture both Bin Laden and the Taleban leader, Mullah Omar.

The wider objective, according to Mr Naik, would be to topple the Taleban regime and install a transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place - possibly under the leadership of the former Afghan King Zahir Shah.

Mr Naik was told that Washington would launch its operation from bases in Tajikistan, where American advisers were already in place.

He was told that Uzbekistan would also participate in the operation and that 17,000 Russian troops were on standby.

Mr Naik was told that if the military action went ahead it would take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest.

He said that he was in no doubt that after the World Trade Center bombings this pre-existing US plan had been built upon and would be implemented within two or three weeks.

And he said it was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if Bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taleban.


bin Laden and the Taliban received threats of possible military strikes two months before New York

Jonathan Steele, Ewen MacAskill, Richard Norton-Taylor and Ed Harriman Saturday September 22, 2001 The Guardian

Osama bin Laden and the Taliban received threats of possible American military strikes against them two months before the terrorist assaults on New York and Washington, which were allegedly masterminded by the Saudi-born fundamentalist, a Guardian investigation has established.

The threats of war unless the Taliban surrendered Osama bin Laden were passed to the regime in Afghanistan by the Pakistani government, senior diplomatic sources revealed yesterday.

The Taliban refused to comply but the serious nature of what they were told raises the possibility that Bin Laden, far from launching the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon out of the blue 10 days ago, was launching a pre-emptive strike in response to what he saw as US threats.

The warning to the Taliban originated at a four-day meeting of senior Americans, Russians, Iranians and Pakistanis at a hotel in Berlin in mid-July. The conference, the third in a series dubbed "brainstorming on Afghanistan", was part of a classic diplomatic device known as "track two".

It was designed to offer a free and open-ended forum for governments to pass messages and sound out each other's thinking. Participants were experts with long diplomatic experience of the region who were no longer government officials but had close links with their governments.

"The Americans indicated to us that in case the Taliban does not behave and in case Pakistan also doesn't help us to influence the Taliban, then the United States would be left with no option but to take an overt action against Afghanistan," said Niaz Naik, a former foreign minister of Pakistan, who was at the meeting.

"I told the Pakistani government, who informed the Taliban via our foreign office and the Taliban ambassador here."

The three Americans at the Berlin meeting were Tom Simons, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, Karl "Rick" Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of state for south Asian affairs, and Lee Coldren, who headed the office of Pakistan, Afghan and Bangladesh affairs in the state department until 1997.

According to Mr Naik, the Americans raised the issue of an attack on Afghanistan at one of the full sessions of the conference, convened by Francesc Vendrell, a Spanish diplomat who serves as the UN secretary general's special representative on Afghanistan. In the break afterwards, Mr Naik told the Guardian yesterday, he asked Mr Simons why the attack should be more successful than Bill Clinton's missile strikes on Afghanistan in 1998, which caused 20 deaths but missed Bin Laden.

"He said this time they were very sure. They had all the intelligence and would not miss him this time. It would be aerial action, maybe helicopter gunships, and not only overt, but from very close proximity to Afghanistan. The Russians were listening to the conversation but not participating."

Asked whether he could be sure that the Americans were passing ideas from the Bush administration rather than their own views, Mr Naik said yesterday: "What the Americans indicated to us was perhaps based on official instructions. They were very senior people. Even in 'track two' people are very careful about what they say and don't say."

In the room at the time were not only the Americans, Russians and Pakistanis but also a team from Iran headed by Saeed Rajai Khorassani, a former Iranian envoy to the UN. Three Pakistani generals, one still on active service, attended the conference. Giving further evidence of the fact that the Berlin meeting was designed to influence governments, the UN invited official representatives of both the Taliban government in Kabul and the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the Northern Alliance's foreign minister, attended. The Taliban declined to send a representative.

The Pakistani government took the US talk of possible strikes seriously enough to pass it on to the Taliban. Pakistan is one of only three governments to recognise the Taliban.

Mr Coldren confirmed the broad outline of the American position at the Berlin meeting yesterday. "I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action." The three former US diplomats "based our discussion on hearsay from US officials", he said. It was not an agenda item at the meeting "but was mentioned just in passing".

Nikolai Kozyrev, Moscow's former special envoy on Afghanistan and one of the Russians in Berlin, would not confirm the contents of the US conversations, but said: "Maybe they had some discussions in the corridor. I don't exclude such a possibility."

Mr Naik's recollection is that "we had the impression Russians were trying to tell the Americans that the threat of the use of force is sometimes more effective than force itself".

The Berlin conference was the third convened since November last year by Mr Vendrell. As a UN meeting, its official agenda was confined to trying to find a negotiated solution to the civil war in Afghanistan, ending terrorism and heroin trafficking, and discussing humanitarian aid.

Mr Simons denied having said anything about detailed operations. "I've known Niaz Naik and considered him a friend for years. He's an honourable diplomat. I didn't say anything like that and didn't hear anyone else say anything like that. We were clear that feeling in Washington was strong, and that military action was one of the options down the road. But details, I don't know where they came from."

The US was reassessing its Afghan policy under the new Bush administration at the time of the July meeting, according to Mr Simons. "It was clear that the trend of US government policy was widening. People should worry, Taliban, Bin Laden ought to worry - but the drift of US policy was to get away from single issue, from concentrating on Bin Laden as under Clinton, and get broader."

Mr Inderfurth said: "There was no suggestion for military force to be used. What we discussed was the need for a comprehensive political settlement to bring an end to the war in Afghanistan, that has been going on for two decades, and has been doing so much damage."

The Foreign Office confirmed the significance of the Berlin discussions. "The meeting was a bringing together of Afghan factions and some interested states and we received reports from several participants, including the UN," it said.

Asked if he was surprised that the American participants were denying the details they mentioned in Berlin, Mr Naik said last night: "I'm a little surprised but maybe they feel they shouldn't have told us anything in advance now we have had these tragic events".

Russia's president Vladimir Putin said in an interview released yesterday that he had warned the Clinton administration about the dangers posed by Bin Laden. "Washington's reaction at the time really amazed me. They shrugged their shoulders and said matter-of-factly: 'We can't do anything because the Taliban does not want to turn him over'."

Colin Powell says the signs were there but none pointed to the scale of September 11. NZ Herald

by Ben Fenton America had "a lot of signs" before September 11 that a serious terrorist attack was being planned but no firm details had emerged, says United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. His confirmation that America's intelligence agencies could not pin down the nature of the threat came as it emerged that Osama bin Laden had already had two close escapes from US authorities. Two years ago, a plan to use 60 CIA-trained members of Pakistan's ISI intelligence service to capture or kill bin Laden was thwarted when Nawaz Sharif, the then Pakistan. Prime Minister, was overthrown in a military coup. And in 1996, an offer by Sudan to turn over the multimillionaire terrorist came to nothing because America had no legal case against bin Laden at that time. The Saudi Government, whic did have evidence of terrorism against him, could not be persuaded to face a possible backlash by his supporters by taking him into custody from Khartoum

The CIA even discussed shooting down the charter aircraft that took bin Laden from Sudan to his exile in Afghanistan in 1996, but did not have the evidence to put before President Bill Clinton to authorise such an assassination. Powell said intelligence agencies issued several warnings that terrorists were planning to attack American interests. But none of the information gathered pointed to the scale of the outrages in New York and Washington Ithree weeks ago. He said that in May and June . There were a lot of signs that there was something going on but we never got the fidelity and would have liked to, some warning of what did actually happen," he said. "The intelligence agencies were trying. We were watchful throughout of our embassy systems." His use of the word "fidelity", a military intelligence term, suggests that the evidence was either too ^:sketchy or of too uncertain an origin ~to be regarded as useful. The warnings that did come indi "cated attacks in the US or against American targets in Europe and the 'Middle East about the time of the Fourth of July celebrations, or later that month at the G7 summit meeting in Genoa. Powel1 said: "There were a number of reports that we were worried about but that never crystallised." Throughout June and July the State Department released reports warning that terrorist attacks were imminent in various parts of the world. But when that time expired, it was thought the threat had passed. "It all makes it look now like we should have known," said Helmut Sonnenfeldt, a Brookings Institution scholar. Proposals to revamp US intelligence have proliferated since September 11. But in the rally-round-the-flag atmosphere, criticism of the FBI and CIA-two of the agencies charged with seeing things coming -has been relatively muted. President George W. Bush last week paid a morale-boosting visit to the CIA and declared the US had "the best intelligence we can possibly have". Republican Senator Richard Shelby, vice-chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, has called the fail ure to detect the plot a "colossal intelligence failure". The failed plan to kidnap or kill bin Laden using Pakistani agents was put together after an attack using 66 cruise missiles on a training camp near Khost in Afghanistan on August 20, 1998. An estimated 30 people linked to bin Laden were killed in the attack. The Washington Post reported that bin Laden left the camp between two and 12 hours before the raid. One intelligence agent said the botched effort to kill bin Laden turned the guy into a folk hero". Another source said had we been able to roll up bin Laden then it would have made a signifcant differ ence. "We probably never would have seen a September 11. "We would still have had net works of Sunni Islamic extremists of the sort we're dealmg with here, and there would still have been terrorist attacks fomented by those folks. "But there would not have beenas many resources devoted tp their activities, and there would n~vt have been a single voice that so effectively articulated grievances and won sup port for violence." -TELEGRAPH GROUP



The Middle East's most violent terrorists have agreed to a frightening megamerger in which they will pool resources to fight their common enemies: the United States and Israel. The new conglomerate of terror was put together at an extraordinary convention held in Beirut recently in which extremist Islamic groups such as Osama bin Laden's Al-Quaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah agreed to put aside old rivalries and deep religious schisms for a common agenda aimed at destroying the state of Israel and freeing the region of U.S. influence. The terror convention was also attended by representatives from Iran and Iraq, two countries that fought a bloody war against each other in the 1980s, who have agreed to devote resources to the new alliance, named the Jerusalem Foundation. The gathering also drew Islamic militants from Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Qatar and Yemen. Sudan and Algeria, ruled by Islamic governments, also sent representatives. In a communiqué reported by Arabic media outlets at the conclusion of the three-day convention, the "400 delegates" rededicated themselves to the jihad, or holy war, aimed at reclaiming Palestinian land from the Israelis and winning full Arab sovereignty over Jerusalem. "The participants are firm that the strategy that should be adopted in dealing with the Jerusalem issue cannot be based on co-existence with the Zionist enemy . . . but rather by uprooting it from our land and holy Islamic-Christian shrines," the communiqué said. "The only decisive option to achieve this strategy is the option of jihad in all its forms and resistance." The communiqué denounced U.S. involvement in the Middle East, stating, "America today is a second Israel." At least one American man attended the convention and flew back to the United States afterward, sources said. Bush administration officials called a formation of a terror conglomerate against Israel a "disturbing development" coming at a time when tensions in the Middle East are at the boiling point, presenting President Bush with his first major foreign-policy test. Middle East experts say there is good reason to be alarmed. "This is a very radical group who [have] discovered that they are ideological fellow travelers on the issue of Jerusalem, the Palestinians and the U.S.A.," said David Schenker from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Terrorist expert Steven Emerson added, "Why do companies merge? To become more powerful. This is dangerous for Israel and dangerous for the U.S." Musa Abu Marzouq, the Hamas leader held in a New York jail in 1997 before being expelled to Jordan, and Ramadham Abdullah Shallah, head of the Islamic Jihad of Palestine, were named heads of the new terror foundation, which will have its headquarters in Beirut. "Our only choice is jihad in all its forms and using all its tools," Marzouq said at a press conference Feb. 1, at the conclusion of the convention. Despite recent overtures to the West, the Iranian government also seems to be a driving force behind the new alliance. Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashami, a high-profile Iranian diplomat and spymaster, led a large delegation of Iranian officials at the conference and announced afterward there would be a second summit in Tehran on April 28.

America wakes up to Osama's nuke dreams TIMES NEWS NETWORK



W ASHINGTON: Alarm bells are clanging in the US and other western establishments over reports that Osama Bin Laden may have acquired or developed crude atom bombs with help from renegade Pakistani nuclear scientists.

Accounts of Bin Laden's pursuit of nuclear weapons has been in the air for some time, but they acquired an added urgency this week following the arrest in Islamabad of two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists whose activities in Afghanistan were being scrutinised by western intelligence agencies. The scientists were reportedly taken into custody for questioning by Pakistani authorities at Washington's behest.

According to reports from Islamabad, the two scientists -- Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudhury Abdul Majid -- have been "detained for questioning" by Pakistani authorities.

Proliferation experts in Washington say Mahmood and Majid are experts on plutonium technology. Mahmood is known for his contribution in setting up Pakistan's first "unsafeguarded" plutonium reactor in Khushab in central Pakistan. Majid is one of the few Pakistani scientists who had been trained at a plutonium facility in Belgium in the 1960s.

Majid worked with Mahmood for years, and they were both senior scientists in the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. Mahmood, who was project director of Pakistan's nuclear programme before its 1998 tests, reportedly resigned in protest against Pakistan considering signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Majid, who went on to become Director of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, retired last year.

Following their exit from the Pakistani nuclear establishment, the duo set up a non-governmental organisation for relief work and investment in Afghanistan. The NGO had close ties with the Taliban. The links had drawn the attention of US intelligence agencies that in turn alerted the Musharraf regime, which has been doing its best in recent months to convince Washington that its nuclear assets are safe.

Bin Laden's pursuit of nuclear weapons has been fairly well-chronicled. As early as 1993, a senior Bin Laden operative, Jamal al-Fadi, reportedly met a Sudanese military commander in Khartoum to negotiate the sale of a cylinder of enriched South African uranium. His operatives also tried to buy nuclear material through the Russian mafia and suitcase nuclear bombs through Chechen rebels.

The reports led the CIA Director George Tenet to publicly sound the alarm at a Senate hearing last year.

The role of Pakistani scientists has been less clear, although US experts have speculated about links between Islamabad and the Iraqi nuclear program. In Islamabad yesterday, Pakistani spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi said "authorities were only investigating Mahmood for his links with the Taliban through his relief agency, and not over concerns he may have passed on any government nuclear secrets."

But American analysts, shaken by the WTC carnage and the bio-terrorism attack, are less sure. "Available information suggests that, despite official statements to the contrary, the Pakistani government may not have full confidence in the security of its nuclear arsenal. Statements by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry that 'our [nuclear] assets are 100 percent secure, under multiple custody' are untested and lack credibility," experts at the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, a thinktank that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in a threat assessment of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Aside the possibility of Bin Laden having acquired a suitcase nuclear device, experts here are fairly certain that he does not have the wherewithal to manufacture a full-fledged nuclear weapon. At best, he may be able to make a "dirty bomb," an improvised device that could be exploded to scatter radioactive plutonium without the fission that is involved in a full-scale nuclear weapon.

"The construction of a crude plutonium separation plant is easier than is often understood. The detained Pakistani scientists could have provided critical information and insights that would help Al Qaeda build a simple plutonium separation facility in Afghanistan," the ISIS said in a statement.

According to the London Times, British intelligence services are investigating a claim by a Bulgarian businessman that he was approached earlier this year by a middleman for Bin Laden seeking to obtain spent nuclear fuel rods from the Kozlodui nuclear power plant in Bulgaria.

The businessman was invited to Pakistan, where he was led to a secret location. A Pakistani scientist who described himself as a chemical engineer offered to pay $200,000 to help set up an environmental firm to buy nuclear waste. It was not immediately clear if the scientist was one of the two detained men.

In fact, the Times, quoting western intelligence sources, reported on Friday that Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network have already illegally acquired nuclear materials from Pakistan for possible use in their terrorism war against the West.

"The knowledge that Bin Laden has components for a nuclear weapons device is believed to lie behind the regular warnings from President Bush and Tony Blair that he would commit worse atrocities than the suicide assaults on New York and Washington if he were able to," The Times reported.

"They may also explain the speed with which the decision was taken to go after Bin Laden and his terrorist network, even if that meant toppling the Taleban regime in Afghanistan first," the paper added.

What is lending credence to the nuclear attack theory is the steady scaling up of strikes on American interests, starting with smaller kidnappings and bombings in the middle-east and Africa to the WTC catastrophe and the biological weapons attack.

There is a inevitable sense here that the next blow could be a chemical or nuclear strike.

Israel Finds Radiological Backpack Bomb United Press International, October 14, 2001

RICHARD SALE, UPI Terrorism Correspondent, United Press International, October 14, 2001

WASHINGTON, Oct 14, 2001 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Israeli security last month arrested a man linked to suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden armed with a radiological backpack bomb, as he attempted to enter Israel from the Palestinian Territories via a border checkpoint at Ramallah, according to U.S. government officials.

The arrest took place during the last week of September, according to one knowledgeable official who spoke on condition of anonymity. He declined to give the exact date of arrest. Two other sources interviewed by UPI confirmed the incident, but also declined to give further details.

"People know how to walk a dog back," one said, meaning that relating too exact an account could lead to the identification of the source of the information.

Regarding the arrest, a U.S. government official said: "There was only one individual involved. He was from Pakistan."

Another source said U.S. officials believed that the suspect had probably gotten to the territories via Lebanon.

Information on the arrest went immediately to U.S. President Bush and a close circle of advisors, another U.S. official said. He described the appearance and character of the top-secret report circulated among the Cabinet members and signed by each official present.

Former Pentagon terrorism expert, Peter Probst, described a radiological bomb as a device with a small explosive core that is encased in radioactive material. "It would not kill a great many people, but it would contaminate a considerable area with radiation," he said.

A U.S. government expert said that the weapon captured by Israel was a backpack device that CIA officials learned about through Russian intelligence agents in place in 1995.

He emphasized it was not a so-called nuclear suitcase bomb.

The CIA had intelligence reports from senior Arab intelligence officials alleging that in October 1998 bin Laden had obtained one or two nuclear suitcase weapons from a Central Asian republic in return for $30 million in cash and two tons of heroin worth $70 million - a deal brokered by the Chechen mafia.

Russian Gen. Aleksandr Ivanovich Lebed, a former national security advisor to then-President Yeltsin acknowledged publicly in 1997 that several nuclear suitcase bombs had disappeared from Russia's arsenal.

But former CIA counter-terrorism official Vince Cannistraro has no patience with such accounts: "All talk of bin Laden having a nuclear suitcase bomb is crap," he said.

Cannistraro could not be reached for comment about the backpack device.

Nuclear suitcase bombs were designed for Soviet Speznatz or special operations troops to assault and destroy NATO command and control bunkers in Europe in the event of a NATO-Soviet war. The devices could not be detonated without matching codes held in strictest security by Moscow, a former CIA official said.

Backpack bombs have no such codes, but they were also designed for Spetznetz forces and have such an intricate and complex system of activation that the ability of a terrorist to detonate one "would be incredibly limited," according to one U.S. government official.

"There is such a complicated sequence you have to perform that some terrorist isn't going to be able to get it to work. You have to be very highly trained," an intelligence official agreed, describing the chances that the device could have been activated as "practically miniscule."

Probst is nevertheless convinced that radiological bombs are still a danger for New York City. "Bin Laden is fascinated by Wall Street. My fear is that he will attempt to smuggle in some "dirty" bomb that wouldn't kill many people but would dangerously contaminate the area," he said. Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

Bin Laden has several Nuclear Suitcases Jerusalem Report: October 25th, 1999

[email protected] (Carey Sublette)

Reproduced from the Jerusalem Report: October 25th, 1999

Master terrorist Ossame Bin Laden has acquired portable nuclear devices, a U.S.-based expert on non-conventional terror believes. The only real question now is whether BinLaden has "a few," as Russian intelligence seems to think, or "over 20," a figure cited by intelligence services of moderate Arab regimes. "There is no longer much doubt that Bin Laden has finally succeeded in his quest for nuclear 'suitcase bombs," says Yossef Bodansky, head of the Congressional Task Force on Non-Conventional Terrorism in Washington. In a recent book, Bodansky reports that Bin Laden's associates acquired the devices through Chechnya, paying the Chechens $30 million in cash and two tons of Afghan heroin, worth about $70 million in Afghanistan and about 10 times that on the street in Western cities.

Bodansky's statements corroborate 1998 testimony by former Russian security chief Alexander Lebed to the U.S. House of Representatives. Lebed said that 43 nuclear suitcases from the former Soviet arsenal, developed for the KGB in the 1970s, have vanished since the collapse of the former Soviet Union a decade ago. Lebed said one person could detonate such a bomb by himself, and kill 100,000 people.

Among the others who recognize the threat is Ben Venzke, director of Tempest Publishing. The U.S. firm plans to release a detailed technical handbook on dealing with nuclear terror next year. The danger, says Venzke, is quite real ? and is not confined to stolen Russian weapons. "It is really quite simple," he says, "to acquire radioactive material and combine it with an explosive or so-called dirty device." Yael Haran

Atomic Haul Raises Fears of bin Laden Terror Bomb Julian West London Sunday Telegraph April 23, 2000 (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON fears that the Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden is trying to develop an "Islamic bomb" following the seizure of nuclear material being smuggled to Pakistan from the former Soviet Union. Customs officers from Uzbekistan discovered 10 lead-lined containers at a remote border crossing with Kazakhstan at the end of last month. These were filled with enough radioactive material to make dozens of crude weapons, each capable of contaminating a large area for many years.

Military analysts have described such "radiation bombs" as "poor man's nuclear weapons", in which conventional explosives are used to spread radioactive material. The seizure has raised fears that the wealthy bin Laden and his fellow terrorists could be developing the capability to unleash them on the West and Israel.

The consignment was addressed to a company in Quetta, Pakistan, called Ahmadjan Haji Mohammed. Quetta, where border controls are virtually non-existent, is the main Pakistani crossing into southern Afghanistan and only a six-hour drive from Kandahar, the Taliban regime's heartland where bin Laden operates his terror network.

Uzbek border guards were alerted to the lorry shipment when their radiation sensors "went off wildly". The Iranian driver had declared his cargo to be stainless steel, and carried a certificate from Kazakh authorities declaring that it contained no radioactive material.

The Telegraph has learnt that United States intelligence officials in the region believe that the vehicle was carrying strontium 90. This can be used to make a radiation bomb (or radiological weapon, as such a device is also known).

Kazakhstan has denied knowledge of the consignment. But the country houses many of the former Soviet Union's nuclear installations, and illegal shipments of atomic materials - sold by scientists or crime gangs ­ are known to leave the Central Asian republic. Two years ago, Washington issued portable radiation detectors to Customs agents from several countries in the former Soviet bloc in an attempt to stem the trade.

Although the cargo manifest stated that the shipment was destined for Pakistan, most experts believe that it is unlikely to have been intended for use by Islamabad's military regime. Pakistan, which demonstrated its nuclear capability with six test blasts two years ago, has at least 10 nuclear facilities, all producing radioactive bi-products.

Doug Richardson, the editor of Jane's Missiles said: "Pakistan is quite capable of making a nuclear bomb, so why would they want something like this? Radiation bombs are nuclear dustbin bombs - they're capable of contaminating an area around the explosion and making a city uninhabitable."

Five years ago, Chechen rebels announced that they had planted a radiation bomb in a Moscow park. It was dug up by Russian bomb-disposal experts. Although it would have caused little damage because it was buried, American experts say that such a bomb exploded above ground would be devastating.

Stephen Bryen, the former head of the Pentagon's Defence Technology Security Administration said: "It's an ideal terror weapon, used in a city and especially places such as subways, to cause maximum harm. There is therefore a high possibility that [the seized consignment] was going to terrorist groups in Pakistan and that it might well have been for bin Laden."

Reports that bin Laden has been trying to acquire chemical weapons have been confirmed recently by Western intelligence agencies. Meanwhile, the tightening American net around the ailing terrorist leader, who is being treated by an Iraqi doctor for serious kidney and liver problems, has thrown up evidence of at least two failed bomb plots in Canada and Jordan which bin Laden's organisation, Al Quaeda, is said to have planned.

A host of virulently anti-American terrorist groups are based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in addition to Kashmiri militant factions, and US officials believe that several may be interested in acquiring a radiation weapon. Among them are groups funded and trained by bin Laden, such as Harkat ul Mujahideen, the organisation believed to have carried out the Christmas Eve hijacking of an Indian airliner and the kidnapping and murder of six Western tourists - including two Britons ­ in Kashmir in 1995.

In addition, large numbers of Islamic terrorists from bin Laden's camps and Pakistan have been fighting in Chechnya, whose rebels once deployed a radiation device. The latest incident heightens American alarm about the smuggling of nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union.

Last week, Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State who was visiting Central Asia, said Washington would increase funding for counter-terrorism and cross-border controls. The US has previously provided a small handful of portable radiation detectors in addition to training from the defence department and Customs officers. US advisers have included two American Indian trackers, who have taught local officers how to follow trails through the region's mountains.

Bin Laden may have miniature nukes 10/31/2001 Pakistan Frontier Post

Naveed Miraj Updated on 10/31/2001 11:52:45 AM ISLAMABAD: Pakistani and USA investigation agencies are sifting and analysing information that suggests Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda may be in possession of some tactical nuclear weapons, The Frontier Post has learnt.

A Pakistani retired nuclear scientist Bashir ud Din Mehmood along with two others is under arrest since last few days in connection with his visits to Afghanistan and his work there.

He is being investigated both by Pakistani and US agencies.

Dr Mehmood was employed with Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) before his retirement.

A numbers of items have been identified by the intelligence sources that are reportedly in possession of Osama and his colleagues.

The materials that are suspected to be in possession of Al Qaeda are Zirconium rods/powers (Refractory material which is highly heat resistant and used in Ceramics) Titanium is another metal that is of industrial use and its alloys are used to make heat exchange tubes.

Its alloys are the most used item in defence industry.

Enriched Uranium, is another material that is suspected to have been purchased by Al Qaeda from rogue elements in Russia and Central Asian States.

Meanwhile experts with nuclear sciences background when approached said that it is highly unlikely that Al Qaeda or its associates have the necessary technological base for using these different materials to make a fission device.

"Enriched Uranium may be a very important basic material but using it for making devices and that too tactical or miniaturized ones is a very expensive and highly sophisticated job", these experts said.

Asked about Dr Bashiruddin Mehmood's possible role, these sources said that no doubt that he was a capable person but he or one or two other scientists could not build a weapon.

The infrastructure involved in weapon making is very elaborate and requires great amount of funding.

There have been reports that Al Qaeda had bought nukes from Russia or Central Asian States.

But Defense experts said that even if Nuclear weapons are bought the next step is their storage, delivery mechanism and other technological support for the use of such weapons.

Intelligence sources have also been suspecting that Al Qaeda may have developed nerve gas (biological agent) that can prove harmful to large number of people by paralysing them.

Some of the sources claim that the United States has information on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden but was analysing whether these hideouts had some radioactive materials stocked up that could lead to a major radioactive activity in the region.

Bin Laden is looking for a nuclear weapon. How close has he come? November 7, 2001 The Guardian

Suitcase bombs and old Soviet material pose danger to US Julian Borger in Washington and Ewen MacAskill Wednesday

The seller was an ambulance driver, who had turned up to the meeting in Istanbul with a friend and over a kilogram of uranium wrapped in newspaper. The merchandise was from one of the old Soviet republics, the man said, and he wanted $750,000 for it. Instead, he ended up in jail. The buyers were undercover policemen. The uranium seizure, confirmed yesterday by the Turkish interior ministry, was a police sting operation, but it is hardly reassuring. It raises the question of how many similar deals are being made by more competent salesmen of what is potentially the world's most deadly commodity. The chilling uncertainty loomed over President Bush's blunt statements yesterday. His remarks have added the White House's authority to a conclusion reached years ago by most proliferation experts. The threat of a terrorist nuclear weapon is real. The only significant uncertainty is the timing of the first attempt at a nuclear attack, and what kind of bomb would be used.

As the president pointed out, in raising the spectre of an al-Qaida nuclear attack he was simply quoting Osama bin Laden himself, who has told journalists that it would be a "sin" not to develop an Islamic bomb. "He announced that this was his intention and I believe we need to take him seriously," Mr Bush said at a joint appearance with President Jacques Chirac of France at the White House. There is also no doubt that Bin Laden is in the nuclear market. In February this year, one of the Saudi fugitive's aides, Jamal al-Fadl, told a US court of his role in an attempt to buy $1.5m (£1.03m) worth of uranium in Sudan. Mr al-Fadl, who was giving evidence in the embassy bombings trial, testified that in 1993 he was sent to meet a man near Khartoum who was selling uranium apparently from South Africa. He did not know if the deal went through, but he said that al-Qaida was "very serious" about making the purchase.

Awash with uranium Once Bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan, getting hold of uranium and other nuclear material did not present a serious problem. The black market in Afghanistan is awash with it. Robert Puffer, an American antiquities dealer in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, said he was frequently offered enriched uranium.

"It was in lead containers with cyrillic writing on it," Mr Puffer told the Guardian. "They would carry yellow cake [Uranium] in matchboxes in their breast pockets. They would have rashes and they would ask me why. And I said: "You're stupid - that stuff is dangerous." Mr Puffer said he was once taken to a warehouse in Peshawar where canisters of nuclear material from the former Soviet Union, wrapped in sacking, were stored under the floor. The radioactivity sent a geiger counter buzzing from outside the building.

Having access to such radioactive material, however, is a long way from making a real nuclear bomb. That would require plutonium and highly enriched uranium and a lot of technical knowhow. However, the mishmash of nuclear fuel and radioactive junk being touted in Istanbul over the weekend and which Mr Puffer saw in Peshawar would suffice to make a "dirty bomb". Such a weapon would consist of a rough assembly of radioactive material clumped around conventional explosives. When detonated, the blast would send up a plume of radioactive particles into the atmosphere killing and contaminating hundreds of thousands of people for miles around. The International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) was initially sceptical about the "dirty bomb" threat but has changed its mind since September 11. "We think this is entirely a live possibility," said David Kyd, a spokesman for the IAEA, which is based in Vienna.

Mr Kyd said it could be delivered in the same way that the IRA took explosives into the City of London: inside a medium-sized van or lorry. Immediate fatalities would be confined to those caught up in an explosion but over the longer term there could be deaths from contamination. The main problem would be the sense of panic it would create.

Before September 11, the IAEA had assumed that terrorists were unlikely to take their own lives in detonating the bomb: "Our attitude has changed because 20 terrorists were prepared to sacrifice their own lives and because of the level of sophistication on September 11."

A real nuclear bomb is far more difficult to make. It is conceivable that a terrorist organisation might be able to put together a crude atom bomb, of the sort that was dropped on Hiroshima. It would require eight kilos of plutonium or 25 kilos of highly enriched uranium. There is clearly a lot of bogus material on sale in Afghanistan, but it is also possible that some of it really is enriched uranium, or even plutonium.

The Pakistan nuclear programme produces about 100 kilos of enriched uranium a year, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nuclear watchdog publication. Furthermore, the pioneer of the Pakistani programme, Bahiruddin Mahmood, is a fervent Islamist with close ties with the Taliban. He has been detained by the Islamabad government and is reported to have suffered a heart attack in detention. It remains unclear if he shared any of his knowledge or smuggled any nuclear materials in his frequent trips to Afghanistan in recent years to meet Taliban leaders. Russian stockpiles of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium are also a cause for concern. Security is reported to be lax and a US programme to provide alternative employment for unemployed Russian nuclear scientists and employees at defunct nuclear plants had ironically been scaled back by the Bush administration a few months before the terrorists struck. It is expected that the aid programme will be on the agenda at next week's summit between Mr Bush and President Putin.

No evidence There is no evidence as yet that Bin Laden is close to building his own atomic device and his chances of constructing one have lessened considerably since the bombs began to fall on his bases.

Another way to acquire a nuclear weapon is to steal or buy one. There have been numerous unconfirmed reports of ex-Soviet warheads going missing and ending up in the volatile central Asian republics. There have also been rumours of KGB suitcase bombs (whose existence has never been definitively confirmed) being put on the market by Chechen warlords. However, most experts look sceptically on these stories. Israeli intelligence, which monitors such proliferation closely, has rejected speculation that nuclear weapons have gone missing from the Soviet Union. Brigadier General Yossi Cooperwasser, chief of research for Israel's military intelligence, said:"We've checked out the reports and don't have any evidence to support concerns over lost, stolen or misappropriated nuclear devices."

However, the threat of a "dirty bomb" is serious enough. There is no doubt that this eminently feasible weapon is the most serious terrorist threat facing the US and the rest of the world.


Bin Laden's 'nuclear threat' Friday, 26 October, 2001, BBC

16:18 GMT 17:18 UK Analysis: Nuclear material can be used in "dirty bombs" By BBC News Online's Natalie Malinarich

Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network may have acquired nuclear materials, according to the Western intelligence sources quoted in the British media.

Although it is widely believed that al-Qaeda does not have the capability to build a conventional atomic bomb, experts fear that the radioactive material could be used in a so-called "dirty bomb" - a device to spread radioactive material. These so-called dirty weapons have never been used before.

Radiation could be scattered from the top of a building, by detonating explosives wrapped with the radioactive material or by piloting an aircraft into a nuclear reactor.

Thousands could be exposed, causing both short- and long-term deaths and rendering areas uninhabitable for years.

Shopping for uranium

Bin Laden and his associates have long been accused of trying to acquire nuclear material.

A close Bin Laden associate was charged by the US of trying to buy a cylinder of South African uranium in Sudan.

A letter alleged to have been written by Bin Laden and seized in London three years ago, called on Muslim nations to acquire nuclear weapons.

"We call for the Muslim brothers to imitate Pakistan as to the possession of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons," says the letter dated May 1998.

It is not known where Osama Bin Laden may have got his nuclear materials - if he has them - is not known, but fingers are pointing to ex-Soviet republics or Pakistan.

Pakistan has denied the accusations and insists that its nuclear assets are in safe hands.

John Large, an independent nuclear consultant, also says Pakistan is an unlikely source.

"Pakistan has an early nuclear programme and its highly-enriched uranium would be very precious to it. It would not have enough to spare, even if it wanted to," he says.

No nuclear competence

John Large thinks that Bin Laden probably does have enriched uranium bought in a former Soviet republic, possibly Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan.

"Unfortunately, he is in the right place at the right time. That area of the world is the worst place in terms of possible proliferation," he said.

"With the break up of the Soviet Union there were many leaks, typically about 30 cases of smuggling of nuclear materials a year. It is like an open sieve. You get a superpower like the Soviet Union break up and of course its materials will come out."

The Washington-based Center for Defense Information (CDI) warns that there is still a long way to go to bring Russian nuclear security up to international standards.

However, experts insist that al-Qaeda does not have the technical competence to build a nuclear weapon.

"It is difficult to think of a sub-national group doing it without the help of a nuclear state," says John Large.

"A nuclear bomb is difficult to manufacture and requires a lot of industrial infrastructure, materials, machines and tools. It also takes a long time to develop the capability."

Israel, for example, took about 15 years to achieve nuclear status.

But not being able to build an atomic bomb does not mean that radioactive materials cannot be used to cause extensive damage, as many specialists have warned.

Dirty weapons

Weapons involving radioactive materials can take many forms.

The most accessible for any terrorist is a radiological dispersion bomb, says the CDI.

This "dirty bomb" consists of waste by-products from nuclear reactors, wrapped in conventional explosives.

On detonation the dirty bomb would spew deadly radioactive materials into the environment.

According to some experts, it would be sufficient to explode an old X-ray machine containing cobalt 60 to produce radiation poisoning.

Another feared possibility is the spread of radioactive particles.

Elements such as caesium, cobalt, plutonium or uranium can be oxidised into respirable-sized particles and then dispersed in the environment.

The particles would settle as dust, and be very difficult to detect and clean up, leaving areas uninhabitable.

Thousands of people could suffer short- and long-term effects from the inhalation of radioactive material.

But experts say the ultimate dirty bomb is a nuclear power station which could serve as a target for a terrorist attack.

Crashing an aircraft into the cooling pool that holds the spent fuel, could have a devastating effect on the nearby population and environment.

Recognising the threat, the French military has stationed surface-to-air missiles at key nuclear processing sites in western France as a precaution against airborne suicide attacks and both the UK and US governments have said security measures are being reviewed.

The Crusaders' Giant Footprints By Ken Ringle

Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulcher, wrest that land from the wicked race . . . -- Pope Urban II, 1095

The average American probably thinks of the Crusades -- if he thinks of them at all -- as a dimly recalled page in a high school history book, possibly overlaid with images from the 1935 Cecil B. De Mille film epic starring Jason Robards Sr. and Loretta Young. In the Islamic world, it's not like that. Arab societies "have a very fluid sense of time," explains Mary-Jane Deeb, adjunct professor at American University and a Middle East specialist. "For them, events like the Crusades, a thousand years ago, are as immediate as yesterday. And they are very, very powerful events in the Arab mind. A lot of Islamic rhetoric revolves around the crusaders." The reasons why are part history, part culture, part linguistics. When President Bush on Sept. 15 declared that "this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while," Muslims were stung. The president was using "crusade" in its Western sense of "any vigorous action in behalf of a cause." But many Muslims, particularly Arabs, recognize no such usage. To them "crusade," even uncapitalized, is a profoundly loaded term. It evokes not just a war against their people, who were hacked apart, man and child, 1,000 years ago, until the streets of Jerusalem and other cities ran deep in blood. It evokes an unprovoked war against their religion and their every way of life -- a war they see mirrored today in the steady corrosion of Islamic values by a globalizing Western culture they believe undermines their families, trivializes learning and profanes their God. When Islam is under attack, the Koran justifies a jihad, or holy war, against unbelievers. To many in the Muslim world, Islam has been under attack by the West at least since the 11th century and the First Crusade. "It's not simply a matter of religion as Westerners understand it," Deeb explains. "Conservative Muslims see the West imposing an entire system of economic, political and social values which strike at the heart of the Islamic way of life. Westerners would consider most of these values secular, but to conservative Muslims almost nothing is secular. The Koran governs everything, including banking and politics. All is Islam."

To appreciate the sense of cultural violation many Muslims feel toward the West, it helps to remember that Islam, in its early centuries, was quite tolerant of Christians and Jews. In 622, 400 years before the Crusades, a founding document of Islam called the Constitution of Medina defined Jews and Christians as dhimmis -- "people of the Book" who also believed in one God. So as long as they paid a yearly tax to their Muslim rulers, they were permitted religious freedom. Such religious tolerance was strikingly unusual at the time, and it continued for centuries after Muhammad's death in 632, even as Islam spread north and westward from Arabia into the crumbling remnants of the old Roman Empire. Midway through the 8th century, Arab forces had conquered most of the Middle East and were on their way to Spain. Europeans during these years were occupied primarily in fending off Attila the Hun and other invaders and in warring among themselves. But a trickle of European Christians had been making pilgrimages to the Holy Land since the 4th century. Generally they were unmolested, but things underwent an abrupt change in 1009, when the caliph of Egypt, in a fit of madness, ordered the destruction of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, where Christians believe Jesus was entombed. For much of the rest of the century Christian pilgrims were sporadically set upon, first by Arabs, then by Muslim Turks who replaced the Arabs as rulers of Syria and Palestine.

It was in this context that Pope Urban II in 1095 issued his famous call to European Christians to proclaim their faith by recapturing Jerusalem from such "infidels." In addition to making Jerusalem safe for pilgrims, he hoped to halt the feudal warfare within Europe, and possibly even heal the centuries-old breach between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Urban's call "Deus lo volt!" (God wills it) electrified Europe. Knights and minor nobles, yeomen and archers, opportunists and thieves all dropped their mundane lives and set out to follow the cross, as much for adventure and plunder as for God. On all sides sprang up disorganized, undisciplined, penniless hordes who surged eastward by the thousands, foraging and looting as they went. Some made side trips through German cities to murder Jews as a sort of warmup for the infidel Turks. Led by figures with names like Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless, they reached Constantinople in August 1096, then crossed the Bosporus to Asia Minor, where they were almost all slain by Turks. The more organized wing of the First Crusade reached Constantinople the following year, continuing toward the Holy Land into what is now Iraq and Syria. With more than 25,000 troops from throughout Europe, they besieged cities, stormed their walls and hacked their way through Arab defenders. "The Arabs were shocked," writes David Lamb in "The Arabs: Journeys Beyond the Mirage." "They couldn't understand what they had done to offend the Christians, and they could not comprehend the behavior of the crude foreigners who did not bathe or wear silks or walk on fine carpets." For if Western Christendom was sunk in the Dark Ages of violence, ignorance and superstition, the Arabic world of Islam was in its golden age. Baghdad was the most cosmopolitan city in the world -- the Baghdad of Aladdin, Sinbad and "A Thousand and One Nights" -- with gilded mosques and unrivaled centers of learning. Muslim scholars made important and original contributions in mathematics, astronomy, medicine and literature. They advanced agriculture and engineering, and their poets sang in the streets. In Spain, the Arab city of Cordoba had a population of 500,000, compared with Paris's 38,000, and boasted 700 mosques, thousands of palaces, 70 libraries and 900 public baths, plus the first streetlights in Europe. The Arabs looked on the crusaders much as the ancient Romans must have looked on the barbarian hordes. And when the crusaders entered Jerusalem on July 15, 1099, those suspicions were confirmed. The crusaders plundered and defiled Islam's hallowed Dome of the Rock, and carried out such a wholesale slaughter of Muslims and Jews that a chronicler of the time wrote of crusader horses splashing through bloody streets where "heaps of heads and hands could be seen."

The First Crusade touched off 400 years of warfare between Islam and the Western world, sometimes divided arbitrarily by historians into eight major crusades and several minor ones. The crusaders set up a number of "crusader states" in Syria and Palestine, over which they fought intermittently with Arabs and Turks in recurrent bloodbaths. Both Arab and Christian chroniclers almost glory in cataloguing the number of bodies cleaved in two, or beheaded, or hurled from catapults or burned alive. In 1187 the crusaders were evicted from Jerusalem by Salah-ad-Din Yusuf ibn-Ayyub, the charismatic and legendary Iraqi-born warrior known in the West as Saladin. Having attached himself to the Syrian army at 14, Saladin soon rose to become commander in chief and vizier in Egypt. But he was celebrated as much for his personal qualities of kindness, patience and tolerance as for his military prowess. He fought the crusaders with great skill for 10 years, but achieved as much by diplomacy as he did with the sword. He sent gifts to crusader generals even while opposing them and, according to legend, once ordered his horsemen to carry ice down a mountain to comfort Richard the Lion-Hearted when the British crusader king was ill. Muslim history has immortalized Saladin as a paragon of Islamic virtues, and Western historians have tended to agree. Yet for Muslims, the glory of his victories carries a gnawing question: How could the Arab world have shriveled so in subsequent centuries compared with the infidel, then-uncivilized and now-triumphant West? "Given the Arabs' belief in divine predestination," writes Raphael Patai in "The Arab Mind," "this reversal . . . is put on the Arabs themselves, primarily in terms of moral, that is, religious shortcomings. Or, in an illogical but emotionally much more satisfactory manner, the [crusader] West is held culpable for all that befell the Arabs." Patai's book was first published in 1973, but its truths would appear to live on. In his 1996 declaration of jihad, Osama bin Laden stated, "the crusader forces became the main cause of our disastrous condition." In a videotape released earlier this year to his supporters, he said, "I envision Saladin coming out of the clouds. . . . We will see again Saladin carrying his sword, with the blood of unbelievers dripping from it." There is nothing on the tape about bearing ice down the mountain.

Bin Laden, Dead? national review October 25, 2001
A Chinese report says so.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, NRO Executive Editor October 25, 2001 12:10 p.m.

James S. Robbins, a professor of international relations at the National Defense University's School for National Defense Studies & NRO contributor. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of NDU, the Department of Defense, or the government of the United States.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: There are reports on the Internet and in a Japanese newspaper that Mullah Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden are dead. Where are these coming from and should we have any reason to believe them over, say, the claims of the Taliban?

James S. Robbins: On October 24 a Chinese internet news site, Zhongxin Wang, ran a piece describing in detail the purported assassination of Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar by members of their retinue at an underground base near Kandahar on October 16. They were both shot twice in the back. One of bin Laden's sons and two of Omar's were also killed. The story was picked up today by the Tokyo-based Yomiuru Shimbun, the largest daily newspaper in Japan. Of course rumors and war go hand in hand, and without proof one way or another what is one to think?

Lopez: Last week there was a meeting in Afghanistan with top Taliban leaders after which they announced that the Taliban would fight under other leaders if Mullah Omar dies. This meeting began on October 16, the day this Chinese site claims Omar was shot. Coincidence?

Robbins: Well, there were some strange things going on in Afghanistan last week. The Pakistani press reported that Mullah Omar had convened a Shura (council meeting) in Kandahar on the 16th of more than 100 Taliban commanders. This alone strikes one as unusual. How could they get to Kandahar safely? And, once there, wouldn't they present a perfect target for the allied forces? Maybe they were-- the meeting lasted until the 19th, which was the day of the U.S. Ranger raid on Kandahar. When the Shura ended the Taliban issued some odd comments. For example, they "advised" Mullah Omar to "control the command of the Taliban army by remaining underground," and also "directed Usama bin Ladin and his associates to remain underground." They also set up a line of succession should Omar be "martyred," and "expressed their determination to remain united until the end, even after their leader is martyred." It might sound like prudent planning to establish a line of succession-- the United States has one for example - but in an authoritarian regime it is rare. Usually it amounts to a death sentence for the person tapped as the successor. In this case four Taliban commanders were named as possible successors -which could mean that the Shura could not decide on a single successor, and a power struggle is underway. The AP report of the arrest of 100 people in Kandahar also fits the puzzle.

And one more thing to consider: On Oct. 16, Taliban Corps Commander Mullah Muhammad Akhtar Usmani, one of the people named as a possible successor to Omar, made a lengthy statement that Omar and his family were "safe at their residence" and "completely unharmed." But no one had claimed otherwise.

Lopez: What would be a possible motivation for the Taliban to kill either Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden? And if they did, why wouldn't they come right out and blame it on us, possibly, even inciting international calls for the U.S. to end the strikes on Afghanistan?

Robbins: Motives are hard to judge. The assassins were clearly on a suicide mission. We can't know for whom they were working; maybe they were just Afghan patriots. The alleged attack coincided with an unscheduled meeting between Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil (another of the possible successors and a so-called "moderate") and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. It was rumored that Mutawakkil was defecting, but he returned to Afghanistan. Not much has been heard of him since he pledged "complete trust in the leadership of Mullah Omar" in an interview on al Jazeera television October 19. It is satisfying to think that Omar and bin Laden are dead, and we should know soon if this is true. This kind of thing can't stay secret for long. If they are dead then we can assume that the faction that killed them has been expunged and the Taliban has decided to fight on - otherwise they would have announced the martyrdom, no doubt fighting the American invaders or some such thing. If they aren't dead, this could be disinformation, but by whom and for what purpose is unclear. It hardly benefits the Taliban for these stories to get out. I think they should be asked demonstrate unequivocally that they are alive. The United States should sic the White House press corps on the Taliban spokesman until we get some answers.

If bin Laden and Omar are alive, let them show themselves, preferably in an open area away from hospitals and mosques, on a clear day. Just stay there until we can confirm it.