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Jewish World Review June 9, 2004 / 20 Sivan, 5764

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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In for the grim long haul | All eyes are on Iraq with its newly minted interim government. Suicide bombers will still try to visit civil war on what might become a civil society, but the new leaders have a chance to give voice to those who seek a truly progressive society. This is their testing time. The silent majority of Muslims must now impose their will, or their country will be doomed by the malignancy of radical Islamic terrorism. Unless they see who their real enemy is, nobody will be able to save Iraq. George Tenet is no longer at the CIA, but we should mark well his words that the "steady growth of Osama bin Laden's anti-U.S. sentiment through the wider Sunni extremist movement, and the broad dissemination of al Qaeda's destructive expertise, ensure that this serious threat will remain for the foreseeable future — with or without al Qaeda in the picture."

The evidence is plain to see. Since 9/11, there have been major terrorist attacks in Indonesia, Spain, Bosnia, India, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Somalia, Chechnya, and, of course, Israel. Wherever there is violence, there are Muslim radicals. Last year saw more suicide attacks, 98, than any other year; this year there will be more.

Murder. The modern use of bodies as weapons in the name of religion began in the Muslim world during the Iran-Iraq war when the mullahs of Iran sent children into battle zones to clear mines. The tactic was transformed into suicide bombing by Hezbollah, the Iranian-supported Shiite fighters in southern Lebanon, notably in the truck bomb that demolished the U.S. Marine barracks in 1983 and killed 241 Americans. Suicide bombing came to Israel in 1993, then moved around the world, eroding the trust necessary for ordinary people to leave civilized lives, so that taking commuter trains in Madrid, planes in Washington, and buses in Jerusalem now confronts us as cause for dread.

We still don't know how to defeat people who believe that it is more important to kill their enemies than to live and where the religious mission is a version of Islam asserting that martyrdom pleases Allah and brings honor to the martyr's family. It is a war on western culture by people radicalized by a new breed of fanatical Islamic preachers. They spread their religious gunpowder through satellite TV channels, their hate-filled sermons often delivered from the safety of western cities. Many Muslims abhor the label of "Islamic terrorism" attached to the mass murders, maintaining that Islam is fundamentally a religion of peace. But, as the Economist pointed out, Arab nations cannot explain away that Islam is the core reason the terrorists give for their killing. Murder is their religion. In Saudi Arabia last month, al Qaeda killers targeted any non-Muslim; in Iraq, every day, the murder of Muslims is a matter of routine.

Many Muslims argue that Islam is a solution, but surely it is also the problem. Democracy is based on the idea that men make laws. Islam is based on the laws of the Koran, a set of laws dictated directly from Mohammed and, therefore, not open to revision by man.

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The failure of Muslim regimes is manifested clearly in the United Nations Development Program. Growth in per-capita income in the 22 Arab countries has averaged an abysmal 0.5 percent a year for the past 20 years, lower than anywhere else in the world except sub-Saharan Africa. The U.N. report blames the social and political structures, a bleak educational system, a patriarchal and intolerant social environment, with Arabs learning little from other cultures and languages. Spain, for instance, has translated as many books in a single year as Arab states have in 1,000 years.

We are in the midst of a global intifada that threatens and challenges the international order on which our security, liberty, and prosperity depend. President Bush was not off the mark this week when he compared our current struggle to that of the allies in World War II. Eliminating this threat must be the highest priority of the West. But the West is divided. Europe is threatened by mass migration from neighboring Islamic lands, young men bringing with them their radical faith and not much else. Some European countries have adopted an anti-Americanism in what the scholar Fouad Ajami describes as "an attempt at false 'bonding' " with the people of Islam. So as Ajami describes it, they "beat the drums of opposition to America's war in Iraq" in the hope that the "furies of the Arab world and of this radical Islamism" will pass them by.

It won't. But America, as the world's lone superpower, has become the common enemy of Muslim militants, in a war that is not about our foreign policy or about global inequities, or even about what we do. It is a war because of who we are — and it may well go on for decades.

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JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.



© 2004, Mortimer Zuckerman