Magazine article Insight on the News

Clerics, as Well as Colonels, Should Be Key Players

Magazine article Insight on the News

Clerics, as Well as Colonels, Should Be Key Players

Article excerpt

America now is on unfamiliar ground. Religious war has been declared on us and we haven't a clue what to make of it. Before the attacks we responded to this threat with disbelief. It just seemed too absurd to the American mind. Now incredulity has turned into disorientation. "Why do they hate us?" "What did we do to them that makes them want to destroy us?" These questions are being heard more and more as rage slowly turns into an attempt to make sense of the events.

The answers to these questions are rooted in the fanatical religious beliefs of a cadre of zealots who have no qualms about dying or killing for those beliefs. Of course, this indeed also is a military problem that does call for an appropriate military response. This is not only a religious war, it also is a religious war. And warfare is the responsibility of the military. Osama bin Laden and his troops will be dealt with by the U.S. military. Nor am I implying that what I propose here should include the perpetrators of these attacks. It should not. As of Sept. 11, this terrorist band has forfeited the right to be heard.

But if the United States ignores the religious basis of this problem, we do so at our peril. Make no mistake about it: Religious war has been declared on us. Resolution of this complex and world-changing problem is going to have to engage a religious people. This idea likely will make Americans uncomfortable at first. The consensus in this country is that religion is a private matter, a personal choice. The extreme among us even believe that religion should have no voice in the debate of the public square. We cannot afford that austere and errant position here. Now we are engaged in a war with a people whose religious beliefs drive them to seek our destruction.

Much is being said about the "cultural war" before us. It is utterly and absolutely impossible to understand a culture without understanding its religion. This leads us to a very important yet largely ignored aspect of what we face.

Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda band have thrown the world's 1.2 billion members of the Islamic community into an intracultural war. There are millions upon millions of Muslims who are both horrified and repulsed by the terrorist actions of the perpetrators. They are grieved by the ugly visage these strikes have put on the face of Islam in the minds of the rest of the world. …

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