Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Bombings in Spain: Implications for Islam and the West

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Bombings in Spain: Implications for Islam and the West

Article excerpt

Islam vs. al-Qaeda

It now appears certain that the atrocious terrorist bombings in Madrid were the doing of an affiliate of al-Qaeda. The attack was supposedly carried out in response to Spain's support for the U.S./UK invasion of Iraq last year, but most Spanish people opposed their government's policy on this issue. In its public statements, al-Qaeda proclaims its supposed sympathy for the Palestinians, but the attitude taken by successive Spanish governments since the restoration of democracy and by most Spanish people toward the Palestinians has been friendly and supportive. In the last 20 years or so, public interest in the nearly 800 years when much of Spain was under Muslim rule has blossomed: positive appreciation of the achievements of that era extends far beyond the academic world and has even been encouraged by the royal family. The killing of innocent civilians would not have been justified in any case, but seems doubly perverse in this instance. It is in keeping with the mentality al-Qaeda has revealed in the past.

The organization first sprang into the international spotlight just over five years ago with its bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. These were conceived as attacks upon the U.S. and are now chiefly remembered as one link in a chain of actions and reactions in a war that has pitted the sole superpower against Osama Bin Laden's terrorist network. They meant something else to people in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998, however. Of the 220 people killed that day, the vast majority were locals just attempting to get on with their normal lives.

Al-Qaeda's planners could not have failed to realize that people who had nothing whatsoever to do with U.S. policies toward the Middle East would be killed in the embassy attacks, but they went ahead and expressed no remorse afterward. The rest of the world showed little more than passing interest in the victims' fate, beyond the initial media coverage: its attention span would probably have been longer if most of them had not been poor and black. Almost immediately, they became statistics instead of individuals with lives they valued and families who valued them.

The 1998 embassy bombings and their aftermath revealed the rottenness at the core of al-Qaeda's outlook. Its willingness to kill hundreds of innocent people in pursuit of its goals invalidates any claim to be fighting for a just cause. …

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