'Mired in a Religious War'; Fundamentalism Is the Threat

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 2, 2004 | Go to article overview

'Mired in a Religious War'; Fundamentalism Is the Threat


Byline: Sam Harris, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Perhaps it is time we thought the unthinkable about Iraq. Perhaps it is time we considered the possibility that we will break everything we touch in that country - or everything we touch will break itself. However mixed or misguided our intentions were in launching this war, we are attempting, at considerable cost to ourselves, to improve life for the Iraqi people.

Despite the numbers of Iraqi dead and the travesty of Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi insurgents know that we did not come to their country to rape their women or to kill innocent civilians. Every thinking person in the Muslim world understands that if our goal had been to kill Iraqis and steal their oil, millions of Iraqis would now be dead and their oil would be flowing. The terrible truth about our predicament in Iraq is that even if we had invaded with no other purpose than to remove Saddam Hussein from power and make Iraq a paradise on Earth, we should still expect tomorrow's paper to reveal that another jihadi has blown himself to bits for the sake of killing scores of innocent men, women and children.

The Iraqi people have been traumatized by this war and by decades of repression. But this does not explain the type of violence they wage against us on a daily basis. War and repression do not account for suicidal violence directed against the Red Cross, the United Nations, foreign workers and Iraqi innocents. War and repression would not have attracted an influx of foreign fighters willing to sacrifice their lives merely to sow chaos.

We are now mired in a religious war in Iraq, and elsewhere. Our enemies, as witnessed by their astonishing willingness to slaughter themselves, are not principally motivated by political or economic grievances. Anyone who imagines that terrestrial concerns account for terrorism by Muslims must explain why there are no Palestinian Christian suicide bombers. They, too, suffer the ordeal of the Israeli occupation. Where are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers for that matter? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal than any we or the Israelis have imposed on the Muslim world. The truth that we must finally confront is that Islam contains specific doctrines about martyrdom and jihad that directly inspire Muslim terrorism.

Unless the world's Muslims can find some way of expunging the metaphysics that is fast turning their religion into a cult of death, we will ultimately face the same perversely destructive behavior throughout much of the world. …

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