Issue 39 / July - September 2002
Terror Beyond Terrorism
Dr. Kemal Karpat
A few theories have been proposed about the September 11th attacks upon New York and Washington, DC. Questions waiting to be answered are the identities of the perpetrators, why they did it and what their motivations were, and, maybe most importantly, how the group is organized.
These terrorist attacks show that the perpetrators share none of the aims of Islam, such as spreading Islam peacefully. You cannot spread Islam to other people by bombing them. Is there anything in Islam which legitimizes this terrorist attack? Certainly not! Jihad is a totally different concept, and can be declared only when Islam has to be defended. But Islam does not have to be defended in America, for Islam is already acknowledged here as one of the three monotheist religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. This is not a superficial acknowledgmentâ6 million Muslims now live in America. Islam is not an imported religion, and this terrorist attack has nothing to do with American Muslims. On the contrary, it was perpetrated by outsiders having politicalânot religiousâmotivations.
The goals for which they are striving are not Islamic, but probably are related to the current political goals of certain people who manipulate Islam to legitimize their quest. I do not agree with Samuel Huntingtons well-known Ċclash of civilizations theory, in which Islam is approached as an enemy to the West and must be destroyed. On the other hand, the media (especially, those who supply the information and constantly oppose Islam) are striving to maintain an artificial adversarial sensitivity against Islam.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict underlies the clash of civilizations and, in a way, is the primary source of all these events. Mutual terror has been experienced throughout the 54 years of this conflict. Palestinians retaliated with counter-terror campaigns to Israel's terror at the governmental level. This has affected millions of people not only in terms of religion but also in terms of national-political status. Israel attacks Palestinians not because they are Muslims but because they are Arab Palestinians. The fact that 20 percent of all Palestinians are Christians shows that this is not a religiously driven conflict. Nayef Hawatmeh and George Habash are leaders of Palestinian Democratic Public Front and are both Orthodox Christians. They began organizing suicidal attacks before HAMAS was even founded. The foremost significant supporters of Palestinians are Edward
Said and Albert Hourani, who are Protestant Christians and, respectively, prominent figures in literature and history.
The organizational formation of the terrorist group that launched the September 11th attacks deserves serious consideration. It seems that 60 to 70 people were actively involved; 19 of them are dead. But what about those who probably provided logistical support? How did they carry out their role unnoticed? For such an organization, there needs to be a mastermind, and I do not think that Bin Laden is the most likely candidate.
All types of terrorism, regardless of reason, are evil. While protesting terrorism, however, we should not ignore the reasons. America has to delve into the reasons and the roots of these events. It has to cast far-reaching look and search for real reasons, instead of dealing with symptoms. If America uses its power not to exercise sovereignty over others but to create a more peaceful world, this would serve its own interests. In addition, Muslims would benefit the most from it.