You know the old saying, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." How does that apply in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 act of war against our country?
The attack was successful primarily because Americans did not take seriously the words and actions of religious fanatics: much written in the Arab press, sermons by radical Islamic clerics, published interpretations of the Koran and Islamic law, various terrorist acts, including the assault on the U.S.S. Cole and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. In all of these, the fanatics didn't just telegraph what was coming; they shouted their intentions.
Too many Westerners thought they weren't serious. Too many appear not to believe them still. President Bush is among many voices claiming Islam is a "religion of peace." Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told Fox News that the Koran "is a book that teaches many of the same principles as Christianity."
Maybe so, but it isn't those principles that caused thousands to die on Sept. 11. It was the other ones taught by fanatical clergy and believed by brainwashed young men. These principles we must understand and oppose.
Historian Paul Johnson worries that "creeping appeasement" will weaken our national resolve and make us vulnerable to future such attacks.
"One central reason why appeasement is so tempting to Western governments is that attacking terrorism at its roots necessarily involves conflict with the second-largest religious community in the world," Johnson writes in the upcoming Oct. 15 National Review. The word "Islam," he notes, does not mean "peace" but "submission." Johnson calls Islam "an imperialist religion, more so than Christianity has ever been, and in contrast to Judaism."
Reading selected verses from the Koran in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks is instructive. Sura 5, verse 85 prophesies an inevitable conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims: "Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans." Sura 9, verse 5 adds, "Then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them. And seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them, in every strategem (of war)." The Koran insists that no matter how mighty a nation is, it must be fought "until they embrace Islam."
Just as earlier generations were forced to familiarize themselves with the ideas that produced communism, Marxism and other political philosophies whose adherents sought to enslave vast numbers of people, non-Muslim Americans would do well to read what motivates terrorists who claim to act in the name of Islam.
While some Muslims appear on television saying suicide is against the teachings of the Koran, others are motivating young men to conduct suicide missions using a different message. Sheikh Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a leading Sunni religious authority and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, is among the clerics who teach that martyrdom operations are permitted under Islamic law in some circumstances. Appearing on a television program in Qatar Sept. 16, he warned that Islamic law prohibits any Moslem nation from entering into any alliance or agreement with a non-Moslem nation.
The secular West does not understand the Bible, much less radical Islam, which is increasingly embraced with America's detriment in mind. While secular and moderate Muslims do not appear threatening, the growing number of extremists who take the Koran as a declaration of war against all non-Muslims has become a clear and present danger, not only oversees, but increasingly in our own country.
Fundamentalist Muslims believe the Koran teaches them not to befriend Jews and Christians. Surat Al-Maidah 5:51says, "O ye who believe (Muslims), take not the Jews or the Christians for your friends and protectors. They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he among you who turns to them (for friendship) is of them."
Fundamentalist Muslims also believe the Koran commands them to fight Jews and Christians: "Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) until they pay the Jizyah (a special high tax to be paid only by Jews and Christians who do not renounce their faith and convert to Islam) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." -- Surat At-Taubah 9:29.
Does this sound like something Americans should not fear? If our leaders and too many of the rest of us believe so, terrorists could well fool us twice.
Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services.
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