Letters to the Editor

Bin Laden’s goal is a radical Islamic world

Since the horrific terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. by Osama bin Laden’s Islamic radicals, it has become fashionable in Arab circles and among their Western supporters to blame it all on U.S. support for Israel.

It was the righteous rage caused by this support throughout the Islamic world, the argument goes, that motivated the attacks.

Apart from the profound immorality of blaming a criminal act of war against the United States or any U.S. deed – particularly a policy of supporting a fellow democracy – the argument is simply wrong.

Even if Israel had not existed, the attacks would have taken place because their perpetrators’ motives lay elsewhere.Bin Laden and his followers are seeking to bring about a world dominated by those who subscribe to their radical version of Islam.

The United States, the West, Israel and even Muslim states that do not govern according to this view are all considered fair game for attack.

As the leader of the free world, the United States has borne the brunt of bin Laden’s fanaticism: The killing of U.S. Army Rangers in Somalia, the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen and the Sept. 11 attacks here in the United States.

As President Bush explained in his address to Congress, the terrorists “hate what they see right here in this chamber – a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms – the freedom of our religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and disagree with each other.”

In other words, they hate America not because of what it does, but because of what it represents.

Ali Salem, a leading Egyptian intellectual, said in an Oct. 8 article in The New Yorker that the terrorists “are people who are afraid of America, afraid of life itself. These are people who are envious. To them, life is an unbearable burden.”

To rally such people to die for his cause against the West, bin Laden has primarily focused on what he calls the “defilement” of the Islamic lands of Saudi Arabia and Iraq – not America’s relationship with Israel.

Bin Laden, in his 1998 fatwa, or religious edict, calls for Americans and their allies to be killed so their armies will “move out of all the lands of Islam,” a reference to U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia and the continuing Western strikes and sanctions against Iraq.

While bin Laden has raised the specter of the Palestinian issue, as he did in the video released after the U.S. and British strikes against Afghanistan began Sunday, this should be seen as a smokescreen.

Rather than truly caring about the Palestinian cause, bin Laden’s reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a sign that he is running scared as Arab and Muslim states, such as Pakistan, are cooperating with the United States to crush him and his terrorist network.

He is resorting to the tactic of trying to rally the Arab and Muslim world around the one thing they can actually agree upon: their hatred of Israel.

Bin Laden’s hatred, however, does not end with the United States or Israel. He also urges the overthrow of Muslim regimes that don’t govern according to his version of radical Islam.

Even Saudi Arabia, a conservative Muslim regime that bars non-Muslim worship and forces women to wear veils, is considered “un-Islamic” according to bin Laden because of its relationship with the West.

Bin Laden and his top associates also have assassinated Muslim leaders with whom they disagree. Bin Laden’s chief deputy is also the head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which is responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the foiled 1995 assassination attempt on President Hosni Mubarak, both considered pro-Western Arab leaders.

In Afghanistan, where bin Laden is hiding, he is suspected in the assassination of the leader of the Northern Alliance, the Muslim force fighting the country’s radical ruling Taliban.

The bottom line is that bin Laden is prepared to kill anyone – Christian, Jewish or Muslim – who does not agree with his perverted outlook on the world.

  • Michelle Spindel is a junior majoring in communication disorders.

    Al-Arian’s right to speech embodies nation’s freedoms

    For nearly two weeks now, people have raged and gnashed teeth over Professor Al-Arian. He makes anti-Israeli statements. He questions American foreign policy. He was investigated by the FBI. He must be guilty of something.

    First of all, what he said shouldn’t be an issue. In America, freedom is more than the right to say what people want to hear. And scholars are supposed to be candid. Universities support scholars who can give expert advice – without fear of retaliation. Professors have said unpopular things about pollution, racist lending practices, tobacco products, political corruption and television. The point of academic freedom is that professors are not to be fired for saying things that disturb some politicians, businessmen, members of the public or even colleagues.

    Second, what Al-Arian said isn’t what this is about. Mr. O’Reilly didn’t accuse Al-Arian of anything specific: he accused him of … being a villain. When people are angry and afraid, moral entrepreneurs like O’Reilly can profit from the anger and fear. They provide packaged villains to hate, they encourage people to attack these targets, and they become influential celebrities as a result. Then they look for more “villains.”

    It is important not to appease moral entrepreneurs, because that only makes them hungry for more. We certainly shouldn’t betray our principles in the false hope that that would make one of them go away, because even if that one left, others would make one of them go away, because even if that one left, others would smell blood and close in.

  • Greg McColm is an associate professor of mathematics.

    Journalists should be careful about information

    I, and other American citizens, am greatly disturbed and concerned about recent news broadcasts on MSNBC and other televised news stations regarding bioterrorism and chemical terrorist threats.

    But our concern isn’t so much with potential terrorist activities as it is the information these news shows are providing to terrorist groups.

    In the course of these broadcasts, “experts” are brought in, who proceed to go into great detail regarding scenarios which might occur. In explaining these scenarios, they are, in essence, handing out potential terrorists information on just how these scenarios can be enacted.

    They provide information on how to obtain the chemicals or biological materials, how much material would be needed to be effective, how to plant these materials in air vents in buildings or water reservoirs and provide estimates on how many casualties could result from these actions.

    They are literally providing the terrorist a “how-to” manual on killing Americans.

    While I realize the need to keep the public informed and alert, must we also provide our enemies with the knowledge of how to wipe us out?

    Would that our enemies provide us with as much information as we are freely giving to them.

    Isn’t there any way to stop these irresponsible and harmful broadcasts?

  • Lisa D. Ezzell is a secretary in the College of Arts and Sciences on the Lakeland Campus.