Sunday, March 7, 2010

Terrorist puppetmasters play on Western fears

Gone largely unnoticed a couple of weeks ago was a statement issued by Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Asheikh, chairman of the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars, who condemned terrorism in all forms and the bloodshed of innocent people.

Al-Asheikh’s statements were released just as a workshop was getting underway in Riyadh. The workshop was sponsored the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in the Middle East and North Africa and Saudi Arabia’s Commission for Investigation and Public Prosecution. A number of terrorism experts participated.

“Terrorism is criminal and spills the blood of innocents. It attacks security, spreads terror among people and creates problems for society,” Al-Asheikh said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency. “Such acts are forbidden by Islamic law. It is necessary to fight the attempts of some to attach terrorism to Islam and Muslims with the goal of distorting the religion and assailing its leadership role in
the world.”

Al-Asheikh’s comments come at a time when Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is beginning to stir again, this time in Yemen, after it got a thrashing from Saudi security forces in 2004 and Al-Shabaab seems to have a stranglehold on Somalia.

So there is no better time for the antiterrorism to focus on developing international cooperation and a better equipped judicial system to deal with this lethal breed of criminal.

It’s curious, though, just how little attention Al-Asheikh’s remarks received outside Saudi Arabia, and for that matter the minimal publicity the workshop generated. The Saudi government deserves some blame for its need for secrecy and refusal to open the sessions to more Western media scrutiny. That said, however, I think that Al-Asheikh’s opinions on terrorism and his citations from the Qur’an
to emphasize the non-Islamic behavior of murderers hiding behind Islam have been ignored by Western observers. Al-Asheikh’s comments just don’t fit into the Western perception of what is important in the fight against terrorism.

From what I gather that important fight appears to be waged against the image of Islam. You know, the hijab because it oppresses women and is a symbol of an out-of-control patriarchal society; creeping Sharia because nobody understands it or takes the time to learn; and minarets because they are the symbol of the Islamification of Europe rather than simply some nice examples of architecture that look strikingly
similar to Renaissance Russian architecture.

The images of Islam are far easier to deal with than those nagging questions of why terrorism is waged in the first place. No one wants to understand the making of a terrorist and how to intervene, they just want him dead. If a Labour or Conservative MP in the UK seeks to pass legislation banning school teachers from wearing the hijab, they think they have struck a blow against the ideology of a terrorist. But
not the guy wearing the bomb belt.

Frankly, terrorists have done a magnificent job of manipulating Western politicians into doing what terrorists do best: Driving a wedge between the West and Islam. Western leaders are more than happy to play the game. Every time some ninny tries to set off a bomb, news reports trace the perpetrator’s radicalism to his student days in the United Kingdom, but not how and why he was radicalized. The pattern seems to be that once the brouhaha over a failed bombing subsides, Westerners turn their rage to some American Muslim congressman and ask the poor guy whether he’s a fifth columnist for Al-Qaeda. Or maybe some bank manager in Smallville will decide it’s too dangerous to allow a hijabi to cash her McDonald’s paycheck at the teller’s window.

Somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan, laughter is echoing through the passes.

No one should minimize the threat of terrorism. The massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, is a sober reminder of the true dangers Muslims and non-Muslims face. Yet American and European lawmakers appear to have little inclination to see beyond their own noses. They haven’t kept their eye on the ball and fall prey to Al-Qaeda’s shell game.

Terrorists want the West preoccupied with the superficial issues of the hijab and Islamic architecture. But instead of rising to the bait of terrorists, perhaps U.S. state and federal lawmakers should leave their hermetically sealed districts and participate in antiterrorism workshops in the Middle East and meet people like Al- Asheikh who speak for Muslims worldwide.

Perhaps then the nonsense of minarets and hijabs can be put to rest.

No comments: