A course for American military officers was cancelled after the instructor, Lt Col. Matthew Dooley, declared in class that Islam has declared war upon the West and called for a campaign to force a transformation of Islam. He spoke of possibly destroying the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. (1)
Although some deranged non-Muslims have comitted terrorist acts in Oklahoma City and Oslo, serious organized terrorist attacks over the past forty years have nearly all been committed in the name of Islam. The perpetrators may call themselves Al Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the like, and the locations may be as diverse as New York City, Mumbai and Jerusalem, but the common thread is fanatical Islam. What is it about Islam that inspires these deeds?
1. Muslims ought to rule. Islam teaches that those who reject Islam should be subordinates of Muslims (dhimmis). In an apocryphal Muslim hadith (legend), Jews are portrayed as hiding behind rocks and trees to save themselves from being murdered by Muslim warriors. The contrast between these fanatasies and the true condition of Muslims in Israel and Europe drives some fervent Muslims to violence.
2. Glorification of martyrdom. Those who die in jihad (holy war) are believed to go straight to heaven and enjoy a great afterlife. Unlike other religions practiced today that accept the need for martyrdom (2), Islam actually welcomes martyrdom (shahida). That is why no form of punishment, including capital punishment, has any deterrent effect on those determined to strike a blow for Islam.
3. Sanctity of Arabia and Jerusalem. The initital of home of Islam was Mecca, and Medina and Jerusalem ("Al-Quds" , which means sanctuary in Arabic) are also considered holy places in Islam. To devout Muslims, Jewish rule in Jerusalem is an affront to Allah, and so must be resisted by all means, including murder. The presence of non-Muslim troops (i.e., Americans) in Saudi Arabia was among the key motivations for the Al Qaida attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
So, was Col. Dooley right to call for a campaign against Islam itself? Such an effort is neither necessary nor practical. Of the roughly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today, only a tiny segment have any intention in engaging in jihad against this country or any other. Since Islam has no "pope" to define the implications of its doctrines in our time, Muslim preachers and political leaders are free to promulgate their own "fatwas" (religiious edicts) and rally supporters. Most Muslim governments (other than Iran) are friendly to the United States, especially Saudi Arabia, which Dooley spoke of destroying. The same jihadist groups that threaten Western interests (particularly Al Qaida) pose an even greater threat to moderate Muslim governments.
Dooley's arguments, made as a spokesman for the US Defense Department in an official course, had the potential to harm our relationships with many Muslim countries that are aligned with us against the terrorists. It is important to understand why Islam inspires some adherents to violence, but our national interests demand that we seek detente with the vast majority of Muslims that want peace.
Gerald S Glazer
(1) "Military class suspended over Islam views" by Pauline Jelinek and Robert Burns of the Associated Press, May 11, 2012.
(2) Jesus, Rabbi Akiva and Joseph Smith are revered as religious martyrs by Chiistians, Jews and Mormons, respectivley.