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Opinion by Anna Cherkasova

I was not the only one in the shop. Another girl from my school, also wearing black, was buying a red rose. We looked at each other in silence. We both knew what these roses were for.

Every September 11, since 9/11/2001 happened in New York, our school has mourned all the victims of the tragedy. On this day every student brings just one red rose and puts it on a stand placed in front of the university dedicated to the victims.

Nobody talks much on this day, nobody smiles much either. We all remember what happened. We all pray for it not to happen again.

And that’s what’s going on in a country, with a population that is 75 percent Muslim, where Islam is the dominant religion.

So is Islam a real threat? Are Muslims people who should be avoided? Or are our fears being manipulated by quasi-religious people who want nothing but personal benefit? Four and a half years since 9/11, and there is still no definite answer, and experts still disagree.

Ibn Warraq, bestselling author and scholar, in his article “Islam Encourages Terrorism,” insists that Islam is the primary cause of all current terrorist attacks. “To pretend that Islam has nothing to do with terrorists,” Warraq said, “is to willfully ignore the obvious and to forever misinterpret events. Without Islam, the long-term strategy and individual acts of violence by Usama bin Laden and his followers make little sense.”

Ibn Warraq believes that to deal effectively with terrorists, the West must take seriously the true nature of Islam. “Westerners in general,” he said, “and Americans in particular, do not understand the passionate, religious, and anti-Western convictions of Islamic terrorists. These God-intoxicated fanatics blindly throw away their lives in return for the ‘Paradise of 72 Virgins’ offered Muslim martyrs killed in Holy War against all infidels.”

Professor Angelo Codevilla of Boston University, like Ibn Warraq, blames Muslims for the chaos in the world, but he has a different view of the impact of Islam on the situation. In his article “The United States Should Go to War against Nations that Support Terrorism,” Codevilla says that “in the war on terror, the enemy is not Islam or even terrorist networks like al Qaeda. Rather, the enemy is the regimes in Iraq and Syria, as well as the Palestinian Liberation Authority, that train, finance, and harbor terrorists and promote anti-Western sentiments.”

Codevilla compares these Middle East regimes with the Nazi government of Hitler’s Germany and identifies them as America’s enemies. “Destroying pro-terror regimes is the best and most-just means of winning the war on terror,” Codevilla said.

Enver Masud, a newspaper columnist, thinks that the clash between Islam and Western world is a clash between justice and greed. “Islam teaches that “the most excellent jihad is for the conquest of self.” It teaches Muslims to speak out against oppression and to fight if necessary for justice,” Masud said.

So is Islam a real threat to the Western way of living or a better alternative to it?

While Islam’s opponents and supporters are struggling to find a common ground with each other, the Muslim people continue to follow the dictates of a religion established 14 centuries ago and whose values have been manipulated by different groups ever since.

The major subject for manipulation is the sacred book of Islam, the Koran. Supposedly revealed to Muhammad by God, the Koran is a collection of suras, or revelations, that don’t mean a lot to an unprepared reader, and that are subject to differing interpretations. For example: some scholars say that the Koran contains no permission “to kill in the name of Allah.” Others, such as Ibn Warraq, insist that the book contains direct instruction to kill infidels–any non-Muslim.

To be a good Muslim means to restrain one’s desire so that one does not steal from others, engage in extramarital sex, or use one’s intellect to exploit others. Rather, Muslims must restrain the intellect with wisdom and answer desire and anger with lawfulness and moderation. Ignoring the limits that God has established can result in wrongdoing, injustice, exploitation, disorder, and revolution.
So, are the Islamic terrorists true Muslims or apostates who ignore the limits established by Allah? Blasphemers who bring disorder and injustice to their people? Infidels, despite their stated affiliation, who instead of harmony bring chaos and revolution?

While the answer may seem obvious to Westerners, this group of terrorists has been able to convince many people of the immorality of Western civilization. Why do so many Muslims listen to them in silence and unquestionably obey their orders?

The differences between Arab and Western cultures, especially U.S. culture, provide opportunities for terrorists to manipulate people. Because America’s military and political policies can be provocative and controversial, terrorists can persuade people that it’s time for the United States to be destroyed.

Enver Masud writes that “the U.S. desire to control the world’s resources and markets, its abject surrender to the zionists regardless of the cost to Americans and others, and the virtual exclusion of dissenting voices from the national dialogue, is very likely to lead to war.”

Masud is not the only one who thinks so. Support for Israel, allowing the Darfur genocide for oil, occupying Iraq for oil, concentrating a big chunk of the world’s wealth in one country–all these provide fertile soil for terrorists to cultivate. Still, terrorist’s attacks on their own people makes one suspect that even without questionable U.S. policies the terrorists would find something else that would help them to manipulate the minds of other Muslims.

Instead of blaming Islam for all the disasters in the world, we should learn more about it and try to understand it. Doing that will help us make better judgments. Instead of being afraid of everything, and facing our fear with closed ears and eyes, we should be prepared to defend ourselves with the best weapon of all–knowledge.

Only then will we be able to live in a world where we are not frightened when an Arab-looking person with a beard gets on the same plane. Where a young couple on a honeymoon cruise will want to stay in Istanbul (cultural and economic center of Turkey, ruled by a secular, non-Muslim government), not skip it because they “don’t feel safe around Muslims” any more. Only then can we build a world where people don’t judge by religion or appearance.


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