I watched and read several commentaries, memorials and tributes associated with the 11th anniversary of 9/11 last Tuesday. Remembering the victims certainly is appropriate, but nowhere did I find a single reference to who did it. I know we're trying very hard to not offend Muslim sensitivities, which seems not to be working all that well, witness the deadly outrage at the U.S. embassy in Libya and violent demonstrations in Egypt. Seems like the Arab Spring has turned to winter. Some of us felt all along that it was less an expression of democracy and more a power play by radical Islamic elements. Sadly, it appears we may have been right.
We have, or at least had, a tendency to heap scorn on the 19 or 20 perpetrators of the destruction of the WTC twin towers and concurrent murder of thousands of innocents. We usually picture terrorists as wild-eyed ignorant fanatics blowing themselves up. Yet, the 9/11 perpetrators were generally well-educated mostly Saudi men, some of them professionals. However, they chose to immolate themselve in a blatant attack on the U.S. Their motivation was their fervent religious belief, a belief that includes destroying obstacles to the spread or Islam. (The Koran does encourage persuasion but also condones violent and deadly destruction of obstacles to the propagation of the faith.)
These men were simply firm believers in their religion, generally a desirable chracteristic. They felt compelled to martyr themselves in support of that religion, also not really a bad thing when you consider the fate of the Christian apostles. They, however, felt justified in taking many innocent lives with them. Osama bin Laden, the architect of 9/11, was a respected and well-educated professional man as well as a fervent believer. Make no mistake, these people are not kooks, which makes this paradigm even more dangerous.
So, where is the evil in all this. Certainly this was an evil act, considering the loss of innocent life. Was it in the act itself or those who perpetrated it? No, the act in itself was not evil, but the Wahhabist form of radical Islam that justified the act is the true evil. The perpetrators died for their faith. I don't blame them, but then who is to blame? Let us take a look at this faith.
Islam and Christianity have common roots. The Biblical Old Testament is the basis of much of the Koran. The Old Testament contains accounts of bloody violence, a fact frequently pointed out to me, even to the extent of the massacre of women and children. I'm not going to try to justify these historical events. Theologians have twisted themselves into knots trying. The fact is, they happened. But that was then and this is now.
Recall also that Christianity and Islam worship the same Diety. Allah is just another name for God. So, why does radical Islam kill and destroy to defend and spread its faith while Christianity, with the same imperative to spread the faith, does not? The difference is that Christianity is based on the New Testament, the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Mohammad is not Jesus. Islam does not have the benign persuasion characteristic of present-day Christianity. (Judaism is another case which I will neglect for now.) We send out missionaries, they--the Wahhabists and their sympathizers--send out bombers.
Why us? What did we ever do to Islam to earn their enmity? The simple truth is, it's our very existence. Remember, Islam demonizes obstacles to the spreading of the faith. The United States, a very successful, rich and extremely powerful Christian (mostly) nation, is a powerful symbolic obstacle to the world-wide spread of Islam. Israel, as a successful Jewish nation in the desert of the Middle East, is another hated symbol of non-Islamic success. However, Israel is small and not nearly the equal of the U.S. It's no accident that Israel is known in the Islamic world as the "Little Satan," but the U.S is known as the "Great Satan." WE are the big problem for expansionist, radical Islam. Thus, we are the target. The Atlantic Ocean and vigilent security measures have protected us for some time, but cannot be depended on to shield us indefinitely.
We must recognize that our enemy, radical, Wahhabist Islam, not a small group by any means and growing, considers our very existence an abomination. As the Israelis know, this enmity will never end. Certainly not all Muslims subscribe to this aggressive form of Islam, just as there are many different Christian denominations, but the radical element is strong and relentless and, sadly, frequently enjoys the tacit approval of the non-violent sects of Islam.
I have no happy ending. But we endanger ourselves by letting down our guard. Apologetics and appeasements will not work. The problem is not what we do, it is us. We would do well not to forget that on this anniversary of the most successful terrorist attack ever.