I was on my way to Seattle to celebrate my twin grandsons' first birthday when Islamic terrorists bombed four London subway stations early this month, killing 56 unsuspecting victims and wounding hundreds more, many of them fellow Muslims. As I thought about the world that the twins will inherit from us, I considered ways to defeat hate-filled religious zealots who are willing to blow themselves up in order to kill innocent people, including women and children.
As I thought about these life and death issues, I came across an article in the Christian Science Monitor that analyzed the reasons why four young British Muslims were willing to die for what they believed to be a "sacred cause," although I'd call it cold-blooded murder, pure and simple. But according to the Monitor, "Although they (the bombers) constitute a small fraction of the country's population, a handful of radical clerics are tapping into the needs of alienated youths for a sacred cause - and pointing them in a deadly direction."
The Monitor reported that just one week after the subway bombings, a young Muslim cleric was lecturing a cluster of young men on a London sidewalk. "The bombings ... were about striking fear into the heart of the enemy," he declared. "All we ask them (the enemy - us) is to remove their troops from Muslim lands and we will stop all of this (indiscriminate killing)." The cleric is just one of many urban street preachers who "are inspiring a new pool of impressionable young Muslims to consider killing their fellow Britons," the paper warned. In a nutshell, that's what we're up against in the worldwide War on Terror.
Although these homegrown terrorists represent a minuscule portion of Britain's one million Muslims, the Monitor noted, "their growing influence . ... has so far gone largely undetected - and unchecked." Which is why the governments of Britain, the U.S. and other western nations afflicted by international terrorism should band together to identify and deport those who preach hate and violence. In the U.S., federal, state and local law enforcement agencies should closely monitor Islamic hate-mongers to guard against future terrorist attacks. And they should use all of the tools available to them, including profiling of young Middle Eastern males and the much-maligned Patriot Act. If it were up to me, I'd declare open season on terror suspects.
And while I'm a vigorous defender of the First Amendment and free speech, there isn't any constitutional right to advocate death to "infidels" who don't share the radical Muslims' hateful ideology. Preaching death and destruction in the pulpit or in the streets is like shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, the time-honored test of First Amendment rights. At the same time, peace-loving Muslims should speak out loudly and clearly against terrorism and violence.
Two respected ArabÐAmerican political commentators have done just that recently in London and New York. Writing in Time magazine, Irshad Manji, the author of "The Trouble With Islam Today," urged his fellow Muslims to "admit that our religion might be motivating the bombers."
"For too long, we Muslims have been sticking our fingers in our ears and chanting 'Islam means peace' to drown out the negative noise from our holy book (the Koran)," he wrote. "Muslims must stop exploiting Islam as a shield - one that protects us from authentic introspection and our neighbors from genuine understanding."
And in London's Financial Times, foreign affairs analyst Mansoor Ijaz opined that moderate Muslims have a civic duty to condemn terrorist bombings. "American Muslims largely failed to rise up to their citizenship responsibilities after the 9/11 attacks," he wrote. "Their voices in America's body politic are now marginalized as a result .... It is hypocritical for Muslims living in Western societies to demand civil rights enshrined by the state and then excuse their inaction against terrorists ... on grounds of belonging to a borderless Islamic community. It's time to stand up and be counted as model citizens before the terror consumes us all." Amen!
The scariest aspect of the July 7 London attacks is that the suicide bombers were homegrown terrorists. They came from middle-class families and some were college-educated, one of them in the U.S.; however, they were recruited into the shadowy underworld of international terrorism by radical Islamic clerics who preach the destructive politics of resentment and violence.
Writing about homegrown terrorists in the conservative Weekly Standard, Reul Marc Gerecht, a former CIA anti-terrorism specialist, asserted that "some of what the Europeans are now confronting ... is probably a locally generated Islamic militancy that is as retrograde and virulent as anything encountered in the Middle East."
To counter violent Islamic extremists, he advocates the rapid expansion of democracy in the Middle East in order to make it much more difficult for al-Qaeda "to attract recruits who would incinerate themselves for a revolutionary ideal increasingly at odds with reality."
I think he's on to something, and that's why the U.S. should continue to push for democratic reforms in the Middle East even if we have to get tough with longtime "allies" like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
n Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.