Noted Authority on Arab World Pens Opinion Article Concerning Terrorist Attack
**The following opinion article was written by Dr. Joe Dunn of Converse College just two days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. The article appeared in the September 16, 2001 edition of the Spartanburg Herald Journal.
A terrible atrocity was perpetrated on this nation. Our emotions run high and immediate responses can be quite intemperate and irrational. In the last few days I have heard some remarks that chilled me almost as much as the initial abomination. Blatant stereotyping and diatribes against all Arabs or Muslims have been common. “Retaliatory” incidents of violence against innocent persons and organizations have occurred. And blanket ethnic and religious condemnations mirror the hate mongering of Osama bin Laden and his ilk.
Yes, excessive rhetoric is a natural first response. After months of the frustration about the American hostages in 1979, I stated in public that the United States should employ our military capacity to reduce the Iranian nation back to the medieval age that those particular Islamic fundamentalist fanatics seemed to prefer. It was irresponsible speech and thought. The arduous efforts of diplomacy finally prevailed without sacrificing the hostages lives or triggering the catastrophic consequences that would have resulted from destabilizing Iran at that time in history. Cold rational logic and calculation must prevail in the present instance as well. Bravado and pompous posturing might make us feel better momentarily, but it is not an effective strategy.
First, let’s be clear about who the enemy is. Osama bin Laden is an intelligent, calculating zealot. He has hundreds of millions of dollars at his disposal, a worldwide network active in as many as 55 countries, and ties with dozens of other terrorist organizations. But his followers are a relatively small number of individuals. He no more typifies the 200 million Arabs in 22 Arab countries as well as other nations around the globe or the more than one billion Muslims worldwide (including some 7-8 million Americans) than Timothy McVeigh epitomizes United States citizens or Christians. Bin Laden represents a small fanatical, xenophobic perversion of Islam that the great majority of Muslims in the world condemn. Similar fanatical exponents of hate proclaim themselves as Christians, Hindus, Jews, etc. They no more exemplify their purported faiths than does bin Laden. The Ku Klux Klan pontificates that they do the Lord’s work. Hitler envisioned “the Final Solution” against the Jews as a sacred mission. The psychopathic Saddam Hussein proclaims holy war. No true religious expression can invoke God as hate.
Back to the cold logic mentioned earlier. Only when we know the mentality of the enemy can we hope to respond efficaciously. Often on Tuesday the media depicted the perpetrators as cowardly. No, these individuals simply engaged in a military strategy that recognizes no distinction between civilians and combatants. Bin Laden has stated, “We do not practice mercy.” These men may have been cruel, evil, and certainly wrong, but in their mindset they were brave, God-fearing men of honor who sacrificed themselves in a declared war against Satanic America. These individuals hate the attributes and values of material abundance, democracy, individualism, personal freedom, tolerance, and a permissive society that the United States exemplifies as the world’s greatest embodiment.
Their war is against the Enlightenment and all that followed. America was born of this philosophic grounding and remains its most complete manifestation. To these rejectionists of the modern condition, their “jihad” is a cultural Armageddon, and they targeted some of the most visible icons of our society. The World Trade Center Towers– the skyscraper–symbolize corporate power and our global economic stature; the Pentagon, our military might; and the White House (