The eminent Muslim historian Bernard Lewis draws attention to Iran's August 22 date for giving an answer on its nuclear arms. In an op-ed piece in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal he shows the Muslim worldview of life and death does not create a restraint on the use of nuclear weapons. Since they feel that "Allah knows his own" they have no compunction against killing fellow Muslims along with infidels in a nuclear attack on Israel. A religion that has no fear of death is alien to western culture.
Here is the essence of Lewis's comments about the significance of the August 22 date:
In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, there are certain beliefs concerning the cosmic struggle at the end of time -- Gog and Magog, anti-Christ, Armageddon, and for Shiite Muslims, the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil, however these may be defined. Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. This was at first reported as "by the end of August," but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement was more precise.
What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.
I don't think Iran will do anything drastic on August 22. They are already pulling the strings with Hezbollah in Lebanon. That the beginning of this latest crisis took place prior to the St. Petersburgh meeting of the G8 shows their desire to move the spotlight off their nuclear program. It accomplished that goal since the leaders did not get a chance to focus on Iran's nuclear threat. Since then this crisis has grown and could yet escalate into something larger.
Iran is closer each day to developing a nuclear capacity. Ahmadinejads's words should not be taken lightly.