On Oct. 26, in advance of Jerusalem Day—instituted by Iran 's religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 to express the Muslim world's ambition to "liberate" Jerusalem — Iran 's new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the complete annihilation of the nation of Israel.
"Very soon, this stain of disgrace [referring to Israel ] will be purged from the center of the Islamic world," he said, according to a text of the speech published by the official Iranian news agency IRNA, adding, "and this is attainable."
Not only did President Ahmadinejad promise the annihilation of Israel, he also assured his followers that the world would also soon be rid of the United States and Britain.
In December, as quoted by IRNA, he followed up these comments by calling the holocaust a myth and suggesting that the "tumor" that is the state of Israel should be relocated to Europe or North America.
Threat to the West
A little over 25 years ago America was first confronted with militant Islam when the pro-Western shah of Iran was overthrown and U.S. embassy personnel there were taken hostage for 444 days by followers of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. The theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979 and has been a thorn in the side of the United States ever since.
It has also helped spread radical Islam and aided militant terrorist groups in repeatedly attacking Israel . Present at the "World Without Zionism" (meaning "without Israel ") conference at which President Ahmadinejad made these comments were representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Society for the Defense of the Palestinian Nation, three terrorist organizations. Also present were members of the Islamic Students Union and hundreds of other students.
What makes this verbal attack particularly frightening is that Iran is, in the estimation of many national intelligence agencies, working on developing nuclear weapons in flagrant defiance of international law.
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, stated Dec. 5 that he thinks Israel's assessment of Iran's nuclear program is correct and that Iran is only a few months away from creating a nuclear weapon.
When it has nuclear arms, Iran could easily use them against Israel , only 500 miles away at its closest point. ( Iran could also target American bases and oil supplies throughout the Middle East .) No wonder that former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for immediate action to be taken against Iran before the possibility of a nuclear attack on his country.
Islam vs. "the World of Arrogance"
While members of the European Union and the United States immediately condemned Iran's call to wipe Israel off the map, little attention has been given to some of the other statements made by the Iranian president in his speech.
Going right back to the beginnings of the nation of Israel, established by a vote of the United Nations in May 1948, the Iranian president declared that "the establishment of the regime that is occupying Jerusalem was a very grave move by the hegemonic and arrogant system [meaning the West] against the Islamic world.
We are in the process of an historical war between the World of Arrogance [the West] and the Islamic world, and this war has been going on for hundreds of years."
This statement alone shows how dangerous the thinking is among many in the Middle East . President Ahmadinejad is not speaking only for himself. He certainly had the support of those present at the conference and has the wider support of many among the Iranian people.
Additionally, he is speaking for Islamic militants around the world whose main priority is to destroy Israel and end the Western presence in the Middle East , ridding the region of non-Muslims, or "infidels."
Short memories and long memories
Most people in Western countries like the United States and Britain have very short memories. Many people sincerely believe that the threat from Islamic terrorism is due to the actions of the Bush administration, when the immediate problem goes back decades and the roots of these difficulties go back thousands of years.
While the West may have a short memory, this is not the case in the Middle East, where some Muslims trace their own family history back to the time of the prophet Muhammad in the seventh century. Memories of the European Crusades against the Islamic world almost 1,000 years ago are often invoked to justify fears of the modern state of Israel today.
Notice how far the Iranian president went back in this section of his speech: "In this historical war, the situation at the fronts has changed many times. During some periods, the Muslims were the victors and were very active, and looked forward, and the World of Arrogance was in retreat. Unfortunately, in the past 300 years, the Islamic world has been in retreat vis-à-vis the World of Arrogance . . .
"During the period of the last 100 years, the walls of the world of Islam were destroyed and the World of Arrogance turned the regime occupying Jerusalem into a bridge for its dominance over the Islamic world . . . This occupying country [ Israel ] is in fact a front of the World of Arrogance in the heart of the Islamic world. They have in fact built a bastion [ Israel ] from which they can expand their rule to the entire Islamic world."
When Mr. Ahmadinejad refers to "the situation at the fronts" changing many times, he is referring to the 1,400-year history of the recurring conflict between Islam and Christendom.
This is a perspective on history that is not shared by people in the West who in the last 40 years have increasingly embraced idyllic multiculturalism. The basic theory behind this ideal is that all peoples are basically the same and that all people, no matter what their religion or culture, can live peaceably side by side.
History does not support this idea, particularly where Islam and Christianity are concerned. These two civilizations have clashed repeatedly, starting in the years immediately after the death of the founder of Islam, Muhammad, in 632. As the new religion spread across the Middle East and North Africa, it came into conflict with both the Sassanid Persian Empire and the Christian empire of Byzantium , the eastern division of the Roman Empire.
These were the two superpowers of their day. Both suffered defeat at the hands of Muhammad's forces within a few years of his death. Eventually, both fell as the Islamic empire expanded.
One down, one to go
Just as Muhammad's forces brought down the two superpowers of his day, so many of his believers are determined to do the same today. Islamic fighters, including Osama bin Laden and his followers, defeated the forces of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan , a serious setback that was a major cause of the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991.
One superpower is gone, one is left. The United States is next, believe the Islamic militants who are gradually increasing their efforts to rid the world of "the Great Satan," a term first used by the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini.
Reminding his followers of past successes, the Iranian president emboldened them toward further victories against Israel and the West. "When the dear Imam [Khomeini] began his movement, all the powers supported the Shah's corrupt regime . . . and said [the fall of the Shah of Iran] was not possible. However, our nation stood firm, and by now we have, for 27 years, been living without a government dependent on America .
"Imam Khomeni said: ‘The rule of the East [the Soviet Union] and of the West [the United States ] should be ended.'" He then reminded his listeners that the Soviet Union has gone and so has Saddam Hussein, with whom Iran fought an eight-year war. Next, he promised, "This regime that is occupying Jerusalem must be eliminated from the pages of history."
Conflict over the Holy Land
The Jewish nation of Israel occupies land that was ruled by Muslims for centuries. This is unacceptable to many Muslims, especially those who once lived in what is now the state of Israel or are descendants of those who did.
But Israel also reminds Muslims of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem that occupied roughly the same area for most of the 12th century. This occurred during the two centuries of the Christian Crusades against the Islamic world.
The short-lived Kingdom of Jerusalem, defeated by the forces of Saladin, encourages Muslims today who want to ensure that Israel's presence is only temporary. Like that ancient kingdom, Israel is also seen as a temporary Western presence in the Islamic world. America is held responsible for supporting Israel and enabling it to exist, while Britain is blamed for helping give birth to the nation, which was formerly a mandated territory under British rule.
The Crusades were a part of the repeated clash of civilizations between these two religions going back 1,400 years. After spreading across North Africa, Islamic forces invaded Spain, which they then ruled for hundreds of years. In 732, exactly 100 years after the death of Muhammad, his followers were at the gates of Paris, where they were defeated by the forces of Charlemagne's grandfather Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours.
Just over three centuries later, Pope Urban II called on Europeans to launch a "Crusade" to recover Christian holy places in the Middle East . Eventually the crusaders were driven out. The Turkish Ottoman Empire then conquered most of southeastern Europe and twice tried to take the city of Vienna , in the heart of Europe.
As the Iranian president pointed out, Muslims have not done so well during the last 300 years as the Ottoman Empire was slowly pushed back out of Europe and Western nations colonized parts of the Islamic world. This has led to grievances and frustrations, exacerbated by economic problems in societies that suffer from poverty and other social ills.
A new period of conflict
Waves of conflict followed by periods of peace have been the norm between these two religions. Europe today can hardly be called Christian, but its secular values are, if anything, even more offensive to the Islamic world, and a major clash seems inevitable.
Indeed, it is already taking place. Britain and Spain have experienced devastating terrorist bombings by Islamic radicals within the last two years. In October and November, cities across France suffered three weeks of nightly riots by young, mostly Muslim immigrants who are unable to reconcile their religion with the values of secular French society. The Islamic element has been downplayed in the media, which is dominated by multiculturalists who cannot seem to face what is really happening.
When the Iranian president refers to the "World of Arrogance" he is primarily speaking of the United States. But his references to historical events centuries ago, events that predate the existence of the United States as a country, show that in his mind the United States is simply a continuation of the European Christian powers that sent the Crusaders to the land of Islam almost 1,000 years ago.
President Bush's use of the word "crusade" in the aftermath of 9/11 only added to this conviction of a continuing threat from the West. To us the term now means only a zealous, values-driven project. To them it means a Christian war of conquest to take back the Middle East from Islam.
Where will it all end?
The end result of this growing clash of civilizations was prophesied thousands of years ago in the pages of your Bible.
The Old Testament book of Daniel contains a prophecy about "the time of the end" beginning in Daniel 11:40. Here we are told that at that time "the king of the South" will push against "the king of the North," who will then react violently and invade the Middle East, where "many countries will be overthrown."
The kings of North and South in ancient times were the heads of two powerful kingdoms to the north and south of Jerusalem, the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties that divided up the greater part of the empire of Alexander the Great. The Seleucid kingdom in the north, with its Hellenistic cultural views, was eventually absorbed into the European-based Roman Empire while the Ptolemaic empire in time was, following the Roman period, absorbed into the Islamic world.
Continual wars between these competing kingdoms greatly impacted the Jewish people who lived between them. In the same way, a coming conflict between the modern-day successors to these two powers will greatly impact the modern Jewish state of Israel and forever change our world. Will you be ready? GN