A discussion on National Public Radio's (NPR) Diane Rehm Show (Nov. 26, 2002) included a remarkable comment that the conflicts in the Middle East had nothing to do with religion. The speaker went on to say that not even Osama bin Laden has brought religion into it.
Perhaps he should have read the full text of Osama bin Laden's "Letter to America" before contributing to the program. The full text in English, translated from the original Arabic, could have been downloaded from The London Observer newspaper's Web site two days earlier, Sunday, Nov. 24.
Why this has not been read out in full on U.S. television or radio stations is a mystery, as it is likely to impact Americans more than any other news item of the year. Ironically, the previous day's Diane Rehm Show focused on media shortcomings and the declining standards in covering "hard news," with most news programs offering confrontational news-based programs (described as "entertainment" by one participant on the show) rather than a more serious analysis of the major issues.
Bin Laden's letter makes for chilling reading. If the threats contained in it are carried out, then America is set for more 9/11s. It says in part, "If the Americans do not respond, then their fate will be that of the Soviets who fled from Afghanistan to deal with their military defeat, political breakup, ideological downfall and economic bankruptcy."
The letter makes it absolutely clear that the grievances of Islamic fundamentalists have a great deal to do with religion. In fact, the word religion is mentioned 17 times. In addition, there are multiple references to Islam, Islamic Sharia law and Allah, the Islamic name for God.
Some of the statements made are inaccurate. The United States is blamed for starting the AIDS epidemic, which most likely began in Africa. America is charged with supporting "Russian atrocities...in Chechnya, the Indian oppression against [Muslims] in Kashmir..." The Israelis are accused of aiming to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
But other points made are correct: "You separate religion from your policies." Not only does the Bush administration do this, but clearly, contributors to NPR do too. In truth, this statement gets to the crux of the whole dispute—religion in the West is very much a private affair. Most peoples' religious observance is confined to an hour on Sunday mornings and a few popular annual holidays. In stark contrast, religion plays a major role in Islamic countries. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Islam and Western secular liberalism are incompatible. If there have been any doubts about this, Osama bin Laden's letter makes it clear—except that so little attention has been given to it!
"Why are we fighting you?"
Two questions are directed at Americans. "Why are we fighting and opposing you?" is the first. The second follows: "What are we calling you to do, and what do we want from you?"
The answer to the first question is: "Because you attacked us and continue to attack us." Explaining, bin Laden adds: "You attacked us in Palestine. Palestine, which has sunk under military occupation for 80 years." This is a reference to the occupation of Palestine by British troops in December 1917 after four centuries of rule by the Ottoman Turks. Although not Arabs, the Turks were Muslims, which made their rule more acceptable. The presence of Westerners in Palestine is offensive to Muslims. The Israelis are seen as Western colonizers continuing the British, French and American occupations of the Middle East.
Continuing: "The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation. The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily."
Bin Laden continues with an interesting perspective on history. "It brings us laughter and tears to see that you have not yet tired of repeating your fabricated lies that the Jews have a historical right to Palestine, as it was promised to them in the Torah. Anyone who disputes with them on this alleged fact is accused of anti-Semitism.
This is one of the most fallacious, widely-circulated fabrications in history. The people of Palestine are pure Arabs and original Semites. It is the Muslims who are the inheritors of Moses (peace be upon him) and the inheritors of the real Torah that has not been changed...If the followers of Moses have been promised a right to Palestine in the Torah, then the Muslims are the most worthy nation of this."
Clearly, in the mind of Osama bin Laden and other Islamic fundamentalists, the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict goes right back to Abraham's two sons, Isaac (ancestor of the Israelites) and Ishmael (ancestor of the Arabs). The background to this is recorded in the book of Genesis, chapters 16 to 21. History from 4,000 years ago directly affects us today.
Criticisms of the United States
While there is insufficient space to quote all of the criticisms directed at the United States, the following are highlights:
"You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of your international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world.
"Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands and you besiege our sanctities, to protect the security of the Jews and to ensure the continuity of your pillage of our treasures.
"You have starved the Muslims of Iraq, where children die every day. It is a wonder that more than 1.5 million Iraqi children have died as a result of your sanctions, and you did not show concern. Yet when 3,000 of your people died, the entire world rises and has not sat down."
Bin Laden then warns Americans of the consequences.
Threatens all American citizens
At this point, it should also be made clear that bin Laden says the blame for all this does not lie with the U.S. government, but rather with the people. Reasoning that America is a democracy whose government is chosen by the people, bin Laden concludes that the American people are responsible.
"Therefore, the American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies...The American people are the ones who pay the taxes which fund the planes that bomb us in Afghanistan, the tanks that strike and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies which occupy our lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets which ensure the blockade of Iraq...Also the American army is part of the American people..."
"If we are attacked, then we have the right to fight back. Whoever has destroyed our villages and towns, then we have the right to destroy their villages and towns. Whoever has stolen our wealth, then we have the right to destroy their economy. And whoever has killed our civilians, then we have the right to kill theirs."
Osama then comes to the second question: "What are we calling you to do, and what do we want from you?"
Wants Americans to convert to Islam
Answer number 1? "The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam." Why is it that so few in the West see the religious dimension here? "It is to this religion that we call you; the seal of all the previous religions..." And if Americans refuse to convert to Islam? Islam, states bin Laden, "is the religion of Jihad (holy war) in the way of Allah so that Allah's word and religion reign Supreme..."
Bin Laden's demands are clear. Americans, all Americans, must convert to Islam if there is to be peace. Israel must also cease to exist. Additionally, Americans must change their entire way of life, ending their dependency on cheap oil and their over-consumption of it.
America's catalog of sins
The "Letter to America" then catalogs the sins of the American people, as perceived by Islamic fundamentalists.
Is this a minority opinion among Muslims? "If you go around the Muslim world, you will find the vast majority of people will support Osama bin Laden," said the Saudi ambassador to London in an interview given to the British Spectator magazine (Sept. 7, 2002). Ghazi Algosaibi said of Britain: "Has it not occurred to you that what goes on in this country is abhorrent to Muslims?" The same could be said of the United States as bin Laden's letter makes clear.
Here are some of the charges the letter makes against America:
"You...choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire [instead of the law of Islam, Sharia]. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator...
"You are a nation that permits the production, trading and usage of intoxicants. You also permit drugs, and only forbid the trade of them, even though your nation is the largest consumer of them...
"You are a nation that permits acts of immorality, and you consider them to be pillars of personal freedom...Who can forget your President Clinton's immoral acts committed in the Oval Office? After that you did not even bring him to account, other than that 'he made a mistake,' after which everything passed with no punishment. Is there a worse kind of event for which your name will go down in history and be remembered by nations?
"You are a nation that permits gambling in all forms...
"You are a nation that exploits women like consumer products...You then rant that you support the liberation of women.
"You are a nation that practices the trade of sex in all its forms, directly and indirectly...
"Your law is the law of the rich and wealthy people, who hold sway in their political parties, and fund their election campaigns with their gifts."
A new America—no longer under God
Interestingly, most of the above criticisms of America could not have been made 50 years ago, before the secular, liberal reforms of the 1960s and '70s. Prior to that time, the laws of the United States of America were based on the Ten Commandments, the law of God given to the Israelites through Moses. At that time, America was highly respected in the world and was looked to as a nation of hope in a world of darkness. "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).
Osama bin Laden's letter should help Americans to understand contributory factors that have led to international hatred and disrespect for the United States. Perhaps this explains why America's overwhelmingly liberal media have chosen not to highlight this letter, which shows the consequences of all the liberal reforms of the last four decades.
The creation of the nation of Israel in 1948 was certainly a major turning point in relations between the nations of the region and the Western democracies. U.S. support for Israel is the primary reason for the seeming universal hatred of America throughout the Islamic world. U.S. cultural hegemony is another. American movies, television and music portray a decadent culture that has rejected God. Although many Americans themselves are critical of these developments, all Americans are paying a price. God's Word shows that this would be the case.
In Deuteronomy chapter 28 we read of prophesied blessings and curses that would come upon the peoples of Israel (among whom are the American and British peoples) as a consequence of obedience or disobedience to God's laws. "It shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you" (verse 15).
Subsequent verses show that one of the consequences of rejecting God's laws will be increased violence on an horrific scale. "Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country...Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out" (verses 16 and 19).
Islamic fundamentalists are declaring themselves ready and able to administer those curses. Is it God's time to allow them to happen? WNP