In a hard hitting speech to German university students last Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI (he's German too) at long last told it like it is. He said that violence, embodied in the Muslim idea of jihad, or holy war, is contrary to reason and God's plan, while the West was so beholden to reason that Islam could not understand it. He added that the Prophet Mohammed's command to his followers to spread his new faith by means of the sword was "contrary to God's Nature."
As a political statement, it was as incorrect as one can get – but then he is the Pope. Also, his barbs were not aimed solely at Islam, but at the growing "secularism" in the West; the fashion, if you will, to restrict God to the Church and disassociate Him from daily living. The Pope was obviously concerned about his "flock"- mass attendance in Europe and America has fallen to under 15 per cent – but this trend is observed in all branches of Christianity.
For the purpose of this article, however, I would like to focus on the pontiff's observations on Islam. As I am neither Christian nor Muslim, I can perhaps look at this conundrum more objectively; uninfluenced by passion. For too long have the leaders of the "free" world, been pussyfooting around this issue. They talk about "good" Islam and "bad" Islam – and end up antagonizing everybody. The stark truth is that – in many aspects - Islam, both as a religion and a way of life, is diametrically opposite to Christianity. The meek are not blessed in Islam; they are probably regarded with scorn. Christ spread his religion by performing miracles: Mohammed did it by sending out his armies to conquer foreign lands and forcing the "infidels" to convert – or else.
Let me make it clear that I am no Islamophobe. I do believe that the vast majority of Muslims are decent, law abiding individuals; who value human life as much as anyone else. I just do not buy into this notion – so favored by spin doctors – that the terrorists have a "different" interpretation of the Koran. There is no "good" Koran and "bad" Koran. The Koran is more than a religious treatise: like the Jewish Torah, it is a detailed set of rules on how a "believer" is expected to live his life. It leaves no room for ambiguity. Yes, the holy book was written 14 centuries ago, when the world was a vastly different place, and the intelligent Muslim understands that some of its verses (for example, the four wives dispensation) have to adapt in accordance with modern civilization. But there is no way that one group of people can interpret a passage in the Koran as a license to kill all "unbelievers" – women and children included – while another group reads the same passage and concludes that killing of innocents is absolutely forbidden.
Throughout history, rulers and prelates have used religion to further their own selfish ambitions – and manipulated it to mean whatever their gullible subjects will swallow: yesterday's heretic is today's saint. Henry VIII booted out the Pope and invented his own church, when the pontiff refused to grant him a divorce. My point is that these guys used religion as a pawn in a spiritual chess game that ensured that they always emerged as the winners. They were not seeking rewards in heaven, but right here on earth. They did not die for their religion. They made the other dumb suckers die for their religion (forgive the liberty, General Patton).
That is the chilling difference with the modern Islamic terrorist. He is seeking a reward in his brainwashed vision of heaven – and he is quite happy to die for it. He genuinely believes that stuff about martyrdom and paradise and the vestal virgins. That is why he keeps winning. No police force or army in the world can prevail against individuals who have a total disregard for human lives – their own included.
Or maybe they can. But not as long as they continue to play by "civilized" rules. The human rights enshrined in the American Constitution are perhaps the most noble ever bequeathed to the human race – but they mean didley squat to the terrorists. To them, every American is a shaitan (devil) and has no rights whatsoever – not even the right to live. There is no such thing as "collateral damage" in their vocabulary – and Western concern for sparing non-combatants is derided and regarded as a sign of weakness.
I don't know how many of you saw that excellent docudrama "The Path to 9/11" that was telecast recently. If you did, you'd know that – long before 9/11 – the Americans had Osama Bin Laden dead in their sights on at least two occasions. It was a slam dunk, but they couldn't follow through. Why? In the first instance, when the American and their allies from the Northern Alliance had Osama, Al-Zawahari and the whole gang literally surrounded (they could see him, for Pete's sake) the big boys in Washington hesitated, because a snatch could risk the lives of innocent bystanders. When Clinton unleashed those cruise missiles on Afghanistan after the US embassy attacks in Africa, the CIA had a positive fix on Osama's location; but diplomatic niceties mandated that The US Secretary of State first inform the President of Pakistan – who lost no time in warning OBL to skedaddle out of there pretty damn quick.
The harsh reality is that you cannot act "civilized" with an enemy who has only one rule – and that is to murder you. Statements like "the United States does not practice torture" and "America does not assassinate foreign "leaders" (which, like it or not, Osama is) sound very noble and warm the cockles of patriotic American hearts but, in practical terms, they are meaningless. Do you think that "bad guy" sitting in his cell at Guantanamo Bay is going to be grateful to you for reading him his Miranda rights? Get real folks. I know there are many decent Americans who believe that if their countrymen stoop to the level of the terrorists, they are equally culpable. Perhaps they are right – in a perfect world. But this world is far from perfect. If America hopes to win the war on terror, they will have to get down and dirty; take the fight to the enemy; use their own tactics against them. Sure, Americans will no longer be the "good guys" in the rest of the world – very many Americans may even feel justifiably ashamed and disgusted – but, sometimes, that is the price you have to pay.