Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Holy Warrior Education & The Patriot Act

Seven years ago, the Clinton Administration attacked installations presumed to be Al Qaeda facilities, in President Clinton's one and only action to oppose Muslim terrorism. Jeffrey Goldberg documented the response of madrassa students to America's actions two years later in Pakistan:

......I began by saying that bin Laden's program violates a basic tenet of Islam, which holds that even in a jihad the lives of innocent people must be spared. A jihad is a war against combatants, not women and children...They did not like the idea of me quoting the Prophet to them, and they began chanting, "Osama, Osama, Osama..."

"All things come from Allah," one student said. "The atomic bomb comes from Allah, so it should be used."

I then asked: Who wants to see Osama bin Laden armed with nuclear weapons? Every hand in the room shot up. The students laughed, and some applauded...

What would you do if you learned that the C.I.A. had captured bin Laden and was taking him to America to stand trial?

A student who gave his name as Muhammad stood up: "We would sacrifice our lives for Osama. We would kill Americans."

What kind of Americans?

"All Americans."

Where are these students of yesteryear? What are madrassa students thinking today? Note the emphasis of these schools is rote learning and indoctrination, not reason. The students drowned out any opinion that differed with the conceptions drilled into their heads. They were imbued with religious certainty that justified any deed performed in the righteousness of their cause - not just survival but domination of militant Muslims over others - no matter how people could be killed doing so, and without regard to differences of opinion or interpretation outside their own community.

One can either smash such foes physically, or brutally confront them with an environment that forces them to change their thought processes. Both approaches take time.

Can we really maintain that just because the U.S. "has not had a single attack for four years" that the Global War on Terror is nearly over, and that the Patriot Act is an insufferable assault on American freedoms? If the law of the land is such that we cannot defend ourselves with it, the law should be changed.

And yes, the change in law may change us as well, but at least we will survive and possibly triumph, and our political system will remain such that we can "lower the shields" if we so desire it. The expiration of the Patriot Act is not an indication of the end of the War on Terror, but a reminder that we do not have to accept its restrictions as a permanent law of the land. But for now, the War on Terror continues, and the Patriot Act should be renewed.

For those concerned that the GWOT is "open-ended" I ask: how "open-ended" was World War II? The Civil War? The Cold War? One does not end war according to a precise schedule; only in Vietnam did a previous generation shirk from the task, and the results were horrific.

Let us learn from history and not repeat the same mistakes. For now, we must continue to soldier on.

Update, 12/28/05

In the comments John of Crossroads Arabia directed me to this recent review of the madrasas publshed in The New York Review of Books. The review leads off with a story of a visit to the same madrasa that Goldberg visited 5½ years ago! We discover that Taliban chief Mullah Omar himself was trained there, that the director still sends students out to fight at his call, and that any Pakistani "crackdown on centers of radicalism" "is for American consumption only".

The review presents no evidence that teaching philosophies or practices have changed, but does draw a line between the "cannon fodder" these madrasas claim to produce and the western-educated, sophisticated, tech-oriented terrorists that are at the apex of al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is described as usurping "the role of madrasa- based ulema".

Did you know that such Western academic practices as the tasseled hat, robes, and the endowed chair trace back to the madrasas? (What does it mean for Western universities when they accept endowments from Saudi Arabia?)

A review of reviews shouldn't offer much, so I suggest my readers absorb Inside the Madrasas themselves. It is a worthy article, even if the reviewer, William Dalrymple, can't resist throwing in a couple of grossly gratuitous slaps at Israel, slurs meant to work on the unconscious mind: Yeshiva students don't graduate to hijacking planes and terrorizing the world.

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