Today's The West Australian newspaper had an
unwebbed article on terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed titled, "Terrorist a braggart with a liking for sins of the West." However, I found it webbed at London's Daily Telegraph as follows:
Murderous trail of the one-time playboy who turned to terror, Daily Telegraph, Alex Spillius, 17 March 2007 ... Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's claim of responsibility for almost every major Islamist terror plot in the past dozen years comes as no surprise to those who have followed his murderous career. In 2002, 10 months before his arrest, he bragged to an al-Jazeera journalist on the record that he was behind the September 11 attacks and happily elaborated on the planning. "We first thought of striking at a couple of nuclear facilities but decided against it as it would go out of control," he told the interviewer, Yosri Fouda. However, as the camera started rolling, Mohammed struggled to form even the few phrases of classical Arabic with which al-Qa'eda operatives were supposed to begin discussions. This was no surprise. In contrast to most of al-Qa'eda's senior leaders, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed liked to indulge in the sins of the Western civilisation that his movement is devoted to wiping out. ...
Richard Dawkins in his The God Delusion accepts uncritically the terrorist propaganda as "articulated ... by bin Laden himself" that Islamic jihadists are motivated by religion, i.e. "Why would anyone want to destroy the World Trade Center and everybody in it? ... The answer is that men like bin Laden actually believe what they say they believe. ... Because they believed that they would go straight to paradise for doing so":
"Once again, Sam Harris put the point with percipient bluntness, taking the example of the Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden ... Why would anyone want to destroy the World Trade Center and everybody in it? To call bin Laden `evil' is to evade our responsibility to give a proper answer to such an important question. Why would anyone want to destroy the World Trade Center and everybody in it? To call bin Laden `evil' is to evade our responsibility to give a proper answer to such an important question. `The answer to this question is obvious - if only because it has been patiently articulated ad nauseam by bin Laden himself. The answer is that men like bin Laden actually believe what they say they believe. They believe in the literal truth of the Koran. Why did nineteen well-educated middle-class men trade their lives in this world for the privilege of killing thousands of our neighbors? Because they believed that they would go straight to paradise for doing so. It is rare to find the behavior of humans so fully and satisfactorily explained. Why have we been so reluctant to accept this explanation? [Harris, S., "The End of Faith," W.W. Norton & Co: New York, 2004, p.29]" (Dawkins, R., "The God Delusion," Bantam Press: London, 2006, pp.303-304. Emphasis original)
Which in turn was, according to Dawkins, "because they have been brought up, from the cradle, to have total and unquestioning faith" (emphasis original):
"The respected journalist Muriel Gray, writing in the (Glasgow) Herald on 24 July 2005, made a similar point, in this case with reference to the London bombings. `Everyone is being blamed, from the obvious villainous duo of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, to the inaction of Muslim `communities'. But it has never been clearer that there is only one place to lay the blame and it has ever been thus. The cause of all this misery, mayhem, violence, terror and ignorance is of course religion itself, and if it seems ludicrous to have to state such an obvious reality, the fact is that the government and the media are doing a pretty good job of pretending that it isn't so.' Our Western politicians avoid mentioning the R word (religion), and instead characterize their battle as a war against `terror', as though terror were a kind of spirit or force, with a will and a mind of its own. Or they characterize terrorists as motivated by pure `evil'. But they are not motivated by evil. However misguided we may think them, they are motivated, like the Christian murderers of abortion doctors, by what they perceive to be righteousness, faithfully pursuing what their religion tells them. They are not psychotic; they are religious idealists who, by their own lights, are rational. They perceive their acts to be good, not because of some warped personal idiosyncrasy, and not because they have been possessed by Satan, but because they have been brought up, from the cradle, to have total and unquestioning faith." (Dawkins, Ibid., p.303. Emphasis original).
But this is contradicted by the facts. Apart from there being hundreds of millions of devout Muslims who are not suicide bombers, terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are not particularly (if at all) religious, as the Daily Telegraph article continuing makes clear, "while plotting the hijacking and bombing of a dozen US airliners ... he frequented nightclubs and pole-dancing bars in Manila with some regularity" and he was"not very religious himself" (my emphasis):
... In the mid-1990s, while plotting the hijacking and bombing of a dozen US airliners and, to a lesser extent, the assassination of Pope John Paul II, he frequented nightclubs and pole-dancing bars in Manila with some regularity. In Kuala Lumpur he reportedly buzzed a high-rise building in a helicopter where one of his numerous girlfriends was staying, ringing her from the cockpit and telling her to look out of the window. He would introduce himself as a wealthy businessman from Qatar, which had some truth - he worked as an engineer for the government in the Gulf state for a time. Peter Bergen, the author and leading expert on al-Qa'eda, said: "I think he really was in it for the fun. To use a horrible metaphor in this context, he was having a blast. "He was obviously pathologically antisemitic but not very religious himself. He wasn't one to quote Saudi clerics." ...
Like other al-Qa'eda leaders, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's qualifications were purely secular and military, not religious:
... Mohammed, often referred to in security circles as KSM, was al-Qa'eda's principal ideas man. He came to Osama bin Laden with the concept for September 11, having failed to pull off the precursor plan in south-east Asia. It was the head of al-Qa'eda who scaled down the US operation from 10 to four aircraft, and appointed Mohammed Atta as the brutally efficient leader of the suicide force. The south-east Asia plot placed Mohammed on the authorities' radar screen but he evaded capture until March 2003, using 27 aliases and a variety of fake passports. American security sources once referred to him as the Forrest Gump of al-Qa'eda because he was involved in so many plots in so many places. The French issued an arrest warrant for his involvement in the suicide bombing of a Tunisian synagogue in 2002, and he was linked, by suspects, to the 2002 beheading of the American reporter Daniel Pearl and to the Bali bombing in the same year. ...
And "His taste for the good life aside, he closely matched the profile of al-Qa'eda leaders" being "well educated and familiar with the West" and "a professional terrorist" (my emphasis):
... His taste for the good life aside, he closely matched the profile of al-Qa'eda leaders. He was well educated and familiar with the West, gaining an engineering degree from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. He was born in Kuwait in either 1964 or 1965, but his family was originally from Baluchistan, a Pakistani province bordering Afghanistan. After graduating he settled in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, where the American-backed jihadist movement against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan was based, and bin Laden was a behind-the-scenes wealthy backer. Mr Bergen estimates that to some degree Mohammed was involved in most of the 31 plots he cited in his testimony to the Guantanamo tribunal. "It is entirely plausible. He was involved for so long. He was a professional terrorist." ...
Alister and Joanna McGrath in their "The Dawkins Delusion?" make the same point that while "For Dawkins, it is obvious that it is religious belief that leads to suicide bombings," in fact "empirical studies of why people are driven to suicide bombings," as for example Robert A. Pape's "definitive account of the motivations of such attacks, based on surveys of every suicide bombing since 1980, religious belief of any kind is neither necessary nor sufficient to create suicide bombers" (my emphasis):
"Dawkins would, I think, protest that religious world views offer motivations for violence that are not paralleled elsewhere - for example, the thought of entering paradise after a suicidal attack. [Dawkins, "God Delusion," pp.303-304] Yet this conclusion is a little hasty and poorly argued. The God Delusion is to be seen as one of a number of books to emerge from the events now universally referred to as '9/11' - the suicide attacks on buildings in Washington and New York. For Dawkins, it is obvious that it is religious belief that leads to suicide bombings. It's a view that his less critical secular readers will applaud, provided they haven't read the empirical studies of why people are driven to suicide bombings in the first place. As Robert Pape showed in his definitive account of the motivations of such attacks, based on surveys of every suicide bombing since 1980, religious belief of any kind is neither necessary nor sufficient to create suicide bombers - despite Dawkins' breezy simplifications. [Pape, R.A., "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," Random House: New York, 2005] (Remember, the infamous `suicide vest' was invented by Tamil Tigers back in 1991.) Pape's evidence is that the fundamental motivation is political: the desire to force the withdrawal of foreign forces occupying land believed to belong to an oppressed people, who have seriously limited military resources at their disposal. This isn't what Dawkins will want to hear, but it is an important element in reflecting on how this phenomenon arose, and what might need to be done to end it." (McGrath, A. & McGrath, J.C., "The Dawkins Delusion?," SPCK: London, 2007, pp.49-50. Emphasis original).
But then this must be well-known to Dawkins, since it was the subject of a New Scientist article of 23 July 2005 (a day before the Muriel Gray article above and so while Dawkins was still writing his book), which reported on "Ariel Merari, a psychologist at Tel Aviv University who has traced the background of every suicide bomber in the Middle East since 1983" and found that "suicide terrorists are better off than average for their community and better educated," "They don't have to be Islamic extremists either, or even radicalised by faith," and in fact "the modern pioneers of suicide terrorism, the Tamil Tigers" (who the McGraths point out above invented the "suicide vest") "are secular Marxist-Leninists" (my emphasis):
"ASK someone to sketch a personality profile of a typical suicide bomber and the chances are it would not come close to describing the four young men who, it seems, blew themselves up in London two weeks ago. Even from their friends and families the refrain has been, `I can't believe he would have done such a thing - not him.' And when you look at who they were, it is hard to believe. There was Mohammad Sidique Khan, father and teaching assistant, loved by the children he taught and well respected by his community; Hasib Hussain, the `nice lad' from a close-knit family; Shehzad Tanweer, the cricket-loving sports science graduate; and Germaine Lindsay, a young father described as `dead brainy' by a schoolmate. None of them had a criminal record, none was mentally ill, none was especially poor, and they were mostly well educated. All of them grew up in the UK. In short, they were not what you'd expect in a suicide bomber. Except you'd be wrong. Most suicide bombers anywhere in the world appear to be normal. Study after study has shown that suicide terrorists are better off than average for their community and better educated. They are also rarely suicidal in the pathological sense. Ariel Merari, a psychologist at Tel Aviv University who has traced the background of every suicide bomber in the Middle East since 1983, has found symptoms of mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse in very few. They don't have to be Islamic extremists either, or even radicalised by faith. True, the London bombers were all Muslims, as are the vast majority of suicide attackers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel. Yet many of the suicide bombers in Lebanon in the 1980s were from secular Christian backgrounds. And one of the modern pioneers of suicide terrorism, the Tamil Tigers, are secular Marxist-Leninists." (Bond, M., "Turning ordinary people into suicide bombers," New Scientist, 23 July 2005).
As I observed in my January 2006 post, "The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins #6," "Actual research shows that `Suicide bombers ... are usually far from being the ... religious fanatics ... they are often portrayed as" and in fact they "are often secular, well-educated individuals" ("What makes bombers tick?," The Age, May 14, 2004) ... That is, they are more like Dawkins than Billy Graham or Mother Teresa!" (my emphasis).
Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).
Exodus 9:1-7. 1Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: "Let my people go, so that they may worship me." 2If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, 3the hand of the LORD will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field-on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats. 4But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.' " 5The LORD set a time and said, "Tomorrow the LORD will do this in the land." 6And the next day the LORD did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. 7Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.