The Star-Democrat from Easton, Maryland on August 31, 2003 · Page 8
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The Star-Democrat from Easton, Maryland · Page 8

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Sunday, August 31, 2003
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THESUNDAY STAR EDITORIAL Today in history Your letters are welcome The Star Democrat welcomes letters to the editor. There is a 250-word limit. Routine thank-you letters and poems are not printed in this section. Letters should be typed or legibly written. Letters must be signed and include the writer’s address and phone number. Please send your letters to: The Star Democrat, Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 600, Easton, Md. 21601, or fax them to 410-770-4019. Our e-mail address is: stardem@cpc.chespub.com. Include the title “Letter to the Editor” in the subject line. Letters should include writer’s name, regular mailing address and phone number. Larry EffinghamDenise K. RileyBarbara Sauers PublisherExecutive Editor Managing Editor David Fike Richard O. BillmanWilliam Haufe Marketing DirectorSunday EditorSports Editor Jonathan SlocumRichard PolkKent Smith Wire EditorOnline EditorCaroline Editor Gail DeanJanice K. ColvinAngela Price Dorchester EditorQueen Anne’s EditorKent Island Editor Opinion & Commentary Moderately Confused THESUNDAY STAR Page 8A , Sunday, August 31, 2003 The murders, the martyrs and jihad Eleven-month-old Shmuel Zargari was buried in Israel this week with only his 14-year-old brother in attendance from his immediate family. His parents and three other siblings missed the funeral, having been grievously wounded by Shmuel’s murderer, a 29-year-old Muslim cleric named Raed Abdel- Hamid Mesk, who believed Allah would invite him to paradise for self-detonating a Jerusalem bus packed with the Zargaris and other young families. Mesk’s ultimate destination is debatable, but the number of people he murdered is not. Twenty Jews died in the wreckage, among them five Americans; scores more, including some 40 children, face recovery from injuries exacerbated by metal shards packed among the explosives. No further suffering will pain Shmuel Zargari, a murder victim before his first birthday, but the desolation of his funeral accentuates the trauma of the crime. No bright side here; no silver lining and no light at the end of the tunnel — unless you are the killer- cleric’s widow. “I thank God that my husband has become a martyr,” said pregnant Arij Mesk, who is also the mother of the couple’s two- and three-year-old children. “God gave Raed something he always dreamed of. All his life he dreamed of being a martyr.” We may expect celebrations of such murderers in the Arab world — Reuters reported on one in Lebanon this week in which hundreds of Palestinian men took to the streets to celebrate the bus attack — but that doesn’t happen here, right? Following the bus bombing, however, SoundVision.com, an avowedly Muslim Web site originating in Bridgeview, Ill., some presum- ably young and presumably North American Muslims mainly blogged approval of, and even sadistic delight in, the Jerusalem carnage. Most chilling was the theological justification for “martyrdom operations” that cropped up on the Web site. A blogger from Canada identified as “Egyptian Guy” (with a Hezbollah logo) quoted at length from a fatwa originating from an organization of Islamic scholars called the European Council for Fatwa and Research. “Martyrdom operations are not suicide and should not be deemed as unjustifiable means of endangering one’s life,” wrote the council’s Sheik Faysal Mawlawi. Indeed, they “are a sacred duty carried out in form of self-defense.” (Self- defense against 11-month-old bus passengers?) “Whoever is killed in such missions,” concluded the sheik, “is a martyr, may Allah bless him with high esteem.” Not exactly what I would bless him with, but there’s more. The Middle East Media Research Institute (www.memri.com) reports that the European Fatwa and Research Council hunkered down in Stockholm this summer to discuss “Jihad and Denying Its Connection to Terror.” It all depends, it seems, on what the meaning of terror is. According to the council’s Sheik Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, one of the leading figures in Sunni Islam, “martyrdom operations ... are not in any way included in the framework of prohibited terrorism, even if the victims include some civilians.” (“Some” civilians.) The sheik listed six reasons, among them the following: “It has been determined by Islamic law that the blood and property of people of Dar Al-Harb (the Domain of Disbelief where the battle for the domination of Islam should be waged) is not protected.” That means non-Muslims aren’t “protected” in non-Muslim lands (and it’s no bed of roses in Muslim lands) — not even by, or rather, especially not by, the loftiest religious precepts of a significant swath of Islam. This point reminds me of a passage in one of the greatly readable primers on Islamic jihad (the historical movement, not the terrorist group), Jihad in the West , (Prometheus Books, 1998) by Paul Fregosi. Comparing Christian and Muslim war crimes in the 16th century, Fregosi writes, “Both sides murdered and tortured equally well. But,” he adds, quoting historian Jack Beeching, “‘the bloody deeds done by nominal Christians went contrary to the utterances of the founder of their religion. ... The Christians guilty of such deeds must have been aware at the backs of their minds that what they did was wrong.’” Fregosi notes: “The Muslims who carried out the same deeds, and worse, felt no guilt at all. On the contrary, they felt they were obeying the will of God. Surveying the Christian scene with an unblinking eye, Beeching adds, ‘From this friction between doctrine and practice might come a change for the better. Perhaps,’ he adduced, ‘this is the reason why the Christian West has never stagnated.’” Perhaps. It is certainly true that as currently preached by many leading Islamic clerics around the world, no such friction between religious doctrine and murderous practice exists. Killing Jews — and by extension, Americans and other Westerners — is doctrinally OK according to way too much of Islam. This is what must cease if ever there is to come a change for the better. Diana West can be contacted via dianaww@attglobal.net. © 2003, Newspaper Enterprise Assn. BOSTON — Earlier this summer a young Iraqi went to one of the Islamic courts springing up in the holy city of Najaf to confess to the judge that he’d killed his mother. She’d dishonored the family by committing adultery, he said to the cleric-turned-judge. The son later explained that he’d chosen to make his case to the self-proclaimed Islamic court because it would “rule according to our Shiite traditions. This is the true court. This is the ruling of God.” It was a chilling story to Americans wary about Iraq’s future. In the troubled wake of Saddam, we are worrying over the struggle between democracy and theocracy. We are watching it play out in the streets and in the courts. I never found out how the radical jurists who use the Koran as the law book ruled in this matricide. But I’ve been thinking of them for the past week as people gathered outside an Alabama courthouse to protect “Roy’s Rock.” After all, Americans have our own struggles with theocracy and democracy. The protesters in Montgomery are fans of Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has been dubbed the “Moses of Alabama” though his namesake would have had trouble carrying a 5,280-pound set of tablets down from the mount. A West Point graduate, a man who herded cattle in Australia and trained as a kickboxer, Moore became known as the “Ten Commandments Judge” after placing rosewood tablets behind his bench in 1995. He was elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000 on a platform that read, “Still the Ten Commandments Judge.” Was that election a moment of Judeo-Christian democracy? The majority vote for religious justice? Two years ago, Moore had his huge monument installed in the courthouse rotunda. But ultimately, a federal judge ruled that it was “nothing less than an obtrusive year-round religious display.” When the other eight Supreme Court members said it must be removed, Moore refused. Now suspended, he will face a hearing of his own. The Chief Justice as Chief Protester is an odd role reversal. But then his conservative followers sing “We Shall Overcome” wearing T-shirts with mottos like, “Homosexuality is a sin, Islam is a lie, abortion is murder.” This is not just an Alabama thing. The movement to put the Ten Commandments into the public square is more active now than at any time since Cecil B. DeMille gave away 4,000 granite tablets as a promotion for the Charlton Heston movie. There have been dozens of protests against the removal of plaques and statues. Some of the same people once found outside abortion clinics have moved to courthouse lawns. The Ten Commandments is a crowd-pleasing cause. A huge majority of Americans regard these words as a map for a good life, though an equally large majority has trouble reciting them. In this Disney culture, it’s entirely possible more people can name the seven dwarfs — including Doc — than the Ten Commandments. Americans seem to want the Commandments displayed even if they don’t want them all enforced. When was the last time we arrested people at the local mall for dishonoring the Sabbath? When was adultery last a felony? The Ten Commandments grace the walls of the U.S. Supreme Court building without controversy. Moses stands along with Confucius and Muhammad in a frieze celebrating the history of the law. But Roy’s Rock is about as nonsectarian as a sign over a judicial bench reading “What Would Jesus Do?” Whenever I write about the wall separating church and state, someone dares me to find it in the Bill of Rights. Indeed, the Constitution says the government cannot establish religion and must protect the freedom to practice any religion or, indeed, no religion. We’ve had bitter fights over when the state is endorsing religion. Prayer in the schools? Creches in front of the library? We’ve had people who believe that government-enforced neutrality is really hostility. Jerry Falwell calls it “religious genocide.” But these days we Americans look at ourselves in the global light of places like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. Our breed of democracy does more than let the majority rule. It also protects the minority — the Zoroastrian, Zen Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, Muslim — and lets us live together. A protester carrying a 10-foot-tall cross in front of the Alabama courthouse said, “Maybe they can move the monument, but they can’t take it out of our hearts.” But that, of course, is where it belongs. Now the monument has been removed. As for the Ten Commandments Judge? Roy Moore has said religion is above the law, that his monument means more than his job: “To do my duty, I must obey God. ... I cannot violate my conscience.” May he follow his path — and his rock — right out of the courthouse. Ellen Goodman’s e-mail address is: ellengoodman@globe.com. © 2003, Washington Post Writers Group Theocracy vs. democracy — U.S. style “Americans seem to want the Commandments displayed even if they don’t want them all enforced. When was the last time we arrested people at the local mall for dishonoring the Sabbath? When was adultery last a felony?” Ashcroft’s road show Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, equating liberty with security and cribbing the rhetoric of the Gettysburg Address, kicked off a 12-city defense of the Bush administration’s USA Patriot Act on Tuesday. To paraphrase what Dr. Samuel Johnson said of the dog that walked on its hind legs, it is not how well he did that’s surprising, but that he did it at all. Mr. Ashcroft was uncharacteristically eloquent in his speech to the American Enterprise Institute, the neo- conservative Washington think tank that gave him a friendly home-court welcome. Invoking the memory of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Mr. Ashcroft repeated Abraham Lincoln’s pledge at Gettysburg to “take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” “That cause is liberty,” Mr. Ashcroft said. “Given a new birth at Gettysburg, and reborn once again the struggle which history places before us today. We did not seek this struggle, but we embrace this cause.” The problem with Mr. Ashcroft’s argument, and with the Patriot Act itself, is that some provisions of the act do as much to threaten liberties as others do to protect them. Some members of Congress, conservatives as well as liberals, are beginning to rethink the wisdom of the bill they passed in haste barely six weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11. That Mr. Ashcroft would mount a political-like campaign in its defense is a sign of how seriously the White House takes the brewing criticism. Mr. Ashcroft on Tuesday mounted a spirited defense of some of the less controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, those that allow for increased cooperation between intelligence agencies and wiretaps to follow individuals rather than specific phone numbers. He said less about the “sneak and peek” provision that allows the FBI to nose around library, business and computer records without disclosing its interest. The administration was stunned by a House vote last month to cut off funding for that particular provision. Mr. Ashcroft boasted that the Justice Department has used the powers of the Patriot Act to uncover terrorist cells in several American cities, but said nothing about more than 700 people who were jailed without any proof of links to terrorism. He noted that 255 criminal charges have been brought under the Act, and 132 individuals have pleaded guilty or been convicted. He didn’t mention that most of the pleas were for minor violations such as visa problems, and that the average sentence, according to a Syracuse University study, was two months. Mr. Ashcroft may be thumping the tub for the Patriot Act because the administration has introduced legislation that would expand it — the so-called Super Patriot Act. The draft bill would allow the government such powers as secret arrest, wiretapping without court order during the aftermath of a terrorist attack, stripping citizenship rights from those even suspected of terrorism and setting up a DNA database of “suspected” terrorists. Mr. Ashcroft may come to regret his decision to take his act on the road. The more Americans learn about some of the provisions of the Patriot Act, the more they will insist that its more egregious terms be deleted. Mr. Ashcroft says there is no liberty without security. In fact, there is no real security without strong civil liberties. He should go back and reread his American history, reminding himself of just why the founding fathers built so many protections of our civil liberties into the Constitution. Today is Sunday, Aug.31, the 243rd day of 2003. There are 122 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: Two hundred years ago, Meriwether Lewis left Pittsburgh, sailing down the Ohio River; he joined up with William Clark near Louisville, Ky., the following October. The next year, Lewis and Clark began their famous cross-country exploration of the present-day American West. - AP

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