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The Question "Why do militant Muslims hate us?" yields more spin than answers

The mere raising of this question, "Why do they hate us?" has been grounds for severe criticism in recent letters to the editor columns. Asking "why?" is equated with justifying the terrorism. This criticism by super-patriots is based on an ignorant confusion of the need to understand causes with an effort to justify the mass murders of Sept. 11. No amount of fear and suffering and grief justifies indiscriminate violence, whether by Palestinians, Jews, Islamic militants, or grieving Americans.

The following is a response to "Why do they hate us?" by Robert Kaplan on National Public Radio

Western technological capitalism and US popular culture is egalitarian, opulent, and successful in ways Communism never was. Resentment,fear and envy of this success inspires hatred for the US dynamic culture among fundamentalist Muslims according to Robert Kaplan (Sunday Morning Edition, NPR, 9/23/01).

Empirical facts conflict with Kaplan's account. Descriptions of terrorism as based on cultural envy by primitive fundamentalist Islam don't take into account what we know about suicide attacks against Israel. Instead of fanatics motivated primarily by abstract causes, suicide bombers are far more likely to be individuals who have experienced intense suffering from deprivation of life-support resources or prolonged grief over having one of their family or community killed or maimed in an indiscriminate attack by Israeli settlers or the Israeli military. The Palestinian who has had his beloved son killed by soldiers firing into a crowd of kids throwing stones is far more likely to sacrifice his life in an act of revenge - which is also an attempt to diminish the power and resolve of the Jews who occupy his homeland and oppress his family and community. Ideological fanatics such as the Unabomber are far more rare than are those whose grief or suffering turns to rage. The religious justification for the violent expression of that rage is secondary.

Kaplan's blaming terrorism on Islamic culture and religious fundamentalism is but one more double standard used by US media and policy makers. We are preparing to attack centers of fundamentalist Islam, particularly the Taliban in Afganistan, on the theory that a vast interconnected network of Islamic terrorists receives support from those fundamentalists whose values are vehemently opposed to modern western culture. On the other hand, we did not go on a crusade against fundamentalist Christian groups after the battle with David Koresh and the Davidians in Waco Texas. LIkewise, the US Government did not attack fundamentalist Christian groups after Timothy McVey portrayed his reasons for bombing the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as including Christian fundamentalist beliefs. Ideological supporters of McVey, among them right wing anti-government gun groups and anti-abortion networks, were not blamed.

Fundamentalist Christians have used terrorist violence against abortion clinics and doctors. Christian terrorists attacked at the Atlanta Olympics, at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and numerous other instances. Perpetrators of these acts of terrorism have declared they acted on the basis of intolerable differences between their beliefs and the values being practiced in popular US culture. According to recent statements by the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, attacks such as the horror of Sept, 11,2001, are justified because our culture offends their fundamentalist Christian god. Yet these fanatical statements and acts are not taken as grounds for a declaration of war by the US Government against supporters and sympathizers of the terrorists.