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U.S. immorality fuels terrorism of radical Muslims, experts say

WASHINGTON (BP)–Widespread immorality in the United States could be a key reason for Islamic terrorists’ acts of violence against Americans, according to a government commission, a scholar and a Southern Baptist pastor.

“The 9/11 Commission Report” and “Power, Terror, Peace, and War,” a new book by Walter Russell Mead, have noted that radical Islamists such as Osama Bin Ladin view the United States as the central player in a “war against God.” The only way to fight against America and uphold Islamic moral standards is to kill Americans, they say.

Coinciding with the release of the 9/11 Commission Report and Mead’s book was a sermon series in late 2004 by Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the four-part series Henry challenged Christians to restore biblical values in America in order to glorify God and end the provocation of radical Islamic terrorists.

Careful not to justify in any way their attacks on innocents, Henry said it is clear that an increase in decadence has brought about the recent onslaught of Islamic terrorist attacks.

“[L]et’s acknowledge that America’s increasing decadence is giving aid and comfort to the enemy,” Henry said. “When we tolerate trash on television, permit pornography to invade our homes on the Internet and allow babies to be killed at the point of birth, we are inflaming radical Islam.”

Bin Ladin and his followers believe American immorality to be so severe that the only remedy is to kill Americans whenever possible, the 9/11 Commission concluded.

“We believe that the worst thieves in the world today and the worst terrorists are the Americans,” Bin Ladin said in a 1998 interview with ABC-TV, which was referenced by the 9/11 Commission. “Nothing could stop you except perhaps retaliation in kind. We do not have to differentiate between military or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they are all targets.”

Polls taken in predominately Muslim countries in 2002-03 confirm that many Middle Eastern Muslims share Bin Ladin’s view of the United States in varying degrees. In Egypt, the recipient of more U.S. aid for the past 20 years than any other Muslim country, only 15 percent of the population has a favorable opinion of the United States; in Saudi Arabia, it’s 12 percent; and Indonesia, 15 percent.

Such a low opinion of America in Muslim nations, according to Mead, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, is precipitated largely by the perception that “the West has lost touch with its spiritual roots, that we have given our lives over to dissipation and an amoral search for pleasure, that our societies are depersonalized and uncaring, that we ruthlessly neglect the unfortunate in other, poorer countries, and that the exploitation of women continues under the mask of a philosophy of personal liberation.”

Many of these perceptions are the result of “unfair and untrue” propaganda, Mead acknowledges. However, they have “some plausibility,” and “we shall have to take steps to make these charges less plausible in the future,” he writes.

The extent of anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world was demonstrated in early January when an Egyptian weekly magazine reported that the tsunami that struck countries surrounding the Indian Ocean Dec. 26 “was possibly” caused by an Indian nuclear experiment in which “Israeli and American nuclear experts participated.”

The magazine, “Al-Osboa’,” also said that the United States “showed readiness to cooperate with India in experiments to exterminate humankind.”

In order to combat negative perceptions of the United States and the consequent terrorism, “the U.S. government must define what the message is, what it stands for,” the 9/11 Commission recommended. “We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors.”

Noting that Muslim nations develop their perception of America largely from satellite television and radio, the commission continued, “If the United States does not act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world, the extremists will gladly do the job for us.”

Henry agreed, citing the responsibility of the church to lead a return to biblical morality in America.

“[R]eversing American decadence [is] an urgent priority, not just for Christians, but for all Americans,” the Florida pastor said.

“If our cultural rot continues unabated, a Talabanized West may no longer be a joke, but a grim reality.”

Voting for political candidates with commendable character is one way to promote moral reform in America, Henry said.

“Look to his character,” he counseled. “When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility. He sacrifices not only his own interest but that of his neighbors. He betrays the interest of his country.”

Another effective way of combating negative impressions of the U.S. has arisen in light of the recent tsunami in Asia.

According to USA Today, tsunami relief efforts spearheaded by more than 13,000 American military personnel are prompting at least some Muslims to re-evaluate their attitudes toward the United States.

“Some of our students who used to be quite aggressive have become more moderate now,” Fadil Lubis, a professor at the State Institute of Islamic Studies in Medan, Indonesia, told USA Today.

By itself, however, the outpouring of U.S. aid to tsunami victims won’t be enough to counteract the anti-American feelings among many Muslims. In order to more thoroughly combat anti-American perceptions, American Christians must establish “authentic dialogue” with and demonstrate genuine concern for Muslims, Mead writes.

Combating the negative perceptions of Islamic people will also require Americans to take intentional steps to eliminate ruthless and immoral behavior in their own nation, Mead writes.

Mead concludes, “Inescapably,” any moral reform that changes Muslim opinions of the U.S. must “lead many Americans to renew their personal faith commitments and make the moral and social ideals of their religious roots more relevant in their daily conduct and in their assessments of politicians and of political ideas.”