Probably not as terrorists. Certainly not as the embodiment of evil out to destroy the good. We actually know a lot about how they see themselves. They speak often of the validity, the rightness if not the goodness of their cause. Here are two examples.
One from the Pakistani Five. Do you remember, those five Americans who traveled to Pakistan and were arrested by anti-terror authorities in Pakistan and accused of plotting terrorist acts? They told a court Monday that they had intended to cross the border into Afghanistan to wage Jihad against Western forces. And they denied any links to Al Qaeda or plans to carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan.
Here is what one of the five, Ramy Zamzam, a 22-year old Egyptian American, told The Associated Press as he entered the courtroom, “We are not terrorists…We are Jihadists, and Jihad is not terrorism.”
Why were they going to Afghanistan? They said they only intended to help their Muslim brothers who are in trouble, who are bleeding and who are being victimized by Western armies.
Jihad, of course, has several different meanings in Islam. Zamzam seemed to be referring to Jihad as the duty to fight against the foreign armies illegitimately occupying Muslim lands. That may be the meaning of Jihad closest to Al Qaeda’s founder, Bin Laden himself.
According to one Web definition: “Jihad is one of the words that have been misused due to misunderstanding its true meaning. The word “Jihad” is derived from the Arabic word “Jahd” which means fatigue or the word “Juhd” which means effort. A Mujahid is he who strives in the Cause of Allah and exerts efforts which makes him feel fatigued. The word “Jihad” means exerting effort to achieve a desired thing or prevent an undesired one. In other words, it is an effort that aims at bringing about benefit or preventing harm.”
Shouldn’t we at least raise the question whether these people, mostly Muslims, such as the Pakistani Five, who are flocking to those areas of the Muslim world currently occupied by foreign armies, are only trying to free their “brothers,” not principally, in spite of their words and the suicide actions of some to that effect, trying to destroy our Western civilization?
Here is my other example of how these people see themselves, this one in the words of Anjem Choudary, a 42-year-old lawyer and the British-born son of a Pakistani immigrant, and the leader of a protest march planned for the streets of Wootton Bassett, the small English town that has achieved iconic status in Britain for honoring the passing hearses of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
“Our protest march,” according to Choudary, “will be held not in memory of the occupying and merciless British military, but rather the real war dead who have been shunned by the Western media and general public as they were and continue to be horrifically murdered in the name of democracy and freedom, the innocent Muslim men, women and children.”
In his open letter to the families of the 246 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001 Choudary goes on to say, “It is worth reminding those who are still not blinded by the media propaganda that Afghanistan is not a British town near Wootton Bassett but rather Muslim land which no one has the right to occupy, with a Muslim population who do not deserve their innocent men, women and children to be killed for political mileage and for the greedy interests of the oppressive U.S. and U.K. regimes.”
Now if this were a debate, and if there were not so many lives at stake, if there were not suicide bombers always waiting in the wings before stepping onto the stage and blowing themselves up, and if somehow the innocent were not dying in such large numbers, well then there would be two readily defendable sides to the question. And in that case the topic for debate might be: Western Forces Should Immediately Leave Afghanistan.
Actually, I happen to agree with that statement, that our forces should leave Afghanistan, and also Iraq. If the actual wars were not such terrible things, if the seemingly endless line of suicide bombers were not almost daily murdering innocent civilians caught in the cross fire, I would gladly defend my position in debate. As it is the two sides are bent on their mutual destruction, not in words, but in blood, and talking is probably quite out of the question.