Understanding Islam

At the turn of the 6th century, two superpowers had come to dominate the area surrounding the Middle East. The Christian Byzantine Empire ruled Western Europe, including Italy, Anatolia (modern Turkey), Armenia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and a strip of the North African coast. The Persian Sassanian Empire controlled Iraq, Persia (Iran), and the area that today comprises the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan. These two empires collectively controlled the civilized world from central Europe to India. One area, however, avoided their domination. Just south of where they met lay the massive and inhospitable Arabian Peninsula. Christianity looked ready to overwhelm the barren peninsula just as it had Europe, but instead, the people of Arabia, under the banner of Islam, would soon bring both superpowers to their knees and remake the world.

Many nations over the ages had tried to make inroads into Arabia and failed; their ruins lay buried in the all-consuming sands. In the long run, the hostile environment of the peninsula and its lack of agricultural viability did not make it worth the effort of any sustained military occupation. The staggering size of it was another strike against attempted occupation. Arabia spans 1,300 miles north to south and 750 miles east to west. It is the largest peninsula on earth. Three times the size of Texas, it sits on its own tectonic plate and can be rightly considered a small continent. Alaska would fit comfortably inside of it, with room for a few smaller states stuffed into the borders.

Arid living desert, stony plateaus, and barren valleys constitute the bulk of the peninsula. It has no rivers that do not dry to dusty gullies for a portion of the year. Snakes and scorpions hide among the desert scrub and thorny cacti. Mountains rise in the north and in the southwest corner where Arabia nearly touches Ethiopia at the southern end of the Red Sea. Small fertile areas can be found in the north, south, and west, but for the most part the land cannot support agriculture.

This lack of fertility freed Arabia from the political and social systems that governed the lands to the north. The native Bedouin lived a nomadic, tribal lifestyle that defied the chains of a national government. And while they fought fiercely among themselves and along their foreign borders, this same lack of central authority could not produce a military sizable enough to allow the tribes to break free of the desert and expand beyond its borders. While the overwhelming majority of Arabians worshipped pagan idols, some Christian and Jewish settlements were scattered among the tribes. However these settlements followed the tribal structure of the Bedouin. Just as water surrounded Arabia on three sides, isolating it, in the same way were the Bedouin themselves isolated; they were a homogenous people who had developed for 16 centuries nearly untainted by foreign influence.

The tribes of Arabia lived fiercely and independently, answering to none but their own tribesman. Life in Arabia was harsh, and often short. Respect for community was near absent. Women were treated abysmally. Female infanticide was widely practiced. Spousal abuse occurred often within the tribes, and women were given no redress against it. They could not inherit or even own personal property, and in fact were considered the property of their husbands. If widowed, they could be “inherited” by one of their husband’s sons and become his wife. Slaves fared even worse than women, and had to endure any cruelty or torture imagined by their masters, including death.

Despite its fundamental lack of resources and general inhospitality, Arabia did posses one thing: location. Just to the north lay Palestine, the gateway to Europe and Egypt, and the great Tigris and Euphrates rivers. 25 miles across the mouth of the Red Sea were Ethiopia and central Africa. A short voyage by water to the east led to India and the riches of Asia. Inevitably, trade became the economic backbone of Arabia. Caravan routes developed, jumping across the desert from oasis to oasis. Villages appeared at these small green islands in the desert, especially in the Hijaz, the nominally fertile strip of land that runs along the western coast of Arabia.

Eventually, one tribe, the Quraysh, came to dominate trade in the Hijaz. The Quraysh were descended directly from Abraham’s first son, Ishmael. First taking control of trade with Syria and Lebanon, the Quraysh eventually befriended the rulers of Rome, Persia, and Ethiopia, and also the leaders of the Arabian tribes, ensuring safe passage of their caravans through most lands. They began the tradition of two great annual caravans, one in the winter and the other in the summer. The Quraysh became renowned as shrewd and capable merchants, and over the generations amassed considerable wealth and political clout. They chose Mecca, an already ancient settlement, as their mercantile capital.

For centuries Mecca, home to the Ka’ba, had been a popular pilgrimage destination. By the time the Quraysh tribe settled there the Ka’ba housed hundreds of pagan idols. One month a year the constantly bickering tribes around Mecca ceased their hostilities for the benefit of the pilgrims, and violence and the carrying of arms were forbidden at all times in the area surrounding the Ka’ba. This mixture of people coming from every corner of Arabia all at the same time and under an unspoken understanding of peace surely benefited the trade aspirations of the wily Quraysh merchants.

In Mecca around 570 A.D. a son was born into the Quraysh tribe who would exert a lasting influence upon the world. Born into the harsh realities of 6th century Arabia, his parents named him Muhammad; he was to be the prophet of Islam.

Muhammad’s father died around the time of his birth and his mother died when he was 6. He was raised first by his grandfather, and then by his uncle Abu Talib. From Abu Talib Muhammad learned the merchant trade and he traveled with him to far lands. As a young man he was hired by a rich widow named Kadhija to serve as her trade agent. Muhammad proved a very reliable and successful agent, and Kadhija eventually saw fit to marry him. Muhammad led an uneventful life increasing his wife’s fortune until the age of forty. That is when God intervened in his life.

Muhammad had taken the tradition of retiring to a remote mountain for one month of the year, a period of introspection during which he contemplated life and the mysteries of the universe. Muhammad deplored the social inequities replete within Arabian tribal society, so he also used his time on the mountain to feed the poor who would come to receive his charity. During his retreat in the year 610, Muhammad was awakened from a deep sleep by a frightening apparition who declared itself the angel Gabriel. Gabriel claimed to have been sent by no less than God Himself. Gabriel issued the order “Recite!” to Muhammad, and then delivered to him the first revelation of the verses that would later be compiled into the Koran, the holy book of Islam. Gabriel’s revelations would continue for 22 years.

At first Muhammad thought himself mad, or having been visited by a demon. During these revelations, Muhammad’s body would shake in convulsions, and he seemed a man possessed. But eventually, with Kadhija’s urging and support, he accepted his role as God’s prophet.

One night Gabriel flew Muhammad across the desert and took him to the city of Jerusalem, From the rock of Moriah, the site of the ruined Jewish Temple, Muhammad ascended to heaven. There he met with the prophets of the Old Testament. He met with their ranks and all vestiges of doubt dissipated from his no longer troubled mind. He decended to Jerusalem and Gabriel spirited him back to Mecca before the sun broke the horizon.

Gabriel showed to Muhammad rites of washing and prayer, and instructed him to perform them every day. As the verses accumulated, Muhammad added more content to his preaching in Mecca. His wife Kadhija became his first convert, and later other immediate members of his family, with the exception of his uncle Abu Talib, who refused even up to his death to accept Muhammad’s message. Eventually other Meccans began to heed his call, and converts began to appear in other tribes outside of the Quraysh.

For a while the Meccans tolerated their upstart son, but after a time Muhammad began to denounce their many gods. He spoke instead of one God, Allah (literally the God). The Meccans began to view Muhammad as a heretic and possibly dangerous. What he preached described the antithesis of their way of life, for the Meccans, especially the Quraysh, had become aggressive economists who valued wealth over social responsibility and charity. Conversely, Muhammad rallied for better treatment of the poor and unfortunate.

Mecca suffered from a lack of central authority and instead suffered the chaotic competition between the numerous tribes. As the new religion spread throughout Mecca, it added to this divisiveness. The Meccans eventually became openly hostile to the followers of Muhammad, and new converts would quickly become outcasts in their respective tribes. At one point Muhammad, who himself lived under the protection of his powerful uncle Abu Talib, sent many of his followers to Ethiopia where they received the protection of its king. Subsequently, when Abu Talib died suddenly, Muhammad’s security evaporated, and he quickly looked to relocating himself and his now somewhat considerable body of followers to a friendlier location.

Muhammad would travel to fairs in the region and preach, always keeping an eye open towards a community that might prove friendly to his message and take his followers in. One day six men from the city of Yathrib, which lay nearly 200 miles north of Mecca, approached Muhammad. They described the unique situation present in their city, and why they thought that Muhammad could help them.

Jews had been the original settlers of Yathrib, which lay in a pleasant oasis in the Hijaz, the fertile strip of land that bordered Arabia’s Red Sea coast. Over the centuries, Arab tribes had also settled in Yathrib, mainly because it lay along the main caravan trail that led from Mecca to Syria. Yet three Jewish tribes still remained, and fighting between the Jews and the Arabs over the area’s considerable wealth and resources threatened to destroy the very fabric of the city.

Upon hearing Muhammad’s message, the men of Yathrib recognized the similarities between the prophet’s brand of monotheism and that of the Jews. But since Muhammad’s message was also specifically tailored to the needs of Arabic society, they felt that it might be the way to unite the two factions and bring peace to the city. They promised Muhammad protection from the Meccans if he would come to Yathrib and attempt this seemingly impossible reconciliation. In 622 A.D. Muhammad began to move his followers north to their new home.

This great emigration of Muhammad and his congregation, called the Hijra, marks the defining moment for Islam, much as the Exodus did for the Jews and the Resurrection did for Christians. The first year of the Hijra therefore is year 1 of the Islamic calendar. Upon reaching Yathrib, Muhammad chose a name for his new religion: Islam. Islam by definition means “submission,” so the followers of Islam became known as Muslims, or “those who submit.” Submission, of course, is to God’s will. In honor of Muhammad, Yathrib took a new name, Medina, “the City of the Prophet.

The Hijra established a sense of community among the faithful and defined the roles for the different members of the new Islamic society. The emigrants from Mecca became the muhajirun, and the newer local converts in Medina, the ansai (helpers). Together they collectively comprised the ummah, the community of the faithful. As pressure to convert increased, another faction emerged in Medina, the munafiqun, the “hypocrites,” pagans who professed to Islam in public but privately continued to worship their father’s gods.

Fighting between the Jewish and Arab tribes demanded Muhammad’s immediate attention. Tension also existed within the ummah. The ansai believed the newly arrived muhajirun intended to take over the city. To address these issues, Muhammad decreed the Constitution of Medina, which became a social and political model for the city.

This Constitution dealt with four main points. It defined a united community that included non-converted Jews. It established the complete authority of God and his prophet, Muhammad. It defined the boundaries between Islam and the existing tribal society. Finally, it established the necessity of war to expand Islam, and the provisions for covering the cost of waging it. Since Jews were included in the community defined in the city’s Constitution, they were also required to contribute to the war fund. This led to resistance from the Jewish tribes, and Muhammad quickly banished two of three tribes from Medina.

In the second year of the Hijra Muhammad initiated a raid on the Quraysh summer caravan. This inflamed his old enemies and they sent an army of 1,000 from Mecca to intercept and annihilate Muhammad’s party of 300. Vastly outnumbered, the Muslims nonetheless defeated the Meccan army (known as the Battle of Badr). This victory increased Muhammad’s standing with the Bedouins in the Hijaz and greatly bolstered the confidence of the Muslims in the righteousness of Islam.

The next year, however, the Meccans defeated Muhammad’s forces near Medina. Within two years the Meccan army had fought their way directly to the gates of the city. To reinforce his defenses, Muhammad dug a massive ditch around it, giving the name the Battle of the Trench to the engagement. Muhammad and his Muslim army delivered a resounding defeat to the Meccans, and they fled home.

Muhammad discovered a plot by the remaining Jewish tribe to aid the Meccans against his Muslims. He enacted swift and brutal vengeance against its members. All of the men of the tribe were executed, and the women and children pressed into slavery. Thus ended any attempt at peaceful relations between the Jews of the Hijaz and the Islamic community.

One year after defeating the Meccans at Medina, Muhammad offered them a truce, which they gladly accepted. His attention then shifted temporarily to other settlements in the Hijaz, and in the 7th year of the Hijra, his armies took the Jewish oases of Khaybar and Fadak and the Arabian settlements of Hunayn and Ta’if. After this, most of the Bedouin tribes of the Hijaz decided it was better to live as Muslims than die as idol worshippers and they quickly became converts.

The next year, ignoring the truce, Muhammad marched his army unopposed into Mecca and took the city. Muhammad went directly to the Ka’ba and destroyed the pagan idols housed within it. He then dedicated the shrine to Allah.

Knowing that he needed to keep the economy of the city alive, Muhammad spared the lives of the Meccans and let them retain their property, but only if they converted. Anyone not of the Ummah was banished from Mecca, and entrance to the city from that point on was granted only to Muslims.

Over the next two years Islam conquered all of Arabia, and Muhammad next looked to expand into Roman Palestine. But in the 10th year of the Hijra, or 632 A.D., Muhammad died before the invasion could be mounted. He had already served the will of God; Islam had established itself as powerful institution, both culturally and militarily.

When Muhammad died, he left behind a complete model of Islam, of which the basic underlying philosophy was strict monotheism. Unlike Jesus, Muhammad had claimed no divinity; he served simply as God’s conduit. The Koran, being God’s direct word, took precedence as the ultimate authority of Islamic Law, (like Judaism, Islam is a religion based upon a strict code of law). As a doctrine, the Koran covers a wide range of religious, social, and political issues. It mandates the procedures for marriage, divorce, and inheritance. It prohibits drinking and usury, and provides severe penalties for murder and theft. It provides detailed instructions for religious rites: prayer, almsgiving, fasting, pilgrimage, and diet. Despite the wide scope of the scripture, howeve,r as Islamic society evolved, gaps appeared in its treatment of the law.

While alive, Muhammad himself would resolve any disputes whose answers were not found in the Koran. To cover these issues after his death, Islamic scholars developed hadiths, traditions based upon Muhammad’s words and actions. As more and more generations passed, hadiths held greater validity if they could be verified through an unbroken chain of witnesses leading back to an eyewitness account of the event by a close companion of the prophet. Scholars, the Ulema, interpreted the laws of Islam, sometimes in contradictory ways, and they issued fatwahs, legal opinions and edicts. This collective work of the Ulema is known as Sharia law, and designed to guide a person successfully from birth to death. The main intent of the Sharia is to create the perfect Muslim state, the model of which is Muhammad’s Islamic community at Medina. Keeping with the inseparable nature of Islamic religion and politics, Sharia Law draws no dividing line between them. Indeed the inseparability of these two elements in Islam continues to baffle Western culture.

Islamic ritual consists of five obligations, referred to as the Five Pillars. They define the duties of the ummah. The first is shahad, which is testifying to the monotheistic basis of Islam. i.e.there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. Shahad also requires an individual to completely submit to the will of God as laid out in the Koran and the traditions of Muhammad.

Salat follows next, consisting of five daily prayers preceded by a ritual washing. This prayer is a direct link between the worshipper and God, and in it the supplicant recites verses of the Koran. Islam possesses no priests or clergy; the prayer is led by a learned member of the congregation. Muslims are not required to pray in a Mosque, and may do so any where. Prayers are performed at sunrise, mid-day, late afternoon, sunset, and nightfall. They set the tone of the day, and other activities are scheduled around them.

Sawm is the third pillar, the ritual fast during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan (since the Islamic calendar follows the lunar year, which is 11 days shorter than the solar year, the date of the start of Ramadan and other Muslim holy days cycle throughout the seasons). During Ramadan, fasting is performed from sunrise to sunset, and couples abstain from sex. The sick and elderly as well as women who are menstruating, pregnant, or nursing may break the fast, but are encouraged to make up lost days at a later time. Fasting serves to purify the body and focus the mind upon the participants role and purpose in serving God’s will.

Number four is zakat, donating a portion of one’s income to charity. Since God and not man possesses all the wealth on earth, God requires all Muslim’s to return an alms tax back to the community. By doing this, the individual’s other possessions are purified, and a balance is achieved. They may donate more of their own accord, but it must be done in secret. The charity of also Islam carries a wider meaning than just monetary donation. If an individual is unable to pay the tax, he or she must help the disadvantaged. If they cannot do that, they should promote good and refrain from evil acts. All are forms of charity. Similar to Christianity, true charity is living the spirit of the law and not just adhering to the letter of it.

The fifth and final pillar of Islam is the hajj, the once a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca and the Ka’ba. It is an obligation only for those that are physically and financially able to perform it. It occurs in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, and remains a time for the people of the diverse nations of Islam to come together.

Monotheism offers to its diverse followers two conflicting ideals. The first is that man shapes his own future and earns the wrath of God through his exercise of free will. The second is that every event happens only in accordance with the will of God. This creates the following paradox: If all events happen only according to God’s will, then God wills evil upon the world, and this goes against the very nature of God, who is the essence of righteousness. One would seem to necessarily exclude the other, and this dichotomy continues to plague Jewish and Christian Scholars. Islam, however, deals neatly with this apparent contradiction. Allah feels that hell as well as heaven needs an equal number of inhabitants, therefore “He guides who he will, and misleads who He will.” This maintains a balance in the layers of the world.

The Islamic universe is structured differently from the Jewish and Christian versions. It includes an earth, a heaven, and a hell, but instead of merely existing as three separate domains, they are broken up into 14 layers, stacked like plates. Of the seven layers of earth, man inhabits the topmost and hell lies at the bottom. The intermediate layers transition between the ones at the top and bottom. Over the top of the earth are the 7 layers of heaven with our physical sky representing the lowest layer and paradise at the top. 500 years of travel separate the different layers. God Himself holds the sky in place, and from that vantage point He can attend to the infinite minute details of running the earth, providing rain and making sure plants grow as well as managing the affairs of man.

Drawing directly from Muhammad’s revolutionary lifestyle the theme of revolution runs deep in Islam. Aside from adhering to the Five Pillars, Muslims, like Christians and Jews, are expected to spread God’s word to all the people of earth. For Muslims that means a complete conversion of not only the religious mores of a people, but also their social and political systems (remember here that to Islam all three are but one system).

One means of expanding the influence of Islam across the globe follows the example of the Hijra, the great emigration of Muslims from Mecca to Medina. Followers are encouraged to move to foreign lands and establish communities there. Over the generations, Islam will inevitably grow in strength, allowing the Ummah to defeat any resistance from within. If they are unable to accomplish this, more reactionary processes may be used. Also understood is that once a region has come under the dominion of Islam it shall always remain the property of Islam. Allah takes great affront when a foreign people occupy a formerly Islamic land, as is the case with modern Israel, and it is a dishonor to the Islamic community if they do not do everything in their power to reclaim it.

The Koran defines the earth as two separate components: Dar al-Islam, the House of Peace, and Dar al-Harb, the House of War. Only the ummah may reside in the House of Peace. All others reside in the House of War. The Koran calls on Muslims to peacefully convert unbelievers first, if possible, before resorting to more violent methods of persuasion. Apostates, those who once embraced Islam but then renounced it, are seen as forever lost. The Koran sentences them to death.

The term Jihad, defined as a “struggle” or “great effort,” has a dual meaning to Muslims. Greater Jihad is the personal struggle to retain one’s faith in times of adversity. Lesser Jihad conforms to our Western understanding of it, a holy war waged against unbelievers, infidels, and apostates. The more a member of the ummah can do to help spread Islam, be it through emigration or the exercise of Jihad, the greater his or her reward in heaven. Sacrificing one’s life for the cause gives the martyr the quickest and most direct route to the highest level of paradise.

The Koran grants Christians and Jews a certain modicum of respect, labeling them as “People of the Book,” a reference to Biblical scripture. The intent of Islam is not to replace Judaism and Christianity, but to further expand upon their principles as necessary for the Muslim people. So just as God’s word as given in the Koran guided the people of Arabia back to the true path from which man had wandered, so was His message to the Jews and Christians tailored specifically to their needs. So while the scripture of Jews and Christians remains sacrosanct, it does not necessarily apply to Muslims or regulate their behavior. The Koran overrides any previous interaction or agreement between man and God. In this way Islam can be viewed as a liberalization of Biblical Law.

The Koran talks at length about the prophets of the Bible, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and Jesus. Yet it fits the stories of these men into the mold of Islam and its emphasis on monotheism. It becomes the same story told over and again. Man falls from God’s grace by reverting to polytheist pagan worship. God chooses one man to warn the people of their coming doom if they do not return to worshiping only Him. The people ignore the prophet’s warning, no matter if he is Noah, Moses, or whomever. God then destroys them in the most horrific ways. The few survivors repent and revert to the true faith. But over the generations they again lose sight of and return to their pagan ways. The cycle repeats. For example, in the Koran the people destroyed in the great flood of Noah’s time were guilty of idol worship instead of immorality and perversion, and Moses demanded from Pharaoh not that he free the Hebrew slaves, but rather that he renounce the many Egyptian gods. The Koran claims that Jesus refuted and denied his divinity. Jesus as an earthly incarnation of God goes against every fiber of the monotheistic grain of Islam, so this denial by Jesus is necessary before Muslims can grant him even the tiniest bit of legitimacy. In the Koran, he escapes crucifixion, and the Romans crucify another man in his stead. So while Jews reject Christ and Christians deify him, Muslims simply accept him as another in a long line of mortal prophets, a line that irrevocably ends with their final prophet, Muhammad.

Islam, Christianity, and Judaism share many commonalities, but different interpretations of them leads to more division between the three than unity. This shared history also implies that there will never be agreement or accord between them, for to accept the validity of another’s faith, one’s own is then compromised. Considering their adversarial roots, the odds of effective diplomacy between Jews, Islam, and the West seem rather slim. This is the relevance of ancient history to the modern Terror War.

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Defining the Terror War Part 3: The Covenant

This is the third installment on the subject of examining the forces driving the clash between radical Islam and Western culture.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have a common similarity in worshipping the same God. But from this similarity these religions also derive much of their conflicting ideologies. Each one interprets the events of history in the way that lends the most credence to their own doctrine. In doing so, each disclaims the assertions of the others. The prize fought over in this three-way tug of war is the Covenant of God, the key that unlocks the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Covenant is in its simplest definition an agreement between God and man where man promises to live as God’s will directs him; in return he may enter the dominion of the Kingdom of Heaven. This Kingdom refers not only to the Heaven of the afterlife, but also a peace in life only attained through acceptance of God’s beneficence. While simple in concept, the Covenant entails a complex lifetime commitment on the part of man, in return for which God promises eternal reward. This Covenant forms the core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Each of these religions has its sacred scripture. The Jewish scripture is the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. The Christian Bible encompasses the Old and New Testaments, with emphasis being put on the Gospels of Christ. In a sense the Old Testament can be viewed as a history of Judaism and the New Testament a history of Christianity. Muslims hold the Koran sacred as the direct word of God as handed down to the prophet Muhammad in the 6th century.

Judaism predates by Christianity and Islam by thousands of years. The history of the Jews is also the history of Christians and Muslims, all of which honor the prophets of the Old and New Testaments. Moses is the chosen prophet of the Jews. He freed them from slavery in Egypt and led them back to their Promised Land. Christians look to Jesus, not as merely a prophet, but as God incarnate on earth. While Muslims believe Muhammad to be God’s one true messenger, they also give Jesus and Moses great recognition as prophets of influence. The Koran mentions them both frequently, as it does a third prophet, Abraham.

Abraham first appears in the book of Genesis. God chose him to be the original recipient of the Covenant. God made a simple request of Abraham. Abandon everything he knew, take his immediate family, and travel a vast distance through hostile territory to an undisclosed location. He must obey God’s will without question, and promise to worship no other gods or false idols. In return, Abraham would receive fabulous prizes. He would have fame and wealth. God would make him the Father of Nations and would destroy any who opposed him. A truer prediction has never been made for today Abraham remains the religious Patriarch for all of the Muslims, Christians, and Jews on earth, in other words nearly ½ of the world’s population.

Abraham was a descendant of Noah’s son Shem, and therefore a Semite. From Abraham’s line descends both Arabs and Jews. This line of heredity figures prominently in the rift between Israel and Islam, which centers around the covenant. We will first look at the Biblical account of Abraham, and later at the Islamic interpretation.

When God approached Abraham, man had fallen into His disfavor by worshipping the numerous pagan idols of Mesopotamia. God chose to separate one man from the common herd and use him to found His chosen people. Why He chose Abraham remains a mystery. Abraham, like all men, had his flaws. For example, he prostituted his wife Sarah to the Pharaoh of Egypt to save his own skin, and then again with King Abilimech of Gerar. At first he shied away from the duty imposed on him by God, but eventually accepted the responsibility of the Covenant. At the age of 75, he gathered his family together and put himself in God’s hands. He left his home of Horan on the northern Euphrates and journeyed west, a journey that would cover nearly 400 miles. At Sichem, on the plain of Morah, God appeared to Abraham and said:

Unto thy seed I will give this land.    Genesis 12:7

The importance of this gift to Abraham and his descendants cannot be overstated. Sichem lay in the southern part of Canaan, which would later be known as Palestine and is today part of the Nation of Israel.

This land promised to Abraham remains unique. Modern day Israel equals an area roughly the size of New Jersey. Yet it has two coastlines, one on the Mediterranean and the other on the Red Sea. There are fertile coastal plains, diverse mountain terrain, and a sizable arid desert. It has two seas which are actually gigantic lakes. Galilee is freshwater and abundant with fish. Conversely, the Dead Sea, having nine times the salinity of the ocean, cannot support marine life and salt deposits encrust its shores. At 1,371 feet below sea level, its beaches are the lowest dry spot on earth.

Israel’s varied geography stems from the fact that it is located squarely in the center of the Jordan Rift Valley, the northern leg of the Great Rift Valley which stretches from Syria to Mozambique. Israel is the spot where the African and Arabian tectonic plates grind against each other. It is the keystone that joins three continents, Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is a gateway. Small in size, it is huge in its geographic importance. God placed Abraham in a spot that has become a lynchpin of history.

Over time Abraham began mulling over the great responsibilities that God had so suddenly thrust upon him, and he now felt doubtful. Sarah had produced no children, and since they were both nearing the 80 year mark, he felt incapable of producing an heir. Without a son to inherit the birthright of the Covenant, there would be no chosen people to become a nation. He voiced this doubt to God.

God instructed Abraham to prepare a sacrifice of herd animals and fowl which would finalize the covenant between them. As the sun set upon Abraham’s sacrifice, he fell into a deep sleep and a “horror of great darkness fell upon him.” (Genesis 15:12) God told Abraham in this dream that before his generations could become the prophesized nation, a foreign people would enslave them for 400 years. Then God would direct His vengeance towards the offending king, and his people could return to Canaan, bringing with them the wealth of Egypt. This journey home would take 4 generations.

The fulfillment of this prediction would establish the beginning of a unity between the chosen descendants of Abraham, the point when they merged from 12 related but autonomous tribes into a single identity we identify today as the Jewish people. It also sets the precedent that the Jews will always return to their given homeland, and this is a cycle has repeated itself throughout their history. It is the reason they fight so fiercely today for the land promised to them by God 4,000 years ago. Zionism, the belief in an eternal Jewish homeland granted by God, was the instrumental tool in re-establishing the nation of Israel in Palestine in 1948. While modern Zionism developed to counter the rise of anti-Semitism in late 19th century Europe, its beginnings are here, in the earliest record of man’s interaction with God.

Despite God’s continued promise of the Covenant, Abraham worried. He had no children, and his wife was barren. Sarah, perhaps feeling guilty she had not conceived, but more likely for her own benefit, prodded Abraham into sleeping with her Egyptian handmaiden Hagar. If Hagar bore a son, Sarah could adopt him as her own and Abraham would have his heir. God’s plan could continue. Abraham agreed, and Hagar quickly became pregnant. But when she did, she informed Sarah that she would keep the child when it was born. As a result, Sarah made Hagar’s life so unbearable that she fled.

God intercepted Hagar at a fountain in the wilderness. He urged her to return to Abraham’s house, and to endure the brunt of Sarah’s anger. In return, He promised great things for her unborn son, whom she was to name Ishmael. Yet God also described a life of chaos and violence for Ishmael: “He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16:12)

Hagar returned to Abraham’s house and when she gave birth to a healthy son, Abraham embraced him. 13 years would then pass before God intervened again.

When Abraham reached the age of 99, God appeared to him. He told Abraham that Sarah would soon conceive a son whom they would name Isaac, and that Isaac alone would be the sole recipient of the Covenant. Abraham pleaded to God to accept Ishmael, but God refused Hagar’s son any title to the Covenant. He assured Abraham that Ishmael would found his own nation, but the Covenant would belong to Isaac alone. God chose the rite of circumcision as the physical mark of the Covenant upon man, and all of the male members of Abraham’s house, including Ishmael, were circumcised. One year later Sarah gave birth to Isaac.

When Abraham gave a great feast to celebrate Isaac, Ishmael mocked the baby and Sarah overheard. She demanded that Abraham banish both Ishmael and his mother. Abraham consulted God, and God bade him to do as Sarah asked. Giving them only a loaf of bread and a bottle of water, Abraham turned Hagar and Ishmael out into the wilderness, sending them to an almost certain death.

After the bread and water were gone, thirst and starvation set in. Hagar took the weakened body of Ishmael and placed it under a bush. She retired some distance away to spare herself the spectacle of his death. At this moment of deepest despair, God appeared to Hagar. He comforted her and promised that Ishmael would yet lead a great nation.

Suddenly a well burst from the earth, saving the pair. God stayed with them until Ishmael developed the skills of a great hunter; he would soon become the master of this wilderness far to the southeast of Canaan.

Having provided for Hagar and Ishmael, God then had a final test of Abraham’s faith. He told Abraham to take Isaac to a mountain in the land of Moriah and there offer him as a burnt sacrifice. Abraham unflinchingly agreed. Along the way, he made Isaac carry the wood that was to be used for his own sacrifice. Isaac became suspicious, and questioned his father as to the whereabouts of the sacrificial lamb. Abraham responded that at the proper time God would provide the lamb, but when they reached the chosen spot Abraham built an altar, covered it with the wood, and then bound the boy to it. When he stretched out the hand with the knife to slay his son, however, God called upon him to stop. Looking up, Abraham indeed saw a ram with its horns caught in a thicket and he sacrificed the animal in place of Isaac. Satisfied with Abraham’s complete obedience, God would never appear to him again.

This place where Abraham finally proved his worthiness to God, a rock on a barren mountain slope, is today surrounded by the vast, sprawling city of Jerusalem. It is the Temple Mount, the site of both the Jewish Temple of Solomon and the Islamic Dome of the Rock, the possession of which has become the center of our modern conflict.

Soon after the incident on Mount Moriah, Sarah passed away and Abraham remarried. He had six sons by his second wife Keturah and banished all six of them to the eastern desert. Eventually Abraham died at the ripe old age of 135. Ishmael and Isaac would meet one more time, when they came together to bury their father. They could not know that the events of their lives would influence the course of history even to present times.

Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob entered this world grasping his brother’s heel, pulled easily from the womb as the other struggled. So it would be throughout their lives. Esau, the firstborn, would trade his birthright to Jacob in exchange for a bowl of stew. Jacob, spurred by his mother, would then deceive his father into giving his last blessing to him by pretending to be Esau. In this way Jacob received the Covenant. He would sire twelve sons.

Jacob’s favorite son Joseph, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, gained status as a soldier fighting for the Egyptians. He gained the favor of Pharaoh, and eventually became a distinguished Egyptian governor. He forgave the treachery of his brothers and the whole family re-united in Egypt, where they prospered. Eventually, each brother’s family gained recognition, and they became the 12 tribes of Israel. Upon the death of Pharaoh, however, God’s prophecy manifested, and the children of Abraham, called the Hebrews by the Egyptians, became despised for their success and enslaved. So they would indeed remain for 400 years. Their eventual return to the Promised Land marked the beginning of the perception of Isaac’s descendents as the Jewish people.

The Bible never mentions Ishmael again after he meets with his brother to bury Abraham. To pick up the next thread of his story we must look to Islamic history.

Islam states that Abraham did not banish Ishmael and Hagar but instead led them into the wilderness where he left them to die. God then struck a spring from the earth to save them. Abraham later returned to this place only to find them making profitable living selling water from the spring. Islamic tradition teaches that Abraham did indeed take a second wife and father six more sons after the death of Sarah. This woman, however, was not Keturah, but actually Hagar, the mother of Ishmael.

When Abraham prayed to God after finding them alive, the Creator instructed him to sacrifice Ishmael (as opposed to Isaac) as a sign of faith. Again a ram appeared in the thicket, which Abraham then sacrificed in place of his son. Ishmael went on to have twelve sons, and they became the twelve Princes of Arabia. From his line came Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam.

In gratitude for Ishmael’s safety Abraham built the Ka’ba, a windowless cube, as a shrine to al-Lah, The God. The black rock that forms the cornerstone of the Ka’ba is claimed to have been given to Abraham by the Angel Gabriel, although modern rumor purports it to be in actuality a meteorite. Abraham asked for God to make the Ka’ba a place of worship and pilgrimage. The Ka’ba now stands at the center of Mecca, the holiest of Muslim cities, and it remains to this day the center of the Islamic world.

Taking into account the deep-rooted centrality of Abraham and the Covenant to both Judaism and Islam sheds light upon the extremes to which either side will go to defend what they feel is their right to inherit the Kingdom of God. Christians also lay claim to the rightful inheritance of God’s Kingdom, and each religion touts its specific proof. For Jews it is the rite of circumcision as specified by God in the original Covenant and the adherence to Judaic law as dictated in the Torah. For Christians it is the acceptance of Jesus as the only true Savior of man. For Muslims it is the claim of the firstborn to the right of inheritance and the existence of the Koran as the rightful word of God. No one side will ever yield or concede in this debate.

Abraham himself represents the most crucial turning point in the history of religious thought, a shift from capricious polytheistic gods to the monotheistic worship of an all-powerful, all-knowing Deity. Thus as a prophet he receives special reverence from Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. Unfortunately they have transformed him through specious interpretation to support their respective claims to the Covenant. Now, instead of uniting his children, Abraham has become a wedge that only serves to drive them further apart. More importantly, jealousy over the Covenant has now become the impetus for war.

Defining the Terror War Part 1: The Wake-up Call

This is the first installment on the subject of examining the forces driving the clash between radical Islam and Western culture.

     We all remember where we were on 9-11, the same way people of sufficient age remember where they were when Kennedy was shot. I remember it was a clear blue day, with soft white clouds. Our skies would never again be so blue. The change after 9-11 came immediately and drastically. We were plunged into a turbulent economic recession. The airline industry was devastated. Subsequent attacks on media offices and government buildings by unknown agents using weapons-grade anthrax heightened fears. People were afraid to open their mail. Faces were grim, and hearts were heavy. Everywhere you heard stories of loss. Everyone had a friend who knew someone who had died on 9-11. Eventually the numbers were revealed; 184 dead at the Pentagon, 40 Americans killed aboard flight 93, and 2,804 killed in Manhattan.

As the initial shock slowly abated, questions were asked and fingers pointed. News reports blamed the lack of suitable fireproofing on the beams of the WTC for the collapse of the towers. Make no mistake, those towers did not fall because of a lack of insulation, they fell because murderous Jihadists flew airplanes into them.

The bigger question asked was: Why? Why did they do it? Why was the government unable to prevent it?

Why didn’t we have any warning?

In retrospect, we did have warning, and plenty of it. The truth is, anyone following basic headlines throughout the 90’s could have figured it out. Sadly, as Americans, we posses a notoriously short attention span. We quickly forget the importance of a headline that shocks and infuriates us. A week later, we are making jokes about it. We jump from one media tidbit to the next, discarding the relevance of these items as quickly as we discard the papers that print them. The 90’s proved dangerously narcissistic for America; we focused much of our attention inward throughout this turbulent decade. The tragedy at Waco, 75 dead, including 24 children, was quickly overshadowed by the O.J. Simpson trial. The Oklahoma City bombing claimed 168 lives, including 19 children. We became obsessed with domestic terror, and American militia groups became the new common enemy. School slayings in Kentucky and Colorado next diverted our attention. American kids were suddenly taking guns to school and blowing each other away. So it is against this background that the clues leading to 9-11 slipped through the cracks.

The first time I heard the name Osama bin Laden was on 9-11; I am as guilty as anyone else of ignorance concerning the now glaringly obvious rise of terrorism during the blind decade of the nineties. I watched the coverage of the first WTC bombing in 1992. I knew that our embassies had been bombed, but most of the casualties had not been Americans. I watched the attack on the Cole as well but I attached no specific name to the people perpetrating these acts; they were simply Acts of Terror, and they had happened far, far away. I also vaguely remember watching American bombs dropping in the Balkans and not being really sure what they had done to deserve it.

Now, al-Qaeda is a household word and Osama bin Laden is one of the most widely recognized faces on the planet; he is America’s Most Wanted on one side of the globe and an epic hero on the other. Americans can’t understand why he is still allowed to exist, even now, 7 years after 9-11. They can’t understand why the government failed to pick up the obvious clues, such as known terrorists taking flight classes at American flight schools. These questions stayed with me after 9-11, as well as the moral question; what would drive somebody to commit suicide for the sole purpose of killing as many people as possible and on as grand a scale as possible?

When you try to answer this question, a funny thing happens. You only find more questions and no answers.

So what starts as a simple exercise quickly reveals a chaotic chain of interrelated events that seem to have no specific starting point, an historic web in which nearly every people and culture on earth is involved. The oldest and longest strands of this web reach back to the earliest pre-history of man. As much as it behooves us, the foundation of our modern history was laid 6,000 years ago, when man was only first gaining self-awareness. During that 6,000 years, event led to event, exponentially branching out into the intricate framework that now threatens to engulf the world in the bloodiest war ever fought, the War to end all Wars.

So who is our enemy? How and from where will that war come? Jihad is waged in many ways and by many disparate groups, sometimes peacefully, sometimes violently. While a suicide bomber blowing himself up in a Tel-Aviv mall may seem a separate atrocity from an attack on a nightclub in Bali, a massacre of hostage schoolchildren in Chechnya, or even 9-11, they are all only limbs of the same animal. And while the individual short term goals of the separate organizations that perpetrate theses acts may vary, their long term goal is the same. Restore Islam to its former glory and expand it to cover the face of the earth.

Put simply: World Domination.

The major component of the modern Jihad that affects us as Americans are attacks on American and European targets by non-national terror groups like al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is only one of hundreds, possibly thousands of terrorist networks who have a dual ambition with their attacks: kill Americans and Europeans in mass numbers and also cripple our economies and influence our policies and elections. These Jihadist groups sustain cells in many countries and they merge alliances when and how it suits them. They are intelligent, capable, and extremely well trained. They have strong financial and recruitment networks. They can attack quickly and efficiently, and then disappear like smoke.  They studied at American universities and colleges. Some have been trained by our own intelligence agencies, they know how these agencies operate and are experts on how to circumvent our security measures. Their leaders are brilliant if evil men who study us every hour of every day, looking for new and inventive ways to kill us.They live, sleep, and breathe our destruction. They understand us and can predict how we will react when attacked, be it physically or through the forum of the world stage.

In contrast, we know nearly nothing at all about them. We have no answer for why someone would unflinchingly blow him or herself to smithereens while at the same time murdering scores of innocent civilians. Our instinct for self-preservation is so strong that we are unable to comprehend the act. We label them “crazy,” but do not try to understand more of their motivations than that blanket assumption. We wrongly assume there is no more. We acknowledge the complete lack of humanity and compassion, but cannot understand from where it emanates. And while some suicide bombers may be simply insane, many of them are in reality intelligent, college educated individuals from good families. They could sit next to you on the subway and hold an intelligent conversation on any topic. Then: Boom! You would never see it coming. Fortunately, suicide bombing has not yet begun in the United States, but it has now become more of a “when” than an “if” issue. A May 2007 Pew poll revealed that 28% of American Muslims age 30 and under agreed that “suicide bombings to defend their religion are acceptable at least in some circumstances.”

So can we fight an enemy that we do not know, but who knows us intimately? No, so we must try to understand him, his motivations, and most importantly, his resolve. As Americans we need to wake up to Jihad, to understand what it is and why it is happening. We must understand our enemy to defeat him, and work together for the common goal of protecting our Life, Liberty, and Happiness from the threat of extreme Islam. To remain divided on this issue is to embrace defeat. Hopefully, a deeper understanding of our enemy will help us to prepare for the inevitable, the impending fight for our very existence. The lines have been drawn, the glove thrown, and the bell rung. We must come to terms with the unattractive truths of a new reality. The time is now.

Part 2 will further define the four main components of the Terror War.

Defining the Terror War Part 2: The Four Aspects of Modern Jihad

This is the second installment on the subject of examining the forces driving the clash between radical Islam and Western culture.

In Part 1 we examined the extent of the intimacy with which our enemies know us and contrasted it to the virtual lack of knowledge about them possessed by the average American. We defined the first major component of the Terror War as attacks on Western interests by a vast, amorphous network of non-national terror groups, of which al-Qaeda is the most prominent. We can now move on to the other three major components.

Second on the list is the battle between Jews and Muslims for the possession of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. From a modern perspective this stems from the dissolution of the Islamic Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI, which resulted in the creation by the League of Nations of many secular Arab nations such as Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Also mandated by the League was a provision to create a Jewish homeland in the area known as Palestine.

The horror of the Nazi Holocaust provided the final impetus for the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Under the protection of British arms, European Jews flooded into the tiny new nation. Unfortunately, Palestine was already home to a substantial Arab population. The violent displacement of the Palestinians sparked a series of Mid-East wars that continue to current times. Throughout these wars the United States has consistently supported Israel, lending considerable financial, military, and technological aid.

From a deeper perspective, the roots of the conflict over Jerusalem go much deeper than the end of WWI, stretching to the very beginnings of civilization and religion, before Jews, Muslims or Christians existed. These three religions share a complex relationship. Their worship of the same singular Deity, no matter if He is called Yahweh, the Trinity, or Allah ensures that they will always fight for the same thing, the rightful claim to the Covenant of God. Whoever can prove the better claim to the Covenant gives the greater validity to their religion. The essence of the struggle to claim the Covenant can be summarized with the imagery of the one place central to all three of these religions: Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is the holiest city on earth. It is sacred to all three religions, but for different reasons. To Jews, it is the center of their promised homeland, the city of David and Solomon and the former site of the great Temple, twice destroyed. Jews today throng to the Wailing Wall, a massive piece of the ruined western foundation of the Temple, to pray for its rebuilding.

For Christians, Jerusalem holds a different sanctity. Here Jesus confronted the corrupt Temple priests, and here he was betrayed and crucified at the insistence of the Jews. He predicted the destruction of the Temple, and at the moment of His death, a massive earthquake cracked the holy tabernacle. 40 years later the Roman general Titus fulfilled Christ’s prediction, reducing the Temple to rubble. From Jerusalem, the home of the early Christian Church, Christianity would spread to cover the globe. After Rome became the center of Christianity, Islam conquered and took Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Hundreds of years of Crusades by European Christians could not return it to the banner of Christ.

To Islam Jerusalem is the third holiest city on earth, surpassed in importance only by Mecca and Medina. It is from Jerusalem that Muhammad ascended to heaven. He returned enlightened by God and the prophets of the Bible. To commemorate this event, Muhammad’s followers built the Dome of the Rock, a massive and beautiful golden shrine, located squarely on top of the Jewish Temple ruins.

Therein lays the problem.

Before the Jewish Messiah can appear, the Temple needs to be rebuilt. For the Temple to be rebuilt, the Dome of the Rock, virtually unchanged for 13 centuries, must be destroyed. Neither side will ever concede the other’s right to this small piece of real-estate. It remains a conflict that will never be resolved peacefully. The Jews will never leave Israel, Muslims will never stop trying to remove them, and Christians will always interfere.

The third component of the Terror War is internal to Islam, the rift between its different factions, but most notably the Sunnis and Shiites. While U.S. involvement in sectarian conflict seems limited to the War in Iraq, the motivation of sectarian supremacy within Islam greatly influences the actions of not only the Jihadists but also the governments of Muslim societies. Sectarianism must not be marginalized as merely a “civil war” in Iraq.

Sectarian conflict also has its roots deep in the past, going back to the very inception of Islam and who would succeed Muhammad after his death as the leader of the foundling religion. The different sects view each others as apostates, those who once had believed in the true religion but now choose to follow a false path. The penalty for this digression as stated in the Koran is no less than death. Westerners express shock at Muslims brutally murdering each other in Iraq and other places, but they do not realize how deeply this enmity between factions runs, or how entrenched is has become in the interpretation of the Koran over the centuries.

The next component on our list is the rogue nation of Iran. The removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq has rid Iran of their mortal enemy, and they are now free to resume their goal of becoming the predominant military power in the Middle East and elevating the Shiites to the role of the rulers of Islam. Iran differs from other Mid-East nations and understanding that difference is vital to understanding the level of threat posed by them.

Iran (formerly Persia), was never engulfed by the massive Ottoman Empire. As a nation, they are not the secular creation of European governments. Instead they retain strict theocratic principles and policies, reinforced by the 2005 election of former Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a strict fundamentalist. Ahmadinejad in turn is controlled by the Iranian clergy: the Ayatollahs. They follow a strict brand of Sharia law that imposes cruel punishments for even the most minor of infractions. Their motivations are more religious than political, and their interpretation of Islam paints a scary picture of their true intentions.

As Shiites, the Iranians await the return of the Mahdi, the lost 12th Imam who mysteriously disappeared in the 9th century. The return of the Mahdi will only be triggered by an apocalyptic war fought between Islam and its enemies. This war will be long and bloody and in the end a handful of Muslims will make a last stand against the unbelievers on a mountaintop in Syria. After this final battle, the world will self-destruct, the stars flung from the skies, and the earth pounded to dust. God will summon all of the dead of human history to be judged. The righteous will attain access to heaven, and the misguided will be delivered to hell.

Ahmadinejad believes that he is the catalyst for the Apocalypse. He is preparing to bring the final battle. While his words to the United Nations speak of tolerance and peace, his televised speeches in Iran are a call to arms against Israel, the United States, and the very existence of Western Culture. He swears to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, and extend Islam to cover the whole of the globe. He will fight to the last man, woman, and child to do it, using any means possible to accomplish his goals.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is quite insane.

Greatly increasing Iran’s power and influence are new alliances between Iran and select non-Islamic countries. These alliances happen for two reasons. The first is economic. Countries such as Russia and China get much of their oil and natural gas from Iran. They use their political influence in the world forum to lessen the scrutiny upon Iran and its nuclear and military ambitions. Interruption of the Iranian oil supply would spell doom for both countries. Russia and China will do anything in their power to protect it.

Countries such as Venezuela and Cuba ally themselves with Iran simply because we are their common enemy. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has plans to create a Marxist Empire built upon anti-American sentiment. He is the new face of communism. He has already used his vast oil resources to buy his way into Bolivia, where he is currently building military bases along the borders of South American countries with pro-U.S. governments. Chavez has promised to back Iran in the case of any military action against the United States.

Venezuela has now become the largest arms importer in the world, mostly from Russia. Russia also imports large amounts of weapons into Iran, recently including a sophisticated missile defense system. China has just announced development of a nuclear submarine capable of avoiding the detection of current U.S. technology.

So we now face a larger picture than just that of Jihad alone, a combined effort of radical Islam and Marxist Communism to eradicate Western culture. Then, I suppose, they will battle it out between themselves.

News of the imminent development of a nuclear weapon by Iran fails to spur the U.S. people into a revelation of the seriousness of the threat of global Jihad and we continue to marginalize the Terror War. It will take the reality of an apocalyptic madman with nuclear weapons controlling the world’s oil supply to bring the American people out of their stupor, and we cannot afford to wait. If we do, Ahmadinejad will only bring his war to us. He has already sworn to it.

For better or for worse, the Bush Administration has chosen Iraq as the prominent front for the Terror War. It has since become the most vilified war in U.S. history, now surpassing even Vietnam in infamy. We have become tired of Iraq, and many just want out, consequences be damned. Yet these consequences would prove severe. Immediately after an American retreat from Iraq, Iran, which is already heavily imbedded in southern Iraq, would immediately take control of the Iraqi oil flow. That would give them control of over 25% of the world’s oil supply and the ability to manipulate and damage the world economy. They would hold the world hostage.

In addition, Iraq would quickly become a haven for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. Training camps would fill the desert. Iraq would become, quite simply, a terror factory. And then they will come here, and we will become reacquainted with suffering.

In the United States, partisan politics renders policy ineffective, and lawmakers politicize the War to the danger of both American troops and civilians. We now equate the Terror War with the War in Iraq, and this represents a calamitous shift in our perception of the danger facing us from extreme Islam. While the Iraq War may seem one event, it is really a combination of three of our different components: fighting al-Qaeda, addressing sectarian conflict, and undermining Iranian influence in supporting Iraqi Shiites against both Sunnis and American troops. If American troops leave Iraq, both al-Qaeda and Iran will flourish. We simply cannot afford to let this happen.

To quickly recap, we have now identified the four main components that define the War on Terror:

1) The conflict between Israel and Islam for possession of Palestine.

2) Attacks by al-Qaeda and other non-national terrorist groups, angered over perceived American and European imperialism in the Middle East, who wish to kill Americans and Europeans in mass numbers.

3) The sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shiite forms of Islam.

4) The intent of the madman Ahmadinejad to control the world’s oils supply, develop nuclear weapons, and then with the help of non-Islamic allies, wage a genocidal war upon the West.

Alone, any one of these elements poses a serious danger. Combined, they may prove earth-shattering.

Part 3 will address the earliest roots of Judeo/Christian/Islamic conflict.

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