thought is best weapon
By Moin Rahman
Posted December 3 2001
The United States'
war on terrorism is only half the war if it does not seek to eliminate its
cause. The cause -- or the other half of the war -- is against ignorance and
illiteracy, which together make an intoxicating "faith-based" cocktail
that attracts an eager cadre of martyrs.
In fact, the latter half is more significant of the two and let me explain it
with a simple analogy. To cure a disease, say heart disease, doctors employ a
double front: one to cure the symptoms (shortness of breath, hypertension) and
the other to root out the cause (often in diet and exercise). The latter, if
successful, can cure the disease forever. Similarly, if the root cause of
faith-based terrorism, ignorance, is cured we might be rid of the menace
The short history of the Taliban and their cohorts has shown that they were
straight-A students of seminaries and religious schools based in Pakistan. The
curriculum of the schools was entirely devoted to scriptures and religion, a
system of thought which blossomed among our ancestors as complex mythologies to
bring either warring tribes together or promote a new morality based on the
classic carrot and stick model.
No wonder these students and their "guest" have hollered time and
again that they will not let infidels on Islamic territories and the Holy Land.
Their ignorance has blinded them to the fact that the crucible of all humanity
is really east Africa. Their idea of a Holy Land is as myopic as their knowledge
of history, anthropology and biology.
Ignorance is sometimes an unfortunate and inevitable manifestation of
theocracies or regimes that shun common sense in favor of systems founded on
revelations and miracles, which have to be promoted by faith. They make it a
crime for citizens of their countries to exercise basic human rights, including
the right to think or uphold intellectual independence from official dogma. This
is in total contrast to democracy, which separates state and church functions.
It encourages critical thought, argument and debate, and the most cherished
values can always be challenged. It is not frozen in time.
The war against terrorism is only half-done if America declares victory after
apprehending the perpetrators and dismantling their financial and logistics
network that supported them. More importantly, it should make the effort to
clean up the breeding grounds of terrorism by giving an opportunity for children
and adults alike to let their intellect breathe freely and to unshackle their
minds from ancient mythologies.
In other words, help them build the institutions that will bring democracy and
human rights, and educate them on topics that range from political science to
the science of life itself. By doing this we will give a chance to the invisible
Thomas Jeffersons, Susan B. Anthonys and Carl Sagans in these societies to bloom
and to reach out for new frontiers.
Isn't it time that they also are given life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?
Don't they have every right to know that they are on one of the many branches in
the tree of life that arose out of a common ancestor more than 3 billion years
ago, and are genetically related to the flat worm, to the apple tree and the
ape? That all humans belong to one species of primates and that nature does not
distinguish the non-believers from the believers? That the mutual attraction
between the sexes is something natural and normal? That pair bonding involves
courtship, love and mutual affection among many species, including humans? That
men and women have the right to mingle and dress in a manner they deem to be fit
Eventually when common folks fall in love with the wonder and splendors of their
own lives on Earth and celebrate it with knowledge and freedom to think and
express themselves, they will be repulsed by faith-based carrots such as a
paradise with its 72 virgins that await a holy martyr.
It will be a lasting cure for "faith-based" terrorism, as there would
be no one to recruit in a society that is informed and inspired by knowledge,
particularly of the scientific kind.
The author is a resident of Coral Springs.