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Wiley: Looking to ourselves to curb terrorism
By Miryam Wiley
Saturday, August 12, 2006 - Updated: 12:47 AM EST

I was relieved to be back home in the United States two days before TV stations started to broadcast the news of airport confusion this week.
    For the first time I suddenly felt compelled to go check my personal "clutter" inside the zipped toiletry bag in my carry-on luggage, a generous array of little bottles and tubes, thankfully produced as travel-size to allow me to have on hand what I might need.
    Those mundane preoccupations, however, soon gave way to my concerns over more serious matters: the way terrorist attacks are often interpreted and the insensitive ways our media adds the word "Islamic" to the word "terrorist," as if it were necessary for the description of the still blurred bits of information that have been gathered about the planned attacks.

    It is obviously worthy of condemnation that groups devote themselves to terrorism. It is, however, the responsibility of those of us who write about these stories to question the usual ways they are reported and to add depth to counter the sensationalism that can be easily attached to them.
    I am not sure I would have learned to question the expression "Islamic terrorist attack," had I not been asked directly by a Muslin leader several years ago if I had ever noticed how much the word terrorist is attached to the words "Islam" and "Muslim." I was covering a story for MetroWest Daily News on an annual gathering of the Boston Islamic Society in Natick. I remember well how one of the leaders from Boston mentioned that a recent violent attack reported in the news had been committed by Christians, but no one mentioned that in the story.
    According to, there are more than 1 billion people from all kinds of races, cultures and nationalities around the world who are Muslims. About 18 percent of them live in the Arab world, and the largest community is in Indonesia. I have also learned that most of Africa is Muslim and I was reminded that my friend Omar, from Kenya, is a Muslim.
    On this Web site I also learned that the word Islam means "submission" and comes from a word that means peace.
    In the Aug. 11 edition of British newspaper The Guardian, writer Oliver King mentions that by now, with the 24 suspects in custody, many of us may be thinking that "these jihadists must have been ’brainwashed’ or seized by the fervor of religious fundamentalism and cruelly initiated into a cult of death." Then he questions: "Is this the correct assumption?"
    He finds a satisfying answer in the book "Dying to Win," by Robert Pape, who studied 462 suicide bombings across the world and has concluded that those are not derived from religious radicalism. He quotes Pape on an interview given to ABC-TV: "What over 95 percent of suicide attacks around the world (are about) is not religion, but a specific strategic purpose -- to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland or prize greatly and this is, in fact, a centerpiece of al Qaeda’s strategic logic, which is to compel the United States and western countries to abandon military commitments on the Arabian peninsula."  [continue]
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