The Attacks of 9/11:
Evidence of a
Clash of Religions?



© 2002 David G. Kibble

From Parameters, Autumn 2002, pp. 34-45.

President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair have repeatedly declared that the coalition war in Afghanistan is not a war against Islam. Islam, however, was a feature of the events of 11 September 2001 and of the events that followed. Should the conflict between the United States and Osama bin Laden and between the coalition forces and the Taliban be seen as an example of a conflict between two religious traditions in the way Professor Samuel Huntington prophesied in his seminal “Clash of Civilizations” essay?1

This article aims to unravel some of the religious background to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on what began as a “perfect day” in September in New York and Washington.2 It looks too at the religious background to events that have followed on from those attacks. Much of the latter part of the article will be devoted to examining any perceived “clash” from the Muslim point of view in an attempt to generate a better understanding of how at least some Muslims view the West in general and America in particular. It will look, again from the Muslim point of view, at how any perception of a clash might be either ameliorated or neutralized.

The Religious Motivation of the Terrorists

“You should pray, you should fast. You should ask God for guidance, you should ask God for help. . . . Continue to recite the [Koran]. Purify your heart and clean it from all earthly matters.” So read the hand-written instructions to the hijackers who carried out their suicide missions by flying into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. Their task was perceived as a religious one. The instructions continued: “The time of fun and waste has gone.


The time of judgment has arrived. . . . You will be entering paradise. You will be entering the happiest life, everlasting life.”3

These instructions demonstrate how—for the writer and for the hijackers themselves—the suicide mission was seen as a religious one. The first four pages of the hijackers’ instructions recalled incidents in Islamic history, particularly incidents of Muhammad triumphing against adversaries. On the fifth and last page, guidance was given about what to do on entering the plane. The hijacker was asked to pray, “Oh Allah, open all doors for me. Oh Allah who answers prayers and answers those who ask you, I am asking for your help. Allah, I trust in you. Allah, I lay myself in your hands. . . . There is no God but Allah, I being a sinner. We are of Allah and to Allah we return.”4

In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait and so began the Gulf War. A coalition of Muslim Middle Eastern and American, British, and other nations joined together to drive out Saddam Hussein’s army. For some Arab Muslims, bin Laden included, this period was classed as al azma, the crisis. It was a crisis for at least two reasons: first, it involved Muslim Arabs fighting other Muslim Arabs; second, it involved American and other non-Arab forces entering Saudi territory. To understand why this second reason was seen as problematic, one has to understand that for a Muslim the Saudi city of Mecca, the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad, is a holy city. Indeed, it is so holy that non-Muslims are not allowed to enter it. Some of that holiness is seen by some Muslims to spread through the whole country of Saudi Arabia. To have non-Muslim soldiers enter the country, and particularly to do so in order to help one Muslim country fight against another Muslim country, was seen as offensive. America and its allies, in the eyes of some fundamentalist Muslims, represent the very opposite of what Islam stands for. Islam is seen to stand for solidarity among Muslim peoples; it is seen to stand for moral decency, for obedience to Allah and the precepts of Allah found in Islam’s holy book, the Koran, and in the sayings and deeds of Muhammad, the sunnah. The fundamentalist Muslim saw his holy land of Saudi Arabia “invaded” by troops whose home country represented, as he saw it, the very opposite of the Muslim way of life. This “invasion” became one of the driving reasons behind bin Laden’s hatred of America and the West.

The second cause of bin Laden’s hatred is what he sees as the United States’ support for the state of Israel against the Palestinian people. Why is it, he asks, that the United States has acted on UN resolutions concerning Iraq, but has


failed to act on resolutions concerning Israel? Why hasn’t it acted on Resolution 242, which calls for the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank?

These two factors led Osama bin Laden and others in 1998 to issue a fatwa, a verdict based on Islamic law, ordering Muslims everywhere to kill Americans and their allies. “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] and the holy mosque [in Mecca] from their grip.”5

Because of what bin Laden saw as the desecration of Saudi Arabia and because he believed US and Western policy to be two-faced with respect to the Palestinian problem, he came to view the conflict with the United States and its allies in religious terms. Hence with regard to the conflict in Afghanistan he asked every Muslim to “rise up and defend his religion.”6 In his December 2001 video he described the conflict in Afghanistan as a “crusader campaign started against Islam. . . . It has become very clear that the West in general, and led by the United States, [is] full of hatred against Islam.”7 Osama bin Laden’s motivation is primarily religious; as a result he views the whole conflict in religious terms. For him it is a religious war, a war by the West against Islam. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair might argue that this is not a religious war, but for bin Laden and his followers it is.

Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorism Before and After 9/11

The World Trade Center had been attacked in 1993 by Ramzi Ahmed Yousef; like bin Laden, he too was a Muslim fundamentalist. Since then America has been subject to a number of attacks by Muslim radicals. In October 2000, Islamic fundamentalist terrorists attacked USS Cole in Aden harbor, killing 17 US service personnel and injuring 38 others.8 The US military had been hit before by Islamic militants. In 1996, 19 US military personnel were killed and 300 injured in an attack on the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Some believe that bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization were behind both attacks. In 1998, followers of Osama bin Laden bombed the US Embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, leaving over 250 people dead.

The Western news media keep us informed about attacks by Islamic militants in the state of Israel. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both Islamic fundamentalist groups, are behind most of the attacks, which often take the form of suicide bombings. The year 2001 saw among those attacks 22 young Jewish people killed at a nightclub in Tel Aviv, 15 people killed in a pizza outlet in Jerusalem, and 10 killed in an ambush on a bus in Emmanuel. Fifteen were killed in a suicide attack on a bus in Haifa. The carnage continued unabated into 2002, when 20 were killed in four separate attacks early in the year in Jerusalem, with 15 killed in an attack on a snooker hall in Tel Aviv. Another 39 were killed in four separate attacks on buses. Since then, attacks and reprisals have escalated.

The Middle East has witnessed other instances of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism in addition to those aimed at the United States and Israel. In December


1998 three Britons and one Australian were killed by members of the Aden-Ayan Islamic Army in Yemen. In the summer of the following year, nine people were killed by the same organization in a bomb blast in a Sanaa supermarket. In Algeria, thousands have been killed in domestic violence by the Groupe Islamique Armeé. More recently, it is suspected that al Qaeda is behind two bombings in Karachi. The first killed 14, including 11 French naval engineers, while the second, an attack on the US consulate, resulted in the deaths of 11. In Saudi Arabia it is thought that the death of a Briton in a car bomb attack is due to the activity of Muslim militants in the country.

Like the fundamentalists responsible for attacking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September, those behind other attacks again betray a distinctly religious background and motivation. The Hamas charter makes very clear, for example, that its values and aims are primarily religious: it wishes to return Palestine to Islam and to establish distinctly Muslim values there. The quiet and unassuming Izzedine al Masri, the 22-year-old responsible for the bombing of the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem in August 2001, had, according to his brother, become increasingly religious in the two years prior to his suicide attack. He would organize outings to the al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem from his hometown on the West Bank; his family reported that he had become increasingly forgiving; his older brother recalled that he would say “May God forgive you” and had urged him to concentrate on spiritual things rather than material things. In his will he assured his family that he had “left this ephemeral world leading to the external world to meet the Prophet.”9

The “Clash” for Islam

The concept of a “clash of civilizations” was put forward by Samuel Huntington, professor of government at Harvard University, in a seminal essay in 1993. He argued that in the modern post-Cold War world, clashes and conflicts would be between the world’s different cultures. The cultures he identified were Western, Confucian, Japanese, Muslim, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American, and possibly African. He suggested that the “fault lines between civilizations are replacing the political and ideological boundaries of the Cold War as the flash points for crisis and bloodshed.”10 He went on to argue that many Western concepts and values differ fundamentally from those in most of the other civilizations—the concepts of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, democracy, free markets, and the separation of religion and the state. Such fundamental differences might lead to conflicts being predominantly between the West and other civilizations.

Bassam Tibi, professor of international relations at the University of Göttingen, Germany, while having reservations concerning Huntington’s thesis, argues further that any clash or conflict will be sparked by the fact that the Christian European civilization and the Islamic civilization both “advance universal claims. The clash of two universalisms hampers peaceful co-existence.”11


In the Christian religion, universalism is grounded in the idea that there is one God, that Jesus came to earth as a redeemer and mediator for all mankind, and in the great commission given by Jesus to his disciples: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”12 Tibi argues that Western Christianity has now been replaced by secularism, with the rhetoric of universalism, human rights, democracy, and free markets replacing the religious gospel.

In Islam, religious universalism is grounded in the idea that there is one God, Allah, and that Muhammad is his prophet. The message given to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel is set down in the holy book, the Koran, and this is God’s final revelation to humankind. For the fundamentalist Muslim, the world is divided into two parts: areas of the globe where Islam is faithfully practiced are known as dar al Islam (the house of Islam), and areas which are non-Islamic are designated dar al harb (the house of war).13 Some fundamentalist Muslims would argue that a faithful Muslim’s objective should be to extend the borders of dar al Islam until the whole of the created world is brought within the orb of Allah. Sheikh Saeed Shaaban, former leader of Muslims in Tripoli, succinctly summarized the position of political or militant Islam as he saw it: “We must reject democracy in favor of Islam, which is the unique [political] perfect system worked out by the Almighty. . . . Our march has just begun, and Islam will end up conquering Europe and America. . . . For Islam is the only [path to] salvation. . . . It is our mission to bring salvation to the entire world.”14

As with any other holy book, passages in the Koran can be interpreted in different ways. For the fundamentalist Muslim, there are verses which can be seen to encourage the belief that there should be conflict or war until Islam holds sway in the world: “Fight [the unbelievers] on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God altogether and everywhere.”15 “Fight those who believe not in God . . . nor acknowledge the religion of truth, [even if they are] of the people of the book.”16

Bin Laden’s rhetoric on the expansion of Islam is concerned with a purification of Islam within the Islamic world rather than with missionary activity to the non-Islamic world. Purifying Islam within the Islamic world means, for bin Laden, expelling Western forces from Islamic countries and liberating the land of Palestine. “We . . . have . . . issued a crystal clear fatwa calling on the Nation to carry on jihad aimed at liberating Islamic holy sites . . . and all Islamic lands. . . . [This is] a part of our religion.”17 Purifying Islam within the Islamic world also means, for bin Laden, replacing what he sees as un-Islamic regimes such as that in Saudi Arabia with ones which are more transparently founded on religious principles, which are seen to be acting at all levels in accordance with those principles, and which do not rely on political support from Western countries, particularly America.

Bin Laden’s view that there exists a clash between Islam and the West should not be seen as something new or unique. It is a view that has widespread


support in many areas of the Middle East. Bin Laden’s views are significantly mirrored in those of, for example, the imprisoned Saudi Muslim clerics Sheikh Safar al Hawali and Salman al Auda. Hawali sees the world in a similar way to Huntington—he sees within it a clash of civilizations. He particularly sees a clash between the West and the Islamic world, commenting that “blood is unavoidable” and that the army which will carry out this conflict (which he describes as the “new phase of the Crusade war”) will be Muslim youth.

Hawali believes that the 1990 Gulf War against Iraq was actually orchestrated by Western powers to enable them to maintain a foothold in the Gulf region. When one considers Hawali’s reference to the American “Carter Doctrine,” which specified that in the event of problems with oil supplies in the region America would send in troops to oversee the smooth flow of oil, one can see how he might come to such a conclusion. Hawali believes that the United States aims to “enforce complete Western hegemony on the Islamic world and to eradicate Islamism.”18 Mamoun Fandy’s measured study of political opposition in Saudi Arabia concludes that Hawali’s view that the United States is using the problem of Saddam Hussein to retain a foothold in the region and to maintain a lucrative export market is now commonplace in both the Gulf and in the wider Arab world. Some of Hawali’s views are no longer seen as extreme, because events can be interpreted in such a way when one takes a Gulf perspective.

Careful research among young people in Saudi Arabia led Mai Yamani to conclude that while there exists a small number of young people who would support the more radical views of people like bin Laden and Hawali, even the majority have a problem with what they see as the increasing influence of the West.19 They feel threatened by the effects of Westernization, particularly satellite television and the internet. As in most countries in the Middle East, for the vast majority of young people in Saudi Arabia their core value is that of Islam.20 They wish Saudi Arabia to remain a Muslim nation with its people maintaining Muslim beliefs and values. Western values are seen as alien and threatening. While they certainly do not see a clash in military terms as either desirable or inevitable, they nevertheless perceive a clash in religious and moral terms.

The clash between Islam and the West is seen as threatening because it is viewed as being powered by hegemonic forces utilizing technology as their weapon. In addition to modern technology, the West maintains economic domination by possessing the forces of globalization. Any clash, therefore, is not just one of religion or even one of values: it is a clash that has economic power behind it. And so it is a clash between rich and poor, where the West has money and Islam does not.

Dealing with the Clash

This article’s argument so far has been that many Muslims, particularly in the Middle East, feel that they are under attack from a secular culture which has the forces of technology and economics supporting it. That culture is per-


ceived as un-Islamic. Many Muslims who feel this way have a fundamentalist outlook—although that, of course, does not mean that they support terrorism.21 Because the West has economic power, the clash is also seen to be one between rich and poor; being a struggle between rich and poor, the clash can be represented as moral and therefore as religious in nature. Those Muslims who perpetrated the events of 9/11, those who were members of the Taliban and al Qaeda in the subsequent conflict in Afghanistan, and those who have perpetrated other terrorist incidents under the banner of Islam believe their actions to be religious. Their actions are seen to be a jihad against the forces of godlessness and evil.

Many Muslims in the Middle East wish to retain the Islamic character of their national and personal life. Religious sensitivities are awakened when the West acts in a way that is seen to undermine that wish. Such sensitivities are not simply those of a minority, but are those of a large number of devout Muslims in the Middle East. So for them, too, there is a clash, and the clash is religious in nature because it is seen as a clash involving an undermining of their religion and their religious values. How then can the West help to minimize a clash of religion when it does not perceive the clash to be religious in nature?

Political Measures

The first area in which the West can reduce the perceived clash is the political arena. Of enormous symbolic value will be the West’s stance vis-ŕ-vis the issue of Palestine. This issue is one of the motivating factors behind bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization, and it is an issue which causes Muslims to feel a sense of betrayal by the West. America and the West must press for security for the Jewish people, but also for justice and prosperity for the Palestinians. Middle Eastern Muslims presumably were much encouraged by US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s remarks in a speech in November 2001. Powell announced, “We have a vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders.” He went on to suggest that the framework for any solution in the region lay in the principles of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.22

It is not my purpose here to give prescriptive details on precisely how the Palestinian issue might be resolved. That is a matter for negotiation by the two sides—it is they who must make the deal. I do believe, however, that both sides will have to show magnanimity. King Abdullah of Jordan has argued that it is difficult to solve the problem “by degrees”; rather, one has to get to the end in a single step or in a small number of steps.23 Israel, for example, will need to set a timetable for pulling out of the West Bank; the Palestinians will need to demonstrate very clearly that they will do everything within their power to guarantee the security of their Jewish neighbors.

Turning to the power held by the West in the modern global economy, the West needs to ensure that it shares the benefits and profits of that economy with the poorer nations of the world. The West needs to shape the economic structure in a


way which is seen to be moral in a global sense rather than in a purely local sense. It needs to act in a way which enables poorer nations to view themselves as partners rather than as pawns. At present the poorer nations, many of whom are Muslim, often see the West as a domineering global player with little or no real concern for those less fortunate.

There are other global issues which need attention—these issues are not strictly economic, but they will require the financial backing of the more affluent nations of the world if they are to be addressed effectively. The West needs to work toward solutions concerning the global environment, particularly that of global warming. The West should play a part in ensuring that good healthcare and schools are available around the world. Until Western nations act together in a way that is driven by morality in global terms as well as by political and economic pragmatism, the poorer nations of the world, including those in many Muslim countries, will continue to see a clash of morality and values and hence a clash of religion.24

Issues of Religion

With regard to religion, the first issue is the resolution of the Palestinian problem. In the book of Genesis, God promises Abraham that the Jewish people will possess the land of Canaan. This land includes the West Bank. Some conservative, fundamentalist Jewish groups argue that God intended possession of the land to be in perpetuity: the Jewish people therefore have a God-given right to it. Some Christian groups argue along similar lines, and Sheikh Safar al Hawali, the radical Saudi fundamentalist mentioned earlier, has not been slow to highlight a number of American Christian fundamentalist ministers who have preached such a message.25

A number of solutions are available to solve the problem and thereby to deal with the perceived clash of religion. The first is that Jews could interpret the Hebrew scriptures so that they are seen as a product of their time. They might acknowledge that at the time of Abraham and Moses, God did make this promise, but also recognize that history has now taken its course and one can no longer simply argue that because God at one stage made a promise it can therefore be right for the Jewish nation to now take that land without reference to the modern political situation. Possession of the land may alternatively be seen as a Jewish future objective. Those who are Christians can put forward a Christian argument: Since the old covenant has now been superceded by the new covenant, the promise given to the Jewish people has been superceded with it. The land of Israel has now been replaced by the whole world as the locus of Kingdom of God. Alternatively, both Jews and Christians could interpret the promise eschatologically, whereby the land of Israel features in some special way at the end of time.

The second issue is the clash caused by Islamic fundamentalism itself: Islamic fundamentalism by its very nature clashes with Western ideas. In the West the ideas of free speech, human rights, and democracy are foundations of our culture. In Islamic fundamentalism these are sometimes denied. Fundamentalists argue that a country’s legislation should be based on sharia law—laws derived either from the


Koran or from the sayings and deeds of Muhammad. In the West, laws are based on the consensus of the people. Fundamentalist Islamic legislation would mean the prohibition of alcohol and gambling and the application of divine hadd punishments, such as amputation for theft and flogging or stoning to death for adultery. Such legislation would be seen in the West as an infringement of human rights.

Some fundamentalists argue that democracy is not compatible with Islam. Accordingly, in 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini outlined his vision for Iran:

I will devote the remaining one or two years of my life to reshaping Iran in the image of Muhammad . . . by the purge of every vestige of Western culture from the land. We will amend the newspapers. We will amend the radio, the television, the cinema—all of these should follow the Islamic pattern. . . . What the nation wants is an Islamic republic. Not just a republic, not a democratic republic, not a democratic Islamic republic. Just an Islamic republic.26

In Khomeini’s fundamentalist Iran, women were forced to wear the chador, the sexes were to have separate education, modern pop music was banned, and the newspapers were censored—all in the name of fundamentalist Islam.

The political program of a fundamentalist Islamic state will clearly clash with the freedoms that we in the West hold dear. Not all Muslims, however, would argue for a fundamentalist state of this kind. And where such a state is established it is unlikely to stand the test of time. In Iran there is now a movement away from the strictures introduced by Khomeini, and we have recently seen the joy expressed in Afghanistan at the lifting of the fundamentalist Taliban yoke.27

More liberal, modernist Muslims argue that Islamic fundamentalism is fatally flawed because it is built upon the belief that Muslims should return to the glorious past, to the time of Muhammad when sharia law was implemented faithfully. It is built upon the belief that the Koran is the perfect word of God, and that all one has to do is to obey its precepts. In the United Kingdom a thoroughgoing rebuttal of such ideas is given by Aziz al Azmeh. Al Azmeh argues that sharia law has never been the unchanging entity that fundamentalists claim:

Contrary to political and ideological pretension, the historical reality of the practice of Islamic law has been one of a wide latitude in opinions over specific points of law. The corollary of this, quite naturally, is the mutability of this law in the context of changing circumstances, a mutability which does not accord with the utopian archaism [of Islamic fundamentalism].28


Other modernists point out that the Koran should not be viewed as immutable or inerrant either. The Egyptian Husayn Ahmad Amin has pointed out that some verses in the Koran abrogate others; he suggests that these were the result of differing historical circumstances.29 Indonesian modernist Nurcholish Madjid suggests that the prophet’s message was historically conditioned. He argues that “the Divine Message itself, not in its essence, but in its response to the demands of the times and places, is historical and, therefore, subject to change whenever necessary.”30

If Islamic fundamentalism by its nature precipitates a clash with Western ideas of freedom, democracy, and human rights, then we need to encourage a more modernist version of Islam among fundamentalists. We need to suggest to them that Islamic modernism is more in tune with the modern world than are the strictures of fundamentalism. Fundamentalists look back to a glorious past which modernists argue never existed. We need to encourage Islamic fundamentalists to take a more modernist route. To take such a route would reduce considerably the perceived clash between Islam and the West.

The third issue is the clash caused by religions in general, and Islam and Christianity in particular, claiming what Bassam Tibi called universalism. Traditionally Islam and Christianity both assert that their version of religion is the correct one and that any other is, by definition, erroneous. Does this not make a clash inevitable?

One solution to the problem is presented by Tibi himself. He suggests that the traditional version of Islam first needs to be replaced by a more modernist one, and one which is reconciled to democracy. His second step is to argue that Islam and what he calls secular Christianity or Western civilization should each give up their universal claim. Instead, he argues, all religions should see themselves as part of the world’s rich tapestry of social structures and beliefs, what Tibi calls “inter-civilizational pluralism.” Muslims would then free themselves from the “ill-fated vision of an Islamization of the entire world” and would instead work toward a “cross-cultural consensus” in the moral sphere. This consensus would be based upon secular democracy and human rights.31 The problem with Tibi’s proposal, however, is that it relegates religion to a cultural phenomenon which can make no real claim to truth. It thereby tears the heart out of religion.

A different model is presented by the American Muslim Ismail al Faruqi. Like Tibi, he too comes from the modernist camp. He suggests that “all religions are religions of God” because non-Muslims can come to know God through a sense of the numinous which is common to all faiths. Through this sense of the numinous he argues that all people can come to “recognize God as transcendent and holy, and hence worthy of adoration.” The historical religions, his argument continues, are outgrowths of this universal phenomenon, and because this sense of the numinous comes from God himself it must follow that all religions are God’s religions. Differences between the major religions should therefore be seen as “domestic family squabbles.” Unlike Tibi, al Faruqi ac-


knowledges that if religion is to be true to itself it must be missionary: mission “is morally and religiously imperative.”32 Al Faruqi believes that dialogue between two religions is healthy because it may lead the believer to encounter more in the way of truth. One might argue that truth might exist within the believer’s present religion without him recognizing it; alternatively, it might exist outside it and in that sense the believer had therefore encountered something entirely new. In that sense religious dialogue must always aim, al Faruqi continues, at conversion— not to a particular religion, however, but to the truth. That truth will be reality making itself known.33

Many will disagree with some elements of Faruqi’s argument. But most religious believers will agree that if there is a God—and Christians, Muslims, and Jews all believe that there is—then he will make himself known. Religious believers should never be afraid of dialogue because in the end reality will force itself upon us. We must constantly aim to have our human understanding molded by the nature of things, by reality itself—by what Christians, Muslims, and Jews would call the nature of God. If such a reality does exist, then we must pursue our quest and allow it (or him in terms of Western religious belief) to reveal itself to us. In this respect al Faruqi argues in a very similar fashion to the Scottish Christian theologian Thomas F. Torrance.34

If God, Allah, Adonai, or whatever believers call him is ultimate reality, then one can argue that people of all the monotheistic religions worship the same God. They may have different views about the precise nature of that God and may have differences about how he reveals himself and about how they relate to him. But they do share, as al Faruqi points out, many common beliefs: the reality of God, the idea that people are on earth to relate to and to serve him, the idea that God reveals himself, that men and women have been placed on earth by God, and the idea that human beings will achieve fulfillment only in fulfilling God’s command. Rather than stressing the differences between faiths as they have traditionally done in the past, religious believers should begin to celebrate the similarities. The differences must be acknowledged, but believers of all faiths should not be blinded to the overarching commonalities. Whether religious believers worship in the synagogue, the mosque, or the church, they all worship the one God: to recognize and admit that would go an enormous way to reducing any perceived clash of religion. The Koran itself argues for such a position: “Our [Muslim] God and your [Jewish and Christian] God is one; and it is to him we bow.”35


1. Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations,” Foreign Affairs, 72 (Summer 1993), 22-49.

2. An earlier version of this article formed part of a presentation given at a conference held in June 2002 at the University of Surrey, Roehampton, England, on the theme of “Education for Peace.”

3. Roland Watson, “Terror Manual for Hijackers’ Moment of Glory,” The Times (London), 29 September 2001.

4. Ibid.

5. Yossef Bodansky, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America (Rocklin, Calif.: Forum Publishing, 1999), pp. 226-27.


6. Ibid.

7. Toby Harnden, “Attacks on US were Blessed, Says bin Laden in New Video,” Daily Telegraph, 27 December 2001, p. 4.

8. For a description and discussion of this incident, see D. G. Kibble, “The Attack on the USS COLE,” Naval Review, 89 (January 2001), 19-22.

9. Sarah Helm, “The Human Time Bomb,” Sunday Times Magazine, 6 January 2002, p. 54.

10. Huntington, p. 29.

11. Bassam Tibi, Islam Between Culture and Politics (Basingstoke, Eng.: Palgrave, 2001), p. 216.

12. Matthew 28:19.

13. I do not intend here to go into a detailed discussion defining the nature of Islamic fundamentalism. For a detailed discussion of the subject of fundamentalism, see Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, “Conclusion: An Interim Report on a Hypothetical Family,” in Fundamentalisms Observed, ed. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991); Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, “Contemporary Fundamentalism— Judaism, Christianity, Islam,” in The Jerusalem Quarterly, No. 47 (Summer 1988), pp. 27-39. Some scholars prefer to use other terms such as “Islamists” or “political Islam,” believing that the term “fundamentalism” has particular overtones in the Christian West. See John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality (New York/London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1992), pp. 7-8.

14. Amir Taheri, Holy Terror (London: Hutchinson, 1987), p. 20. The Ayatollah Khomeini had a similar vision, see Taheri, p. 113.

15. Koran 8:38-9.

16. Ibid. 9:29. For a thoroughgoing discussion of the concept of holy war or jihad, see Rueven Firestone, The Origin of Holy War in Islam (New York/Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999).

17. Bodansky, pp. 368-69.

18. Mamoun Fandy, Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Dissent (Basingstoke, Eng.: Macmillan, 1999), p. 70.

19. Mai Yamani, Changed Identities: The Challenge of the New Generation in Saudi Arabia (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2000).

20. See also Cyril Simmons and Christine Simmons, “Personal and Moral Adolescent Values in England and Saudi Arabia,” Journal of Moral Education, 23 (No. 1, 1994), 3-16; David G. Kibble, Nadia Hamdi, and Ali Abu al Shuker, “Young People in Britain and Jordan: A Comparison of Religious Belief between East and West,” Theology, 104 (September-October 2001), 335-44.

21. Most fundamentalist Muslims are peace-loving: only a small number support the terrorist route. One should not be confused about that.

22. Powell’s speech is reproduced on the internet at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations website: In April 2002 the case for a separate Palestinian state was put forward again by President George Bush, this time endorsed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. President Bush’s speech is reproduced on the same website at: bushspeech.shtml.

23. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today, 3 May 2002. The King gave a fuller presentation of this idea at Rice University, Texas. The text of the speech is available on the internet at: press_room/press_room.html.

24. Former American President Bill Clinton outlined a much more detailed plea along similar lines in his moving and impassioned Dimbleby lecture given on BBC television on 14 December 2001.

25. See Fandy, pp. 72ff.

26. John Laffin, The Dagger of Islam (London: Sphere, 1979), p. 125.

27. It can be argued that Islamic fundamentalism cannot continue in the modern world in the long term. See David G. Kibble, “Islamic Fundamentalism: A Transitory Threat?” Strategic Review, 26 (Spring 1998), 11-18; Olivier Roy, The Failure of Political Islam (London: I. B. Tauris, 1994).

28. Aziz al Azmeh, Islams and Modernities (London: Verso, 1996), pp. 11-12. See also Tibi, ch. 7.

29. For details of the thought of Amin, see Nadia Abu-Zahra, “Islamic History, Islamic Identity and the Reform of Islamic Law,” in Islam and Modernity: Muslim Intellectuals Respond, ed. John Cooper, Ronald Nettler, and Mohamed Mahmoud (London: I. B. Tauris, 1998), ch. 4.

30. Nurcholish Madjid, “Islamic Roots of Modern Pluralism,” Studia Islamika, 1 (April-June 1994), 71.

31. Tibi, pp. 88, 224.

32. Ismail al Faruqi, Islam and Other Faiths (Leicester, Eng.: Islamic Foundation, 1998), p. 222.

33. Ibid., p. 248.

34. See e.g., Thomas F. Torrance, Theological Science (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969); God and Rationality (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1971).

35. Koran 29:46. From a Christian perspective, one can argue a similar position based upon St. Paul’s speech at the Areopagus in Athens; see Acts 17:16-34.

Lieutenant Commander David G. Kibble (British Royal Naval Reserve, Ret.), a theology graduate of Edinburgh University, is a Deputy Headteacher at Huntington School in York, England, who has written extensively in books and journals on theological, political, educational, and management issues. He is a contributor to 21 Debated Issues in World Politics and to Education, Spirituality, and the Whole Child. A former commanding officer of HMS Ceres, he has written on both sides of the Atlantic on defense issues, particularly on the Islamic background to problems in the Middle East and on the ethics of nuclear deterrence.

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Reviewed 19 August 2002. Please send comments or corrections to