A couple of news stories about Muhammad Atta, the central figure of 9/11 who is in the paradoxical position of being celebrated as a hero by those who simultaneously deny that he was involved in the attacks.
Muhammad Atta’s father is a walking encyclopedia of fashionable Muslim projections, denials, and deceptions. From AP, with thanks to all who sent this to me:
First, the denial: The attacks weren’t the work of Muslim fanatics. “Look to Mossad,” Israeli intelligence. Next, the rationalization: “No nation has done as much evil in the world as America did, and you do not expect God to punish it?” And then the defiance: “If a Palestinian flies a plane and strikes the White House and kills Bush, his wife and his daughters, he will go to heaven. So will any Muslim who defends his faith.”
Then there’s this Knight-Ridder/Tribune story (thanks to Miss Moneypenney) about how Muhammad Atta, who was clearly a chip off the old block, was really a gentle, warm-hearted, even delicate fellow who loved children and just happened to nurse maniacal and fantastic religiously-rooted paranoia toward and hatred of Jews:
Those interviews, translated by the Chicago Tribune, provide an exceptional and incongruous portrait of the key Sept. 11 hijackers and their leader, Mohamed Atta, who is remembered for laughing as he played with children and who called home to express concern about his father’s health two days before delivering thousands of unsuspecting people to a horrifying death….
Rather, they believed they were striking a blow at what Atta considered “the center of `world Jewry,’ and the world of finance and commerce controlled by it,” according to a former Atta follower named Shahid Nickels….
The only son of a successful Cairo lawyer, the only brother of two sisters who are Cairo university professors, the first Mohamed Atta who emerges from the files of the BKA seems a logical, even-tempered young man, shy and polite but also generous, kind and even sensitive, a dutiful son who delighted in playing with children.
If anything set Atta apart during his early years in Hamburg, it was an intensity of devotion to Islam that seemed a bit beyond the norm in the northern port city’s variegated Muslim community.…
Ahmed Maglad, a Sudanese student in Hamburg who became close to Atta for a while, liked listening to music. According to Maglad, Atta thought that no music of any kind had a place in the life of a devout Muslim, and that the same went for good food and fun.
“He thought that the heart would die through fun,” Maglad told the BKA. “He was convinced that there was not enough time in one’s life to have fun. He said: `People die in Palestine, and you are laughing!’ Or, when I bought delicious food, he said: `You are living your life like in paradise, and people are dying elsewhere.'”…
It was during those classes that several acquaintances first noticed Atta’s mounting interest in the political struggles of Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, Indonesia and Chechnya.
Shahid Nickels, who attended many of the classes, recalled Atta as standing out from other Hamburg Muslims, not only for his superior knowledge of German and his advanced education but what Nickels perceived as “his high moral standards.”
Julian Miklaszeski, the son of a Muslim father and a German mother who converted to Islam as a child, was in 6th grade when he enrolled in Atta’s Sunday school at the Turkish mosque.
Miklaszeski soon became a protege of Atta’s, and Julian’s mother, Christine Marashdeh, had no hesitation in entrusting Atta with her son’s Muslim education.
“His role in the Islamic community was the role of the model Muslim,” she told the BKA. “For my husband it was important that the children would go and attend El-Amir’s religious class.”
Like Nickels, Miklaszeski remembers being surprised to discover that Atta’s lessons ranged beyond the Koran to include the Muslim struggle, or jihad, in Palestine, Chechnya and Kosovo.
Despite his growing interest in the jihad, Atta professed non-violence. Michaels remembered a conversation in which Atta claimed “that he would not approve of violence to solve conflicts, and that there must be ways to convince people by other means.”
Outside the mosque Atta distributed fliers supporting Muslim issues and causes. Friends said his special interest seemed to be how best to educate German Christians about Islam….
Atta seemed tolerant of other faiths. “He did not automatically disrespect opinions of non-Muslims,” agreed Kay. “Since he participated in the interreligious dialogue, I assumed that he was tolerant. At least, he did not call them `non-believers.’ I would have remembered, because I don’t like this term.”
Then the article delivers a hash of lopsided and incomplete information from Bernard Lewis (who should know better) about how tolerant Islam is of other faiths, and how Atta began to reject this “mainstream” Islam:
The Koranic declaration that “there is no compulsion in religion” is interpreted by Princeton Islamic historian Bernard Lewis as a sign of forbearance toward other religions.
Elsewhere, the Koran recognizes Jews and Christians, along with Muslims, as “believers” in the same God, and counts Abraham and Jesus among God’s prophets, although it does not recognize the Jews as God’s chosen people or Jesus as the son of God. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, is merely the last in a long line of divine messengers.
That is not how Islam was interpreted within the darker recesses of Hamburg’s Islamic community, notably the ultraradical Al Quds mosque, where Atta was exposed to an imam named Mohammed al-Fazazi.
Al-Fazazi’s venomous message included a Muslim obligation to slit the throats of “non-believers,” Jews and Christians, and to take violent retribution against innocents, including women and children, for Israel’s policies in Palestine, according to one of al-Fazazi’s videotaped sermons.
The reporter doubtless didn’t know, but Lewis does and should have explained, that Al-Fazazi’s message is not incompatible in the least with all the tolerance talk: in Islamic law, the tolerance comes after the Muslims have won victory in battle. That is, after they have slit throats and taken violent retribution. The defeated remnant of Jews and Christians is then tolerated as second-class dhimmis, with severely restricted rights.
It was after returning to Hamburg in 1998 that Atta grew a full beard and abandoned his habitual slacks, shirts and sweaters for a turban and traditional Arab dress, called a dishdash.
Acquaintances report that he no longer rejected violence, and that his anti-Semitism began to assume extreme proportions.
Some of the Hamburg Muslims gathered around Atta were surprised when he began questioning, then rejecting, the tenets of mainstream Islam.
This should have been no surprise at all. He was clearly taking Islam very seriously and reading the Qur’an. What the Qur’an says about all this is quite clear. It is only a mystery in the muddled minds of mainstream media reporters.
Julian Miklaszeski still remembers Atta’s sudden declaration that all who did not follow Islam were non-believers. “All non-believers were evil in his eyes,” Miklaszeski told the BKA. Shahid Nickels recalls Atta insisting that Israel had no right to exist and that suicide attacks by Palestinians on Israeli civilians were “legitimate.”
Nothing there that hasn’t been said by many Muslim scholars, including Qaradawi.
The article returns later to Atta’s venomous anti-Semitism:
Those around Atta quickly became no less hateful toward Israel, and Jews in general. Motassadeq is remembered by a roommate for referring to Hitler as a “good man.” Binalshibh was captured on videotape at Bahaji’s wedding ranting about a “Jewish world conspiracy,” reading a Palestinian war poem and denouncing Jews as “a problem for all Muslims.”
According to Nickels, Atta himself saw Lewinsky as “an agent sent by the Jews in order to topple Clinton. Because from a Jewish perspective, Clinton’s Middle East policy was much too liberal and friendly with respect to the Palestinians.”
Atta’s increasingly paranoid thinking, Nickels told the BKA, began to remind him of “Nazi ideas, according to which the Jews were the group which planned to extinguish Islam and control the world.”
“The Jews, he thought, controlled the world of finance and the media,” Nickels said. “The Jews, according to his conviction, controlled several newspapers in Germany, and the Jews also kept leading positions in banks, politics and business.
“The Jews had planned Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya as well, in order to fight the spreading of Islam, he believed. With respect to Israel, he was convinced that the Jews wanted to establish a theocracy between the Nile and the Euphrates, in order to chase away the non-believers.”
For all his malice toward Israel, when Atta persuaded Al-Shehhi, Jarrah and Binalshibh to join him in committing their lives to the Muslim jihad, they spoke not of murdering Israelis or Americans but of killing Russian soldiers in Chechnya.
In late autumn 1999, the four young men from Hamburg arrived in Afghanistan, in search of paramilitary training in bin Laden’s al-Qaida camps and assistance in reaching Chechnya.
They were the answer to bin Laden’s prayer.
The two al-Qaida operatives already dispatched to San Diego to organize the hijacking plot, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, had proved entirely ill-suited: unfamiliar with life in the West, unable to learn English and incapable of learning to fly.
The unexpected appearance of Atta and his followers, who possessed none of those shortcomings, solved bin Laden’s problem in a single stroke.
Atta, then 31, stood out, not only as the oldest and most intelligent of the group and the most committed Muslim, but as a natural organizer, motivator and leader who could manage the complex arrangements necessary to put 19 hijackers aboard four airplanes without attracting attention from the authorities.
During his weeks in Kandahar, Atta had several private meetings with bin Laden, unheard of for a new arrival. By the time he returned to Hamburg, Atta had been entrusted with the full details of what would become the Sept. 11 plot, and commissioned to set it in motion.
When Atta, Al-Shehhi and Jarrah departed Hamburg for the United States in spring 2000, Atta gave different people different stories about where he was going and why.
To Philip Kay, Atta claimed he was moving to Malaysia to write a doctoral dissertation. Ayman Negm told his wife, Heidi Finke, that Atta had gone to Miami to write his thesis. “I believed that he was in the U.S.A.,” Finke said. “That was credible. But I found it hard to believe that he would go to Malaysia.”
Others were told that Atta had returned home to Cairo to marry, and thought no more about him. But when Ahmed Maglad heard that Atta had moved to the U.S., “I was surprised about the fact that he, an orthodox believer, a very sober Muslim, would move to a non-Muslim country to study.”
Wait a minute. I thought we were supposed to believe that he wasn’t an “orthodox believer,” or a “very sober Muslim.” And we certainly aren’t supposed to believe that pious Muslims would have any problem with living in the secular West. That one is definitely a paragraph that slipped by some careless editor!
There is a great deal more to this quite lengthy article, which is illuminating despite all the utter tosh it retails. There’s much interesting information about Atta’s personal life and perspectives. Read it all.
And finally, the obligatory “he was a quiet man, a good man, he couldn’t have done it” coda:
“I can’t believe that El-Amir could have done it,” Bejaoui told the BKA a few weeks after Sept. 11. “He was always so kindhearted and compassionate. He feared Allah, and he knew that the Koran would not approve of such deeds, and that he would be punished at the Day of Judgment.”
Why did this “orthodox believer,” so serious about his faith, do something forbidden by the Qur’an? Why would he live his life for Allah and then decide to die in a way that he knew would send him to hell? It doesn’t add up — and it points out the poverty and deceptiveness of this kind of analysis.
No one wants to admit it, but it’s clear: he was doing something that he thought was commanded by the Qur’an.