Emotions ran high in August and early September. First, there was an uproar because a Muslim cleric of the mystical Sufi branch of Islam had plans to build an Islamic center a few blocks from the World Trade Center attacks.
Then, a Florida pastor promoted a "burn a Koran day" on the ninth anniversary of the Trade Center attacks.
In both cases, Islam itself was the target of blame for the 9-11 attacks. Even defenders of the Islamic Center and critics of the Florida pastor put the responsibility of the attacks on "radical" Islam, Islamic "extremism," or Islamic "fundamentalism." I don't know if this is pure ignorance, or an attempt to equate fundamentalist Islam with fundamentalist Christianity.
Let's put this in perspective. Imagine a British citizen and Catholic monk of Irish ancestry wanted to build a monastery in London. Should this be denied, considering the Catholic associations of the Irish Republican Army which was responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in London over the decades?
Does anyone believe that it was agreement with Catholic theology that motivated the IRA to commit terrorism?
Was it Catholic "extremism" that motivated them?
If it was, then it's plausible the IRA would have drawn Catholic recruits from Italy, Spain, and the Americas. But everyone understands the motivation behind the terrorism was Irish nationalism, not Catholicism.
The official story on 9-11 is that the hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But if a radical Islam agenda was their motivation, why were not Pakistanis and Indonesians in on the plot? They are more populous Muslim nations known for having extremist elements.
The difference, of course, is that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are Arabic nations.
To emphasize the religion of the terrorists and ignore their Arab background is like blaming IRA bombings on Catholicism instead of Irish nationalism.
And the motivations behind the attacks are well-known. As I've said in the past, the intent was to draw the U.S. into a costly land war in Asia as punishment for stationing troops in the Saudi Arabia, for aiding Israel in its conflict with Palestine, and for the economic sanctions on Iraq. In other words, the perception of the Arab terrorists was that the United States was waging war on the Arab people.
Yes, the terrorists may have believed they were doing their god's work. But that's hardly a unique perspective. Christian nations slaughtered each other by the millions in the 20th Century, each also believing they were doing the will of their god. Yet their reasons for war were political conflicts, not theological disputes.
Terrorism is a tactic of war, and wars are fought for political ends. Religious identity and religious conviction may have contributed to the motivation of the 9/11 terrorists, but that would be the case for abortion bombers as well.
It is not my place to endorse Islam, or to evaluate whether it is compatible with the classically liberal society of the West. But it is grotesquely stupid to believe that "Islamic extremists" could conquer the U.S. and install a caliphate even if that was their intention.
And it wasn't.