Bible Commentator

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Rabbi Moshe Reiss

moshereiss@moshereiss.org

A RABBI ANSWERS A SHEIK: A RESPONSE TO OSAMA BIN LADEN


The response is to Spengler’s text published in the Asia Times Online (below) which is accurate in terms of previous statements by Osama bin Laden and the actual pre-election text (below). Both texts like all other theological and political writings need a commentary. It is impossible to answer bin Laden directly because his text is a diatribe based on polemics, not on the moral values of Islam. Bin Laden justifies the deaths of over 3,000 civilians in the World Trade Center on the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon ‘with American approval’ and ‘Bush Sr. invasion of Iraq’ in 1991.


The Qu’ran states ‘Slay not your children . .  . slay not the soul, the slaying of which Allah has forbidden (17:32,34).


We already know how bin Laden would have us live our lives: the Islamic State of the Taliban.

Girls hide at home and do not go to school

Boys go to a midrassa’s memorizing the Qur’an.

Music whether heavy metal or Beethoven are forbidden.

All of TV including my favorite ‘National Geographic’ is forbidden


The West may be called Post Modernism, a difficult and contentious term to define. If modernism began as part of the enlightenment as some have argued then that post-modernism’s forefathers were Freud, Joyce, Picasso and Einstein. Secularism came out of the enlightenment, an ideology based on reason. In its origin secularism was anti-religion; as Voltaire stated ‘if god did not exist we would have to invent him’. Religion no longer finds it necessary to conflict with reason, the two can in fact co-exist.  Post-modernism is counter to the enlightenment and to secularism. Post –modernism does not believe in reason or any objective reality or absolute truth.  It believes in individualism, exploitation, materialism and not in value systems.


As an example of Post Modernism the author saw recently an advertisement (perhaps two meters by three meters in size) at a bus stop in Dublin, Ireland. There was a large word ‘Achtung’ written in black. In the background behind that single word was an illustration of the Auschwitz death camp with its chimneys, the railroad tracks and steel meshed fence seemingly electrified. At the bottom in much lesser letters was the advertisement for a non-alcoholic soft drink.


At the fin de siecle ending the twentieth century and the ending of the cold war came the ethnic cleansing of Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan, the Balkans, the exacerbating problems of religious conflicts in India and the worsening of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Extreme national identities resulted in ethnic cleansing and are part of the post-modern phenomena.  Post modernism is a system of subjective and contradictory moral and ethical values.


The recently deceased French-Jewish philosopher Jacques Derrida taught us that any text’s meaning is in the eye of the beholder. This would seem to be particularly true of the three monotheistic scriptural texts; the Hebrew text of the Jews, the original words of Jesus spoken in Aramaic and the words of Muhammad written in Arabic. All of these Semitic languages are written with alphabets that exclude - in the original texts – vowels; only the consonants are printed. The vowel signs and diacritical marks when written are above, below and in between the letters are required for reading as well as the correct punctuation, meter and other grammatical modifications to words.


Rabbi Babya ben Asher (a thirteenth century commentator) and the actual writer of the Torah text authorized by Maimonides and used today noted ‘The scroll of the Torah is [written] without vowels, in order to enable man to interpret it however he wishes . . . without vowels man may interpret it [extrapolating from it] several [different] things, many marvelous and sublime.’ The Talmudic Sage Rabbi Ben Bag Bag stated about the Torah ‘Turn it, and turn it for all is in it’ (Pirke Avot, 5:26). From this Jews surmised that the Torah has seventy sides or interpretations. Neither Rabbi believed in relative moral or relative ethical values. They did however believe that exegetical analysis of textual interpretations had to be relative based on our knowledge and our understanding. They understood that attempting to understand God was not like understanding other human beings.


The monotheistic religions believe that a part of God’s soul is embedded in every human being (Gen 1:26). We are all made in God’s image. What does that mean? In a God-like manner we must have the right of choosing God/Life or Evil/Death (Deut. 30:19).


Life is defined as following the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17), the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:3-10) and the Sura (17:22-39) commandments.

If God wanted the world peopled by Angels we would have created Adam and Eve as Angels and not as human beings.


The author has children and raised them in America - the Great Satan that according to bin Laden ‘devours its children’. He and his wife decided what TV programs their children would watch (and it included the National Geographic) and helped them choose their clothing. Despite the materialism of the American society and our daughter’s involvement in the Women’s Liberation movement (which we approved) she chose not to become a ‘whore’ but a Professor at Oxford University. She also chooses not to have a TV in her own home.


We chose LIFE and not DEATH.


Ps: I believe it does matter whom the Americans (I included) choose as their President.


Asia Times On Line – Nov. 1, 2004

What Osama might have told America

By Spengler  – On Halloween Day


Al-Jazeera aired only four minutes of Osama bin Laden's videotape released last week, leaving the media to guess about what the remaining 14 minutes might contain. An anonymous source sent me what purports to be a transcript of the rest of the tape. I cannot  vouch for its authenticity, but it is just what I would have said if I were Osama bin Laden.


Here is what Osama bin Laden supposedly said:


"People of America, it does not matter whom you choose as president. Islam will prevail. We do not have to fight you; we merely have to let you destroy yourselves. The Great Satan is a monster that devours its children.


"Slanderers claim that I represent an authoritarian form of Islam. But what has the freedom of the modern world done to your Christianity? Religion has died in Europe. You have done even worse. Like everything in the Greater America of globalization, you have turned religion into a consumer goods. Americans choose among 139 major brands of Christianity. Your old churches close for lack of worshippers, and you build new churches in shopping malls where religion is sold along with sausages.


"You have made a modern world, and you brand us as relics of a tenebrous past. You say that we are violent, but you have raised your children in a nightmare of violence unlike anything the world has seen before. By the time an American child reaches the age of 18, he will have seen on television 40,000 murders and 200,000 other acts of violence.


"Slanderers in your midst say that Islam oppresses women. Islam protects the modesty of women with purdah and the veil. You turn your women into whores. You cannot turn on your television without hearing a vulgar mention of sex every three minutes.


"Not only do your children incessantly observe violence and sex, but you give them the means to play at it. The most popular computer game for American children, called Grand Theft Auto, encourages the player to buy relations with a prostitute and afterward beat her to death.


"Slanderers in your midst claim that Islam promotes violence against women. Your worship of the flesh provokes women to commit violence against themselves. At American universities, two out of five female students starve themselves or vomit up their food in a perverse attempt to fit the criteria for sexual attractiveness established by your fashion industry.


"Your evil will destroy your seed. It is not merely the fatherless and despised, the poor and outcast, who wither and perish in the contaminated soil of America, but the coddled offspring of your prosperous elites. You have given your young people freedom, but it has only brought them misery. You have depraved them with your false promise of freedoms and left them with nothing but terror of the world, to the point that one in six of your university students suffers a mental illness.


"People of America, your leaders falsely tell you that jihadis love death rather than life. It is true that life to us means more than the material existence on this Earth, but also life everlasting - but did not your prophets tell you the same thing? If we hate life, why do we have more children than you? The population of the Arab world doubled during the 20 years between 1978 and 1998, and between 1998 and 2010 will have grown by yet another third.


"It is you, not us, who foster a culture of death. Where in the Muslim world can you find a form of music such as 'death metal', which revels in the putrefaction of human flesh? Groups with names like Cannibal Corpse have sold scores of millions of records. This, O Americans, is the blessing progress which you propose in your benevolence to bestow upon Muslim youth? It would be better to learn from us how to cut a flute from a reed.


"One candidate tells you that he will enlist foreign allies in your crusade against us. These supposed allies are the ones who love death. In half a century the number of Europeans will fall by 50 million, because the Europeans no longer love life enough to bring new life into this world. Three hundred and twenty years ago a Muslim army stood before the gates of Vienna, and Europe barely escaped conversion to the true faith at swordpoint. During the next half-century Muslims will wander into Europe and replenish the half-empty towns with people, and the sound of children's voices once again will be heard - but in Arabic.


"Because they hate life, your supposed allies are cowards. Half a millennium ago the Spanish empire drove Islam from its territory; this year a few bombs at a railway station panicked the pathetic remnants of Spain into retreat from Iraq. You are fools to count on them. Even the Zionist Bernard Lewis admits that Islam will prevail in Europe before the end of this century.


"People of America, your soldiers are brave but your leaders are fools. You tremble at the loss of a thousand lives in Iraq. Perhaps with another thousand, and a thousand more, you will establish the peace of the cemetery in the cities of the Mesopotamian plain for another month or another year. We do not think in terms of next month, or next year. We look with hope and resolution toward the victory of our children's children, who will dominate Europe. Their children's children will dominate America.


"Abandon the false hope of freedom and submit to Allah. You cannot go back to the traditional life of your forefathers, because the monster of globalization has plowed it under. Not an American in 20 could find his way back to the village of his great-grandfather. You cannot go forward, because your souls are too weak to find a way through the pitfalls of the modern world. Like the Europeans, you too will become weary of life, weary of raising children, weary of your mastery - and the world will belong to us.


"Have a nice day."


WHAT OSAMA DID SAY!

The Full Version of Osama bin Laden's Speech


The following is the full version of Osama bin Laden's speech released on October 29, 2004, as broadcast by Al-Sahab Institute for Media Production, which is known to produce Al-Qaeda's video messages. A link to the video was posted on the Islamist Al-Islah message forum, frequented by Al-Qaeda supporters.


"O American people, I address these words to you regarding the best way of avoiding another Manhattan, and regarding the war, its causes and its consequences. But before this, I say to you: Security is one of the important pillars of human life, and free men do not take their security lightly, contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom. Let him explain why we did not attack Sweden, for example. Clearly, those who hate freedom - unlike the 19, may Allah have mercy on them - have no self-esteem. We have been fighting you because we are free men who do not remain silent in the face of injustice. We want to restore our [Islamic] nation's freedom. Just as you violate our security, we violate yours. Whoever toys with the security of others, deluding himself that he will remain secure, is nothing but a foolish thief. One of the most important things rational people do when calamities occur is to look for their causes so as to avoid them.


"But I am amazed at you. Although we have entered the fourth year after the events of 9/11, Bush is still practicing distortion and deception against you and he is still concealing the true cause from you. Consequentially, the motives for its reoccurrence still exist. I will tell you about the causes underlying these events and I will tell you the truth about the moments this decision was taken, to allow you to reflect.


"I say to you, as Allah is my witness: We had not considered attacking the towers, but things reached the breaking point when we witnessed the iniquity and tyranny of the American-Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon - then I got this idea.


"The events that had a direct influence on me occurred in 1982, and the subsequent events, when the U.S. permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon with the aid of the American sixth fleet. They started shelling, and many were killed and wounded, while others were terrorized into fleeing. I still remember those moving scenes - blood, torn limbs, and dead women and children; ruined homes everywhere, and high-rises being demolished on top of their residents; bombs raining down mercilessly on our homes. It was as though a crocodile swallowed a child, and he could do nothing but cry. But does a crocodile understand any language other than arms? The entire world saw and heard, but did not respond.


"In those critical moments, I was overwhelmed by ideas that are hard to describe, but they awakened a powerful impulse to reject injustice and gave birth to a firm resolve to punish the oppressors. As I was looking at those destroyed towers in Lebanon, I was struck by the idea of punishing the oppressor in the same manner and destroying towers in the U.S., to give it a taste of what we have tasted and to deter it from killing our children and women. That day I became convinced that iniquity and the premeditated murder of innocent children and women is an established American principle, and that terror is [the real meaning of] 'freedom' and 'democracy,' while they call the resistance 'terrorism' and 'reaction.' America stands for iniquity and for imposing sanctions on millions of people, resulting in the death of many, as Bush Sr. did, causing the mass slaughter of children in Iraq, [the worst] that humanity has ever known. It stands for dropping millions of pounds of bombs and explosives on millions of children in Iraq again, as Bush Jr. did, in order to depose an old agent and to appoint a new agent to help him steal Iraq's oil, and other sorts of horrible things.


"It was against the backdrop of these and similar images that 9/11 came in response to these terrible iniquities. Should a man be blamed for protecting his own? And is defending oneself and punishing the wicked an eye for an eye - is that reprehensible terrorism? Even if it is reprehensible terrorism, we have no other choice. This is the message that we have tried to convey to you, in words and in deeds, more than once in the years preceding 9/11. Observe it, if you will, in the interview with Scott in Time Magazine in 1996, and with Peter Arnett on CNN in 1997, then John Wiener [?] in 1998; observe it, if you will, in the deeds of Nairobi and Tanzania and Aden, and observe it in my interview with 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan and in interviews with Robert Fisk. The latter is of your own and of your religious affiliation, and I consider him to be unbiased.


"Would those who claim to stand for freedom in the White House and in the TV stations that answer to them, would they conduct an interview with him [Fisk] so that he might convey to the American people what he has understood from us concerning the causes of our fight against you? For if you were to avoid these causes, you would take America in the right path to the security it knew before 9/11. So much for the war and its causes.


"As for its results, they are very positive, with Allah's grace. They surpassed all expectations by all criteria for many reasons, one of the most important of which is that we had no difficulty dealing with Bush and his administration, because it resembles the regimes in our [Arab] countries, half of which are ruled by the military, and the other half are ruled by the sons of kings and presidents with whom we have had a lot of experience. Among both types, there are many who are known for their conceit, arrogance, greed, and for taking money unrightfully.


"This resemblance began with the visit of Bush Sr. to the region. While some of our people were dazzled by the U.S. and hoped that these visits would influence our countries, it was he who was influenced by these monarchic and military regimes. He envied them for remaining in their positions for decades, while embezzling the nation's public funds with no supervision whatsoever. He bequeathed tyranny and the suppression of liberties to his son and they called it the Patriot Act, under the pretext of war on terrorism.


"Bush Sr. liked the idea of appointing his sons as state [wilaya] governors. Similarly, he did not neglect to import to Florida the expertise in falsifying [elections] from the leaders of this region in order to benefit from it in difficult moments.


"As previously mentioned, it was easy for us to provoke this administration and to drag it [after us]. It was enough for us to send two Jihad fighters to the farthest east to hoist a rag on which 'Al-Qaeda' was written - that was enough to cause generals to rush off to this place, thereby causing America human and financial and political losses, without it accomplishing anything worthy of mention, apart from giving business to [the generals'] private corporations. Besides, we gained experience in guerilla warfare and in conducting a war of attrition in our fight with the iniquitous, great power, that is, when we conducted a war of attrition against Russia with Jihad fighters for 10 years until they went bankrupt, with Allah's grace; as a result, they were forced to withdraw in defeat, all praise and thanks to Allah. We are continuing in the same policy - to make America bleed profusely to the point of bankruptcy, Allah willing. And that is not too difficult for Allah.


"Whoever says that Al-Qaeda triumphed over the White House administration, or that the White House administration lost this war - this is not entirely accurate, for if we look carefully at the results, it is impossible to say that Al-Qaeda is the only cause for these amazing gains. The White House policy, which strove to open war fronts so as to give business to their various corporations - be they in the field of armament, of oil, or of construction - also helped in accomplishing these astonishing achievements for Al-Qaeda. It appeared to some analysts and diplomats as though we and the White House play as one team to score a goal against the United States of America, even though our intentions differ. Such ideas, and some others, were pointed out by a British diplomat in the course of a lecture at the Royal Institute for International Affairs; for example, that Al-Qaeda spent $500,000 on the event [9/11] while America lost in the event and its subsequent effects more than 500 billion dollars; that is to say that each of Al-Qaeda's dollars defeated one million American dollars, thanks to Allah's grace. This is in addition to the fact that America lost a large number of jobs, and as for the [federal] deficit, it lost a record number estimated at a trillion dollars.


"Even more serious for America is the fact that the Jihad fighters have recently forced Bush to resort to an emergency budget in order to continue the fighting in Afghanistan and in Iraq, which proves the success of the plan of bleeding [America] to the point of bankruptcy, Allah willing.


"Indeed, all of this makes it clear that Al-Qaeda won gains; but on the other hand, it also makes it clear that the Bush administration won gains as well, since anyone who looks at the scope of the contracts won by large dubious corporations like Halliburton and other similar ones that have ties to Bush and to his administration will become convinced that the losing side is in fact you, the American people, and your economy.


"We agreed with the general commander Muhammad Atta, may Allah have mercy on him, that all operations should be carried out within 20 minutes, before Bush and his administration would become aware. We never imagined that the Commander in Chief of the American armed forces would abandon 50,000 of his citizens in the twin towers to face this great horror alone when they needed him most. It seemed to him that a girl's story about her goat and its butting was more important than dealing with planes and their 'butting' into skyscrapers. This allowed us three times the amount of time needed for the operations, Allah be praised.


"It should be no secret to you that American thinkers and intellectuals warned Bush before the war: all that you [Bush] need in order to assure America's security by ridding [Iraq] of weapons of mass destruction, assuming there were any, is at your disposal, and all the countries of the world are with you in the matter of carrying out inspections, and the U.S.'s interest does not require you to drive it into an unjustified war, whose end you cannot know.


"However, the blackness of black gold blinded his sight and his perception and he gave preference to private interests over America's public interest. And so there was war and many died. The American economy bled and Bush became embroiled in the quagmire of Iraq, which now threatens his future.


"His case is like that [described in the parable]:


"He is like the ill-tempered goat that dug out of the ground the sharp knife [with which it would be slaughtered].


"I say to you: more than 15,000 of our people were killed and tens of thousands were wounded, just as more than 1,000 of you were killed and more than 10,000 wounded, and Bush's hands are sullied with the blood of all of these casualties on both sides, for the sake of oil and to give business to his private companies. You should know that a nation that punishes a weak person if he is instrumental in killing one of that nation's sons for money, while letting go free a high-class man who was instrumental in killing more than 1,000 of its sons, also for money [sic]. Similarly your allies in Palestine intimidate women and children and murder and imprison men. [inaudible]


"Keep in mind that every action has a reaction, and finally you should consider the last wills and testaments of the thousands who left you on 9/11, waving their hands in despair. These are inspiring wills, which deserve to be published and studied thoroughly. One of the most important things I have read regarding their hand-waving signals before they fell is that they were saying 'We were wrong to let the White House carry out unchecked its aggressive foreign policy against oppressed people.' As though they were telling you, the American people, 'You should call to task those who caused our death.' Happy is he who learns a lesson from the experience of others. A verse that I have read is also relevant to their [last] signals:


"Evil kills those who perpetrate it,


"And the pastures of iniquity are harmful.


"There is a saying: a small amount spent on prevention is better than a great amount spent on treatment. You should know that it is better to return to that which is right than to persist in that which is wrong. A rational man would not neglect his security, property, or home for the sake of the liar in the White House.


"Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al-Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands, and any [U.S.] state [wilaya] that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security.


"Allah is our guardian but you have none.


"Peace be upon whoever follows the true guidance."