To the Editor:
Martin Kramer’s contention [“The Jihad Against the Jews,” October 1994] that the greatest threat to Jews today comes from Islamic fundamentalists is well-argued and persuasive. His call on Western governments to stem the influx of Islamic fundamentalists is equally well-taken. Yet how, I wonder, could the U.S. government actually go about this?
On a practical level, the prospect of screening would-be immigrants from the entire Muslim world and successfully filtering out the fundamentalists seems remote, to put it mildly.
On a constitutional level, I am not at all certain that extreme piety and devotion to their religion constitute sufficient cause for denying Muslims entry to the United States. And if it is argued that fundamentalists are closely linked to murder and terror—well (the New York Times will surely ask) shall we prevent Orthodox Jews from entering our country because of what Baruch Goldstein did in Hebron?
I conclude, therefore, in agreeing with Mr. Kramer that something urgently needs to be done, yet doubting whether anything effective can be done.
Silver Spring, Maryland
To the Editor:
It has long troubled me that the reasons given by terrorists for their actions are usually accepted at face value. . . . Actually, both psychology and history tell us that, generally, this is simply not so. . . . Killers, especially those whose acts are premeditated, kill because they want to and, on some important level, because they enjoy doing it. Unless there is proof to the contrary, comparing a murder to a war, a jihad, or anything else is, at best, a rationalization. In most acts of terrorism, there is no such proof.
No useful purpose is served by studying . . . Islam to understand the Buenos Ares bombers. Such a study, by the very fact of its being made, can only help legitimize the murderers, in whole or in part. . . .
Stephen E. Adler
New York City
Martin Kramer writes:
Jaine Shattan underestimates the means available to the U.S. government to protect its citizenry. U.S. agencies do collect information on fundamentalists who have threatened U.S. interests. The problem is that this information is not always available at the point on the globe where visa decisions are made. The government’s own report on how visas were issued to Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, alleged mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, is a study in bureaucratic ineptitude. Since then, procedures have been tightened. While filtering is not foolproof, an open door is an open invitation to dangerous people whom no other country would admit, and some of whose faces we now have seen in Steven Emerson’s compelling TV documentary, Jihad in America.
The purpose of such a filtering is not to bar people of piety, Muslim or Jewish. But if “extreme piety” takes the form of sanctifying political violence or threatening the U.S., evidence to that effect should be sufficient to exclude foreign fundamentalists from entry. Such evidence exists in abundance, certainly for the best-known activists of many movements. Where it is absent, information often can be supplied by Middle Eastern governments. It is not only practical to bring all this information to bear on visa decisions; it is essential if America is to enjoy an immunity from fundamentalist violence.
Stephen E. Adler’s suggestion that my article “can only help legitimize the murderers” in Buenos Aires is a misreading, to say the least. His claim that such killing is pathological—done to satisfy some homicidal craving—exonerates the killers of any responsibility, on the grounds of insanity. But Buenos Aires was not the act of psychopaths in need of treatment. It was a calculated and cynical attempt to punish Israel by killing Jews. The ideology behind the choice of a Jewish target—a virulent anti-Semitism, imported into Islam—is far more dangerous than any individual psychosis.
There are governments which are soft on terror, and which would like us to believe, like Mr. Adler, that such killing is senseless. After all, no government can be expected to anticipate or deter acts of madness. But governments are perfectly capable of combating and deterring political violence, which the Buenos Aires bombing most certainly was. If terrorists are not held fully accountable for their actions, and governments for their inaction, then truly the victims will have died in vain—and their number will surely multiply.