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Zealotry Breeds Zealotry

Paul Siegel

Saudi Arabia believes in jihad. When Saudis see Al Qaeda kill hated Americans they celebrate because evil infidels have been destroyed. But when Al Qaeda bombed a police headquarters in Ryadh, Saudi Arabia, the Saudis could not understand how jihadists could kill fellow Muslims who are good and not evil. The zealots of Saudi Arabia have produced the zealots of Al Qaeda. And if Americans are not careful, they can produce American zealots to intensify the fire of hatred.

The mosques of Saudi Arabia are filled with the rhetoric of hatred for and violence against the U.S. U.S. represents Satan to the Saudis. Most Saudis feel great when Al Qaeda attacks Americans. They think this is OK. But it makes no sense for Al Qaeda to attack Saudis. So Khaled Batarfi, a childhood friend of Osama bin Laden, says:

"This is not against invading armies like Afghanistan or Iraq. This is against a legitimate system, against civilians and traffic officers. We don't see this as jihad. We have the ability to differentiate between what's jihad and what's not."

Another Saudi, Abdelaziz Raikhan, who works as a maintenance man for Saudi security forces, says:

"There's not one American in this entire area. Not one! What kind of jihad is this?"

So, the Saudis, who have radically refashioned jihad from a force for spiritual improvement to an instrument of hatred, were happy when the new jihad was used against Americans. They called themselves good because they believed in the Koran. They decided that those who did not believe in the Koran - especially Americans - were evil. The new distorted jihad was used to eradicate the evil Americans.

But to Osama bin Laden, Saudi Arabia is still evil. He is good and those who do not believe in his type of Islam, are evil. To the zealot called Osama bin Laden, Saudis are not true Muslims, Saudi Arabia is evil and must be destroyed.

Zealotry leads to zealotry. Dividing the world into good people and evil people leads to more zealotry.

Good/evil zealotry leads to hatred. Hatred leads to more hatred. Hatred leads to terrorism.

Zealotry and terrorism are close companions. And yet, President George W. Bush is fighting the "war on terror" as a zealot. Like Osama bin Laden and his Saudi enemies, Bush insists that he is engaged in a fight of good against evil. He and the rest of us Americans are pure goodness. Al Qaeda members are pure evil. They must be destroyed. Like the Saudi zealots, Bush "knows" he is right and has no doubts about his course of action. Like the Saudi zealots, Bush is following the wish of God.

All forms of zealotry breed hatred and thus, terrorism. To get rid of terrorism we must get to understand that all of us on earth are both good and evil. We must replace zealotry with empathy, hatred with love, and terrorism with helpfulness.

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