An Interview with Professor Daniel Chirot About Islam

Fact & Fiction

Ms. Brynn is an intern with HNN.

In an effort to understand what is happening in the Islamic world, HNN is interviewing scholars in Islamic stuidies. Daniel Chirot is professor of international relations at the University of Washington.

What do Osama bin Laden and other Islamic extremists want? What should we know about them?

Professor Chirot makes the point that we call those responsible for the attacks Fundamentalists,"but we should also call them puritans." Like American Puritans of old, the Islamic extremists believe that the modern world is dangerously corrupt. They warn that God is going to punish the corrupt for their sins just as He did in Biblical times.

Mr. Chirot says that"these radical Muslims have a goal, and that is to drive America and the West out of the Muslim world so they can purify Islam and bring back what they consider to be pure genuine forms of Islam that follow the original commands of the Koran." He emphasizes that these groups view the United States as a source of the pollution that is causing the dissolution of Muslim values. In particular, the extremists finger the American media, Hollywood included, for allegedly spreading corrupt values around the world. Professor Chirot says that Islamic extremists believe the United States"supports corrupt governments in the Middle East, imports corrupt ways, and brings in all sorts of disgusting products." Additionally, he says,"the people who conducted this operation on September 11 believe that if they purify Islam and go back to the original Koran, they can restore the grandeur" that they once possessed.

Do the extremists really think they can defeat the United States?

Professor Chirot insists that Osama bin Laden and other extremists consider the United States not only corrupt but cowardly. They drew this conclusion on the basis of recent events.

ITEMWhen the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, six people were killed and thousands more injured; only a few people were arrested by the Clinton administration in connection with the attacks.

ITEMWhen the two U.S. embassies were blown up in Africa, 213 people were killed; the Clinton administration launched a few missiles in response.

ITEMDuring the Somalia conflict, eighteen Americans were killed and one of their bodies was dragged through the streets amidst celebratory activities; President Clinton pulled the troops out of Somalia.

ITEMWhen the USS Cole was destroyed, seventeen American lives were lost; there was no response by America.

The conclusion the extremists reached was that"if they hurt us enough, we will just get out of the Middle East, get out of the Islamic World, and let them conduct their puritan revolutions."

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Ronald Dale Karr - 2/4/2002

"Professor Chirot insists that Osama bin Laden and other extremists consider the United States not only corrupt but cowardly. They drew this conclusion on the basis of recent events." Chirot lists Clinton's "weak" responses to terrorist acts as being responsible for Bin Laden's belief in U.S. cowardness.

Or are the other reasons why Bin Laden might regard the U.S. as cowardly? Could he view our bombing of Libya, Sudan, Iraq, and
Yugoslavia, nations that could neither defend themselves nor retaliate, as acts of a coward? Our recent Afgahistan adventure resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Aghanis but only a handful of Americans. Might not misguided Islamic fanatics regard even this glorious triumph of God-blessed American righteousness over evil as cowardly?