In recent months, a legion of commentators on Islam have emphasized that true Islam has nothing to do with the killing of innocent people. Despite the apparent religious motives of the September 11 suicide bombers, President Bush and others have stressed that “Islam means peace.” But other commentators have responded that Islam is a militant faith, which at times requires its adherents to make war on non-Muslims.
Pertinent to this discussion is a 1998 statement called the “Declaration on Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders,” produced by Osama bin Laden and several other militant leaders who styled themselves the World Islamic Front. This declaration is worth scrutinizing for anyone wishing to understand the reasoning and motives of those responsible for the September 11 attacks and others influenced by their ideas—for how it both uses and departs from traditional Islamic teaching. (An excerpt from the declaration appears on p. 28.)