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ABUSING ISLAM
by Amir Taheri
New York Post
February 6, 2004

February 6, 2004 -- CONSIDER the case of Abdul Qadeer Khan, known to his compatriots as AQK — the physicist regarded as the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb.

Some Pakistanis consider him a second father of the nation (after Muhammad Ali Jinah, who led Indian Muslims into secession at the end of British colonial rule).

Until recently, AQK was worshiped as almost a saint by quite a few Pakistanis. Last month, however, he was arrested and charged with the illegal transfer of Pakistani nuclear technology and materiel to Iran, Libya and North Korea. This week, he made a televised confession, admitting the charge and taking sole responsibility. The confession came after a tete-à-tete with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

AQK and Musharraf want the matter wrapped up quickly. But this won't be easy.

If AQK acted without official authorization, he broke Pakistan's national-security laws and could be charged with espionage and high treason. But if he was ordered to sell nuclear technology and materiel to Iran, Libya and North Korea, then successive Pakistani governments would be implicated.

Long known as an ardent Islamist, AQK claims he was only trying to help brotherly Muslim nations acquire nuclear weapons to defend themselves against "the Zionist entity," meaning Israel.

That claim is hard to sustain.

To start with, North Korea, which does not have a single Muslim citizen, can hardly be regarded as a "brotherly Islamic nation." As for Iran and Libya, although their leaders have spoken of their desire to "wipe Israel off the map," there is no indication that their peoples share that obsession.

"There was never ever any kind of authorization for these activities by the government. I take full responsibility for my actions," AQK said on TV. But he is almost certainly being made the fall guy for policies pursued by successive Pakistani governments. His program was supervised by Pakistan's military intelligence agency, the ISI, from the start. It is unthinkable that he could have passed nuclear secrets to foreign powers for years without the ISI knowing.

What is alarming, however, is the reaction of many Pakistanis. AQK has received thousands of emails and letters telling him that, regardless of what the law might say, they approve of what he did. Pakistani media are full of op-ed pieces and editorials praising his devotion to Islam and claiming he was "doing his duty as a Muslim" by helping other Muslim states acquire weapons available to "Jews and Crusaders."

This is a scandalous claim.

A Muslim's duty is to believe in the oneness of God, Muhammad's prophecy and the Day of Judgment. A Muslim is also required to pray every day, fast in Ramadan and live a life of good deeds and decency. Helping others make atomic bombs is certainly not part of those duties.

Efforts to explain away AQK's behavior highlights the moral bankruptcy of the Islamist philosophy. That philosophy divides humanity into Muslim and non-Muslims. It then transforms Muslims into a tribe whose members must remain loyal to it and to one another regardless of moral imperatives common to humanity.

Such an approach abolishes ethics, leaving us not with such concepts as good and evil but "Muslim" and "non-Muslim." It also abolishes politics.

Thus nuclear proliferation, a political issue, is transformed into a theological one. One need not bother about whether the people of Iran want the bomb. What is important is that Iran's Islamist regime must have it to use against real or imagined enemies.

Nor need one worry about the morality of selling nuclear technology to Libya, a country headed by an unstable megalomaniac. Nor about the fact that Libya has been unable to repair the elevators in its only luxury hotel for the past two years. (The only elevator repairman in the country is an Egyptian named Hazim Jawad.)

Having reduced religion to a political ideology, the Islamist has no qualms about considering North Korea's militantly atheist regime as an honorary Muslim state.

All that North Korea, Iran and Libya (at least until recently) have in common is a pathological hatred of the United States. And that echoes the late Ayatollah Khomeini's claim that today it is "impossible to be a Muslim without hating America."

Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy now says he no longer hates America and welcomes U.S. investment and trade. Would that transform Libya into a non-Muslim nation? The Iranian mullahs hate America because it prevents them from exporting their revolution to the whole of the Middle East, annexing the Shi'ite holy shrines of Iraq and wiping Israel off the map.

The North Koreans? They hate the U.S. because it does not let them invade South Korea and turn it into a Stalinist concentration camp.

The message of the Islamist is stark: No matter how faithfully you perform your religious duties, you cannot be regarded as a "good Muslim" unless you hate America and help its enemies.

This is a recipe for religious and moral chaos. Under it, any individual could decide what action is "Islamic" and what is not. The logic used to justify the transfer of nuclear technology and materiel to Iran, Libya and North Korea would also justify giving it to al Qaeda and the terrorists operating in Iraq.

It would also justify giving nuclear weapons to Pakistani terrorist groups that want to seize power because they claim that Musharraf, and AQK for that matter, are not "Islamic" enough.

A political case could be made for Pakistan having nuclear weapons. There could also be a political explanation why Pakistan sold nuclear technology. Muslims might need to have nuclear bombs like anybody else. But these are political issues on which people may agree or disagree. To turn them into religious issues is an act of betrayal not only of politics and common sense but of Islam.

The claim that AQK should be let loose because he did his "Islamic duty" must be rejected by Muslims. A political scandal must not be covered up as an act of Islamic piety.

E-mail: amirtaheri@benadorassociates.com

 

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