In an in-depth field report from Nazareth, Ha'aretz journalist Daniel Ben Simon presents an account of the radicalization of theIslamic movement in Israel. Members of the movement talked to him about their reactions to the September 11 attack and theU.S.-planned war against terrorism. At a later point in the article, Sheikh Nazim Abu Salim, the Imam of the downtown NazarethMosque, predicts that Muslims around the world will rise up in their countries, cities, and villages, depose their leaders, and establishIslamic rule. Following are excerpts from Ben Simon's report:
"…Haj Sa'id… has begun to delve deeply into religion in recent years, and has even fulfilled the religious obligation of pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca four times… he wonders what the Americans think the point is in taking revenge on a country where it is already difficult to find a single building intact."
"Haj Sa'id finds it hard to suppress his fury: 'As much as America suffered in Vietnam, it will be even worse in Afghanistan,' he said vengefully. 'Those people live in caves, they have no food and they don't care whether they live or die. Those people believe in Allah more than anyone in the world because they go by the Koran. You Westerners don't understand anything. Those people want to be shahids (martyrs), and even if they are faced by a tank or an airplane, they are stronger because there's nothing in the world stronger than a shahid who is not afraid to die…'"
"Haj Sa'id: 'There are many ethnic groups in the United States, right? Why did they put [the blame] only on the Muslims? What, aren't there Japanese? No Chinese? No Blacks? No Jews? Tell me, aren't there any Jews?' The moment Jews were mentioned, the group lit up as one. They nodded fervently as if they had revealed a deep secret they had kept inside. 'Why haven't they blamed it on the Jews?' asked Zou'bi. 'I'll tell you why. Four thousand Jews didn't go to work that day, and do you think this was a coincidence? The Jews want the Americans to do the killing for you because you want them to be your stick against the Muslims.' One man could not contain his anger: 'Bush and Hitler are the same thing. You can write what I'm telling you but don't mention my name…'"
"At that moment, the young Sheikh, who is the Imam of the Shihab Al-Din Mosque, arrived… The worshipers hastened into the large prayer tent that is the center of a controversy and, in the past, threatened to shred the delicate fabric of relations between Christians and Muslims in the city. Last year, things calmed down after the Muslims were given the necessary permits to begin to build their mosque. In the building plans they submitted, they took care to see to it that the minarets would rise taller than the cross on the Church of the Annunciation that stands only a few meters away from the site where the mosque is to go up. In this strange competition for height between the symbols of the two religions, the cross won. The Muslims say that this is only a temporary victory."
"When prayers were over, a few of the worshipers gathered again to discuss the international crisis that broke out after the terror attacks on the U.S. Jamal Shhadah disagreed with his friends' analysis that the Jews were behind the attacks. In fluent Hebrew, he enumerated the many enemies of the U.S. spread around the world. He revealed to his friends that the Japanese have never forgiven America for the bombs they dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Indians have never forgiven the U.S. for the price they paid with the appearance of the white settlers. 'Furthermore,' he added in the same confident tone, 'the Americans take the good things from many countries and leave them only the garbage. Even within America itself there are groups that want to topple the regime because they know that it is in the hands of Jews.'"
The Day Islam Will Rule
"…A young man with great influence in the city, Sheikh Nazim Abu Salim is considered a charismatic 'Imam' whose Friday sermons draw thousands. Last Friday, it was expected that he would make a statement concerning the anniversary of the October events of last year [in which 13 Arab-Israelis were killed during riots], which falls on this coming Monday. The Sheikh thought otherwise and chose to address his remarks to what he described as the great crime against Islam which the Americans are orchestrating…"
"…He informed the congregation that Bush was about to embark on a crusade throughout the world against Muslims who live according to the Shari'ah (Islamic law). At the beginning of the week, Abu Salim came to the conclusion that the world is facing a situation that will divide people into two camps: 'A camp that wants Islam, and a camp that doesn't.' 'I agree,' he said, 'it is a war between the good and the bad, but who are the good and who are the bad? The good are those who seek justice and mercy, the believers in Islam.'"
"Sheikh Nazim is certain that the day is near when Islam will defeat its opponents. According to him, there is no point to the life of anyone who will not convert to Islam. 'What is Islam?' demanded the young cleric, who completed studies for a bachelor's degree in biochemistry at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. 'Islam is the greatest gift that Allah has given to man. The Prophet Mohammed came into the world to complete the work of Moses and Jesus Christ, and in fact his coming into the world presaged the end of the role of the other religions. Therefore, I say that anyone who doesn't get on the train of Islam is finished, and anyone who wants to be secure in his life, and also after his death, must convert to Islam. In the end there will be only one religion left in the world – Islam. The whole world knows this.'"
"This is also how the Sheikh explained to his congregation the Americans' attempt to hurt Afghanistan. In particular, he expressed a fear that before Islam succeeds and conquers the world, the Americans and the Israelis will do all they can to spoil the celebration… the Sheikh has another belief: before Islam spreads its wings over the earth, the Muslims will rise up in their own countries, cities and villages and depose their corrupt leaders who behave as if they were puppets in a theater. The cleric is convinced that the Arab leaders are fated to scatter to the four winds like the dust of the desert. 'A bunch of fawning flatterers,' he described them scornfully, 'cowardly kings, princes, and prime ministers who act like slaves of the American overlord. These leaders are the whip of the Americans and the British and they know that their time has come. The day will come, and soon, when the Arab puppet governments will vanish along with the darkness. The Muslim peoples are about to win the glory they have been awaiting thanks to the war in Afghanistan…'"