National NOW Times >> Summer 2002 >> Article
Domestic and International Terrorists Have Religious Extremism in Common
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an
organized group against people or property with the intention of
intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
by Michele Keller, Web Editor
We used to believe that increases in hate crimes and terrorist acts were tied to economic hardship. For example, in 1940, psychologists Carl Hovland and Robert Sears published a well-known study linking lynchings in the South to low cotton prices.
Both justify violent, extremist acts in the name of religion.
A recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, however, shows that religious extremism and hard-line theocratic thinking the idea that government and the legal system must be structured along religious lines is the major root of both domestic and international hate groups.
We've long known that intolerance is not isolated to any one region of the world, but it is now clear that the terrorists who committed thousands of acts of violence against abortion providers in the United States over the years are cut from the same cloth of religious extremism as those who bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and attacked New York and Washington, D.C., in 2001.
After Sept. 11, fugitive anti-abortion fanatic Clayton Lee Waagner of the Army of God claimed responsibility for sending anthrax threats to more than 100 abortion providers, then shared space on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list with the fugitive Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. There are a number of similarities between the two camps:
Clayton Lee Waagner said that God told him to kill abortion doctors and clinic employees and that he would use anthrax if he had access to it. After Sept. 11, Osama bin Laden was videotaped saying the mass destruction at the World Trade Center "benefitted Islam greatly."
Both interpret religious texts to justify the oppression of women.
Anti-abortion terrorist groups in the U.S. believe the Bible says women should not have the freedom to control their reproduction, and that the rights of a fetus come before the rights of a woman. Under the fundamentalist Taliban regime, women were not allowed to work, attend school or show their faces, and they were beaten or killed for perceived violations. Mohammed Atta, who is believed to have piloted the first plane that struck the World Trade Center, left behind a will saying that he did not ever want women to visit his grave.
Both operate with a complex underground network of extremists.
Domestic anti-abortion extremist networks operate in cells that use force and violence to wage war against abortion providers, from firebombs to acid attacks to murder of doctors and staff. Al-Qaeda, the multi-national Islamic terrorist network suspected of the Sept. 11 attacks, is also comprised of cells of militants who use force and violence to wage war against non-Islamic governments. Both have supporters that may be innocent of actual crimes, but who provide terrorists with funds and safe harbor. And both have leaders who, while keeping the blood off of their own hands, inspire martyrs to take the lives of others and risk their own for "God's will."
Both provide methodical instructions to volunteers.
An Army of God manual with detailed guidelines for committing arson, bombing, even murder in the name of the anti-abortion cause was found buried in the backyard of Rachelle Shannon, who was convicted of shooting abortion provider Dr. George Tiller twice at close range in 1993. Likewise, a set of detailed, step-by-step instructions was found in the belongings of the hijackers of the airliners that crashed on Sept. 11, explaining exactly how to carry out the attacks and telling the hijackers to "slaughter" if necessary in the name of the cause.
Both oppose the laws and democracy of the United States.
Clayton Lee Waagner has said he envisions himself as God's representative, standing up to the laws of "the most powerful country in the world." Osama bin Laden advocates the destruction of the United States, which he sees as the chief obstacle to reform in Muslim societies, and issued a "Declaration of War" against the U.S. in 1996.
No more than 48 hours after the initial attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, there was yet another indication of how religious fundamentalism is the same across international borders. Jerry Falwell said on the "700 Club" television show, "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians … I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'."
Both aim to create a climate of fear.
Terrorism creates just such a climate of fear, and it forces the targets to change their behavior. Abortion providers have long lived with the knowledge that they could be attacked at any time. They've donned bulletproof vests, screened the mail for biological threats, hired armed security guards and added metal detectors, motion sensors, alarm systems, closed-circuit cameras and bulletproof glass to their clinics. After Sept. 11, everyone in the U.S. experienced this fear, and began to grow accustomed to extra surveillance at the airport, screening mail for Anthrax and watching TV for the latest threat.
As long as such extremism and hatred is allowed to flourish anywhere in the world, not a single one of us can feel safe—not at a women's clinic, at the airport, or even at our own mailboxes. And that is the intent of terrorists and their supporters, both at home and abroad.