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Ritual-washing area for Muslims at public college may be only the beginning...

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Ritual-washing area for Muslims at public college may be only the beginning...

Old 04-16-07, 10:24 AM
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Ritual-washing area for Muslims at public college may be only the beginning...

http://www.startribune.com/191/story/1122449.html


By Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune

Last week, I wrote about Minneapolis Community and Technical College, which is planning to install facilities to help Muslim students perform ritual washing before daily prayers. It's a simple matter of extending "hospitality" to newcomers, says President Phil Davis -- no different than providing a fish option in the college cafeteria for Christian students during Lent.
MCTC is apparently the first public institution in Minnesota to enter this unfamiliar territory. Where is it looking for guidance?

Dianna Cusick, MCTC's director of legal affairs, is overseeing the project. She referred me to the Muslim Accommodations Task Force, whose website she is using as a primary resource (www.startribune.com/2617). "They've done all the research," she said.

On the site, I found information about the handful of public colleges that have "wudu," or ritual bathing, facilities.

But I also discovered something more important for colleges seeking guidance on "accommodations": Projects like MCTC's are likely to be the first step in a long process.

The task force's eventual objectives on American campuses include the following, according to the website: permanent Muslim prayer spaces, ritual washing facilities, separate food and housing for Muslim students, separate hours at athletic facilities for Muslim women, paid imams or religious counselors, and campus observance of Muslim holidays. The task force is already hailing "pioneering" successes. At Syracuse University in New York, for example, "Eid al Fitr is now an official university holiday," says an article featured on the website. "The entire university campus shuts down to mark the end of Ramadan." At Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., "halal" food -- ritually slaughtered and permissible under Islamic law -- is marked by green stickers in the cafeteria and "staff are well-trained in handling practices."

At Georgetown University, Muslim women can live apart in housing that enables them to "sleep in an Islamic setting," as the website puts it. According to a student at the time the policy was adopted, the university housing office initially opposed the idea, on grounds that all freshman should have the experience of "living in dorms and dealing with different kinds of people." That might sound appealing, Muslim students told a reporter in an article featured on the website. But in their view, the reporter wrote, "learning to live with 'different kinds of people' " actually "causes more harm than good" for Muslims, because it requires them to live in an environment that "distracts them from their desire to become better Muslims, and even draw[s] weaker Muslims away from Islam."

The task force isn't operated by overly enthusiastic college students. Its professional staff, based in the Washington, D.C., area, includes coordinators who provide legal advice, teach students to lobby, write letters on their behalf, and help them overcome "obstacles" such as college administrators' concerns about violating the separation of church and state.

The Muslim Accommodations Task Force is a project of the Muslim Student Association of the U.S. and Canada. MSA's mission is to enable Muslims here "to practice Islam as a complete way of life," and its "main goal" is "spreading Islam," according to its website. The association calls itself the "landmark Muslim organization in North America," and says it has chapters on 600 campuses.

On MSA's website (www.msa-national.org), the sort of inclusive language used by the Muslim Accommodations Task Force gives way to hard-hitting advice for insiders. One downloadable publication --"Your Chapter's Guide to Campus Activism" -- describes how activists can advance political positions such as "restoring justice within the Palestinian territories," and opposition to the Patriot Act and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The cover features a student with a megaphone, and the slogan "Speak Out! Stand Up! Say It Loud!"

MSA views itself as America's moral and political vanguard. "As Muslims, we are a nation elected by God to lead humanity," the guide announces. On campus, that means initiating "mass mobilization" through "direct action campaigns" à la the 1960s, when students were "itching to fight" for change.

The guide explains how Muslim student groups can obtain funding, identify coalition partners and "bodies of power" on campus, work within student government, and use the media. "Marches, rallies and protests on campus" can "generate massive amounts of exposure for your MSA and its cause," it advises.

In all these endeavors, however, establishing credibility is vital to success, the guide emphasizes. Activists must "take full advantage of the open-minded environment" on campus, and skillfully employ the language of patriotism and rights. "[M]obilization commences the moment you speak in a language that resonates with your audience," the guide adds.

Thus, activists should take care to position themselves as mainstream Americans. "Make use of terminology like 'our country,' 'our security,' and 'we, the American people,' " the guide suggests. "Unless you identify with the people, you will never gain the legitimacy to criticize state policies," though "identifying yourself as an American" will not necessarily preclude criticism.

Activists should also frame their objectives in language that Americans embrace. "Most Americans identify with concepts such as 'justice,' 'self-determination,' 'human rights' and 'democracy,' " the guide explains. "These terms will be constructive when delivering your message, regardless of the issue."

For example, if you want to bring a speaker to campus to discuss the importance of hijab (Muslim women's headwear or covering), you will be "more effective" if you broaden the topic to "women's rights." Is this where MCTC is headed? Or is nothing more dramatic going on there than fish on Friday?


Katherine Kersten • [email protected] tribune.com
What do you guys think? Is this the same as fish on Fridays?
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Old 04-16-07, 10:26 AM
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don't a lot of colleges have chapels?

and a lot of muslims i knew in the army could outdrink the non-muslims any day
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Old 04-16-07, 10:27 AM
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What's next, a "science classroom" to cater to Atheist students?
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Old 04-16-07, 10:54 AM
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Old 04-16-07, 10:57 AM
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The washing area, I'm OK with, as I am with the halal food. Likewise if there were a significant Jewish population, I would expect the school cafetaria to provide kosher options.

The separate dorm at Georgetown seems inappropriate.
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Old 04-16-07, 10:58 AM
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Oh noes the Musselmen are coming!

How is this any different from campus chapels or dining hall kosher meal options?
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Old 04-16-07, 11:03 AM
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"Ritual-washing area" - didn't they already have them? Otherwise known as BATHROOMS?
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Old 04-16-07, 11:07 AM
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and NYC is looking at opening a middle eastern themed school

the world as we know it is ending

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20070416/D8OHJIK80.html

NEW YORK (AP) - This city has dozens of small public schools that focus on themes - sports careers, the arts and social justice. Few generate controversy.

Then, someone decided to start a Middle Eastern-themed school.

"Jihadi,""public madrassa," and "segregationist" are some of the labels tossed at the plan. Conservative Web sites have ranted against the idea, as have some members of the public. Even concerns about finding space for the school have been coupled with questions about security.

All this before the school has enrolled a single student.

(AP) Debbie Almontaser, principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, speaks during an...
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"It's hard not to believe that this is in some way a political statement," said one opponent, 72-year-old Lorna Salzman. "I think it can very easily deteriorate into something that people could see as confrontational."

Debbie Almontaser expected the reaction. The New York City teacher, a Muslim of Yemeni background, will lead the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which is expected to open in the fall. She has done extensive interfaith and cultural work to fight stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims since Sept. 11.

If anything, she says, the school is needed more than ever.

"It is a school that is going to be working quite hard in building bridges of understanding, tolerance and acceptance, valuing diversity and truly just developing students into global citizens," she said.

The school, which is named after the famed Lebanese-American Christian poet who promoted peace, would be one of a few nationwide that incorporate the Arabic language and Islamic culture. Almontaser and city Department of Education officials say the curriculum will be in line with basics required from public schools while integrating elements of its theme.

For instance, the role of Arabs in developing algebra would be explored in math. In history, students may study Egypt's extraordinary past. And Arabic will be offered as a second language. The goal is to eventually teach half of the classes in Arabic.

Plans are to open this September with a 6th grade and gradually expand into a middle school and high school. About half the students are expected to be of Arab heritage, though the school will have open admission.

New York already has schools specializing in Asian culture and Chinese language, and is opening one that centers on Latin American culture. When the education department revealed plans for the Middle Eastern school earlier this year, the reaction was fierce on right-wing Web sites.

Daniel Pipes, a conservative commentator who frequently rails against militant Islam, wrote on his blog: "In principle it is a great idea - the United States needs more Arabic-speakers. In practice, however, Arabic instruction is heavy with Islamist and Arabist overtones and demands."

Critics questions whether the school can separate religion from Arab culture and language in its teaching.

"Being that we are a public school, we certainly are not going to be teaching religion," said Almontaser, 39. "Islam does not have a culture. Islam is a religion."

She said the school won't shy away from sensitive topics such as colonialism and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

"Teachers are going to be expected to provide students with multiple perspectives on whatever the issue is," Almontaser said. "Students will, through the critical-thinking skills that they will develop, make informed decisions on the perspective that they want to believe."

Almontaser said she has heard interest from parents of all backgrounds, and stresses that a multi-ethnic, multi-religious group of people played a role in the devising the school. She expects to easily fill 81 slots this year - if the academy finds a place to teach the students.

The education department has proposed that the school share the Public School 282 building in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood for the first three years. Parents of students at PS 282, an elementary school, say squeezing another school inside the building would hurt resources available to their children.

Some have noted that the school has generated ideological controversy, and have questioned if that could mean a security risk. And some say they don't want older students sharing a building with their young children.

Almontaser said she hopes the space issue will be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. And she has a suggestion for those who persist in questioning her school's existence: "Come visit us."
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Old 04-16-07, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
don't a lot of colleges have chapels?
Probably we should just concern ourselves with "public" universities. I don't remember Washington State or Central Washington having one, but I don't think I ever looked.

Obviously a private university should be able to do whatever they want in this regard.

The biggest problem I see with this is a social one. It helps foster the idea that we are not all one nation. Obviously we aren't, but this only furthers the distrust, etc. I talking mainly about the seperate living quarters, seperate times to use the gym for women, etc.

But for as much as we as a nation have tried to gain equality for women, we still don't seem to have a problem with the way Islam treats them, and now we look to help them some.
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Old 04-16-07, 11:44 AM
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Serious response: it seems like the best solution for Muslim groups is to build a privately funded housing area for themselves off campus.
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Old 04-16-07, 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
The washing area, I'm OK with, as I am with the halal food. Likewise if there were a significant Jewish population, I would expect the school cafetaria to provide kosher options.
The separate dorm at Georgetown seems inappropriate.
Why? My public school had dorms specifically for Orthadox Jews to enable them to have a kosher kitchen. They used non-high rises so that they didn't have to use elevators on Saturdays. How is that appreciably different?

Also, Georgetown is a private institution and should be able to do whatever it wishes with regards to dormatories.
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Old 04-16-07, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Duran
Why? My public school had dorms specifically for Orthadox Jews to enable them to have a kosher kitchen. They used non-high rises so that they didn't have to use elevators on Saturdays. How is that appreciably different?
It probably isn't. But I don't think a public university should do that either.
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Old 04-16-07, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Probably we should just concern ourselves with "public" universities. I don't remember Washington State or Central Washington having one, but I don't think I ever looked.

Obviously a private university should be able to do whatever they want in this regard.

The biggest problem I see with this is a social one. It helps foster the idea that we are not all one nation. Obviously we aren't, but this only furthers the distrust, etc. I talking mainly about the seperate living quarters, seperate times to use the gym for women, etc.

But for as much as we as a nation have tried to gain equality for women, we still don't seem to have a problem with the way Islam treats them, and now we look to help them some.

the whole Islam women thing is regional depending on where they are from. i've seen muslim women fully covered and those that walk around dressed like everyone else and the middle ground being a scarf around their head to cover their hair. ironically the most women unfriendly are those areas where Christianity and Judaism started. most of the customs dealing with women are also the same around the middle east even among jews and christians


http://naples.cc.stonybrook.edu/OSA/interfaith.nsf

SUNY seems to have one

Last edited by al_bundy; 04-16-07 at 12:14 PM.
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Old 04-16-07, 12:42 PM
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Why not just install low sinks for this, and not say it is for a particular group/purpose.
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Old 04-16-07, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Duran
Why? My public school had dorms specifically for Orthadox Jews to enable them to have a kosher kitchen. They used non-high rises so that they didn't have to use elevators on Saturdays. How is that appreciably different?

Also, Georgetown is a private institution and should be able to do whatever it wishes with regards to dormatories.
I do agree that Georgetown can legally do what it wants -- I was just talking about what seems like a good idea to me.

I think the separate dorm is a bad idea because the justification given by the students in the article was not "Our religious practices require us to do or not do certain things that would be impossible in the regular dorms." It was simply "We want to hold ourselves separate from the corrupting influences of the general student body."
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Old 04-16-07, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
I do agree that Georgetown can legally do what it wants -- I was just talking about what seems like a good idea to me.

I think the separate dorm is a bad idea because the justification given by the students in the article was not "Our religious practices require us to do or not do certain things that would be impossible in the regular dorms." It was simply "We want to hold ourselves separate from the corrupting influences of the general student body."
They think it's impossible for them to maintain their religious purity in the regular dorms. Six of one, half dozen of the other to me.

I don't necessarily approve, but if that's the environment Georgetown wants to have, so be it.
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Old 04-16-07, 02:09 PM
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You know, Special Kosher kitchen dorms, special wash areas, fish fridays...I'm starting to see why people think Religions are a big pain the ass. Particularly the 3 "Major" Religions with all their special needs.


...I'm just sayin'
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Old 04-16-07, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Giantrobo
You know, Special Kosher kitchen dorms, special wash areas, fish fridays...I'm starting to see why people think Religions are a big pain the ass. Particularly the 3 "Major" Religions with all their special needs.


...I'm just sayin'
I'd love for a university to not make any allowances for religion. You're there to learn, not to have your superstition reinforced and coddled. Still, at least for a public school, I'm sure it's illegal.
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Old 04-16-07, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Tracer Bullet
I'd love for a university to not make any allowances for religion. You're there to learn, not to have your superstition reinforced and coddled. Still, at least for a public school, I'm sure it's illegal.
Bah. The universities love to educate you on "acceptance" and "cultural diversity" and a host of other crap that I think probably doesn't belong in a university, so I don't think this is much different. Personally, all the art classes, humanities, etc. seem like crap to me, so I see what you are saying, but what you are talking about doesn't even resemble what a university here COULD look like.

But if a school made no allowances, I would be okay with that. My beliefs certainly don't need to be catered to. The fish on Friday thing for lent is a crock anyway.
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Old 04-16-07, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Bah. The universities love to educate you on "acceptance" and "cultural diversity" and a host of other crap that I think probably doesn't belong in a university, so I don't think this is much different. Personally, all the art classes, humanities, etc. seem like crap to me, so I see what you are saying, but what you are talking about doesn't even resemble what a university here COULD look like.

But if a school made no allowances, I would be okay with that. My beliefs certainly don't need to be catered to. The fish on Friday thing for lent is a crock anyway.
Humanities is a "crock?" Socrates weeps for you.
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Old 04-16-07, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by CRM114
Humanities is a "crock?" Socrates weeps for you.
To me, yes. But then history is a waste of time, culture in any form is stupid, etc. A university should have math and science. The rest of the stuff can just be made up and our lives will be no different.
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Old 04-16-07, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Bah. The universities love to educate you on "acceptance" and "cultural diversity" and a host of other crap that I think probably doesn't belong in a university, so I don't think this is much different. Personally, all the art classes, humanities, etc. seem like crap to me, so I see what you are saying, but what you are talking about doesn't even resemble what a university here COULD look like.

But if a school made no allowances, I would be okay with that. My beliefs certainly don't need to be catered to. The fish on Friday thing for lent is a crock anyway.
Yeah, art and history are really worthless.
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Old 04-16-07, 02:43 PM
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How long will it take for some of the 'accommodations' to include women not allowed in the same classes as men?
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Old 04-16-07, 02:57 PM
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Hey! I actually learned something from DVDTalk! Every now and then at work, I'd run into a muslim in the bathroom seriously washing themselves over in the sink. I'd be all "what the heck"?

Now I know. And knowing is 1/2 the battle!
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Old 04-16-07, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Tracer Bullet
Oh noes the Musselmen are coming!

How is this any different from campus chapels or dining hall kosher meal options?
Tracer Bullet, are you sure you understand the quote in your signature? It just seems that your comments don't really jibe with the expressed opinions of Harris on the unique challenges Islam presents to a secular, pluralistic society:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/...reality_islam/

Sam Harris responds to comments and criticism

Anyone familiar with my work knows that I am extremely critical of all religious faiths. I have argued elsewhere that the ascendancy of Christian conservatism in American politics should terrify and embarrass us. I have argued that the religious dogmatism of the Jewish settlers could well be the cause of World War III. And yet, there are gradations to the evil that is done in name of God, and these gradations must be honestly observed. So let us now acknowledge the obvious: there is a direct link between the doctrine of Islam and Muslim violence. Acknowledging this link remains especially taboo among political liberals. While liberals are leery of religious fundamentalism in general, they consistently imagine that all religions at their core teach the same thing and teach it equally well. This is one of the many delusions borne of political correctness. Rather than continue to squander precious time, energy, and good will by denying the role that Islam now plays in perpetuating Muslim violence, we should urge Muslim communities, East and West, to reform the ideology of their religion. This will not be easy, as the Koran and hadith offer precious little basis for a Muslim Enlightenment, but it is necessary. The truth that we must finally confront is that Islam contains specific notions of martyrdom and jihad that fully explain the character of Muslim violence. Unless the world’s Muslims can find some way of expunging the metaphysics that is fast turning their religion into a cult of death, we will ultimately face the same perversely destructive behavior throughout much of the world. It should be clear that I am not speaking about a race or an ethnicity here; I am speaking about the logical consequences of specific ideas.

Anyone who imagines that terrestrial concerns account for Muslim terrorism must answer questions of the following sort: Where are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal, and far more cynical, than any that Britain, the United States, or Israel have ever imposed upon the Muslim world. Where are the throngs of Tibetans ready to perpetrate suicidal atrocities against Chinese noncombatants? They do not exist. What is the difference that makes the difference? The difference lies in the specific tenets of Islam. This is not to say that Buddhism could not help inspire suicidal violence. It can, and it has (Japan, World War II). But this concedes absolutely nothing to the apologists for Islam. As a Buddhist, one has to work extremely hard to justify such barbarism. One need not work nearly so hard as a Muslim. If you doubt whether the comparison is valid, ask yourself where the Palestinian Christian suicide bombers are. Palestinian Christians also suffer the indignity of the Israeli occupation. This is practically a science experiment: take the same people, speaking the same language, put them in the same horrendous circumstance, but give them slightly different religious beliefs--and then watch what happens. What happens is, they behave differently.

While the other major world religions have been fertile sources of intolerance, it is clear that the doctrine of Islam poses unique problems for the emergence of a global civilization. The world, from the point of view of Islam, is divided into the “House of Islam” and the “House of War,” and this latter designation should indicate how Muslims believe their differences with those who do not share their faith will be ultimately resolved. While there are undoubtedly some moderate Muslims who have decided to overlook the irrescindable militancy of their religion, Islam is undeniably a religion of conquest. The only future devout Muslims can envisage—as Muslims—is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed. The tenets of Islam simply do not admit of anything but a temporary sharing of power with the “enemies of God.” Devout Muslims can have no doubt about the reality of Paradise or about the efficacy of martyrdom as a means of getting there. Nor can they question the wisdom and reasonableness of killing people for what amount to theological grievances. In Islam, it is the moderate who is left to split hairs, because the basic thrust of the doctrine is undeniable: convert, subjugate, or kill unbelievers; kill apostates; and conquer the world.

It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of devout Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence. There is, after all, little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed with long-range nuclear weapons. A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. We must come to terms with the possibility that men who are every bit as zealous to die as the September 11th hijackers may one day get their hands on nuclear weaponry. As Martin Rees, Britain’s Royal astronomer, has pointed out, there is no reason to expect that we will be any more successful at stopping nuclear proliferation, in small quantities, than we have been with respect to illegal drugs. If this is true, weapons of mass destruction will eventually be available to anyone who wants them. It seems a truism to say that there is no possible future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us.
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