October 15-21, 2001
volume 12, no. 152

Is the Vatican still in denial of a Muslim Jihad?

"These events have divided the world into two camps, the camp of the faithful and the camp of infidels. Every Muslim must rise to defend his religion."
Osama bin Laden after the October 7th counter-strike

    Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, counseled U.S. President George W. Bush that the Muslims' attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did not signal a "religious war." He refrained from categorizing the September 11 attacks. "It is not up to me to say if it was an act of war," he said. "Sometimes, however, there are tragedies that are greater than war," he added. "I want to underline the tragedy of this unimaginable apocalyptic scene." In such events, the Cardinal stated, there is "ethnic and cultural valence, but not religious …. Certainly in madness, a man can appeal to religious principles, but this a grave deformation." These statements were made by Sodano September 14 at a meeting of spiritual leaders of an Italian agricultural organization (ZENIT Dispatch, Sept. 16, 2001).

    Let me analyze Sodano's words in this press release. First, it seems nonsense to deny that an attack like that of September 11, equal to or greater in magnitude than Pearl Harbor, was an act of war. Also it seems nonsense to try to disguise the fact that this attack against two symbols of American military and economic power, along with the monstrous killing of thousands of Americans, was an act of religious war. No one but Cardinal Sodano denied the fact that the terrorists who hijacked the planes September 11 were motivated by religious convictions and had religious goals. All the evidence points in this direction, and even the Taliban, the Muslim government of Afghanistan, was already calling for a religious war on the same day that Sodano was making his bizarre statement on September 14th.

    Exactly three days after the attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the leader of Afghanistan's Taliban regime warned Muslims all over the world to be ready for a holy war to defend the Islamic confession. Mullah Mohammad Omar called on all Muslims to defend Afghanistan and be ready to sacrifice everything for Islam. The Taliban vowed to take revenge against any country that attacked it. Mr. Omar also stated: "Be ready for jihad (holy war). Each Muslim should be ready for a jihad (Inside the Vatican News Service Dispatch, September 15, 2001). This news item certainly proves the opposite of what Sodano stated above. To save the reader time, I will not transcribe more reports confirming the religious motives of the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The newspapers and audio-visual mechanisms are full of them.

    Second, after this emphatic counsel, Sodano mysteriously refrained from defining what he understood as an act of war. It seems contradictory to be so emphatic in his advice on what does not constitute a religious war, and then be so evasive in explaining what in fact it is.

    Third, then Sodano pulled out of the blue another rationale for the attack, until then unknown to the public, i.e., the attack of September 11 would have been motivated by "ethnic and cultural reasons, but not religious." Curiously, the Cardinal did not offer any proof of what he affirmed. Certainly some evidence was in order since his statement challenged all the known facts until then. But he gave none. His completely gratuitous affirmation stood on the merit of having been spoken by him, and that is all.

    Fourth, in opposition to his first statement, at the end of his interview he admitted that the terrorists could have "appealed to religious principles."

    Finally, fifth, he said that the terrorists' attitude would be "madness" and "deformation." Regarding "madness," certainly Sodano's opinion was not objective, since the Arabs who piloted the suicide jets gave a surprising example of cold level-headed thinking and a sense of organization that had nothing to do with insanity. Regarding "deformation," Sodano forgot to explain what was his point of reference. Deformation in comparison to what? To the Islamic principles? To common sense? To natural law? Once again, the words of the Vatican Secretary of State were not clear.

    In the end, one has to admit that it is very difficult in a short interview like this to be more incoherent and empty than Cardinal Sodano was. This kind of incongruous declaration might be excusable on the lips of a young seminarian or a newly ordained priest. I do not understand how His Eminence could have reached the elevated position of Vatican Secretary of State and remain there making this kind of public statement.

    The events since then bear out that indeed Osama bin Laden has himself called it a jihad and "by Allah no American will be safe." He said in a statement released to the Al-Jazeera television network after the October 7th strike by the West, "Here is America struck by God Almighty in one of its vital organs, so that its greatest buildings are destroyed. Grace and gratitude to God. America has been filled with horror from North to South and East to West, and thanks be to God." Numerous times he referred to a 'holy war.' "These events have divided the world into two camps, the camp of the faithful and the camp of infidels. Every Muslim must rise to defend his religion." Bin Laden completed his diatribe with, "I swear to God that America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine, and before all the army of infidels depart the land of Mohammed, peace be upon him." Does the Cardinal still endorse his assessment of what kind of war this truly is for Muslims?

Atila Sinke Guimarăes
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October 15-21, 2001
volume 12, no. 152
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