Coastal Post Online


November 2001

Violent Suicide and Mass Murder For God

The Cover Up Continues

By Jim Scanlon

What kind of men kill themselves to make a statement? How can 19 men agree to a plan that kills all of them and thousands of innocent people? How does one react to people who celebrate suicidal murderers? And what, exactly was the statement?

Mohammed Atta, a 33 year old Egyptian, believed to be the man who crashed the first hijacked jet into the first tower of the World Trade Center, is the hijacker about whom we know most, possibly because well educated family members spoke to newspaper reporters. Marwan Yussef Mohammed al Shehhi, a 23 year old citizen of United Arab Emirates, a tiny confederation of oil rich mini-states along the gulf coast of the Arabian Peninsula, lived, traveled and trained with Atta. He died shortly after his friend and companion when the second commercial hijacked jet, which he was believed to have piloted, crashed into the second tower of the World Trade Center. The video image of that jet and the second tower will endure and haunt our civilization-and Islam-for as long as they endure.

Although our federal government obviously has amassed much information on the 19 Arabs who hijacked, and destroyed four commercial airplanes, killed thousands of people, demolished a center of global trade, seriously disrupted the economy and lives of citizens of New York City, the United States, and, to a lesser extent everyone on earth, it is, for reasons quite understandable, not releasing much of that information. What little that is publicly known comes mostly from newspaper reports.

On October 14, the New York Times printed an unusual article by Warren Hoge who traveled to Dubai, al Shehhi's homeland and apparently learned nothing about him as there is nothing about him in the article. This is legitimate, but unusual reporting. We do learn that Dubai has a population of 865,000, 20 percent of whom are natives, that it is an "El Dorado of business", the most globalized of Arab societies, and that no one wants to talk about al Shehhi.

Hoge quotes a high official, "At first we couldn't accept it, we couldn't imagine why anyone from UAE (United Arab Emirates) would do such a thing... people love living here, they have work, we have no political prisoners ... these people [the hijackers] are losers, they are failures in life. All they could do is commit suicide!"

Another senior advisor is quoted, " In the first week after the attacks we were shocked and astonished. The 10 biggest restaurants were empty for a week. But now you go to any one of them and you see lots of CEOs and beautiful women again." If this is true, they seem to be following President George W Bush's advice to get on with life and get the economy going again.

Little information is available on 18 of the hijackers, but a substantial amount of personal information about Atta came out just a few days after September 11, mostly quotes from people who remembered Atta during the several years he studied at a university in Hamburg Germany. He was remembered as polite, quiet, a good student, etc., the kind of things people usually say about men who kill their families or their co-workers. Although al Shehhi lived with Atta in Germany no one seems to have remembered him, or no one asked. Atta's father, a lawyer in Cairo, when first interviewed, denied that his son could have been one of the hijackers. Mr. Atta said his son was too gentle. The father seemed especially upset over a report that his son had drunk alcohol.

A few weeks later, more detailed family information appeared on Atta. His father was described as demanding , ambitious, arrogant and a disciplinarian, who thought his son girlish. Photos were published of Atta as a youth with his parents. One, at Merryland, a Disney like theme park in Cairo, shows Atta as a sullen, unhappy looking boy with penetrating eyes. His parents and two sisters appear well dressed, in modern western clothing, hair uncovered. One sister is now a professor, the other a doctor, hardly the kind of women covered head to foot who are oppressed by the turban headed unkempt mountain men like Mullah Omar on whom we are dropping 1,000 pound bombs.

The father reportedly was dissatisfied with his wife for pampering their bright, timid son, for raising him "as a girl." He sat on her lap until he enrolled in Cairo University. He didn't seem to be well liked as a boy or play much. Nobody liked him. He was focused on becoming an engineer as his father wanted. According to his father he experienced a sudden spiritual awakening when he was 12 or 13 and began to pray regularly. After graduating from the University, he was reluctant to leave his mother and sisters, but was convinced by his father that an advanced degree from abroad would allow him to get ahead in Egypt.

So he went to Germany on a scholarship where he studied and worked. He is said to have brought a prayer carpet to his job, shunned alcohol and pork, scraped icing off cake and checked the ingredients of everything, including medicine, lest they contain something forbidden. He pressured the university into being given a room for his prayer group. He was reported to have spoken of wanting to marry, but he held himself aloof from women, considering them insufficiently devout. After he successfully defended his thesis in the German university, he refused to shake hands with one of the faculty judges who was a woman. This would most certainly have been deeply offensive to Germans, and interpreted as a hostile gesture by both men as well as women, since they Germans shake hands repeatedly and often, with everyone, on every conceivable occasion.

It is especially intriguing that Atta worked in, and was studying, urban planning. According to German colleagues, he wanted to preserve Arab cities from western-style development. He was upset with one such development in the old city of Cairo which he claimed, destroyed a poor neighborhood to improve views for tourists. He claimed it was an absurd way to develop a city, to make a Disneyworld out of it. He was unable to get a job in an international urban planning firm and felt he could not return to Egypt where his extremist Islamic beliefs would hinder him in getting ahead. (Fanatical Muslims were being persecuted because members of that group had assassinated the Egyptian president a few years before and massacred European tourists at an ancient shrine with machine guns.)

So here we have a young man, about whom we know just a little, with the near invisible al Shehhi, his "loyal side kick" as the Times called him, his inseparable partner in life and in death, each smashing into one of the twin phallic towers of the trade center of the world. They could not have known ,or even vaguely suspected, that their actions would produce the spectacular destruction and disruption that followed, with a war on terrorism starting, and the bombing of perhaps the most backward countries on earth. Few will remember who built the WTC, but many will know who destroyed it. There is even a Greek myth to that effect. The word "nihilism" was commonly used in the 19th Century to explain senseless acts of destruction and it seems appropriate here.

Considering that all 19 men come from highly conformist, sexually repressive cultures where men rule, where women are honored loved and cherished, but where men continually struggle to sequester, isolate and keep them ignorant, often by force and violence, where infant boys universally have their sex organs mutilated and where the mutilation of the sex organs of girls is common, and approve of, where sex between men is unspeakable, but also common-considering this, it seems hardly surprising that Mohammed and Marwan chose such a suicidal end to their relationship. This context doesn't explain their actions, but, let's say, it puts their acts and those of the other ones into perspective.,

One of the great heroes of Islam, Suleiman the Magnificent had an inseparable companion, a soul mate, a Greek named Ibrahim whom he eventually killed in a manner similar to Alexander the Great's killing of his companion and lover Hephestion. It is painful to listen to Islamic scholars stutter and mumble when discussing Ibrahim. Discussion of this subject is off limits. In the end, the fictional "Thelma and Louise" chose death with a loved one as an escape from a difficult world. So did "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," why not Marwan and Mohammed? Romantic nihilists! Life imitating art.

The Cover Up

The cover up began the day after September 11, when caravans of FBI agents arrived at an airport in Texas where 92 relatives of Osama bin Laden who had been living in the US were assembled and returned to Saudi Arabia. There was fear that these relatives, mostly students according to reports, might be in physical danger in the aftermath of the attacks. This sort of fear is certainly understandable on the part of Saudi Arabian officials, but hardly on the part of US officials who now confront the loss of potentially important witnesses who might have had important information regarding the attacks. The FBI has ample resources to protect 92 people safely until they could be debriefed, or interrogated and their deleted e-mail resurrected. Under the circumstances no judge would have denied the FBI a search warrant no matter how weak the legal grounds. The relatives are not only safe from American reprisals, but also from American questions. The US government and US citizens are also safe from those questions.

The elder George Bush served and serves the interests of large oil corporations as does his son. Vice President Richard Cheney's last employer, the massive Halliburton construction conglomerate has extensive business ties with the Bin Laden Group, a huge Saudi Arabian construction company. Knowing this, and knowing the special treatment given to the bin Laden family immediately after the worst attack on the US by a foreign power since 1812, can anyone have any confidence that the FBI and other US investigating agencies will pursue the money trail where ever it leads? Will anything be done which might upset the fundamentalist Saudi power structure, so important the access to all that Saudi oil?

The Cover Up of Islamic Repression

The US has opposed modernist Arab governments including Nasser, Kadaffi, Sadam Hussein and Arrafat and favored traditional monarchs and tribal chiefs. It must maintain that it is not opposed to Islam in general, but only to extremists in Islam. So it must sanitize Islam to maintain the illusion that "This is not a war with Islam" (G.W. Bush). It might be useful here to refer to another NY Times article which appeared four months before September 11, "Death to Blasphemers: Islam's Grip on Pakistan." Pakistan is a key player in George W. Bush's declaration of war against terrorism and Afghanistan, his new "Evil Empire." Pakistan was, perhaps, THE favorite of the CIA during Ronald Reagan's not so cold war against his "Evil Empire." This country received massive amounts of money from the US and Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan is a politically unstable country of 150 million, mostly impoverished people, ruled by a military dictatorship and a small, well educated, affluent elite. It is a mix of the modern and medieval. It has nuclear weapons, but it is also a country where one can receive the death penalty for something called blasphemy. The Times article detailed the sorry situation of a medical lecturer, who at the time of publication of the article had been imprisoned for over six months.

What did this man do to deserve a criminal complaint that carried the death penalty? According to the Times he said, "My students asked me abut the shaving of pubic and armpit hair, and I, in describing the glory of Allah's revelations, said that before the arrival of Islam, the Arabs did not have these practices , and they did not." In other words he implied that the Prophet did not have the foreskin of his penis cut off as a boy and did not shave the hair of certain parts of his body. One student is quoted, "Only out of respect, because he was our teacher did we not beat him to death on the spot"

Granted that under a death sentence a man's memory may be a selective and self serving, but if one can understand the feelings of outrage on a such a subject so patently absurd, then one can understand how 19 Islamic men could kill themselves and thousands of others in an act of resistance to Western influence.


Coastal Post Home Page