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A Bad Fake

The most troubling aspect of the Osama letter isn't that it's fake. It's that it's the work of a "moderate."

11:00 PM, Nov 25, 2002 • By CLAUDIA WINKLER
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BLOGGER EXTRAORDINARE Andrew Sullivan noted a long, strident letter allegedly from Osama bin Laden that's been circulating on Islamist websites in Britain. The letter made the print media on Sunday, in the London Observer. The State Department hasn't pronounced on its authenticity, but one who's sure it's a fake is Yigal Carmon, a close student of the Arab press and president of the Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington.

"This is obviously a propaganda co-production of Suleiman Abu Gheith, who used to be a spokesman for al Qaeda, and Omar Bakri, in London," Carmon says. He recognizes the Islamist Bakri's long-winded style--and his characteristic deviation from the unconditional jihad against America Osama declared four years ago.

Bakri, it seems, places conditions on our destruction--as does whoever wrote the "Osama" letter (even while calling us "the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind"). If we convert to Islam, if we erase the "crime" of helping found Israel, if we cease our debauchery and usury allowing Jews to "control all aspects of [our] life," if we admit that we are "a nation without principles or manners," if we leave Islamic lands, the implication is, then war to the death may not be necessary. The letter pleads, "do not force us to send you back as cargo in coffins."

This makes the author of the letter a moderate by Osama standards--cold comfort for us. His rant is explicitly in response to an American call for reasoned dialogue, about which I've written before (here and here). Obviously the Islamists want anything but.

David Blankenhorn, whose Institute for American Values started this ball rolling, reports that last May, after 153 Saudis responded to the Institute's overture with a letter that was at least civil, a writer on the extremist website Outthere News denounced them thus:

"A person has only three options--become a Muslim, live under the rule of Islam, or be killed. The signatories [to the Saudis' letter to us] should have made that clear to the West, not be like those who believed part of the Book and rejected the rest."

And if you doubt that this kind of perverted thinking can actually touch the life of a peaceable American, read this chilling account of the violence and threats visited on UCLA law school distinguished fellow in Islamic law Khaled Abou El Fadl, who has dared stand up to the extremists.

Claudia Winkler is a managing editor at The Weekly Standard.