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Terrorism by Muslim, Christian & Jewish extremists

Who is to blame for terrorist acts?
The perpetrators, or people who look
like or believe like the perpetrators?

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Who should be held responsible?

In this essay, we attempt to show that a terrorist act should be blamed on the people who committed the deed as well as their teachers, financers, facilitators, and leaders. However, an individual who is not involved in any way with the terrorist act but who happens to be of the same gender, or religion, or skin coloring, or national origin, etc. should be assumed to be innocent.

Consider the most serious terrorist act in U.S. history: 9/11. On 2001-SEP-11, 19 terrorists hijacked four planes. Two were flown into the World Trade Center's North and South towers in New York City, collapsing both buildings and causing a third building (7 WTC) to fall as well. One was flown into the Pentagon. The other was intended to target the Capitol building when it crashed in Pennsylvania due to efforts by the passengers. 2,993 people died; many more were injured. "All of the fatalities were civilians except for some of the 125 victims in the Pentagon." 1 They ranged in age from 2 to 82.

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About the 9/11 terrorists:

All were:

bullet Members of Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden claimed that "he was responsible for entrusting the 19 brothers" who carried out the attacks.
bullet Male.
bullet Muslims.
bullet Arabs.
bullet From the Middle East; and
bullet Widely identified with the Salafi/"Wahhabi" tradition of Islam. 2 This appears to be an error. Al Qaeda is actually associated with Qutbism -- a sect of Islam inspired by:

"... the Egyptian ideologue Sayyid Qutb, who was executed by President Nasser in 1966. Almost every fundamentalist movement in Sunni Islam has been strongly influenced by Qutb, so there is a good case for calling the violence that some of his followers commit "Qutbian terrorism." Qutb urged his followers to withdraw from the moral and spiritual barbarism of modern society and fight it to the death. 3,4

In addition:

bullet Fifteen of the 19 terrorists were Saudi Arabians, two came from the United Arab Emirates, and one each from Egypt and Lebanon.
bullet Four of the terrorists were pilots and were ultimately responsible for using the planes as weapons.
bullet Most were well educated.
bullet Most came from middle or upper class backgrounds.

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Who should be held responsible?

bullet Most suggest that the 19 terrorists are ultimately responsible for the thousands of deaths, injuries, and loss of property.
bullet Most would agree that the leadership of Al Qaeda shares in the guilt.
bullet However, some North Americans went further and retaliated against people that they believed were Muslim, or Arab, or even people that vaguely looked as if they were from the Middle East:

Wikipedia reported that shortly after 9/11:

"Numerous incidents of harassment and hate crimes were reported against Middle Easterners and other 'Middle Eastern-looking' people, particularly Sikhs, due to the fact that Sikh males usually wear turbans, which are stereotypically associated with Muslims in the United States. There were reports of verbal abuse, attacks on mosques and other religious buildings (including the firebombing of a Hindu temple) and assaults on people, including one murder; Balbir Singh Sodhi was fatally shot on September 15. He, like others, was a Sikh who was mistaken for a Muslim." 1

The firebombing probably referred to a Hindu temple in Hamilton, ON, Canada that was attacked by an arsonist five days after 9/11. Hinduism, of course, has little in common with Islam. Ironically, "... the City of Hamilton once 'recognized the Hindu Samaj venue as a historic site in [the] fight against hate crime'." 4

Blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few Arabs is illogical because most Muslims are not Arabs. Blaming all persons of Middle Eastern ancestry, or all who wear turbans, or all Saudis, etc. are examples of assigning collective responsibility -- blaming an entire group for the actions of a miniscule percentage of persons within that group. We suggest that this is illogical and unethical.

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About collective responsibility and group punishment:

All too often, we are willing to blame an entire religion, for a criminal act that was performed by a single person or a small group of individuals of that faith. This is the concept of collective responsibility. It is also seen when all people of a single race, or gender, or nationality, or sexual orientation, or sexual identity, etc. are held equally responsible for an evil act committed by a single individual or small group.

This leads obviously to the concept of group punishment: punishing an entire group for the actions of one or a few people.

Wikipedia comments:

"This concept is found mostly in the Old Testament (or Tanakh), some examples include the account of the Flood, the Tower of Babel and Sodom and Gomorrah. In those records entire communities were punished on the act of the vast majority of their members, however it is impossible that there weren't any innocent people, or children too young to be responsible for their deeds. ..." 6

Perhaps the most odious example of group punishment has been the blaming of Jews for the execution of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ). This started in the early Christian movement and continued until the 20th century. According to the biblical story, a group of Jews in Jerusalem circa 30 CE urged Governor Pontius Pilate of Judea to execute Yeshua. The Christian church has historically blamed:

bullet Those Jews who allegedly formed the mob in front of Pilate, and
bullet All the Jews in the rest of Jerusalem at the time, and
bullet All the Jews in the rest of the Roman Empire at the time, and
bullet The above Jews' children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc. down through about 80 generations until the 20th century.

The Roman Catholic Church was one of the last major Christian denominations to repudiate this belief. That occurred during the mid 1960s at Vatican II.

Similar to the concept of collective responsibility is another belief: that of the transfer of sin and punishment from the guilty to the innocent. The Bible has many examples of this, in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, in the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).

The concepts of collective responsibility and transfer of sins are now considered immoral by both religious and secular ethical systems.

In the weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attack, there were hundreds of attacks on Muslims and mosques in the U.S. and Canada by people who were applying the principles of collective responsibility and group punishment.

Human Rights Watch issued a news release on 2001-SEP-24 stating:

"These shameful acts against men, women and children targeted because of their religious beliefs, ethnicity or national origin violate basic principles of human rights and justice. Misguided violence at the hands of a few dishonors the nation's  legitimate anger and shock over the immense loss of life and destruction from the September 11 attacks in the United States. Since Sept. 11, monitoring groups around the country have received several hundred complaints alleging crimes apparently motivated by bias and hate. A shooting rampage in Mesa, Arizona, left one Sikh man dead, with additional shots fired at a Lebanese clerk and the home of an Afghan family. An Egyptian-American grocer was shot and killed near his store in San Gabriel, California and a storeowner from Pakistan was shot dead in Dallas, Texas. A gasoline bomb was thrown into the home of a Sikh family in California."

"Beatings and other violent assaults were reported across the country, as were death and bomb threats. Mosques and Sikh temples have been shot at, vandalized, and defaced, and bricks were thrown through the window of an Islamic bookstore in Virginia. At several U.S. universities, foreign students from the Middle East and South Asia have been targeted for attacks, and some have chosen to leave the country because they feared additional attacks. Throughout the country affected community members have been afraid to leave their homes, go to work or wear traditional clothing for fear of possible hate crimes against them." 7

George W. Bush, during a visit to the Islamic Center in Washington DC on 2001-SEP-17

"...those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior." 7

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update this essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "September 11, 2001 attacks," Wikipedia, 2007-UG-22, at:

  2. Haneef James Oliver, "The Innacurate Reporting of John Hooper and Brian Whitaker. Were the Sept. 11 Hijackers Salafis/'Wahhabis'?" from the book "The Wahhabi Myth." Online at:

  3. Book excerpt: "The Wahhhabi Myth," at:

  4. Haneef James Oliver, "The Wahhabi Myth (2nd Edition) - Dispelling Prevalent Fallacies and the Fictitious Link with Bin Laden," Trafford Publishing, (2003). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store

  5. Balvinder Singh S Bal, "Hope for Canadian temple that was hit after 9/11," SikhNet, 2006-NOV-07, at:

  6. "Collective responsibility (doctrine)," Wikipedia, 2007-UG-22, at:

  7. "Stop Hate Crimes Now," Human Rights News, Human Rights Watch, 2001-SEP-21, at:

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Copyright 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2007-OCT-02
Latest update: 2007-OCT-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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