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Special Section

REMEMBERING 9-11: Understanding 9/11

REMEMBERING 9-11: Understanding 9/11
THE WORLD TRADE CENTER (WTC) Facts and Figures • 7 buildings in the complex • 110 stories in each twin tower • 1,368 feet high — the North Tower (1 WTC) • 1,362 feet high — the South Tower (2 WTC) • 3 WTC: Marriott Hotel — 22 Floors • 4 WTC: 9 Floors • 5 WTC: 9 Floors • 6 WTC: US Customs House — 8 Floors • 7 WTC: 47 Floors • 12,000,000 square feet of rentable space in the World Trade Center • 1 acre of rentable space on each floor of the Twin Towers • 7 underground levels — included services, shopping, and a subway station • 200,000 tons of steel used in the construction of the Twin Towers • 425,000 cubic yards of concrete used in the construction of the WTC complex • 43,600 windows in the Twin Towers • 99 elevators in each tower • 70 feet of foundation excavated so the Twin Towers could rest on solid bedrock • 3,500 people worked at the site during peak construction • 250,000 tons — the weight of each of the Twin Towers

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September 7, 2011
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Foundations of Islam

Islam (a word that literally means “surrender

to the will of God”) arose in Arabia

with what Muslims believe are a series of

revelations to the Prophet Mohammed

from the one and only God, the God of

Abraham and of Jesus.

These revelations, conveyed by the angel

Gabriel, are recorded in the Qur’an (sometimes

titled Koran). Muslims believe that

these revelations, given to the greatest

and last of a chain of prophets stretching

from Abraham through Jesus, complete

God’s message to humanity. The Hadith,

which recount Mohammed’s sayings and

deeds as recorded by his contemporaries,

are another fundamental source. A third

key element is the Sharia, the code of law

derived from the Qur’an and the Hadith.

Islam is divided into two main branches,

Sunni and Shia. Soon after the Prophet’s

death, the question arose of choosing a

new leader, or Caliph, for the Muslim community,

or Ummah. Initially, his successors

could be drawn from the Prophet’s

contemporaries, but with time, this was

no longer possible.

Those who became the Shia held that any

leader must be a direct descendant of the

Prophet; those who became the Sunni argued

that lineal descent was not required

if the candidate met other standards of

faith and knowledge.

After bloody struggles, the Sunni became

(and remain) the majority sect. (The Shia

are dominant in Iran.) The Caliphate -- the

institutionalized leadership of the Ummah

-- thus was a Sunni institution that

continued until 1924, first under Arab

and eventually under Ottoman Turkish


Many Muslims look back at the century

after the revelations to the Prophet Mohammed

as a golden age.

Rise of Islamist Extremism

The ensuing centuries after the golden

age of Islam saw the rise in power of European

nations and then the United States

of America, with Western culture and

values becoming dominant on the world

stage. The dominance of Western powers

and ideals led to feelings of resentment

among Muslims, many of whom felt oppressed,

many of whom lived in poverty,

many of whom embraced values at odds

with those of a Western culture that they

felt had become increasingly materialistic.

Islam is both a faith and a code of conduct

for all aspects of life. For many Muslims,

a good government would be one

guided by the moral principles of their

faith. This does not necessarily translate

into a desire for clerical rule and the abolition

of a secular state. It does mean that

some Muslims tend to be uncomfortable

with distinctions between religion and

state, though Muslim rulers throughout

history have readily separated the two.

To extremists, such divisions, as well as

the existence of parliaments and legislation,

only prove these rulers to be false

Muslims usurping God’s authority over

all aspects of life. Periodically, the Islamic

world has seen surges of what is often

labeled “fundamentalism.”

Denouncing waywardness among the

faithful, some clerics have appealed for a

return to observance of the literal teachings

of the Qur’an and Hadith. One scholar

from the fourteenth century from whom

Osama bin Laden quoted, Ibn Taimiyyah,

condemned both corrupt rulers and the

clerics who failed to criticize them. He

urged Muslims to read the Qur’an and

the Hadith for themselves, not to depend

solely on learned interpreters like himself

but to hold one another to account for the

quality of their observance.

The Islamist extremist version of history

blames the decline from Islam’s golden

age on the rulers and people who turned

away from the true path of their religion,

thereby leaving Islam vulnerable to encroaching

foreign powers eager to steal

their land, wealth, and even their souls.

A Declaration of War by al Qaeda

In February 1998, the 40-year-old Saudi

exile Osama bin Laden and a fugitive

Egyptian physician, Ayman al Zawahiri,

arranged from their Afghan headquarters

of al Qaeda for an Arabic newspaper in

London to publish what they termed

a fatwa issued in the name of a “World

Islamic Front.” A fatwa is normally an interpretation

of Islamic law by a respected

Islamic authority. Neither bin Laden, Zawahiri,

nor the three others who signed

this statement were scholars of Islamic

law. Claiming that America had declared

war against God and his messenger, they

called for the murder of any American,

anywhere on earth, as the “individual duty

for every Muslim who can do it in any

country in which it is possible to do it.”Three months later, when interviewed in

Afghanistan by ABC-TV, bin Laden enlarged

on these themes. He claimed it was more

important for Muslims to kill Americans

than to kill other infidels. “It is far better for

anyone to kill a single American soldier

than to squander his efforts on other activities,”

he said. Asked whether he approved

of terrorism and of attacks on civilians, he

replied: “We believe that the worst thieves

in the world today and the worst terrorists

are the Americans. Nothing could stop you

except perhaps retaliation in kind. We do

not have to differentiate between military

or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they

are all targets.”

How did bin Laden -- with his call for the

indiscriminate killing of Americans -- win

thousands of followers and some degree of

approval from millions more? The history,

culture, and body of beliefs from which bin

Laden has shaped and spread his message

are largely unknown to many Americans.

Seizing on symbols of Islam’s past greatness,

he promised to restore pride to people

who consider themselves the victims of

successive foreign masters. He used cultural

and religious allusions to the holy Qur’an

and some of its interpreters. He appealed to

people disoriented by enormous change as

they confront modernity and globalization.

His rhetoric selectively drew from multiple

sources and centers on recurrent themes

-- Islam, history, and the region’s political

and economic malaise. He also stressed

several grievances against the United States

throughout some segments of the Muslim

world. He inveighed against the presence

of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the home

of Islam’s holiest sites. He spoke of the

suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of

sanctions imposed after the Gulf War, and

he protested U.S. support of Israel.

Bin Laden’s Worldview

Despite his claims to universal leadership,

bin Laden offered an extreme view of Islamic

history designed to appeal mainly to

Arabs and Sunnis. He drew on fundamentalists

who blame the eventual destruction of

the Caliphate on leaders who abandoned

the pure path of religious devotion. He repeatedly

called on his followers to embrace

martyrdom since “the walls of oppression

and humiliation cannot be demolished

except in a rain of bullets.” For those yearning

for a lost sense of order in an older,

more tranquil world, he offered his “Caliphate”

as an imagined alternative to today’s

uncertainty. For others, he offered simplistic

conspiracies to explain their world.

Bin Laden also relied heavily on the Egyptian

writer Sayyid Qutb, a member of the

Muslim Brotherhood executed in 1966 on

charges of attempting to overthrow the

government. Qutb mixed Islamic scholarship

with a very superficial acquaintance

with Western history and thought. Sent

by the Egyptian government to study in

the United States in the late 1940s, Qutb

returned with an enormous loathing of

Western society and history. He dismissed

Western achievements as entirely material,

arguing that Western society possesses

“nothing that will satisfy its own conscience

and justify its existence.”

Many Americans have wondered, “Why do

‘they’ hate us?” Some also ask, “What can

we do to stop these attacks?”

Bin Laden and al Qaeda have given answers

to both these questions. To the first,

they say that America had attacked Islam;

America is responsible for all conflicts

involving Muslims. Thus Americans are

blamed when Israelis fight with Palestinians,

when Russians fight with Chechens,

when Indians fight with Kashmiri Muslims,

and when the Philippine government

fights ethnic Muslims in its southern

islands. America is also held responsible

for the governments of Muslim countries,

derided by al Qaeda as “your agents.” Bin

Laden stated flatly, “Our fight against these

governments is not separate from our

fight against you.” These charges found a

ready audience among millions ofArabs and Muslims angry at the United States

because of issues ranging from Iraq to Palestine

to America’s support for their countries’ repressive


Bin Laden’s grievance with the United States may

have started in reaction to specific U.S. policies

but it quickly became far deeper. To the second

question, what America could do, al Qaeda’s

answer was that America should abandon the

Middle East, convert to Islam, and end the immorality

and godlessness of its society and culture:

“It is saddening to tell you that you are the worst

civilization witnessed by the history of mankind.”

If the United States did not comply, it would be

at war with the Islamic nation, a nation that al

Qaeda’s leaders said “desires death more than

you desire life.”

Terrorist and al Qaeda Attacks on the

United States

1993, World Trade Center Bombing

On Friday, February 26, 1993, at 12:18 pm, a

small cell of terrorists, with links to a local radical

mosque and broader Islamist terror networks,detonated approximately 1,200 pounds

of explosives in a rental van in the underground

parking garage at the World Trade

Center (WTC). below the Vista Hotel (3 WTC).

The terrorists fled the area after setting the

bomb to explode. The explosion created a

five-story crater in the sub-grade levels of

the towers and undermined the floor of the

adjoining hotel.

The terrorist attack on the WTC killed six

people:four members ofthe Port Authority's

World Trade Department, a Windows on the

World employee; and a visitor to the complex.

Over a thousand people were injured,

including 88 firefighters, 35 police officers,

and one EMS worker.

1998 Bombings of the U.S.

Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania

On the morning of August 7 bomb-laden

trucks drove into the U.s. Embassies - about

10:30 a.m. in Nairobi, Kenya and 10:39 a.m. in

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The attack on the U.s. Embassy in Nairobi

destroyed the Embassy and killed 12 Americans

and 201 others, almost all Kenyans.

Over 4,000 people were injured. The attack

on the U.s. Embassy in Dar es Salaam killed

11 more people, none of them Americans.

Interviewed later about the deaths of the

Africans, bin Laden answered "when it becomes

apparent that it would be impossible

to repel these Americans without assaulting

them,even ifthis involved the killing of

Muslims, this is permissible under Islam."

Asked if he had indeed masterminded these

bombings, bin Laden said that the World

Islamic Front for jihad against"Jews and Crusaders"

had issued a "crystal clear" fatwa.lf

the instigation for jihad against the Jews and

the Americans to liberate the holy places "is

considered a crime,"he said,"let history be a

witness that I am a criminaL"

2000, U.S.S. Cole

On Thursday, October 12,2000, while refueling

at a port in Aden, Yemen, the U.s. Navy

destroyer Cole was attacked by two suicide

bombers navigating a small motorboat

full of explosives.The explosion occurred

around 11 :18 a.m. local time, killing 17 crewmembers

and wounding 39 others.

Witnesses later said the boat, which sidled

up along the ship's port side, came so close

prior to the explosion that sailors aboard the

USS Cole exchanged greetings with the two

suicide bombers, who stood at attention just

before the explosives detonated.The explosion

occurred as crewmembers had begun

lining up for lunch in the galley, and blew a

hole 40 feet wide in the side of the ship.The

blast was likely caused, CIA officials believe,

by a "shape charge," explosives molded into

the hull of the boat.

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