09/06/04 — Child killers: What propels evil extremists?

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Child killers: What propels evil extremists?

The hostage catastrophe at a Russian school is another sad reminder of the extremes to which Islamic zealots will go to achieve their objectives.

We Americans cannot comprehend the callous killing of hundreds of schoolchildren. We don’t understand how anyone could feel so strongly about anything that he would condone such an atrocity.

This is the kind of fanaticism that turned our stomachs when airplanes full of innocent Americans were crashed into the New York towers and the Pentagon and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, only to kill more innocent men, women and children.

No amount of research into Islamic doctrine or the culture of these killers can bring an explanation of how anyone could justify such evil deeds, or even begin to conceive of a justification in the name of religion.

There is a heavy concentration of Muslims in some parts of Russia. They have populated Chechnya and neighboring areas of Russia for many years. While we usually think of Russia as European, much of it is in Asia, in the area of Asia that is dominated by Muslims. Chechnya, for instance, is closer to Iran than Goldsboro is to Asheville.

The Republic was taken in by Russia in the 1860s. The Chechens rebelled in 1877, along with the Muslims in bordering Daghestan. They were defeated, but the Russians thereafter treated them with tolerance to keep them peaceful. Eventually, with the overthrow of the Tsarist government, Chechnya became a part of the Soviet Union in 1919.

When the USSR disbanded in 1991, the Chechens wanted to break their bonds with Moscow. They have been at war with the Russian government off and on for nearly 13 years.

The capital city of Chechnya, Grozny, has been devastated. Extremist Chechens have committed terrorist acts against Russia, including the taking of a theater in Moscow in 2002, which resulted in hundreds of deaths.

They are demanding independence from Moscow, but Moscow refuses to grant it. If Chechnya were allowed to break away, other Russian states might try to follow by using the same tactics.

No one can say whether there would be less killing if the Chechens got their way or if Moscow caved in.

Those are some of the facts, but they still don’t tell us how breaking the tie with Moscow could be so important to the Chechens that they would slaughter innocent children by the dozens.

Surely it is not for strictly political reasons. Only a misguided, maniacal religious fanaticism — the product of evil itself — could produce such a strong mutual obsession among a people.

The Islamic clerics who have influence in the region are probably the only ones who could stop it. Let’s pray that they do, and that this work of Satan will be thwarted.

Published in Editorials on September 6, 2004 10:39 AM