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IUK: What Muslim would write: 'The time of fun and waste is gone'?
By Robert Fisk
2/10/2001 10:03 am Tue
What Muslim would write: 'The time of fun and waste is gone'?
29 September 2001
Fearful, chilling, grot-esque - but also very, very odd. If the
handwritten, five-page document which the FBI says it found in
the baggage of Mohamed Atta, the suicide bomber from Egypt, is
genuine, then the men who murdered more than 7,000 innocent
people believed in a very exclusive version of Islam - or were
surprisingly unfamiliar with their religion.
"The time of Fun and waste is gone,'' Atta, or one of his
associates, is reported to have written in the note. "Be optimistic ...
Check all your items - your bag, your clothes, your knives, your
will, your IDs, your passport ... In the morning, try to pray the
morning prayer with an open heart.''
Part theological, part mission statement, the document - extracts
from which were published in The Washington Post yesterday -
raises more questions than it answers.
Under the heading of "Last Night'' - presumably the night of 10
September - the writer tells his fellow hijackers to "remind yourself
that in this night you will face many challenges. But you have to
face them and understand it 100 per cent ... Obey God, his
messenger, and don't fight among yourself [sic] where [sic] you
become weak ... Everybody hates death, fears death ..."
The document begins with the words: "In the name of God, the
most merciful, the most compassionate ... In the name of God, of
myself, and of my family.''
The problem is that no Muslim - however ill-taught - would
include his family in such a prayer. Indeed, he would mention the
Prophet Mohamed immediately after he mentioned God in the first
line. Lebanese and Palestinian suicide bombers have never been
known to refer to "the time of fun and waste'' - because a true
Muslim would not have "wasted'' his time and would regard
pleasure as a reward of the after-life.
And what Muslim would urge his fellow believers to recite the
morning prayer - and then go on to quote from it? A devout
Muslim would not need to be reminded of his duty to say the first of
the five prayers of the day - and would certainly not need to be
reminded of the text. It is as if a Christian, urging his followers to
recite the Lord's Prayer, felt it necessary to read the whole prayer
in case they didn't remember it.
American scholars have already raised questions about the use of
"100 per cent'' - hardly a theological term to be found in a
religious exhortation - and the use of the word "optimistic'' with
reference to the Prophet is a decidedly modern word.
However, the full and original Arabic text has not been released
by the FBI. The translation, as it stands, suggests an almost
Christian view of what the hijackers might have felt - asking to be
forgiven their sins, explaining that fear of death is natural, that "a
believer is always plagued with problems''.
A Muslim is encouraged not to fear death - it is, after all, the
moment when he or she believes they will start a new life - and a
believer in the Islamic world is one who is certain of his path, not
"plagued with problems''.
There are no references to any of Osama bin Laden's demands -
for an American withdrawal from the Gulf, an end to Israeli
occupation, the overthrow of pro-American Arab regimes - nor
any narrative context for the atrocities about to be committed. If the
men had an aspiration - and if the document is above suspicion -
then they were sending their message direct to their God.
The prayer/instructions may have been distributed to other
hijackers before the massacres occurred - The Washington Post
says the FBI found another copy of "essentially the same
document'' in the wreckage of the plane which crashed in
Pennsylvania. No text of this document has been released.
In the past, CIA translators have turned out to be Lebanese
Maronite Christians whose understanding of Islam and its prayers
may have led to serious textual errors. Could this be to blame for
the weird references in the note found in Atta's baggage? Or is
there something more mysterious about the background of those
who committed a crime against humanity in New York and
Washington, just over two weeks ago?
From the start, the hole in the story has been the reported
behaviour of the hijackers. Atta was said to have been a
near-alcoholic, while Ziad Jarrahi, the alleged Lebanese hijacker
of the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania, had a Turkish
girlfriend in Hamburg and enjoyed nightclubs and drinking. Is this
why the published text refers to the "forgiveness'' of sin?
The final instruction, "to make sure that you are clean, your
clothes are clean, including your shoes,'' may have been intended
as a call to purify a "martyr" before death. Equally, it may reflect
the thoughts of a truly eccentric - and wicked - mind.
The document found in Atta's baggage ends with a heading:
"When you enter the plane". It then urges the hijackers to recite:
"Oh God, open all doors for me ... I am asking for your help. I am
asking you for forgiveness. I am asking you to lighten my way. I am
asking you to lift the burden I feel ...''
Was this an attempt to smother latent feelings of compassion
towards the passengers on the hijacked planes - who included
children among them - or towards the thousands who would die
when the aircraft crashed? Did the 19 suicide bombers say these
words to themselves in their last moments?
Or didn't they need to.