Ambassador Idriss Jazairy
Informal Meeting With Staffers
U.S. House of Representatives
September 24, 2001
Thanks for giving me an opportunity to speak and provide an Algerian Moslems
presentation of some key features of his faith against the backdrop of the truly
international tragedy which took place in the US on 11 September 2001.
No one better than President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in his letter of September
11 to President George W. Bush could express our deep sympathy and strong solidarity
with the Government and people of the United States. I will read it to you:
Together with all the Algerian people, I was horrified by the news concerning
the cruel and barbaric attacks of which the American people was the victim in
both its capitals of New York and Washington.
Algeria condemns with the greatest energy these acts of violence bearing the
revolting hallmark of blind terrorism which targets all parts of the world,
and which, in the acts that just targeted your great country, demonstrated its
capacity to harm and the danger to which it exposes humanity.
In these terrible and tragic circumstances, I wish to express to you personally
and to the whole of the American people, my sympathy and that of the Algerian
people which shares the grief of the families stricken by this atrocious unleashing
of such abject violence and of such cowardice.
Please accept, Mr. President, the assurance of my highest consideration.
Algeria, I believe, was one of the first countries that expressed its support
and discussed immediately with the White House the further concrete forms it
could take at the bilateral level. Furthermore, on the very day when Algeria
was asked by the Administration whether it would join the international coalition
to fight terrorism, I received instructions from my Head of State to notify
the White House that we would do so. The relations of mutual friendship and
confidence that were established during the visit to Washington of President
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in July with President George W. Bush, stood this first
important test. Indeed, the test further reinforced these relations.
The outrage expressed by our Government against these heinous crimes was indeed
shared by the Algerian people, many of whom spontaneously took to the streets
in some parts of our own country and in front of some US Embassies abroad to
denounce the attacks of September 11.
We were particularly sensitive to the wanton murder of so many innocent people
of all parts of the world in this country as we know only too well, alas! what
it means to be targeted by terrorism: For a whole decade, Algeria itself has
had to deal with this scourge, single-handed. Its call for a world response
to fight terror fell on deaf ears. Though its population is one tenth that of
the United States, you can now understand what it means for us to have been
subjected in a decade to the equivalent of 25 WTC attacks in terms of losses
of lives and of material damage. Therefore, we feel that your blood is our blood,
your ordeal is our ordeal.
I doubt that any other country in our hemisphere has had to pay as high a price
as Algeria for working toward justice, freedom and democracy. It was not in
fact the interruption of the 1991 parliamentary elections that led to violence
but rather the violence which had broken out before these elections and pronouncements
of religious zealots saying that if elected, they would suspend democracy, an
allegedly alien concept to Islam, that led to an interruption of the electoral
process. And the most blood-thirsty terrorists in Algeria from the late eighties
were trained by the same terrorist groups as those that you associate with the
11 September attack. Yet, I have read minutes of debates in this House in 1995
to the effect that it might not be a bad idea if this brand of Political
Islam took over political power in Algeria. This was consistent with the
position of a previous US Administration in the eighties to support in Afghanistan,
in order to oust the Soviet Union from that country, the very same group that
is now the prime suspect in the search for the perpetrators of the atrocities
in the US this month. Except that Algeria was already engaged at that stage
in an approach, messy though it was, to liberalization and a market economy.
We welcome the recognition now given by the present Administration of President
George W. Bush to the terrible danger posed by such radical zealot networks
to the world. Yet, the particular ordeal that Algeria has suffered at the hands
of these terrorists has not been acknowledged by recent official US statements
which nevertheless mentioned the lesser threats posed by these groups to other
Our willingness, indeed our eagerness, to cooperate bilaterally has already
led to important accomplishments for which Attorney General John Ashcroft expressed
to President Bouteflika in July the gratitude of the Government and People of
the United States.
We are happy that the earlier notion of crusade against terrorism,
excluding by definition Moslems, and implying a clash between the Western and
the Islamic civilizations has not been advocated again. We are indeed eager
to foster an international coalition to fight terrorism and we hope that the
UN will be able to play its proper role in this regard
My personal view is that the UN organization was set up after World War II to
save Nations from the scourge of war but it was conceived to address 20th century
wars of regular armies confronting one another or resistance movements seeking
independence from foreign occupation. Increasingly, as we engage in the XXIst
century conflicts tend to change in nature with the emergence of asymmetric
confrontations between states and terrorist groups. Incidentally, the latter
must be clearly distinguished from resistance movements against foreign occupation.
This being so, we should ask ourselves whether current UN institutions are able
to save Nations from the scourge of these new forms of wars or whether
we should think of drawing up under its auspices an institution disposing of
the right skills and forms of operations to rise to the evolving challenge.
We appreciate President George W. Bushs statement that the projected US
response targets neither a country, nor a people nor an ethnic nor a religious
group but a radical network of terrorists and every or any Government that may
support them. This would be close, in my personal opinion, to the mission statement
of the new world institution that could be set up under the UN.
Nor should one identify radical networks of terrorists with a particular population
or ethnic groups and to be specific in the present case, with Arabs or Moslems.
Terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon that exists at different degrees and in
different forms in many countries including the US, in Ireland, in the Basque
country of Spain, in Corsica, in India, in Peru or Columbia as well as in the
Muslim world. Yet, we do not equate terrorism with the US because McVeigh blew
up a State building in Oklahoma. Nor will an American of Irish descent be prevented
from getting on a plane on which he is booked because of the sound of his name.
We are mindful of the wave of anti-semistim targeting the Jews and which reached
a pitch of State terrorism against the Jews in World War II.
Though not comparable with the former, we are mindful of the impact of executive
order 9016 of President Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor and of the 110 thousand
innocent US citizens or residents of Japanese origin whose internment was thereby
We must avoid that the abomination of the WTC, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania
crash unleashes a further abomination in the form of killings of more innocent
people across the world fuelled by a new wave of anti-Semitism. An anti-Semitism
directed this time not at the descendants of Jacob, the Jewish people, but at
the descendants of his brother Ismail, the Arab people. An ominous sign of this
is the repeated broadcast from 3 or 4 world television news distributors as
from September 12 of footage showing a Palestinian woman and a few kids celebrating,
eating celebration sweets, making V signs and pulling faces at the camera. The
commentator said they were rejoicing about the US tragedy thus breeding hatred
against Arabs worldwide and obliterating the impact of outpouring of sympathy
from Arab Governments and teaming millions in the Arab region. According to
an Internet source that was broadcast across the world, the BBC confirmed this
week-end that they have found copies of the same footage in their archives of
We must remember that anti-Semitism is an evil that will not bear containment.
If tolerated for one Semitic sub-group e.i. the Arabs, it will spread sooner
or later with a vengeance to the Semitic ethnic group as a whole.
Therefore, I wish to pay tribute to the words of wisdom that President Bush
uttered in his landmark speech of September 20. For he clearly drew the distinction
between Moslems and those who commit evil in the name of Allah thus blaspheming
Allah, underlining that the terrorists are traitors to their own faith. I also
wish to pay tribute to the vision of Secretary of State and of the Attorney
General who made similar statements.
The Holy Koran indeed refers specifically to such extremists who stray from
the true teachings of their religion and indicates we should not feel sorry
for them when they are exposed to retribution. And I quote:
Is he then (of those) to whom the evil of their conduct is made alluring
so that they look upon it as good. For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills and
guides whom He wills. So let not thy soul go out in sighing after them: for
Allah knows well what they do.
Islam is indeed the religion not of violence that is conveyed by some media
stereotypes, but of moderation. As the Koran says: Thus we have made of
you a Nation of the middle ground that ye might bear witness of people.
Bearing witness means being even-handed.
The Prophet (PBUH) himself warns us against religious extremism explaining that
religious extremism has brought disaster on those who came before you
(reported by Ibn Abbas). He also said A believer remains within the scope
of his religion as long as he does not kill another person illegally that
is, outside direct military confrontation.
The Islamic religion does not recognize collective punishment as it forbids
that anyone be held responsible for another persons action. Do not
says God in the Koran, impose on one the burden of the other. Retribution
for murder through death of the murderer cannot be exercised by the aggrieved
party itself but through the Courts on the basis of convincing evidence and
the Koran recommends a settlement avoiding execution. Even in war, Muslims are
only allowed to kill those with whom they are in direct confrontation.
The Prophet himself gave the following instructions to his troops before combat:
Do not be excessive, do not kill a child nor a woman or an old person
or a person who is secluded in his hermitage. Do not burn a fruit tree nor cut
trees, nor demolish structures (reported by Muslim).
So if this cannot be done in war-time how could it be tolerated in peace-time?
Islam is also the religion of peace in spite of the biased translation of Jihad
as Holy War and of its interpretations as the Islamic counterpart
of the Crusades or worse. Its true meaning is the exertion of effort,
straining towards an objective.
The greater Jihad is the one to be waged against our own moral weaknesses and
The lesser Jihad which is the resort to a just war can only be proclaimed to
overcome schism in faith, protect believers from oppression or in reaction to
aggression. It is forbidden for the purpose of domination of one people over
another, for the sake of revenge, to colonize others or to force others to change
As soon as legitimate objectives are achieved or when the enemy expresses a
desire for peace, Jihad has to stop or becomes an unjust war.
The root of the word Islam itself is peace which is one of the 99
names of God. Peace is also part of the sentence we use to greet Moslems and
non- Moslems alike.
As military action against the Taliban Government and the terrorist groups it
harbors, seems at hand and on evidence of guilt whose publication was just announced
by Secretary Colin Powell we meditate these words of the Holy Koran:
And if ye punish, let your punishment be proportionate to the wrong that
has been done to you For Allah is with those who restrain themselves and
those who do good.
Our thoughts during this tragedy also go to the civilian population in Afghanistan
and to the impending major humanitarian crisis in which it may soon find itself.
We share in the belief that fighting terrorism is a long term and complex task
involving a multiplicity of instruments in the diplomatic, the financial field,
in intelligence collection and exchange, as well as traditional and new forms
of military action.
We must also address the circumstances which have promoted the propensity to
violence of certain population groups throughout the world. To analyze this
increased propensity to violence is not to seek to justify or excuse it but
to eradicate its underlying causes.
In broad terms, resentment, frustration and despair breed violence. Violence
then looks for an ideology to legitimize it. A lunatic fringe may emerge from
the process of social fermentation.
Some causes of frustration and despair are internal and relate currently to
the labors of countries whose economies are in transition. And they have to
put their act together.
Other causes relate in the Moslem world to what it perceives as double standards
applied with respect to the Palestinians and the rest of the world, by major
world powers on such issues as human rights and the rights to nationhood. The
Palestinian Intifada correctly is circumscribed to its territory but all Moslems
in other parts of the world share frustration due to the stalemate and to what
they perceive as blatant injustice. Terrorists count on this frustration as
fuel to propel them into positions of power. So major countries also have to
put their act together.
The great defeat of the terrorist attack of September 11 is the fact that despite
those far-reaching frustrations, the overwhelming majority of countries, friend
and foe, stood by the US and condemned those atrocities.
Let us preserve this valuable social capital to cement the international coalition
as well as to put together a worldwide UN convention to combat the scourge of