Singapore: Act with Caution

The terrorists who carried out the heinous attacks on New York and Washington on Tuesday made a colossal error in judgment. Far from being cowed, the United States will respond vigorously to the attacks. That is how the country has responded in the past; that is how it will respond now. Democracies are uncanny in that respect: They can be riven by political dissensions one moment, and yet gel together in the twinkling of an eye when faced with a threat.

In this case, the United States will have the support of the civilized world as it ferrets out the criminals who planned the dastardly acts and brings them to justice. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not just attacks on the financial and military symbols of American power; they were attacks on the very idea of civilization itself. Civilization will and must retaliate; terrorism will and must be fought globally.

President George W. Bush’s statement that the United States will not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor them has this newspaper’s full concurrence. The United States, however, must determine the identity of the culprits before acting, and its response must be not only military but also political and diplomatic.

If indeed it transpires that [Osama] bin Laden’s group, or some other Middle Eastern group, is responsible, the world should not regard them as Muslims, whatever they may call themselves. The Quran, like the Bible and other religious texts, expressly forbids suicide or random murder, especially of the old, women, and children. Just as terrorists in Ireland cannot be considered model Christians, the perpetrators of this act of violence cannot be regarded as representatives of Islam. Nobody, not least citizens in multiracial, multireligious societies, should stereotype any race or religion because of the heinous acts of a few evil individuals.