Hijackers' "Letter" Raises More Questions than Answers
By IslamOnline and News Agencies, 1 October 2001
WASHINGTON, Sept 30 - Questions have risen over whether Mohammad Atta, or any of the other alleged hijackers, wrote the five-page handwritten Arabic document the FBI claims to have found both in Atta's luggage and in the wreckage of the downed flight in Pennsylvania.

The document allegedly includes Islamic prayers, instructions for a last night of life and practical reminders to bring "knives, your will, IDs, your passport" and, finally, "to make sure that nobody is following you."

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials claim they found the document in Atta's luggage Friday, which did not make it on the ill-fated plane that rammed into the World Trade Center, saying they are not sure of the author's identity - whether it was Atta, another hijacker or someone else, the Washington Post reported.

Two scholars said they found "incongruous" the opening line that refers to praying "in the name of God, of myself and my family . . ." because Muslims do not pray in their name or their families' names, reported the Post.

Jonathan Brockopp, assistant professor of Islamic studies at Bard College, noted another inconsistency in the statement about seeking death.

In mainstream Muslim tradition, he said, "there is an important distinction between suicide and martyrdom in that martyrs don't seek death. A martyr seeks to glorify God and be God's instrument . . . and is not necessarily seeking death," said the paper.

The idea "of not seeking death," Brockopp added, "is tremendously important in Muslim tradition."

He was also quoted as saying that Islamic extremists have recently arrived at their own interpretations of these early Muslim teachings, and the document's author appears to follow that view.

He also said he found certain phrases like "lighten my way . . . lift the burden" are typical of self-exhortations made by "a person who joins a charismatic community or cult" and then tries "to do something beyond impossibility," said the Post.

Renowned British journalist Robert Fisk also questioned the "Islamicity" of the hijackers saying, "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."

In an article, published by the Independent Saturday, Fisk went on to say that the alleged letter raises more questions than answers.

Fisk concurs with scholars who were bothered by the quotation that read, ""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 [SAW] immediately after he mentioned God in the first line," Fisk argues.

He was also puzzled by the statement in which the writer says, "the time of fun and waste are over," saying that "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 afterlife."

"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 [SAW] 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'," read excepts from Fisk's article.

He goes on to ponder over why 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.

He also goes on to question the credibility of the translators and possible intentions of the authorities.

"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?" Fisk asks.

Over and over questions arise over the identities of the hijackers, specifically regarding the behavior of the hijackers who supposedly were so dedicated to Islam that they were willing to die for the sake of the faith.

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.

Such behavior would directly contradict the life of a devout Muslim willing to die for the sake and goodness of his/her religion.

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