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Is the Cause of Terrorism Islam, or Foreign Policy?

Was the Cause of September 11 Islam or Foreign Policy?

George W. Bush has taken a stand on the true nature of Islam, calling it, for instance, a “religion of peace.” As strange as this is to hear from the president of the United States, Bush’s declarations have given rise to a good deal of useful public discussion about Islam. Unfortunately, this discussion has too often accepted the confused terms of the president’s rhetoric: Is there, or is there not, something wrong in the nature of Islam? Salman Rushdie (“Yes, This is About Islam,” New York Times 11/2/01) and Jonathan Ebel (“Territory is Not Mind,” Sightings 11/15/01) both make some useful points in the process of taking up the question, but somehow leave standing the president’s fundamental misconception that a religion has an essence.

Surely it is not fair to say that September 11 is “about” Islam. Violent hatred and intolerance can be adduced in too many corners of the religious world to imagine that it comes, simply, from the doctrines of one holy book or another. At the same time, it is difficult for me to blame Salman Rushdie, especially, for perceiving something within Islam today that is prone to violence. His non-violent, literary attack on Islam was, after all, taken by some Muslims to justify very real threats to his life. And, he marshals some reasonable evidence that many Muslims do believe that Islam is on board with the September 11 terrorists.

Still, we ought not to declare that September 11 is “about” Islam, especially if this means that we ignore “foreign policy, humanity, global society, and the just ordering thereof”– which Ebel says are obviously what September 11 is also “about.” Ebel’s list implies that a larger, broader causal story needs to be told, rather than simply to say that Islam gave us the horrors of September 11. I agree wholeheartedly. Believing too simplistic a causal story carries both moral and practical flaws. If Islam itself — or something in its nature — was the cause of the attacks, we could only prevent further attacks by preventing further Islam. In this way, such a simplistic belief would tend to sanction persecution if not genocide against Muslims. From a practical standpoint, we will have to understand the details of the real, long-term causal story if we wish to minimize the threat of repeated terrorism in America.

Internet Crime

An intentional breach to digital security often involves a deliberate act that is against the law.1 Cybercrime refers to online or Internet-based illegal acts such as distributing malicious software or committing identity theft. Perpetrators of cybercrime typically fall into one of these categories: hacker, cracker, script kiddie, corporate spy, unethical employee, cyberextortionist, and cyberterrorist.

The term hacker refers to someone who accesses a computer or network illegally. Some hackers claim the intent of their security breaches is to improve security. A cracker also is someone who accesses a computer or network illegally but has the intent of destroying data, stealing information, or other malicious action. Both hackers and crackers have advanced computer and network skills. A script kiddie has the same intent as a cracker but does not have the technical skills and knowledge. Script kiddies often use prewritten hacking and cracking programs.

Corporate spies and unethical employees are other types of cybercrime perpetrators. Some corporate spies have excellent computer and networking skills and are hired to break into a specific computer and steal its proprietary data and information, or to help identify security risks in their own organization. Unethical employees may break into their employers’ computers for a variety of reasons. They may want to exploit a security weakness, receive financial gains from selling confidential information, or even to seek revenge (Gonzalez).

A cyberextortionist is someone who demands payment to stop an attack on an organization’s technology infrastructure. For example, these criminals threaten to expose confidential information, exploit a security flaw, or launch an attack that will compromise the organization’s network. A cyberterrorist is someone who uses the Internet or network to destroy or damage computers for political reasons. Cyberwarfare is an attack whose goal ranges from disabling a government’s computer network to crippling a country. Cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare usually require a team of highly skilled individuals, millions of dollars, and several years of planning (Zheng and Rutherford).

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