- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Coming convulsion

Inside the Beltway has intercepted a telegram from the American consulate's office in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia addressed to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary H. Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice identifying a "troubling streak of intolerance" that has emerged among certain Muslims in the Arab world, and warning of a possible "convulsion" of the Islamic faith.

"The vast majority of Muslims are accepting of persons of different faiths," says the telegram, dated April 2002. "However, in the wake of September 11, many observers have remarked on the existence of a troubling streak of intolerance that colors Islam as it is practiced and preached in Saudi Arabia."

The telegram notes that a radical brand of Islam called Wahhabism arose in the 18th century in the rural and historically poor part of Arabia known as Najd, and by the early 20th century had found fertile ground from Mecca and Medina to Mogadishu.

"Today, zealots in and around the holy cities see themselves as continuing the Prophet Muhammad's struggle to uproot and destroy all vestiges of the polytheistic past," the U.S. leaders are told. "In so doing, they confirm early Islam's enmity toward the confessional comity that once characterized this region."

"Try as they might," the unclassified dispatch states, the Islamic faith "cannot credibly characterize Wahhabism as a freak sectarian aberration. The Najdis' intolerant message succeeds because it remains unchallenged; no Muslim Luther has summoned the courage to nail his propositions to the door of the Kaaba" referring to the Holy Kaaba, the most sacred structure in Islam.

"There are those who express hope that Islam, drawing on centuries of experience of absorbing and ultimately de-fanging its radical fringe, can harness the Wahhabis' drive and apply it toward constructive purposes," the telegram continues. "However, it appears equally likely that the as-yet-unchecked spread of Saudi Arabia's state faith could precipitate a convulsion such as that which engulfed the West in the 16th century and subsequently was termed the Protestant Reformation.

"Then, Christendom struggled to amend itself while parrying perceived Muslim predations. Five hundred years later the tables are turned, and it is by no means clear whether Islam will accommodate itself to the emergence [of] a secular society or withdraw further into obscurantism and intolerance."


Republican tradition

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and fellow supporters of voting rights for the District of Columbia may have found a new spokesman in West Point military cadet James N. Rimensnyder.

The cadet had read in this column last month about the impressive military service of "voteless" D.C. residents, many of whom lost their lives defending this country. He was so stirred by the war record of such Washingtonians that he sat down and wrote the following letter to President Bush on West Point stationery:

"Dear Mr. President,

As a native-born resident of the District of Columbia, you know, of course, that I have no voting representative in Congress. The situation has persisted for 200 years. District residents first brought this to the attention of Congress in 1801. Today, we are the only citizens of the United States, excluding felons, who pay federal taxes and serve in the armed forces, but are denied representation in Congress.

"Two years ago, when I reached my 18th birthday, I registered as a Republican and voted in the 2000 presidential election as provided in the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution. Now I am a cadet at the United States Military Academy, and appeal to you to uphold the long-standing tradition of our party to advocate voting representation in Congress for residents of the District of Columbia.

"Sir, I wish that one day soon I might have the opportunity to meet you, salute you as my commander in chief, and thank you personally for addressing this grievance."


Mailer in town

Writers Norman Mailer and Lawrence Schiller will be in Washington tomorrow evening to brief reporters at the National Press Club on their new book, "Into the Mirror: The Life of Robert P. Hanssen."

Certainly not the first book on Hanssen, this tome is different, the authors say, because it's based on extensive interviews with the convicted spy's immediate family, FBI agents, and former Soviet KGB agents and diplomats.

As a result, they claim to have uncovered who Hanssen really was and what he was thinking when he decided to betray his country and funnel secrets to the Soviet Union for over 15 years.

CBS told us earlier that Mr. Mailer and Mr. Schiller are also filming a television docudrama based on Hanssen's clandestine affair.

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