Friday, July 6, 2007

Why the surprise?

It's funny to see the surprise of reporters concerning the fact that physicians are involved in the latest terrorist plot in Britain. Aren't they aware that Ayman al Zawahiri (second in command of Al Caida) was educated as a physician and surgeon. He practiced his craft in Pakistan. Why do we still hold doctors in such esteem? With respect -Joel


Stu Denenberg said...

Yes, and this also shows that the perception that these terrorists come from the unhappy lower classes (as been historically the case) who just want to get their share of the pie doesn't hold true anymore.

These terrorists are educated and in many cases well off. In this situation we are dealing with extreme idealists.



Religious zealots seem to be the worst of all as they can more easily be persuaded to give up their lives for the cause. Especially if there are 79 virgins waiting...

Ira Glickstein said...


You are correct, most of the liberal elite (which includes most newspaper and TV reporters) have never met a fundamentalist believer in any religion who was also highly competent in science or technology or medicine.

Immediately after 911, some of my liberal friends told me that Arabs in general and fundamentalist Islamists in particular could not have destroyed the WTC without the support of the CIA or Mossad. In their mind set, airplane pilots and the coordinated planning that went into 911 were in a totally separate category from the mental capabilities of religious people. Therefore, it was an "inside job" perpetrated by the vast right-wing conspiracy.

As an IBM engineer working on complex computer systems for military aircraft, I have had the privilege of working with fundamentalist Christians and also a religious Muslim who were extremely competent in engineering and technology. We sometimes had discussions about religion. Some of their views on the "literal truth" of their scriptures and creation and the rapture and so on seem totally "over the top" to me. Yet, a moment later, they were absolutely coherent when it came to science and engineering!

47th Street Photo in New York City is staffed by Chasidic Jews you can recognize by their long beards and black clothing. Despite their medieval dress and ultra-Orthodox beliefs, they are experts when it comes to photography and computers.

My wife and I financially supported a Chasidic outreach at Binghamton University because they were "our Moonies" -- they rescued some troubled Jewish students who might otherwise succumb to the crazy religious appeal of Sun Yung Moon's group. I attended some classes and lectures at the Chasidic synagogue and became friendly with their rabbi. I was amazed at their intelligence and inspired reasoning. Starting from assumptions about God and Heaven and the literal truth of the Hebrew Bible and so on that I could never embrace, they engaged in flawless reasoning that was marvelous to behold. One lecturer was a biological chemist who was doing ground-breaking work in genetics. He gave a wonderful lecture about his work (which I know something about because of my PhD studies). Then, during the Q&A period, he reiterated the "party line" that the Earth was only some 5700-odd years old.

In today's paper, there is an AP story about the foreign physicians (Iraq, India, Jordan,...) apparently involved in the British plot. They had easy access to Britain due to the relationship of their countries to the British Commonwealth and the doctor shortage in the British National Health Care scheme. In the US, there are an estimated 130,000 foreign-born doctors (India, Phillipines, Pakistan, ...). The newspaper story says we have a very stringent screening process involving fingerprints, background checks and so on. After their residency, they must return to their home countries for two years before they can come back to the US on a work visa, with yet another security check. Perhaps we are doing something right.

Ira Glickstein

Ira Glickstein said...


First of all I need to correct you, it is not "79 virgins waiting..." as the ultimate reward for Islamic martyrs! Only 72 (I told you a million times, don't exaggerate!)

Yes, it is deeply concerning these suspected plotters are educated and well off and yet also dedicated to what seems to us extreme religious dogma.

I am worried that we, whose religious beliefs vary from none to the "ethical culture" mind set of Unitarians, Liberal Christians, Reform Jews, and Westernized Zen Buddhists, can never compete successfully against absolutely TRUE BELIEVER zealots willing to sacrifice their lives at a moment's notice. And, many of them are at least as smart and inventive and industrious as the best of us.

How can we ever win? Will we understand this battle will not be over for decades? Will we just "put our head in the sand" and hope for the best?

Ira Glickstein