THE arrest of seven doctors in the attempted British terror bombings has shocked many people. Sadly, it shouldn’t.
All seven are Muslims working at government-financed hospitals, their salaries paid by the British taxpayer. Dr. Muhammad Hanif practiced at Halton Hospital in Runcorn, Cheshire; Dr. Muhammad Asha, at the North Staffordshire NHS Trust’s University Hospital.
So can doctors be terrorists? Can people who are financially well-off be terrorists? Absolutely.
It is ideology, after all, that turns people into terrorists – not suffering.
Indeed, the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda is Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri – who was previously a stalwart of the Muslim Brotherhood in his native Egypt.
Zawahiri made the connections that led to his role in al Qaeda when he went to Afghanistan in 1980 to provide medical care for jihadists fighting the Soviets. Later, he was a key architect of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed hundreds of innocents, and of the 9/11 attacks.
Other Islamist MDs include two recent leaders of the Palestinian terror group Hamas. Abdel Aziz Rantisi graduated first in his class from an Egyptian university in pediatrics; he succeeded slain cleric Ahmad Yassin as Hamas’ chief in March 2004 – only to perish himself a month later. After him came Mahmoud al-Zahar (who had helped found Hamas in 1987), an Egyptian-trained surgeon who today is the most powerful man in the Gaza Strip.
Even before the rise of Islamism, there were secular doctor-terrorists. Dr. George Habash, a founder and for three decades leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), is now still active though enjoying his semi-retirement in Syria.
The PFLP was one of the most bloodthirsty terrorist groups in history, with exploits such as a 1978 attack at Orly Airport in Paris and the 2002 shooting of five (including a mother and three children) in Itamar on the West Bank.
Dr. Waddi Haddad was Habash’s sometime partner before forming an organization specializing in terrorist operations, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-External Operations. Among its more spectacular actions was a 1977 hijacking of a Lufthansa flight en route from Mallorca to Frankfurt.
Consider, too, the kind of people who become doctors – relatively intelligent, well-organized, hard-working. These are valuable skills both in leading terrorist groups and in carrying out operations.
Yes, we in the West expect the study of medicine to produce humanists – men and women who view all life as sacred, dedicated to broad service for humanity.
But it is also an intellectual endeavor – exposing one to other intellectual currents in the surrounding world. And in much of the Muslim world, the strongest currents have been the various extremisms that promote terrorism.
And the doctrines of radical Arab nationalism and Islamism (like the one that motivated those totalitarians working in concentration camps six decades ago) view their enemies as sub-human. Toward them, those trained in healing are quite willing to become doctors of death.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. His latest book is “The Truth About Syria.”