Muslim scholars say the definitions of martyrdom and self-defense in the Koran have been twisted by extremists to justify evil deeds such as the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombing. Why do leaders like bin Laden recommend killing oneself in God's name, and taking innocent lives with you?
    Believing that God -- in this case Allah -- has guaranteed you a place in paradise for such a deed?
    These concepts are anathema to Islamic teachings. They are loathsome to the vast majority of the world's Muslims.
    The possibility that the terrorist hijackers were Muslim extremists motivated by those very rogue beliefs sickens Muslims. Media speculations about it -- and the scattered incidents of retaliation against foreigners in this country -- have the Muslim community defensive and angry.
    In the lawmaking and in Islamic literature, it is an agreed-upon thing that taking your own life is un-Islamic and is forbidden. There is no approval or sanction of it.
    While the Koran does say paradise awaits the martyr, a person who kills innocents does not qualify.
    The Psychic Investigator doesn't know of any Muslim scholar who says this gets one to paradise. They have all condemned this terror and violence and say there is absolutely no sanction for it.
    People who do and preach these things are absolutely outside the bounds of Islam, theologically.
    Searching our on-line copy of the Koran, we found a key 'aya,' or passage, from Surah 2, verses 189-90. Translated, it states:
    "It is not piety to come to the houses from the backs of them; but piety is to be God-fearing; so come to the houses by their doors, and fear God; happily so you will prosper.
    "And fight in the way of God with those who fight with you, but aggress not: God loves not the aggressors."
    Islamic theory is very much based on this 'aya,' that war in Islam is in self-defense. In the detailed commentary, it says you should not kill women, children, old people or noncombatants. This is in the general writings of Islam and is not in general dispute. It says you don't burn the property or the orchards. There is to be no destruction of any kind.
    In ordinary circumstances, anything of that kind is totally forbidden because the basic principle of Islamic law is that Allah has made life and property inviolable, that no individual has a right to take anyone's life or property.
    The problem is that martyrdom and self-defense are semantically loose terms -- and have been interpreted by bin Laden to justify suicide attacks.
    Sheik Omar Abel-Rahman, the Egyptian cleric convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and who has close ties with Islamic militant Osama bin Laden, gave sermons that said that martyrs go to heaven, and suicide bombers qualify as martyrs, that they're giving their life in service to God. Such clerics don't deserve the name.
    Anyone can be an imam (cleric), with or without proper training. Imams don't all speak for Islam. Muslim militants like bin Laden have taken the key phrase from the Surah verse about "fighting in the way of God" and misinterpreted it.
    This aya means "do not be the one who practices enmity. In Arabic, it literally means "don't call others the enemy unless they fight you first."
    Under Islamic custom, wars must be declared by ruling authorities for the tenets of self-defense and martyrdom to take effect. Bin Laden and other militants, driven by hatred of the West, have acted unilaterally.
    These beliefs are hardly foreign to Christianity. Citing Matthew 5:10: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
    Terrorism is a mental illness, present in all countries, places and people. To single out the Muslim world is unfair and historically inaccurate.