PROVO — At first glance, Dann Hone doesn't look like the sort who could help you crawl into the mind-set of people who would topple the World Trade Center.
He is a kind, somewhat ruffled looking guy wearing a short-sleeved white shirt and a tie with ducks on it. The sort of person who appears completely at peace with himself and his surroundings.
Dann is administrative assistant for Brigham Young University's Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, which means these days he is posted in Provo, because it has been almost a year now since students were pulled from Jerusalem due to civil unrest.
An affable sort who has been involved with the center for almost 30 years and has lived nine years in Israel, Dann agrees to share his knowledge on Islam, the religion that has spun off so many holy terrorists — and may have spun off the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon three days ago.
But he will do so only on the condition that all he is offering is background that will perhaps help in understanding why something like Tuesday's attack — which he points out occurred on the Islam prophet Mohammed's birthday — could happen. In no way does he condone it, nor does he believe the Islamic world as a whole condones or takes any comfort in what happened, save a tiny portion of fanatics.
The scariest part about extreme Islamic terrorists is that they are not crazy.
"They are often well-educated, intelligent and quite sane," Dann says.
But they are the product of a culture, Dann explains, that from infancy pounds into them the notion that there is no greater role in life than to be soldiers, called Mujahidin, for their God, called Allah, in a holy war, called a jihad.
The purpose of a jihad is to defend Islam against its enemies. And while virtually all of the world's 1 billion-plus Muslims — literally "submitters" to Islam — don't take that as a literal call to destroy outsiders, extremist Muslims do.
And once they have a notion that something is "Allah's Will," they are liable to do anything.
If it is proven that Islamic terrorists were responsible for Tuesday's attacks, it won't surprise academics like Dann Hone, given that the targets were so symbolic of what is reprehensible to Muslims here in the West: namely, our finances, our military might and our leaders.
Neither will it be hard to square the suicide missions of the pilots, because, as Dann explains, "Those who fight for Allah are assured of a place in heaven with Allah."
As for those who don't fight, or submit, to Allah, they are regarded as nothing — and when they die they will not exist.
So, to a terrorist who might murder, say, 20,000 people, those murders are of no consequence because those killed were nothing anyway, save for enemies of Islam — and by killing them the terrorist defends Islam and goes to live with Allah.
And if any innocent Muslims happen to be killed in the process — just so much unavoidable jihad collateral damage — they are assured of the same heavenly status.
"That's how they can do what they do with such religious fervor," Dann Hone says of the Islamic fanatics who maim and massacre. "Carrying out a jihad not only destroys enemies but brings others to Islam."
With that, the educator rubs his eyes. He counts among his friends many followers of Islam, Arabs and Palestinians alike, and he knows they are not like this. They are not like this at all.
"The majority of Islam sees a jihad as a way to bring joy and peace to this world," Dann says.
Not as a way to bring about the complete opposite.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and faxes to 801-237-2527.