BERLIN – A handwritten document in Arabic apparently used as inspiration by the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers assures them about a dozen times that they would go to paradise as Islamic martyrs, a German scholar said Monday.
The four-page document, found by the FBI after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, urged the hijackers to view the people they were about to kill as “sacrificial victims,” said Tilman Seidensticker, a professor of Middle East studies at the University of Jena.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Seidensticker said he examined the document in detail and published the results in a new book because he felt it received too little attention in investigations of the Sept. 11 plot. Most of the missive, whose author has not been determined, is devoted to religious exhortation, including calls to pray.
Weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, investigators released the document, which also included instructions to the hijackers on how to carry out the attacks. Attorney General John Ashcroft said at the time it was a “shocking and disturbing view into the mindsets” of the attackers and “a stark reminder of how these hijackers grossly perverted the Islamic faith to justify their terroristic acts.”
Speaking by telephone from Jena on Monday, Seidensticker said the document’s “overriding purpose was spiritual motivation.”
“It shows how one could motivate 19 people with what are presented as religious references.”
“The promise of paradise appears to play an extraordinarily important role in the motivation,” he said. “It’s mentioned about a dozen times. The virgins they will be rewarded with in paradise are also mentioned.”
Some Muslims believe that those who die a martyr’s death will spend eternity in paradise in the company of 72 virgins.
- Challeging the Quran
The FBI has said three copies of the document were found. One was in baggage of hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari that did not get onto American Airlines Flight 11, which Atta crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Another copy was found in a car left at Washington’s Dulles Airport that was linked to suicide hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, who was on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon building housing the U.S. Defense Department. A third was discovered in the wreckage of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania on Sept. 11.
Seidensticker said it was unclear who wrote the document. But working off a copy posted on the FBI’s Web site, he said he was struck by how it twists Islam into extremist “abstruseness.”
For instance, killing human beings in an act of religious sacrifice “is impossible under classical Islamic law,” he said.
The book by Seidensticker and fellow scholar Hans G. Kippenberg, “Terror in the Service of God: The ‘Spiritual Manual’ of the Sept. 11 Attackers,” was published in German last month. Seidensticker said they also hope to publish an English version.