Interviewer: "Can't you distinguish between operations against civilians and against soldiers, even from a psychological point of view?"
Umm Nidal: "There is no difference. This is Islamic religious law. I don't invent anything. I follow Islamic religious law in this. A Muslim is very careful not to kill an innocent person, because he knows he would be destined to eternal Hell. So the issue is not at all simple. We rely on Islamic religious law when we say there is no prohibition on killing these people."
Umm Nidal: "The word 'peace' does not mean the kind of peace we are experiencing. This peace is, in fact, surrender and a shameful disgrace. Peace means the liberation of all of Palestine, from the [Jordan] to the [Mediterranean] Sea. When this is accomplished - if they want peace, we will be ready. They may live under the banner of the Islamic state. That is the future of Palestine that we are striving towards."
Interviewer: "Some say this kind of reasoning is the obstacle to peace, because the Israelis will never agree to be banished..."
Umm Nidal: "Let them refuse. We do not expect them to accept this. These people are occupiers, and we want to banish them from our land."
Interviewer: "Umm Nidal, who sits here in front of me, is classified as a terrorist throughout the world. Not just a terrorist, but also as a producer of terrorists..."
Umm Nidal: "They can classify as much as they like. I am proud and honored to be a terrorist for the sake of Allah.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 1 - As the incendiary training at some of Pakistan's seminaries drew renewed focus in the weeks after the July 7 bombings in London, President Pervez Musharraf promised to bring the schools into the mainstream and expel their foreign students by the end of the year.
But his tough pledge has fizzled.
Last week, the government backed away from its deadline and said it would not use force to deport the students. The schools then said they would resist any effort to round up the students, and on Sunday, a coalition representing the seminaries called the government's plan "inhuman, immoral and totally illegal," The Associated Press reported.
The schools, called madrasas, were once the Islamic equivalent of Sunday school. Supported by private donations, they now provide housing, meals and education free - a lure for poor families in particular. The rigid training at some schools, though, makes them ripe for recruiting by Islamist militant groups.
Of the four suicide bombers in the London attacks, at least one had spent time at a madrasa here with connections to militant groups.
The limited gains in carrying out the madrasa changes reflect the delicate choices General Musharraf faces. His backers say that pursuing madrasas too aggressively would enable religious radicals to depict him as a stooge for the West. Critics say the effort reflects a half-hearted resolve to flush out religious militancy.
His promise last July was, in fact, a reiteration of earlier promises. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, madrasa reform was among the many changes General Musharraf pledged in exchange for generous aid and debt relief from the United States and other Western allies.
On Friday, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told Reuters that the government would not use force to round up foreign students. "The management of the madrasas are responsible to arrange departures of their students and we are pushing them to help us in implementing this decision," he said.
The Associated Press, citing figures from the main association of religious schools, the Federation of Madrasas, reported last week that about 1,000 foreign students had left since July, while another 700 remained.
Mary Fallot looks as unlike a terrorist suspect as one could possibly imagine: a petite and demure white Frenchwoman chatting with friends on a cell-phone, indistinguishable from any other young woman in the café where she sits sipping coffee.
And that is exactly why European antiterrorist authorities have their eyes on thousands like her across the continent.
Ms. Fallot is a recent convert to Islam. In the eyes of the police, that makes her potentially dangerous.
The death of Muriel Degauque, a Belgian convert who blew herself up in a suicide attack on US troops in Iraq last month, has drawn fresh attention to the rising number of Islamic converts in Europe, most of them women.
"The phenomenon is booming, and it worries us," the head of the French domestic intelligence agency, Pascal Mailhos, told the Paris-based newspaper Le Monde in a recent interview. "But we must absolutely avoid lumping everyone together."
The difficulty, security experts explain, is that while the police may be alert to possible threats from young men of Middle Eastern origin, they are more relaxed about white European women. Terrorists can use converts who "have added operational benefits in very tight security situations" where they might not attract attention, says Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.
Ms. Fallot, who converted to Islam three years ago after asking herself spiritual questions to which she found no answers in her childhood Catholicism, says she finds the suspicion her new religion attracts "wounding." "For me," she adds, "Islam is a message of love, of tolerance and peace."
It is a message that appeals to more and more Europeans as curiosity about Islam has grown since 9/11, say both Muslim and non-Muslim researchers. Although there are no precise figures, observers who monitor Europe's Muslim population estimate that several thousand men and women convert each year.
Only a fraction of converts are attracted to radical strands of Islam, they point out, and even fewer are drawn into violence. A handful have been convicted of terrorist offenses, such as Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" and American John Walker Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan.
Admittedly patchy research suggests that more women than men convert, experts say, but that - contrary to popular perception - only a minority do so in order to marry Muslim men.
"That used to be the most common way, but recently more [women] are coming out of conviction," says Haifa Jawad, who teaches at Birmingham University in Britain. Though non-Muslim men must convert in order to marry a Muslim woman, she points out, the opposite is not true.
Fallot laughs when she is asked whether her love life had anything to do with her decision. "When I told my colleagues at work that I had converted, their first reaction was to ask whether I had a Muslim boyfriend," she recalls. "They couldn't believe I had done it of my own free will."
In fact, she explains, she liked the way "Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it's easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points."
Those reasons reflect many female converts' thinking, say experts who have studied the phenomenon. "A lot of women are reacting to the moral uncertainties of Western society," says Dr. Jawad. "They like the sense of belonging and caring and sharing that Islam offers."
Others are attracted by "a certain idea of womanhood and manhood that Islam offers," suggests Karin van Nieuwkerk, who has studied Dutch women converts. "There is more space for family and motherhood in Islam, and women are not sex objects."
At the same time, argues Sarah Joseph, an English convert who founded "Emel," a Muslim lifestyle magazine, "the idea that all women converts are looking for a nice cocooned lifestyle away from the excesses of Western feminism is not exactly accurate."
Some converts give their decision a political meaning, says Stefano Allievi, a professor at Padua University in Italy. "Islam offers a spiritualization of politics, the idea of a sacred order," he says. "But that is a very masculine way to understand the world" and rarely appeals to women, he adds.
After making their decision, some converts take things slowly, adopting Muslim customs bit by bit: Fallot, for example, does not yet feel ready to wear a head scarf, though she is wearing longer and looser clothes than she used to.
Others jump right in, eager for the exoticism of a new religion, and become much more pious than fellow mosque-goers who were born into Islam. Such converts, taking an absolutist approach, appear to be the ones most easily led into extremism.
The early stages of a convert's discovery of Islam "can be quite a sensitive time," says Batool al-Toma, who runs the "New Muslims" program at the Islamic Foundation in Leicester, England.
"You are not confident of your knowledge, you are a newcomer, and you could be prey to a lot of different people either acting individually or as members of an organization," Ms. Al-Toma explains. A few converts feel "such a huge desire to fit in and be accepted that they are ready to do just about anything," she says.
"New converts feel they have to prove themselves," adds Dr. Ranstorp. "Those who seek more extreme ways of proving themselves can become extraordinarily easy prey to manipulation."
At the same time, says al-Toma, converts seeking respite in Islam from a troubled past - such as Degauque, who had reportedly drifted in and out of drugs and jobs before converting to Islam - might be persuaded that such an "ultimate action" as a suicide bomb attack offered an opportunity for salvation and forgiveness.
"The saddest conclusion" al-Toma draws from Degauque's death in Iraq is that "a woman who set out on the road to inner peace became a victim of people who set out to use and abuse her."
If she could wave a magic wand to make the Tourette's disappear, would she? She shakes her head. "No. I'd say I want my Tourette's."
Her mum looks appalled. "Would you really? Why do you want to have it when you're 20?"
Jessica: "Because it's me, and I want it to go naturally. I don't know. You don't know what it's like."
Anne: "But it affects you, you can't do all the stuff you want to."
Jessica: "Yeah, but it's me." She stops, and asks if she can have another wave of the wand. "If somebody said to me you've got one wish, I'd say to not have Tourette's for a week and after that decide then. But it's not going to happen, is it?"
In conference organized Saturday night by Minister Yisrael Katz, 400 Likud members vote to 'bomb nuclear reactor before it is too late'; party's central committee expected to convene Sunday to approve change in constitution initiated by Likud Chairman Netanyahu Ilan MarcianoIn my opinion, not only should Iran's nuclear sites be bombed (all several dozen of them), but every Iranian scientist involved in the nuclear program should be methodically assassinated. Destroying buildings and equipment isn't enough. The human capital behind Iran's genocide program should be eradicated.
About 400 Likud members, who took part Saturday evening in a conference organized by Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz in the town of Hod Hasharon, voted by a large majority to "bomb Iran's nuclear reactor before it is too late," in the words of Likud member and Ra'anana Deputy Mayor Uzi Cohen.
According to Cohen, "we have been following the Iranians for a long time now, but the defense establishment chiefs issue warnings without doing anything."
"We must act as (former Prime Minister Menachem) Begin did when he bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor," he said.
In the conference, Minister Katz praised the Likud members who did not leave "home" even after the "big bang" created when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left the Likud and established his new party Kadima.
"Kadima wants to pay its active members to bring voters to the polls. They miss the good days of the Likud, the real activists who work wholeheartedly because of their faith and views and not for money or bonuses," he said.
But one thing puzzles me about these oft-made comparisons. I talked to Tharman Shanmugaratnam to understand it better. He's the minister of Education of Singapore, the country that is No. 1 in the global science and math rankings for schoolchildren. I asked the minister how to explain the fact that even though Singapore's students do so brilliantly on these tests, when you look at these same students 10 or 20 years later, few of them are worldbeaters anymore. Singapore has few truly top-ranked scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, business executives or academics. American kids, by contrast, test much worse in the fourth and eighth grades but seem to do better later in life and in the real world. Why?Fascinating stuff, much of which I knew instinctively. The idea of Asia overtaking us because they do better in high school was never an easy sell for me.
"We both have meritocracies," Shanmugaratnam said. "Yours is a talent meritocracy, ours is an exam meritocracy. There are some parts of the intellect that we are not able to test well—like creativity, curiosity, a sense of adventure, ambition. Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. These are the areas where Singapore must learn from America."
Shanmugaratnam also pointed out that American universities are unrivaled globally—and are getting better. "You have created a public-private partnership in tertiary education that is amazingly successful. The government provides massive funding, and private and public colleges compete, raising everyone's standards." Shanmugaratnam highlighted in particular the role that American foundations play. "Someone in society has to be focused on the long term, on maintaining excellence, on raising quality. You have this array of foundations—in fact, a whole tradition of civic-minded volunteerism—that fulfills this role. For example, you could not imagine American advances in biomedical sciences without the Howard Hughes Foundation."