Here we go again. It’s the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and the whole world is going bananas. There has already been a deluge of special reports and commentary in anticipation of the anniversary. Newspapers and television networks have been going on and on about the events that we have heard and read about ad nauseam over the past 10 years—every year.
It’s as though this is the end of the world. Every pundit and columnist worth his/her share of audience must come up with his/her own take to mark the occasion. In the end though, most of us end up solemnly churning out the same old trite and tiresome arguments and theories that everyone seems to expect and few really pay attention to. And it’s not just the media that faithfully goes through this ritual every year. There is a complete industry out there catering to this market, regularly peddling books that claim to offer new light on the events that apparently changed the world.
Most of these tomes, however, add little to the existing corpus of theories and interpretations about the stunning attacks on the symbols and icons of American power and glory. What distinguishes these ostensible attempts to understand Islam and “Islamic terrorism” though is their pathological hatred of the Other and incredible ignorance or willful misrepresentation of Islam, Arabs, and Muslims.
Bernard Lewis’ The Crisis of Islam, Daniel Pipes’ Militant Islam Reaches America, David Horowitz’s Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left and Efraim Karsh’s Islamic Imperialism: A History are only some of the most ‘respectable’ names that ostensibly cater to the heightened curiosity about Islam and Muslims.
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 events, many horrified Americans understandably asked: Why do they hate us? So even as most of us were as outraged by the horror of 9/11, as most Americans and Westerners had been, we nurtured a faint, innocent hope that perhaps now the US would see reason and review its policies and actions all these years. We had hoped that 9/11, unacceptable and totally reprehensible as it was, would perhaps make the US pause and ponder the cause of this corrosive anger and source of this conflict. Of course, we were wrong—and how!
Whoever carried out those attacks on New York and Washington, they turned out to be the greatest enemies of Islam and Muslims. They have managed to visit the greatest catastrophe on Muslim lands since the Mongols invasion eight centuries ago. The Mongols raped and pillaged Baghdad, the capital of Abbasid caliphate, and virtually every Muslim city. When the Mongols left Baghdad, the richest and greatest city in the world then, they had left behind two million dead, including the caliph and his sons who were bundled in a carpet and trampled by Mongol horses. River Tigris was full of blood and darkened by the ink of millions of books and rare manuscripts that were burnt down by the invaders.
What Baghdad has witnessed under the Coalition of the Willing hasn’t been much different. And if anyone thought 9/11 would prompt America to mend its ways, well, they need to think again. Clearly, America—the militant global superpower America that we get to see and experience far beyond its borders and not American people—doesn’t seem to give a damn one way or another.
According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, Americans today are more willing to believe that US policies in the Middle East might have motivated the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington. Reflecting a remarkable shift in US public opinion over the past decade, today, 43 percent of Americans feel the attacks may have been motivated by something “the US did wrong in its dealings with other countries.” However, 45 percent think otherwise. In the wake of attacks, 55 percent of respondents had rejected the notion.
Clearly, all is not lost yet. There’s still hope for America; that is, people’s America, the nation of Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, and Martin Luther King that once inspired and beckoned dreamers from around the world. The Land of the Free, where it is possible for a black man with a Muslim father to pursue his ‘audacity of hope.’
That America, however, seems to have lost its way in a wasteland where no morals, no justice, and no principles exist. Some of my fellow travelers have convinced themselves that the original land of the free has been hijacked by a bloodthirsty, amoral and lunatic fringe. I wouldn’t know the truth. After the betrayal at the hands of our hero, the change-we-can messiah who helped the world amend its view of America, I am not sure about anything anymore.
Coming back to the issue at hand, all of us share the pain of those who lost their loved ones that cold morning in September 2001. Like me, most of us remember where we were that fateful day—I was watching the horror unfold on television in my cabin at the paper I worked for back then in India—and how our hearts went out to those trapped inside the World Trade Center. Those who perished in that awful tragedy were innocent folks like you and me.
Representing the rich diversity of the country, there were many Muslims among the victims, just as there had been people from all faiths and ethnicities. It was no jihad, if it was indeed carried out by Al Qaeda—which is now increasingly challenged by independent researchers and experts like Dr. Alan Sabrosky, a Vietnam and US Navy veteran. It was murder, pure and simple. And you know what the Quran says about murder? Taking one innocent life is equal to killing entire humanity. Whoever perpetrated that outrage deserves severest punishment in this life—and next.
That said, I have to ask this: What about the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives the US and its ever willing allies have expended—and continue to—in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere since 9/11?
Amid all this brouhaha and grand ceremonies to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, does anyone spare a thought for the innocent victims of America’s endless war? Comparisons are odious but ask one must: How many people died in 9/11 attacks? 2,751. In its overwhelming response, the US and its allies have ravaged Afghanistan and killed more than a million in Iraq alone. And this war is far from over, although the bible-thumping crusader in White House has been replaced by someone who never tires of singing paeans to peace and has already been feted with a Peace Nobel (I know not for what!). So, dear America, while shedding tears for 9/11 victims this year, please spare a thought for the million plus victims of your wars.