Candid thoughts on this year’s 9/11

Last Friday, Americans observed the 8th anniversary of 9/11, the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil. Nearly 3000 people died when the four planes crashed in New York, at the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field. The day was not a government holiday. At a ceremony, held in the Pentagon, President Obama paid tribute to the victims and vowed to "never falter" in defending the US. In New York, thousands gathered for ceremonies in a square near Ground Zero. Vice-President Joe Biden attended the New York ceremony, where planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers, causing them to collapse. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell attended the ceremony at the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Subsequent to 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq were attacked by the USA, its European allies and Australia, which saw the overthrow of the Taliban and the Baathist regimes, and wanton killings of nearly a million people, mostly unarmed civilians. Obviously, no ceremonies were held for those victims of western barbarism and brutality. American and foreign troops are still in those two invaded countries. Normalcy is a far cry in either of those two countries.

Troop deaths have mounted in Afghanistan this year as American and other international forces have stepped up their fight against the Taliban. August was the deadliest month for the U.S. military in the nearly eight-year-old war, with 52 fatalities. As I write, so far this month, 25 coalition troops have been killed, including 14 U.S. troops, according to CNN figures compiled from coalition reports.

Western experts fear that if the NATO forces were to abandon Afghanistan today, the country may again fall into the hands of the Taliban. The Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to approve sending thousands of additional forces to Afghanistan to deal with the growing threat from roadside bombs.

According to Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan was reaching levels similar to the Soviet invasion. "Eight years later, we are beginning to move to a level of military force which is beginning to approximate the Soviet engagement and already our top generals are saying we are not winning militarily," he recently said at a global strategy conference in Geneva. Yet, other alternatives, the non-war options, remain unexplored to find peace and stability in that part of the world!

On the domestic front, racial and religious profiling of Muslims, especially in the airports, in the United States still goes unabated. As noted elsewhere by Abdus Sattar Ghazali the August 14, 2009 detention of Indian Muslim (Bollywood) superstar Shah Rukh Khan at Newark Airport in New Jersey is only one such glaring example. FBI continues to infiltrate spies in Islamic centers and mosques with the goal of entrapping vulnerable Muslims. What is more disturbing is the revelation that some of these agents are luring mentally challenged individuals to plotting terrorism. Most Muslim charity organizations remain closed with some leaders put behind the bars (some for 65 years) for providing relief to the dispossessed Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Thus, in the absence of any clear “safe” list of “acceptable” organizations and guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department, most American Muslims are hesitant to fulfill their religious obligations of Zakat (mostly paid during the blessed month of Ramadan) by donating to Muslim charities.

Islamophobia is on the rise. Many pen-pushing pundits with no knowledge of the indigenous languages of the 1.6 billion Muslims are mushrooming, selling their new “discoveries” about Islam that only speak of their utter hostility to Islam and paranoid xenophobia. The Hollywood film and TV industry is not behind to cash in on the new “villains.” In many of the crime episodes (e.g., NCIS is a good example to cite) most American TV channels now show Muslims as the bad guys. Many Republicans remain at the forefront of that savage assault against Islam. For instance, in February 2009, Republican Senator Jon Kyl hosted screening of a hateful film ‘Fitna’ at the Capitol building. Not unexpectedly, many Christian fundamentalists and evangelists are some of the worst bigots today in their anti-Muslim campaign. And then there are conservative talk show hosts who behave as if they are out to set new records in racism and bigotry against Muslims and Islam. Through their hateful comments they are behaving like agent provocateurs for violence. So poisonous is the environment today that even an honest positive observation about Islam may be lampooned and the person made a liability for a political office.

It is no-brainer that hate crimes against Muslims are not seeing much improvement even after eight years of 9/11. It has become a global phenomenon. Just the last week, ten people were arrested outside the Harrow Central Mosque in the UK as scuffles broke out following a demonstration from anti-Islamic activists of the “Stop Islamification of Europe” (a British fascist group). John Denham, the Communities secretary, drew comparisons of the demonstration with the anti-Semitic marches of the 1930s, led by Oswald Mosley’s ‘blackshirts’ and the British Union of Fascists. He said, “It looks pretty clear that it’s a tactic designed to provoke and to get a response and hopefully create violence.” Last month, a New York man threatened to kill a Muslim hijab-clad woman (49) and her 20-year-old daughter as he tried to run them down with his car at a gas station simply because they looked Muslim to him. Not too long ago another Muslim woman and her child were attacked by a white supremacist in Seattle. And there are plenty of such hate crimes happening these days against Muslims across the globe. Unless such hate crimes and provocative demonstrations, though small in magnitude now, are clamped down hard, they can cause wider violence and mayhem in the future.

America must know that when one’s fist touches someone else’s nose, it is no longer freedom but abuse and violence. So while America cherishes freedom of expression she cannot allow hateful speeches, writings, messages and films to incite violence against minorities –” neither here in the USA nor elsewhere. In its mourning of the victims of 9/11, America should not also forget that her vindictive actions, resulting in deaths of nearly a million unarmed civilians in the Muslim world, are only sure recipes of disaster, dividing our world into hateful camps. Such wanton killings and destruction of Muslim land only strengthen the very forces she wants defeated. It is time to reflect and work for a better world by routing out causes of our animosity.

President Obama has called for change for an inclusive world, away from violence and hatred that became the hallmark of the previous Bush administration. I can only hope that during his tenure in office we shall see that real change in attitude towards Muslims and other minorities that call America their home.