The nation of silence

What did we say on September 11 of this year? There were articles, reports, editorials, poems, books, movies and what not, detailing the events which unfolded that day and highlighting the American people’s feelings. Everyone sympathized with them, crying and praying for them. But, buried or perhaps absent were our sane voices questioning what really happened, who the instigators actually were and the possible motives. None of us even seemed to notice.

What did we speak about on October 7, a day celebrated by many as one in which “the forces of good overcame the forces of evil” é it was the day America started carpet-bombing Afghanistan. The Afghan civilians who lost their lives since that day were not mourned. Entire families wiped out, newly-weds destroyed along with their hopes, children orphaned and people displaced were not even remembered by us. No one seemed to care.

What did we talk about on November 14 é a year after the fall of Kabul? The day everyone considers a day of success, when the Taliban were dislodged from power, men could shave their beards again, women could remove the Burqas. Missing were our reports of the true situation é of lawlessness (in stark contrast to the secure situation during the Taliban era), of brutal warlords who came in place, of war crimes against Taliban and Al-Qaeda soldiers or of increased production of opium (which was effectively wiped out during Taliban’s period of rule). None amongst us seemed to be too concerned.

And then Ramadan came and went é not an iota of difference did it make to the Muslim Ummah. Eid dawned on us and has now passed é have we changed? Seconds tick by and days fly, yet we stay the same é in deep slumber. The insults to our religion and Prophet have gone without comment. The deaths of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir, Chechnya, Palestine, Africa and everywhere are received with nothing more than a stifled yawn. We continue to be lazy and self-centered; welcoming the outsiders and frowning at our own brothers and sisters; quarreling with each other, but silent in front of others.

There are hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters suffering across the globe each moment of every passing day and yet, there is deafening silence on our part. Our people are starving and it does not make a difference to us. They are being displaced and their homes bombed out or bulldozed and we do not even care. They are killed in an instant by missiles or maimed for a lifetime by landmines and we go on with our lives. Our people are being labeled ‘extremists’, ‘terrorists’ and ‘fundamentalists’ for defending their basic right to live as Muslims and we are quieter than ever. Our children are being orphaned and parents made childless and we are not in the least bit bothered.

Not a word to be heard from us. Not an act of protest within us. Not a prayer in our mosques for all our fighters. Not a single buck spent for the cause of Allaah. Not a frown on our faces towards the oppressors. Not a tear in our eyes. Not an expression of guilt or shame.

No, we are as we were before. Today after over 500,000 innocent lives of children have been lost in Iraq, we are as quiet as we were the day the sanctions were imposed. Hundreds and thousands of widowed and orphaned Chechens later, we are as silent as we were the day Russia started its war. Thousands of murdered Afghan civilians in front of us and we are as mute as the day Bush called for ‘infinite justice’. We are hushed today despite an ongoing campaign by a terrorist army in Kashmir which has caused the destruction of the country’s people, similar to how we were when we were called to defend them. We prefer not to speak today about the killings, displacement and torture in Palestine, just like we did when the Zionists built their state on Muslim land over 50 years ago.

We do not make a sound today, like we have never made a sound, regardless of whether the issue is/was any of the countries above or Bosnia, Kosova, Somalia, Ethiopia or anywhere else in the world. We are as idle and inactive as we were the day our Ummah began its path downhill. And for that reason, we have been doomed. On that sole matter, lie the foundations of our state of humiliation and failure. Due to our silence, many of our people have died and have been made to suffer. Yet, we stay the same and resist change or improvement. We wish to close our eyes and ears, block our sense of feeling, choose to ignore the war drums beating louder and louder and remain as quiet as ever.

Then again, even if some of us do manage to whisper a word or two or mumble a bit to vent our frustration é what next? Where do we go from there? Do our refined speeches really make a difference if we do not know what to do to improve our situation? Are our carefully chosen words alone any good for our nation? Do people amongst us wake up to the reality that we must act now? Or do we hush up either by choice or by force? Do we think that our statements are a big achievement and give ourselves a pat on the back for participating in one convention? Do we stop raising awareness after one setback? Have we not had enough of conferences, lectures, seminars and workshops? Have we not tired of impractical or no plans? Have we not decided it is time for action? Have we not considered the amount of lives lost, people hurt, countries ravaged and resources stolen enough to wake us up and do something already? Have we not felt it time to break our extended period of calm and speak out for our rights and fight for them?

I must admit, though, we are not always hushed. No, sir. At times, we happen to be very vocal. Many of us even resort to screaming and chanting out loud, then. Our voices become hoarse and our throats become dry, but we continue to holler. We continue to yell ‘God Bless America’; we do not cease to repeat ‘we love peace’, ‘we are peaceful people, not terrorists’, ‘we are moderate Muslims’ and ‘we are with you against the extremists’; people amongst us shout at the top of their voices that they harbor no hatred against those who have murdered Muslims. And not only that, but they may cry for those who died on Sept. 11, donate blood to them, pray for them and love them with all their heart, and when it comes to those who fight for Islam, they condemn them in front of the world and denounce them without hesitation. They wave non-Muslim countries’ flags in their mosques, welcome non-Muslim leaders to their Islamic centers and pledge allegiance to them. They give them use of their military bases and join their intelligence agencies to track their own brothers down and get them imprisoned, tortured and destroyed. Nope, Muslims cannot be underestimated; they do so much for the same people who continue to kill their brothers and sisters. They speak a lot in their favor and reserve their quiet or speeches of condemnation for their own Ummah.

We have become experts in silence as well as bellowing at the same time. The art of being quiet and idle has been mastered by our nation. If we do not take a stand today and work for change, maybe sometime in the future, the children of the next generations will be taught in history about a nation that refused to speak out; a nation that disrespected its principles, religion and values and selfishly never turned to look at those who suffered from amongst it. They will be taught about a group of people spanning the globe, large in number, yet each person from it focused on his/her own life. They will be told that others attacked them from every side, in every country, but they remained lazy and silent and wished to shrug off any feeling of responsibility. It will be described that that large nation never uttered a word no matter what happened and neither did its people do anything to defend themselves.

I cannot even begin to imagine how the narrative of that pitiful nation will conclude.

Ms. S. A. A. is a 16 year old Muslim, who has graduated from senior high school.

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