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9/11 in 2009 – Eight years and going strong

September 11, 2009
Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009, in New York (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center, New York (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Its 2009, eight years since the entire world rocked in terror as it witnessed an unthinkable act of brutality on the American soil, yet across the world 9/11 continues to be politicized as a defense to wage war after another war. It is entirely up to us how we choose to remember this tragedy, should the day be spent in the commemoration of those lost or should the tragedy continue being expanded at a global level until the bubble of violence engulfs the entire globe?

This year the annual commemoration of the attacks in the US has been given a new name – the National Day of Service and Remembrance. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have called on Americans to carry out community service as a way of honoring the heroes of that dark day. (Roger Hardy, BBC News).

Yet, today when the National Day of Service and Remembrance will be celebrated, there is an added list of heroes, including not only the victims of 9/11, but also the countless men, women and children who have lost their lives in the war on terror. As the legacy lives on, notions like ‘Islamophobia’ threaten a further cultural divide between the East and the West on the bandwagon of the religion.

Paradoxically, the religion forbids this very divide:

“Lo! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians and Sabaeans; whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does right, surely their reward is with their Lord, and there will come no fear upon them neither will they grieve” (Quran 2:62).

When the religion is transparent, when the common Muslim believes in tolerance and co-existence why are the Islamic fundamentalists, aka Al Qaeda leaders even considered Muslims in the first place? Clearly their jihads are un-Islamic acts of brutality, as Islam evidently guides its followers towards patience and forgiveness:

And indeed, there is among them a party who alter the Scripture with their tongues so you may think it is from the Scripture, but it is not from the Scripture. And they say, “This is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah (Quran 3:78).

And if you punished, let your punishment be proportionate to the wrong that has been done to you; but if you show patience, that is indeed the best course (Quran 16:126).

There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way (Quran 2:256).

When the Nazi Germany brutalized the European Jews during the World War II, did we blame their culture or religion to the extent that we criminalized all the future generations of Germans? Extremists should not become a curse for the rest. Engendering stereotypes influenced by fanatical groups in a way honors these very radicals and further transfers power onto them, allowing them to set the tone of the world’s affairs. If the enemy chooses violence, should we be the followers of violence or would we rather be the leaders of peace?

President Barack Obama introduces Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a University of Memphis student, who, as a high school student in Massachusetts, broke the high school career points record in women's basketball for her state, as he makes remarks during a dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

President Barack Obama introduces Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a University of Memphis student, who, as a high school student in Massachusetts, broke the high school career points record in women's basketball for her state, as he makes remarks during a dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Could President Barak Obama’s campaign slogan ‘Change’ really bring about a change? So far, here’s what we have seen:

  • “President promising to return America to the “moral high ground” in the war on terrorism, President Obama issued three executive orders Thursday to demonstrate a clean break from the Bush administration, including one requiring that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility be closed within a year” (CNN)
  • “Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together…Rules on charitable giving made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That’s why I’m committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.” (President Obama in his speech in Cairo, June 4th, 2009, New York Times).
  • “Together, we have a responsibility to foster engagement grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect…Tonight, we celebrate a great religion and its commitment to justice and progress. We honour the contributions of America’s Muslims, and the positive example that so many of them set through their own lives. And we rededicate ourselves to the work of building a better and more hopeful world,”( President Obama in an Iftar dinner hosted at the White House, Daily Times).

As the public support for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan plummets, does the United States really need to expand its ground forces in Afghanistan to shield from another act of terrorism on the American soil?

A majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, and just a quarter say more U.S. troops should be sent to the country… Among all adults, 51 percent now say the war is not worth fighting…Less than half, 47 percent, say the war is worth its costs. Those strongly opposed (41 percent) outweigh strong proponents (31 percent)(Washington Post)

As troops continue their efforts in defeating the Taliban, it would be worthwhile trying to devise alternative strategies to fight the war on terror, i.e. resurrecting a fair Afghan government. Resources should now be invested in the economic and human development of the Afghan people to win the support of a common Afghan. Whether or not such a resolution is possible is debatable, however winning the confidence of the Afghan people will in turn encourage them to work alongside the forces to help restore peace in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, this requires strategic patience, as is reinstated by American diplomat Ryan Crocker, who has served as the US ambassador in Kabul and Baghdad.

Imposing ourselves on hostile or chaotic societies is no solution…The perceived arrogance and ignorance of overbearing powers can create new narratives of humiliation that will feed calls for vengeance centuries from now. What’s needed in dealing with this world is a combination of understanding, persistence, and strategic patience to a degree that Americans, traditionally, have found hard to muster.(Ryan Crocker, Newsweek)

Patience, tolerance and co-existence–three small words might hold the key to unlock the Al Qaeda. To win over Talibans, people on the West and the East need to reunite with those on the Left and the Right to fight the real cause of war, cultural and religious bigotry.

On the eight anniversary of 9/11, may there be no misconceptions about Islam and its peaceful teachings, which over and over again emphasize the value of human life:

On that account We ordained for the Children of Isra`iIf anyone slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear (guidance), yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (Quran 5:32, also quoted by President Obama)

The September 14 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands September 7), "Is your Baby Racist?" features an excerpt from the book Nurtureshock. Plus, Cheney's tortured logic, a diplomat's perspective on the post-9/11 world, Palestine's new perspective, why didn't Jaycee run away, and a Q&A with John Malkovich (PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK)

The September 14 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands September 7), "Is your Baby Racist?" features an excerpt from the book Nurtureshock. Plus, Cheney's tortured logic, a diplomat's perspective on the post-9/11 world, Palestine's new perspective, why didn't Jaycee run away, and a Q&A with John Malkovich (PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK)

One Comment
  1. September 12, 2009 9:20 am

    Very good post. I agree with your comment that “people on the West and the East need to reunite with those on the Left and the Right to fight the real cause of war, cultural and religious bigotry.” And the quote from Ryan Crocker is also right on, although I note that, while it would be great if the Taliban were gone, having foreign troops in Afghanistan is not the solution.

    Also, I had to look up what is meant by “zakat.” As an atheist, I am against any involvement of government in religious matters and I wondered how zakat was any different than tithing and alms. According to Wikipedia, zakat “serves principally as the welfare contribution to poor and deprived Muslims, although others may have a rightful share. It is the duty of an Islamic community not just to collect zakat but to distribute it fairly as well.” If that is the way that zakat is actually carried out, then it is better than churches collecting tithes just to enrich their own bank accounts.

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