Everybody likes to recall what they were doing on 9/11. It is a day in history that has truly changed the world. If you can’t remember what you were doing that day, you may as well have been living on Mars.
I have spent the last ten years going through a whirlwind of emotions. From shock, to guilt, to denial, to sadness.
I’ll be honest, the day the hijackers flew the planes into the twin towers in New York city, I remember a few people, chuckling. Not realising the severity of the attack, some Muslims were secretly smug about the fact that the Americans have been attacked on their own soil. It was nothing to do with Islam the fact that they felt this, it was because people felt that it was about time America experiences some destruction too, given what some of the Muslim world had been going through. The next few days following on from 9/11, nobody was smiling, as the death toll went into thousands. If anybody knew that so many people would die, I don’t think those initial feelings would have come into play. I don’t think even the hijackers anticipated such success. The fact that Muslims were being blamed for this attack as a whole rather than a few loopy extremists was hard to bear, and still is.
Since then, Muslims have been trying hard to separate themselves from the ideology that breeds these terrorists. Because the fact is, it is a minority who have these ‘extreme’ thoughts. The Muslim world is over 1 billion strong, how can it possibly be blamed for the action of nineteen so-called Muslims?
Since 9/11 the growth in groups of ‘Islamists’, ‘Muslim extremisms’, ‘Jihadis’, call them what you like, has increased enormously. This growth can only be attributed to the resulted action taken after 9/11. The ‘War on Terror’ was detrimental to Muslim civil society. It might have been called the ‘War on Islam’, that’s what it certainly felt like. Attacking Afghanistan and Iraq has been the cause of much of the terrorism carried out in the name of Islam since 9/11. Instead of getting to the root of the problem, and understanding why 9/11 happened, America lead by George W Bush undertook a war which has caused more fatalities than the event it was being avenged for. In the search for Osama Bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan then became an operation to ‘liberate’ Afghans. Following on from that Iraq was invaded based on fabricated intelligence stating it was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Then it was to remove Saddam Hussain, and then the cause became ‘liberating’ Iraqis. The American government talks about it’s successes in both regions. What an insult to the families of those soldiers who have lost their lives. What a slap in the face on the thousands of Iraqis who have lost their family members. Children and women, no one has been spared. Just the amount of depleted uranium shells lying around caused by the Gulf War and the current Iraqi war has left a generation of Iraqis with deformities and disabilities. The worst thing is that Muslims are being killed by other (so-called) Muslims in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Pakistan, who had little to do with anything has lost thousands of civilians from bomb blasts, suicide bombings and drone attacks from America. Are you with us, or against us? This was the impossible question that Pakistan had to answer. By being ‘with’ America, Pakistan has suffered such loss and destruction, and created a breeding ground for terrorists. Terrorists who want to destroy their own country and kill their fellow citizens. In Islam it is not permitted to kill anyone let alone another Muslim. So how do these terrorists, commit these acts in the name of Islam? Many have little choice. Many young men are drawn into these groups because they are poor and have no other aspirations in life. Similar to gang culture amongst black youth in London, joining an extremist group gives young men a sense of belonging, rebellion and averting their energy into something they think is positive. Of course they are not sold the ideology of violence as an extreme ideology. They are sold it as ‘jihad’. ‘Jihad’ meaning ‘struggle’ and not holy war, which is often how it is translated. It is certainly true that all Muslims are obliged to perform Jihad. I.e. they are asked to ‘struggle’ to become a good Muslim, to spread the word of God by doing good deeds. Sometimes that means rising against oppression and injustice. This is what the recruiters of these groups use to brainwash young men. That and a promise of entrance to heaven and of course those blasted virgins that we hear about so much. And if they actually go the whole hog, and blow themselves up, they are often promised that their family who are left behind will be rewarded money and safety afterwards. This perhaps is the biggest incentive for suicide bombers, rather than those virgins or hatred for the West. There were no such thing as suicide bombings in Pakistan prior to 9/11. Those people who talk about success, and how everything has been worth it because Osama Bin Laden is dead, are severely detached from reality. Osama Bin Laden is one man, and what he’s left behind is a warped ideology that only the desperate and bored share and want to be a part of. We’ve seen from the Arab spring, that change can come in the Arab world in the form of peaceful protest from the people themselves. Unfortunately this has also lead to yet another invasion led by NATO into Libya, freeing the Libyans from Gaddaffi. What this invasion will turn into, only time will tell.
All I want to say today is, that the harm that 9/11 has caused to Islam is immense and irreversible. Today we shouldn’t just mourn the tragedy of losing 3000 or so lives in New York, but also the thousands of lives lost as a consequence of military action as reprisal for 9/11. I hope God guides these terrorists who think they are doing God’s work, but are infact tarnishing Islam and making ordinary Muslim’s lives difficult. I pray that America thinks hard about their foreign policies, because at this rate the future is looking very bleak.