Having just watched the nine-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I am driven to once again try to understand. Maybe we Americans just don’t get it? Maybe the rest of the Islamic world is spot on? I decide to turn off CNN and turn on the Arabic network Al Jazeera. After all, perhaps I will get a more balanced view of the Islamic position by watching the predominately Islamic supported Al Jazeera programming. The first video clip I encounter depicts the rapid influx of al Qaeda forces joining the Taliban forces in what they call a brotherhood to embrace Jihad. It turns out that 1/3 of the Taliban forces are al Qaeda insurgents, and the number grows daily. Al Jazeera interviews a masked fighter who says, “we will embrace and welcome fighters from anywhere in the world if they share our mission of Jihad.” The camera cuts to a small number of American soldiers who are pinned down in an obvious gunfight with Taliban/al Qaeda terrorists. I think about those soldiers who are most likely too busy to think about 9/11 memorials, Qur’an burnings, mid-term elections etc. They have been given a different mission, and without any thought of potentially angering the Islamic sensibility, they are carrying it out.
I then see the cover of Time magazine. The cover photograph is of a beautiful Afghani woman who has been brutally disfigured after her nose and ear have been cut off. The article asks the question what will happen to the women of Afghanistan if American troops abandon them? My heart is once again committed to our presence there and the true good intentions that we Americans bring to all corners of the world and all people facing oppression. Upon reading further, the picture was taken in 2009, when America was fully involved in Afghanistan and seemingly unable to combat all evil in an area, despite our technology and might. Confused once again I consider turning my face away from the Al Jazeera site and instead play mindless games of solitaire. Isn’t that what we do when the facts are too confusing and our instinct is just to say, “well… glad we have leaders who have it under control.” I decide to try one more news story from fair and balanced Al Jazeera. My eyes catch the headline, “Qur’an Burning and US Inconsistency.” Fully interested I start to read what I hope is an enlightening work of truth from the actual mouth of those involved. The article begins:
“Barack Obama, the US president, has warned that threats to burn the Qur’an are a sure and effective way to swell the ranks of al-Qaeda.” My thoughts rush to remember if there were any American Qur’an burnings prior to September 11, 2001. No, I’m sure I would remember. I think about the history of al-Qaeda and why they were angry to begin with. Oh, that’s right, we supported the Mujahideen efforts in Afghanistan when they were fighting for their lives against Russian attack. I realize at once that America didn’t actually do anything then to cause the, “ranks of al Qaeda to swell.” The article continues, “This may be true, but largely because such symbolic acts of Islamophobia are widely viewed as verifying the perception that the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with its backing of Israel, are motivated by its hostility towards Muslims.” Wait a minute… I didn’t have any hostility toward Muslims because as we all know, we were not attacked by Muslims, only terrorists who happened to be Muslims. I then realize that the very words of the last paragraph in and of themselves are aggressive in nature. I find myself confused once again, but read on.
“The previously unheard of pastor of a small Florida church may have scrapped his plan to publicly burn hundreds of Quran’s on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but the threat alone has done untold damage to the already troubled relationship between the Muslim world and the West.”
OK, now there are problems between the Muslim world and the West? I thought we only had problems with a small radical subset of Muslims? Am I to believe that the relationship between the US and the whole Muslim world has been damaged, even though we acted responsibly and didn’t burn the Qur’an, in an act of religious tolerance? Wait, I thought that if we did everything right, we could all get along… maybe I missed the atrocity we Americans committed or gave the impression of potentially committing. I read on further and was sure that I would understand everything after reading the article in its entirety.
“The US government’s reaction to the plan will not have gone unnoticed. But no matter how strong the words of condemnation, those on the receiving end of US occupation or air raids will be struck by the apparent inconsistency.” I re-read this paragraph several times to comprehend the authors point. “Those on the receiving end of US occupation or air raids,” I repeat to myself. That would be the terrorist. “Will be struck by the apparent inconsistency!” I finally put this logic into words I could understand. The strong condemnation by our Government regarding the potential Qur’an burning, is duly noticed by those that hate us, but they will also make note of our inconsistency. Hmm… didn’t thousands of Afghans actually burn the American flag, shout that our President should be killed and death to America, after the threat of one man threatening to burn the Qur’an? How is it that we myopic Islamophobes are to identify those who are of radical Islamic beliefs, from those who are not, but will become somewhat radical enough to utter threats and effigies when America is not tolerant enough? Certainly the angered Muslims could recognize that just as 19 hijackers are not reflective of the American impression of all Muslims, the threat of action from one small town preacher is not reflective of all Americans and certainly not a justifiable cause to increase threats against the President or military personnel.
I continue to tolerantly read the Al Jazeera article. “But why do Obama and Petraeus think that burning the Qur’an is any less civilized or more dangerous than their use of unmanned drones to target suspected Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters and the subsequent civilian casualties these attacks often entail?”
The use of drones to target terrorist combatants is somehow related to the civility of burning the Qur’an? Warfare is civil? Civilians are killed or injured because the terrorist fighters will not allow them to flee and intentionally surround themselves with innocent people. Or am I to believe that the American military machine is invested in an extremely unfriendly region of the world, with the intent of using the very high-tech unmanned drones to attack civilian targets with very expensive Hellfire missiles… not sure I can see the logic there, but I will read on and come across a quote from our President.
“The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights.” The article then states that Obama “totally glossed over the fact that before – just as after – 9/11, the US engaged in unjust wars against mainly Muslim countries – a threat that is more potent than any plan to burn Qurans.”
Say what you will about the genesis of America’s involvement in Iraq, but it would seem that at the very least there were no Muslims attacking Saddam Hussein for the crimes he committed against Muslims, Cyanide gas attacks for instance. Given the fact that the Taliban and al Qaeda forces would over run Afghanistan and terrorize the Muslim citizens that currently hate us for helping, we are still accused of attacking Muslims in Afghanistan? Again, America had not attacked Muslim countries on September 10th 2001 and, as is typical in the “partially your fault rhetoric” that we so often hear, we were still attacked. The obvious default argument is that we supported Israel. It seems to me that Israel was attacked the very day of their declaration of Statehood and often since, and has succeeded in defending every attack, without US assistance.
My education of tolerance continued:
If it were not for these wars and a history of US support for the Israeli occupation and dictators in the region, the threat to burn Qurans – as ugly and offensive as it clearly is – would not have been anything more than the act of a small-time minister searching for attention and obsessed with his own prejudice, but in an atmosphere of ‘Islamophobia’ – fed by a mistrust and ignorance of Islam – and US wars against Muslim countries, the suggestion of a Quran-burning day becomes something much more significant. It also reflects the general dehumanization of Muslims and Arabs – particularly those who have been the victims of American and Israeli bombings – that has taken root, allowing some of the US public to become immune to the crimes committed by their own government or with their government’s backing.
The article is now starting to sound like the generally acceptable Muslim public view, aggressive and accusatory in nature and certainly has no problem making grandiose generalities to justify their views. It really seems that anything short of total American isolation and complete compliance, America will continue to be the target of accusations and blame for any and all unrest in Muslim regions.
As we continue to remember the feelings of our lives pre-9/11, as we continue to remember the empty blue sky on the day of the attacks due to a nationwide no-fly zone, as we continue to attempt to understand what is right and wrong, who is to blame and why, do we really have “more Muslim blood on our hands,” as Imam Rauf has said.
Let us also read the words and messages that others in the world are told about the United States of America.
“In the weeks following 9/11, the American press devoted pages and air time to giving a human face to the victims of the attacks. It is not realistic or even right to expect the American media to give the exact same treatment to the victims of US wars. But, until very recently, the US media rarely even questioned the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and when it did, the questions asked rarely centered on the civilian deaths, which were at best seen as inevitable incidents of war and, at worst, as necessary collateral damage. Such a mentality is more damaging in the long run than any individual threatening to burn the Qur’an, because it plants the seeds of de-humanization.”
These words were not written by a militant al Qaeda radical, but were written by Lamis Andoni on 11 Sep 2010 13:34 GMT. Ms. Andoni is an independent journalist who is a professor in graduate studies at UC Berkley.
Is there room for adverse American reaction to the depiction of the US media “devoting pages and air time to giving a human face to the victims of the attack?” It would seem to me Ms. Andoni that, the victims of the 9/11 attacks had human faces, as do their families, and to compare the amount of air time given to the 9/11 victims to the accused malignant and intentional non-coverage of the victims of US wars, is so incredibly irrelevant and offensive, that I feel it is your writings that plant the seeds of de-humanization.
There will come a day when we are no longer in Iraq, no longer in Afghanistan and no longer trying to discern how we can best comply to avoid retribution on our own soil. When that day comes, will there be peace in Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan? I sure hope that for the sake of the actual tolerant and forgiving Muslim people, which are the majority, that the finger pointing divisive others will remember that the battles of your long and glorious history were not always because of the US and Israel, and not always because of the burning of Qurans. When we consider that the words found in the narration manual for understanding the Qur’an, the popular hadith, there is a prophesy of a “war against Islam, the so called Tradition of Thawban. The Messenger of God said: The nations are about to flock against you [the Muslims] from every horizon, just as hungry people flock to a kettle. We said: O Messenger of God, will we be few on that day? He said: No, you will be many in number, but you will be scum, like the scum of a flash-flood, without any weight, since fear will be removed from the hearts of your enemies, and weakness (wahn) will be placed in your hearts. We said: O Messenger of God, what does the word wahn mean? He said: Love of this world, and fear of death.
It seems somewhat disconnected to feel that the perceived actions committed by the United States against any perceived enemy can be interpreted to be an attack by America on all Islam. But, considering the coverage of Al Jazeera, I can understand why we may never find a collective understanding of each other. God help us all.