By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
The course of modern history was changed on the morning of September 11, 2001, when four coordinated terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda (Islamic Terrorist Group) on symbolic United States landmarks took place. The casualties of these attacks were over almost 3000 people dead and over 6000 injured, as majority of these casualties were in New York City (World Trade Towers). The US government under the administration of President George W. Bush conducted several foreign and domestic policies, which are still affecting the global politics until this day. In addition, many of the current political developments are directly linked to those events and the policies placed after the attacks by the US administration and other western states.
However, as Muslims, whether residing in the west or the Middle East, the political developments and policies have influenced our lives in various ways, which have often created many challenges and struggles. The pre-emptive approach adopted by many western states, became the rationale behind persecution and detainment of many innocent Muslims, as they were placed under surveillance and black lists, for their last names, acquaintanceship, family affiliations, profession and expertise. In addition, rendition of several Muslim US-Citizens was revealed in the headlines, where individuals were subjected to torture and excruciation in foreign countries by the request of US government. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was toppled, as a massive western coalition invaded that country, since the base of Al-Qaeda was believed to be in Afghanistan. In 2003 the United States and Britain alongside other countries invaded Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and toppled the notorious regime of Saddam Hussein. Drone attacks were ordered by the US administration inside Muslim countries, which targeted terrorist sites and groups, which (mistakenly) took the lives of innocent people. The rise of Islamophobia in the west and public criticism of Islamic principles and teachings was witnessed in several countries, which set a precedent, as satiric cartoons of Prophet Mohammad were drawn in Europe, which created global outrage among Muslims.
In addition, some political observers believe that even the regime changes in the Middle East, known as the Arab Spring were related to 9/11, and the policies and event post those attacks, as the tendencies of western powers in the region were shifted and changed. Regardless, the events in planet earth are currently being labeled as pre-9/11 and post 9/11, which shows the impact of this date on all aspects of life upon the entire humanity in general.
Therefore, it would be beneficial to dissect the new conditions and variables within Islam as a religion and Muslims as general, which have been caused by those events. The necessity of this dissection is derived from the notion that within each misfortune or struggle, an opportunity presents itself. Therefore, as Muslims we must apprehend and acknowledge the opportunities that have presented themselves to us, post September 11, 2001.
9/11 & Islam
To be precise, the negative impact of 9/11 was majorly on Muslims and Middle Easterners, as arguing that a religion followed by over 1 billion people is entirely violent is a bogus and absurd claim. Therefore, Islam as a religion not only did not suffer from the attack of 9/11, it can be argued that Islam did benefit from the aftermath of those events. According to many statistics and polls, Islam was the leading topic searched on the Internet globally post 9/11, as many people (non-Muslims) wanted to know more about the religion, those attackers claimed to follow. The curiosity within these researches came from the fact that many Muslims had lived in the west, and many non-Muslim had interacted with them through the years, and nothing unordinary was sited. Therefore, it was essential to find out, whether all Muslims were adopting such extreme view, or whether Islam did support such extreme ideology.
In addition, the attack of 9/11 opened the eyes of many observers and non-Muslims, upon many essential and necessary details about Islam and its different ideologies, as Muslims were not viewed through the same scope. The difference between Wahhabism, mainstream Sunni Islam, Shia Islam and other Islamic sects was being distinguished and outlined, which was enabling non-Muslims to make more precise and thorough statements about Muslims and Islam. Nonetheless, the same results were mandating Muslims to outline the roots of radicalism and terrorism in their religion, which resulted in several academic works that identified the source of fundamentalism in Islam. In addition, due to the attacks by Anti-Islamic activists and groups that Islam was a violent religion and its prophet spread his religion through coercive means, Muslim were learning about the different methods to defend their religion.
9/11 & Muslims
No one can deny that 9/11 attacks were behind many limitations placed upon Muslims around the globe, where they were subjected to verbal, physical, social and even financial abuses. There are hundreds of cases in North America and Europe, where Muslims were subjected to racism, unnecessary screening, and physical abuses. Therefore, Muslims were faced with new necessities and priorities that mandated them to establish organizations and institutions that defend them and treat their struggles through legit and legal means.
In addition, the retaliation methods adopted by the United States and other western states in their war on terror, or their security measures were used by many radical scholars and preachers to revive new means of radicalization. Although these policies and measures will never justify the actions of terrorist groups, but western presence in Muslim Lands, Neo-Colonialism, Abu Gharib torture photos and other titles were used to draw new blood for radical and terrorist groups.
Therefore, Muslims were mandated to more active in various methods to defend their religion on two fronts. The first front was before the external attacks on Islam and its prophet, which even pushed many second generation Muslims to enter universities and higher education institutions to study social sciences. Therefore, we have witnessed many more Muslim students in Political science departments, journalism, criminology, sociology and security agencies. These development helped the Muslim communities in west to develop modern means and methods to defend themselves and secure their freedoms and rights.
The second front was among Muslims themselves, as Muslims were mandated to challenge radicalism within their own circles. Many Islamic centers and institutions were reviewing their policies and sermons to ensure they promote the peacefulness of Islam and reject any notion of fundamentalism. In addition, if bad apples were not contained, many communities reported them to the authorities to place them under surveillance or even detain them. Nonetheless, even mainstream Muslims were more cautious about their actions and conducts in their homes and in public, as they did not want to give any implications that they have radical tendencies.
It is argued by many academic scholars and observers that majority of terrorist attacks around the world, were motivated by political struggles, where Islam was used as a legitimacy cover. However, whether political policies or religious ideologies were behind those development, the aftermath of 9/11 forced Muslim to develop new means for asserting their co-existential tendencies within the societies they reside in. In addition¸ the political and religious awareness among Muslims has been dramatically increased, which helps Muslims prevent radicalization and western societies understand Muslims better.