After 9/11 President Bush reminded Americans that the attack was the work of a few terrorists and not the Muslim people. “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” Bush said a few days after 9/11. President Obama reached out to Muslims worldwide in his 2009 Cairo speech, where he insisted that “America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam.” Yet partly because of the furor over the “mosque” near Ground Zero, a new wave of anti-Muslim feeling has arisen. Gen. Petraeus recently spoke out against a planned burning of the Qur’an by a church in Florida, an act which Petraeus says threatens American operations in Afghanistan and harms America’s image in Muslim countries.
Did we (Muslim and non-Muslims) do enough after 9/11 to heal the nation? If not, what should we have done? What more can we do now?
The wounds of 9/11 will never heal because we lack genuine commitment to find common ground. For a wound to heal it needs proper medication and, above all, the wound needs to be rested. If we keep scratching and irritating the wound it will just go on festering. I have never looked at 9/11 as an isolated instance of some mad people ramming airplanes into the World Trade Center. It was the result of decades of exploitation and generations of bitterness between the Muslim and Christian worlds.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that our government agencies, in pursuit of our foreign policy, exploited Muslim extremists as long as they were helping us fight Communism. Once the goal was achieved we abandoned them. Unfortunately that has been our trade mark around the world — to use people and nations to attain our goals and then to abandon them. No one likes to be used and exploited all the time. This is the modern part of this conflict.
The ancient part dates back to the crusades and to the rivalry between Islam and Christianity to convert the whole world. When two parties are strong contenders in a battle to capture the world a clash is inevitable. Against this background the United States, in its half-hearted attempt to achieve a rapprochement, takes two steps forward and four backwards. Just when we thought we were achieving some semblance of friendship some Americans do crazy things like burning the Koran and opposing the building of a Mosque near Ground Zero.
It is so well known now that to get publicity one has to do the most absurd things and speak the most vile language. So everyone with an ideology or a cause to promote creates a lobby and screams from rooftops quite unconcerned about the consequences of their actions. They take vicarious pleasure in seeing their names in the news.
Against this background what can one do to heal wounds? When I was a journalist in Mumbai, India, I met a British economist and asked him what he would do to change the economy of the city so that we could eliminate the poverty. He reflected for a while and then with a wry smile said: I would burn down the whole place and rebuild it.
For weeks the world has been hearing about the often angry demonstrations and intemperate speeches against the mosque in NYC. For almost the same amount of time the world has been hearing about the idiotic idea of burning the Koran to commemorate 9/11, yet for years groups all over the country have been doing great work to build bridges and heal wounds but the media ignores that altogether. We never hear about it. As a nation we need to do some serious introspection: Do we really want to build bridges and heal wounds?