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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where were you on September 11?

Today, the world remembers the terrible events that took place in New York. More exactly, we are invited to spare a minute for the many innocent lives lost to the terrorist acts of a terrorist organisation we now know is called Al Qaeda. I have shared my thoughts and reflections on this tragic event every year on this blog since I launched it. Undoubtedly, the events which took place on September 11 changed the course of our futures for ever. Yet, now I am a bit reluctant to write because enough has been said and written that any word I add appears superfluous and, indeed, a way to draw praise.

On the other hand, in spite of risking to go with the flow, I feel that I can’t just let the day pass by without reflecting on the implications September 11 had on the world and how we relate to each other. In addition, I was lucky enough to have gone on top of the World Trade Centre (WTC) when I was visiting my relatives who live in the US. In fact, when I heard the news, my thoughts turned to my relatives abroad and, for a minute, it seemed I relived the times I had been one day there as a tourist.

Moreover, since the WTC, one of the buildings hit by the planes hijacked by the suicide bombers was also place where people from around the world could work together, it can be argued that the attacks against that particular building was an attack on the whole world. Obviously, it’s natural that after people learned of the people behind the attack, many hearts were hardened and the minds were poisoned by hate and resentment of the other, the “enemy”.

The fact that we would learn that Islamic extremists were behind all this would also fuel the growth of anti-Islamic sentiments still evident across the world. What should be a religion of peace which shared with its monotheist sisters - Judaism and Christianity - continued to transform itself, in people’s minds - to a religion of hate and violence. Thus, enforcing the divisions that already existed between peoples. A division that would erode any hope of peaceful dialogue and peaceful communication as the majority of the West chose to employ the very means of war and violence it had so heavily deplored.

Yet, the truth is that those who were and who are responsible for acts of violence and atrocities aren’t Muslims but, rather, using Islam to achieve their political ambitions and to eradicate all those they perceive to b a threat to their position and power. Yet, military action, as we have seen in the past, rarely achieves its aims. The more our response is that of violence and the more we cling to our feelings of hatred and resentment, the more we fortify the image of the “other” as the “enemy”. Thus, we may fail to understand that, even behind the most atrocious human acts, there’s a reason. Irrational, yes, but it is there.

For everyone justly spoke up against the attacks of September 11 but, I suspect, only a few of us really tried to understand why all this happened. While those leading the immoral cause of Islamism or to force the whole world to convert to Islam according to Al Qaeda, may be motivated by power and control, the people supporting and helping them may really believe that they have suffered too much misery when under Western rule that the only solution is to bear arms and fight.

We can’t forget our responsibility as our Western powers can’t be said to have been totally innocent and didn’t or aren’t still exploiting the natural resources of nations of the majority world* to build their own technology and infrastructure. Have we forgotten the many innocent casualties of random attacks/? In no way, does this justify violent and terrorist acts. However, we must be aware that we are also responsible for certain realities present in other nations simply because we value the land instead of the people who inhabit it. We’re ready to poison water supplies, cut down trees and keeping in power those we think we can trust not to oppose our authority.

Of course, there is also a lot of good we do, as Western nations, in the world to alleviate suffering. And wile it’s debatable whether September 11 could have been prevented, it’s true that it was a result, in part, of a collective arrogance and indifference in the ways we often act in countries where we think of people living there as somewhat beneath us.

What the world has gone through on September 11 should be a reminder of the urgent importance of keeping our channels of communication open. To listen and engage in peaceful dialogue and negotiations when we can’t agree. To open our heart and mind and truly listen to what the “other” is saying. To remember the victims on September 11 burt to be prepared to let go of all our feelings of enmity and distrust. To be prepared to work together as we remain human beings who share a lot in common. Humans who share in our hopes and dreams, who have our fears and nightmares, and who want, ultimately to live a happy life.

Yes, I remember September 11. Yet, my thoughts also go out to Syria and to others who are dying right now because of famine and conflict. t. Thankfully, it was decided that, at present, no military intervention will be carried out against Syria but the path of dialogue and negotiation will be now pursued. Have prayers been answered? Or, more likely, the voices of peace have been heard and taken note of. Favouring one side over the other - who both claim they’re protecting the people - would have meant certain disaster and more bloodshed and acts of violence from both sides.

I conclude by asking the question which is also the title of this entry:

“Where were you before September 11?”

This isn’t a question to know where you were then. It’s rather a question that is intended to provoke you to think about how you viewed the world before September 11.

Have you thought about such a horrible thing happening?

Did you support peace and justice or did you go on life without caring?

Did you choose not to care about people who you thought were far away and, thus, insignificant?

Don’t worry if you answered yes to all these questions.

The truth is that, if anything, September 11 made us aware of the fact that we are connected with each other more than we thought. Even if it did harden some hearts, it should have awakened us to the fact that we depend on each other. We can’t afford to be indifferent to the injustices against others. We can’t ignore the environmental impact we’re having on our planet as all of us depend on it.

To truly honour those who died or would die as a consequence of the attacks on September 11, we must do our part in ensuring that our world remains a peaceful place that fosters an environment of mutual respect and cooperation.

One good place to start is within our own social circle and community.

But first we must cultivate the seeds of peace and compassion in our own hearts and minds!

I prefer to use the term "majority world" as opposed to "developing world" or "less developed" countries as the latter terms are making a value judgement about other nations and people assuming they are somewhat inferior. "Majority world" also reflects that the majority of the human population lives there. The opposite is true if I use the term "minority world".

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