By Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad,
Minaret of Freedom Institute
This morning, Tuesday, September 11, 2001, two planes rammed the World Trade Center in New York, destroying the twin towers and causing as yet untold loss of life, another plane plunged into the side of the Pentagon, and in what may or may not be a related incident, a fourth plane crashed 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. For American Muslims the unprecedented coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is a triple tragedy. As Americans, our country is under attack. As Muslims, the tragedy of attacks on noncombatants is anathema to us. Finally, as the “usual suspects” in a situation of this type we can anticipate a new acceleration in our persecution.
For years Muslims have urged commentators not to jump to conclusions when the United States becomes the target of apparent terrorist attacks. I shall try to heed this advice myself, and avoid blurting out my own suspicious. Nonetheless, I think there are some lessons that can be drawn from horrific events of this morning even at this early moment.
The first lesson is that even the United States can become a war zone. In addition to the loss of property and human life, air travel has been shut down, train service out of Washington, D.C. has been shut down, the financial markets have closed and the much of the government has been shut down. Even schools and theme parks are being shut down. This is without precedent. Even the attack on Pearl Harbor was an attack on an American held territory as Hawaii was not then a state.
It is curious that although the World Trade Center bombing and (illogically) the Oklahoma City bombing spawned a near-hysterical Islamophobia, they have not resulted in the implementation of common sense precautions. For example, a Pentagon worker interviewed by NBC this morning asserted that when she first went to work at the Pentagon she searched in vain for the “Alert” signs common in high-security buildings and was told that the Pentagon was so secure that they didn’t need such signs.
While we do not yet know who is responsible for this detestable destruction, nor why, we can see that even if an effective “star wars defense” were in place it would have been of no use in preventing this tragedy. One of the planes that hit the World Trade Center, it has been confirmed, was a hijacked American Airlines plane diverted from a Boston to Los Angeles flight. No number of expensive satellites could do anything against this strategy.
American Muslims must show what good neighbors we can be in this crisis. The most valuable single contribution we can make is to volunteer to give blood. Of course, we can also raise money for the victims and their families. The Islamic American Zakat Foundation (301-907-0997) and the American Muslim Foundation (703-824-8663) are seeking volunteers and donations.
Perhaps the most important lesson for American Muslims is that we must give the highest priority to condemning not only attacks like this, but also the bogus religious opinions of Osama Bin Laden that attacks of this type are justified under Islamic Law. I know I run the risk of irritating those Muslims who like to point out the similarities between this type of attack and the American bombings of civilian targets (from Hiroshima, to the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, to the bombings of Afghanistan that were intended to eliminate Bin Laden), but the fact that the United States targets civilians doesn’t make the targeting of civilians right. I am reminded of a line of the Libyan freedom fighter Umar al-Mukhtar from the movie “The Lion of the Desert.” When he prohibits the killing of prisoners of war, a companion objects that the Italians would have killed the Libyans had they been taken prisoner. Umar responds, “They are not our teachers.”
The final lesson that comes to mind is that Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson have done the United States a great disservice when they published their article in the Wall Street Journal urging the FBI to expend its resources on a campaign against free speech, shutting down Muslim web sites at a time when such resources would have been better spent on anticipating attacks such as this. Real terrorists do exist in the world. The FBI’s mission is, or at least should be, to protect Americans from threats like that, rather than to abridge the Constitutional right of law-abiding people to criticize the Israeli occupation of Palestine.