I think it's time to post a few hard truths about September 11th and its aftermath. They won't be popular with those who merely react in knee-jerk fashion to the events of that day, but I hope they'll make others think.
1. September 11th, 2001, was not an atrocity committed by Islam as a whole, or by all Muslims. It was an atrocity committed by Osama bin Laden and his radical fundamentalist Muslim followers. To equate their beliefs and actions with all of Islam is to equate Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, or Matthew Hale and the World Church of the Creator, or Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple, with the whole of Christianity. It's absurd.
2. Islam is not a unified, monolithic religion, just as Christianity is not. Both have their particular revelation, which is interpreted and applied by believers in different ways. As always, religious expression boils down to the response of individuals to the teaching of their particular faith. Just as there are many denominations or sects within Christianity, so there are many within Islam (the 'great divide' between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims is only the tip of the iceberg). You'll find widely differing interpretations and applications of Islam among those different groups, just as you'll find widely differing interpretations and applications of Christian teaching among different Christian groups.
3. The perceived anti-Western bias of much (most?) of modern Islam is, in fact, largely the product of the colonial and post-colonial eras. One has to examine the impact of colonialism and Western paternalism on most Islamic states to understand how it developed. To put it as briefly as possible, colonial powers sought to exploit their colonies for the benefit of the mother country. They put as little as possible into them, while taking as much as possible out of them. In particular, education was neglected, leaving the only educated class in such colonies (usually religious leaders) to wield an undue influence among their people, and use their legitimate grievances against colonial powers to whip up a more religious-themed and -focused opposition. Examples are legion: Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab and the rise of Salafi Islam in what is today Saudi Arabia, the Mahdi in the Sudan, the Moros in the Philippines, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestine crisis, Mohammed Omar and the Taliban in Afghanistan, to name but a few of the best-known.
4. Islam, in theological terms, is still a very young religion, a problem which is exacerbated by the relative lack of education of many of its adherents. In many ways it's where Christianity was at the dawn of the Renaissance; still bound up inseparably with the society within which it operates, with religious influence dominating secular politics, business and education. It has a long way to go to bring itself into the modern era. It'll take generations to do so.
5. It makes as much sense to blame Islam as a whole for the anti-Western sentiments that led to 9/11 as it does to blame Christianity for the anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust. Both religions contributed to the emotions that led to these respective atrocities, but neither was the proximate cause of either atrocity. Hitler's grotesque, warped, twisted perspectives led to the latter; Osama bin Laden's grotesque, warped, twisted perspectives led to the former.
6. As always, responsibility for any action boils down to the individual(s) concerned. There are good Muslims, and bad Muslims. There are good Christians, and bad Christians. There are Muslim terrorists, and there are Christian terrorists. It's always the individual that bears primary responsibility for his or her actions. The teachings of his or her faith may contribute to those actions, but can never subvert his or her primary responsibility for them. There are many other adherents of the same religions, from similar backgrounds, who have turned out very differently from the terrorists.
It saddens me greatly to see how many Americans are blaming Islam as a whole for 9/11. It's simply not true. Anyone with half an ounce of understanding and common sense knows this . . . but understanding and common sense seem to be in desperately short supply right now. To blame Islam is to be as guilty of fundamentalism and fanaticism as were the perpetrators of 9/11. What's even worse is that this wrong-headed fundamentalist focus has been used by our leaders (from both major political parties) to mount an unprecedented power-grab that's left us in a significantly worse position as a society. In the name of responding to terrorism, they've justified torture, the warrantless killing of US citizens, and other actions that would have horrified our Founding Fathers - and we've let them get away with it, because of our blindness to reality and our focus on emotion rather than fact.
Although she and I are very far apart on the political spectrum, I agree with Earth-Bound Misfit on what would be appropriate actions for us on this anniversary.
What we need to do, as a nation, is to stop focusing on piddly-ass threats and go back to our national interests. It is not in our national interest to keep throwing hundreds of billions of dollars and the brunt of our military on areas of the word that do not affect our national interests. Al Qaeda is mobile and we have made the point that if they establish a footprint anywhere in the world, that we will hurt them badly. Other than that, it is hard to see what we have to gain by being in Afghanistan.
We also need to reclaim our heritage of a nation of laws. To do that, we need to roll back the police-state powers granted to law enforcement over the last nine years. We need to stop allowing the FBI and other agencies to peruse the records of Americans without probable cause. We need to stop the NSA, once and for all, from spying on the electronic communications of Americans. In short, we need to go back to the Constitutional presumption that we have the right to live our lives without law enforcement and the spooks watching us without cause.
Finally, we need to hold our own officials accountable for the commission of crimes of torture and not leave it to another nation to do so. This is our mess, we need to be the ones to clean it up.
I hope that on this anniversary of atrocity, we may begin to come to our senses as a nation, and begin to put right all the wrong that has been done over the past nine years in the name of responding to terrorism. That includes examining our own beliefs, attitudes and convictions, and coming to terms with reality and truth rather than with emotion and knee-jerk reactions.