(This is the second article in a multi-part series. If you haven't already read Part 1, I recommend that you do so before continuing here.)
Q: When those airplanes hit the Twin Towers, I remember seeing TV news reports showing Muslims dancing in the streets with joy. They were happy that our people had been murdered! How can I ever trust them after seeing that?
A: Yes, some Muslims did, indeed, dance in the streets for joy after the 9/11 atrocity. I saw those TV reports too (readers can watch some of them at the link), and I was as sickened by them as you were. However, let's get a couple of things straight - facts that have largely been obscured by the anger felt by so many of us after 9/11. First, those celebrating were mostly Palestinians - a people who blame the USA for the continued existence of Israel, their inveterate enemy. When Israel bombs Palestinians, it's usually with US-supplied aircraft and bombs. It's the USA that continues to support Israel's occupation of Palestinian areas. Is it any wonder that they rejoiced to see 'the friend of their enemy' suffering? Please note, I'm not saying it's right that they did so - only that it's understandable, from their perspective.
Second, note that while many Palestinians support terrorism as a response to Israel (and the USA), they do so after having been born and raised in a highly politicized society, where their every thought has been oriented towards hatred for their enemies. Even their children's TV programs teach hatred of Jews, the virtues of becoming a suicide bomber, and Islamic rule of the world. (Many clips from such programs are available on YouTube.) Children are not taught to think critically, or for themselves; they're indoctrinated from birth into political, social and religious fanaticism. Indeed, so fanatical are the different groups involved (Hamas and Fatah) that, despite their recent peace agreement, many of their leaders and supporters still appear to hate each other as much as they do Israel and the Jews!
Given that fetid soup of religious and racial intolerance, hatred and indoctrination, is it any wonder that some Palestinians celebrated the news of 9/11? The supporter of their greatest enemy had been dealt a grievous blow. To them, this was good news. They didn't - most of them probably couldn't - analyze 9/11 intellectually, or morally, or theologically. They reacted out of the whole mishmash of emotion and fervor in which they were born and raised, and in which they live to this day. They exhibited, in fact, precisely the same sort of biased, prejudiced, knee-jerk, theologically illiterate reaction that we see in, for example, the behavior of members of the Westboro Baptist Church in our own country. Let me give you a few examples from actual posters carried by members of that church at their demonstrations during funerals for deceased servicemen around the USA:
- "God hates fags";
- "God hates fag enablers";
- "God hates your tears";
- "Thank God for dead soldiers";
- "You're going to Hell";
- "Fags doom nations";
- "Thank God for 9/11";
- "God is America's Terror".
Can you honestly say that rejoicing by Muslim Palestinians over 9/11 is any worse than those horrendous, horrific, hate-filled slogans displayed and shouted by American Christians, rejoicing over the death of US servicemen?
I don't - I can't - excuse Palestinian celebrations after 9/11, just as I can't excuse the attitudes of Westboro Baptist Church members. Both are inexcusable. However, both are also understandable in the light of the prejudiced, bigoted, morally bankrupt climate within which members of both groups have been raised. If we'd been raised under similar circumstances, brainwashed in the same way, would we be any different? "There, but for the grace of God, go I". We need to remember that truth.
Furthermore, bear in mind that the Arab world in particular has little, if any, reason to love the West, irrespective of its and our religions. Their nations were largely occupied by colonial powers, whether or not they wanted that. In further displays of colonial and post-colonial arrogance, the former Ottoman Empire holdings in the Middle East were divided between Britain and France (in the Sykes-Picot Agreement) without reference to the wishes of local inhabitants. Promises made to Arab tribes during World War I in an attempt to gain their support against Turkey were almost universally ignored and abandoned as soon as the war was won. Nations such as Transjordan and Iraq were created after World War I by a stroke of the colonial pen, and the Hashemite Emirate was established in Transjordan, without bothering to obtain the consent of local sheiks. For that matter, the state of Israel exists only because the British government promised to support its establishment (in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which contradicted promises already made to Arabs), and permitted Jewish immigration as a result. Britain acted in its own interest to secure Jewish support during World War I, at the subsequent expense of Arab residents of Palestine.
As soon as oil became a desirable commodity, the colonial rulers of Arab nations (and their oil companies, plus those of America) began to extract it as quickly as possible. Even after Arab nations became independent, major oil companies - backed up by their governments - paid a pittance for their product, often directly into the private bank accounts of corrupt rulers, so that the broad mass of the population derived little or no benefit from 'petrodollars'. To this day, the USA engages in what has been unofficially labeled 'petrodollar warfare', regardless of whether this is in the interests of oil-producing nations.
Western powers (particularly the USA) have for decades used Arab and Muslim nations and peoples when this was to their advantage, but abandoned them at once if the situation changed. Afghanistan is a classic example of exploitation. During the 1980's the Mujahedin were trained, armed and financed by the USA as a tool against the Soviet Union, which had occupied Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden, among others, was trained and supported by the CIA. However, as soon as the Soviet Union had withdrawn from Afghanistan, the USA withdrew its support and left that shattered nation to its own devices (which led, ultimately, to the rise of the Taliban - comprised largely of former Mujahedin). It was abundantly clear to the Mujahedin, and to the world, that the USA had no real concern for Afghanistan or its people as such - it, and they, were seen merely as geopolitical tools to be used, then discarded. The hundreds of thousands of dead Mujahedin, their families and their supporters counted for nothing. Why are Americans so surprised that the hatred of many Mujahedin for this country grew so strong? I don't condone or endorse that hatred, but I certainly understand it!
9/11 was terrorism at its most brutal, and an act that cried out for justice. I don't think anyone in his right mind can deny that. We have by now largely brought justice to those responsible for that atrocity. However, unthinking knee-jerk emotional reactions by many Americans have been harnessed by our own extremists, who've used 9/11 as a rallying cry for racial and religious hatred and intolerance directed against Muslims. In doing so, they have done precisely and exactly the same thing as fundamentalist Muslim fanatics, who turned US actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere into a rallying cry for Islamic racial and religious hatred and intolerance against this country.
Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, pot.
Tomorrow we'll continue this series by examining atrocities committed by Muslims, and attempt to distinguish between fanaticism and religious faith as motivating factors.