September 11, Again
Tuesday, September 11, 2012, the eleventh anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings, brought another attack against the United States, with the murder of Christopher Stevens, our ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans.
At first, this attack, and a simultaneous protest/attack at the American Embassy in Cairo, were said to be triggered by protests over a You Tube clip of a film called “The Innocence of Muslims,” made in America in 2011. Someone translated this ridiculous and disrespectful piece of trash into Arabic and flashed it around the world. The film maker, who remains in hiding and unidentified, has defended it, of course, but let’s not go there.
As the story unfolds, it appears the assassination of Ambassador Stevens may actually have been carefully timed retaliation for the killing of Abu Yahya al-Livi, the Libyan-born number two Al Qaeda commander killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in June.
There was even, per CBS News, a warning from Libyan Interior Ministry official Wanis al-Sharef, that security at the embassy in Libya should be increased due to retaliation threats.
In any case, September 11 has again been a day of tragedy for the United States of America.
We’re angry again, and we’re blaming Muslims, if my personal circle is any indication. A vague “they” is at it again. They are evil, these Muslims, with their violent religion and their belief in murder, in fighting the West, in keeping their women repressed, in suicide bombing, in lying and cheating and misrepresenting themselves. They’ll kill us all someday.
Frankly, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the fighting and the killing. I’m sick of the complete misunderstanding between us and the Middle Eastern world. I’m sick of our fear of expressing our pride in our cultural freedom. It’s good to be able to get away with saying almost anything. It is much better than living in a repressive society such as Afghanistan under the Taliban, where a woman had to be so covered up that she could barely find her way around, where a rape victim would be killed for dishonoring her family, even when a completely innocent victim.
One thing we need to do now, and often, is to proudly assert our pride in the freedom of our society. We should make clear that, in spite of the downside of having people such as Pastor Terry Jones, of Florida, and whoever is the secret creator of the “Innocence of Muslims” free to walk among us, we are incredibly blessed to have personal freedom. The rest of the world, especially some of the Middle Eastern countries, should be so lucky.
At the same time, we need to demand that our government be knowledgeable about and respectful of the cultures of other countries. People such as Donald Rumsfeld believed that the Iraqi people would be grateful to us for freeing them from Saddam Hussein, and that they would embrace our presence there. He would have known better, if his mind had been open to cultural reality.
For the U. S., or Russia before us, to get out of Afghanistan will be something like a grasshopper getting out of an anthill. Radical Islamic terrorists exist in endless numbers and will never stop coming as long as they believe they are right. They are not of true Islam. They are the product of a twisted touch of Islam, years of repressive dictatorships, overwhelming ignorance among the downtrodden poor, diplomatic and other errors by the Western world, and more. It’s not simple, and it’s not Islam.
I am acquainted with a significant number of Muslims. I had the opportunity to travel to Turkey in 2005 with a group of Turkish Muslims who, as a group have been working for intercultural understanding and inter-religious dialogue for the past 50 years. I spent days traveling with Muslim scholars, talking with them about Islam and the teachings of the Quran. What we are seeing in the world today did not come from the Quran.
In Islam, Jesus and Mary and the other Christian and Jewish prophets are revered. There is even a special niche in mosques for Mary, commemorating her studies in the Temple as a girl, and the miraculous appearance of food for her. In the view of Muslims, Mohammed is also a prophet. In Islam, fighting is allowed under certain circumstances, but killing innocents, committing suicide or even destroying trees in the course of battle is forbidden.
My Muslim friends are good people, warm, kind and devout. I would trust them with my life in a minute. I have broken the Ramadan fast in their homes, stood by respectfully during their prayers, hugged their babies and listened to their aspirations, as well as their grief over what happened on September 11, 2001. The hatred and rage leveled at these innocents breaks my heart.
We, as Americans, have a lot of which to be proud. We have, from our beginnings, been blessed with a robust, adventurous, generous culture, and with the fruits of our labors. We have learned, by trial and error, the meaning of embracing diversity. We have slowly, kicking and screaming, embraced legal immigrants, people of color, women, and gays. We should be proud of that.
Now it’s time to show ourselves to the world as the people we really are.
It’s time for us to understand that radical terrorism is not Islam, and to embrace Muslims as part of our amazing, heterogeneous society. Those innocents among them, who are contributing to our society and suffering from our hatred and anger, deserve better. It would also knock the feet out from under the terrorists to see our diverse society flourishing.
When attacked, we must fight. In my view, drone attacks and carefully targeted assaults are the way to go, not country-wide wars. We are fighting terrorist groups and individuals, not countries or their general populations. So, let’s fight them hard, without destroying innocent civilians and needed infrastructure.
Let’s tell the world how great we are. Let’s become energy independent and increase our own manufacturing. Let’s show the world of allies, and those in need, the generosity for which we are famous, inasmuch as we can. Let’s make sure the recipients of our largesse behave as friends. As Fouad Ajami, a consultant for CNN, said yesterday, it’s time for us to be brave, relinquish our fear of chaos in the Middle East and consider withdrawing foreign aid from Egypt. With all the military and police presence around the American embassy in Cairo, all that was missing was the will to stop the attack on our embassy.
It’s time to stand up and be the best of what we are. Embrace our friends. Embrace the good guys, including the majority of Muslims. Stand for diversity. Stand for independence and self reliance. Tell the world, loud and clear, that we are proud of who we are, will be true friends to our friends, and will defend ourselves with honor.
Let’s show ‘em our best stuff.