Last year I stood at the memorial fountains at the World Trade Center site in New York City. It is a truly humbling experience that I recommend everyone undertake. The feeling of horror, and anger, and great sadness are all intensely overwhelming as the spray from the fountains blows into your face and the solemn calmness conflicts with the enormity of the ideology-driven terror that struck in 2001.
Twelve years later, and reflection is still difficult. It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like to be a passenger on one of the planes, without pulling your mind away because it becomes just too much for any human being to deal with. We try to imagine what it must have felt like for those incredible firefighters running into the debris and the screams, and the nightmare, and we cannot bring ourselves to do so for long before it becomes beyond our capacity. We cannot imagine the pain so many families have been through, through no fault of their own and so many lives broken. Fathers who never saw their children grow up, mothers missing from family christmases. Equally we cannot imagine, and we find it difficult to place ourselves in a position to even try to imagine how peaceful and respectful Muslims felt in the days and weeks, and years following 9/11. It was a day that broke the hearts of every decent person on the planet. There cannot be a legitimate excuse.
There is no excuse. There is no justification. The attack that occurred on that blue skied morning in 2001, was carried out by a multinational crime family, with designs on empire and a deep seated hatred not just for Americans, but for any group that isn’t exactly like them. It is entirely unreasonable to argue “Well Americans killed Muslims, so we killed Americans” as is often the repeated argument, and still used to this day, with varieties employed by Western apologists in the Galloway mold. Indeed, if for example a Brit is murdered in Spain by a Spanish person, I have no right or moral justification whatsoever as a Brit to murder a random innocent Spaniard in retaliation. This isn’t reasonable. It is murder, and it is evil. An outdated, violent, power-hungry, callous political ideology based not on reason but on dogma, that considers the human being to be expendable in the pursuit of the goal of a resurrected Theocracy, cannot be rationalised in an age of enlightenment, human rights, and reason. Responsibility for violence based on that ideology, should not be shifted away from those committing the act, to anyone else. The ideology – with violence and force at its core – is autonomous; it doesn’t require aggressive Western foreign policy to exist, it exists with or without it. We must not excuse it as simply a reaction. For the adherents to such an ideology, human beings are merely another tool to be used as a means to an end, and it is this callousness, and indifference toward the sanctity of life, that we saw materialise on September 11th 2001.
Ideologies based on dogma are defeated by empowering people. They are defeated by gender equality, and human rights. They are defeated by religious moderates rejecting a religious stranglehold of the state. They are defeated when Nations with power stop aiding their fight. They are defeated by equal treatment under the law, and the distinct separation of religion from state with no single myth placed in control of the lives of anyone else. They are therefore defeated by the enduring human desire to be free.
Humanity has a long way to go before we treat each other as sacred, as anything but the narrow band that extremists of every stripe insist we must be identified as. However, violently enforced regression and weak attempts to rationalise or justify violently enforced regression as a product of anything but itself, is not a step along that path. It is a step backward. It deserves neither respect nor consideration.
The only people who deserve our consideration, are those who lost their lives, and their families and friends. Those people who simply went into work that day. Whether through pure chance they happen to be Americans, or non-Americans (12% of those who died, were not American), Christians, or Muslims, Gay, or Straight, Men, or Women, young or old; Human beings – people who were loved, and cherished, and had hurt not a soul – were savagely slaughtered that day in September. This one fact must never be forgotten, nor excused.