Arab World: Healing the Rifts of 9/11

As the United States remembers the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001, the rest of the world is remembering too.  For many Arabs, that day marked a change in mutual perception. It fundamentally changed how the world perceives Arabs and how Arabs see the world. For many, suspicion and fear became the de facto common denominator.  For others, it sparked a need for more awareness.

Buj al Arab, from the UAE, discusses the changes in the world since 2001.  He remembers the victims of 9/11 and remarks on how much the world has changed since:

On this fateful day eight years ago more than 3000 people lost their lives in New York city. Unfortunately the murder of those innocents lead to more lost lives all over the world. This day changed our modern world forever, and some might say the change was not for the best…

…8 years feels like a long time and indeed I cannot remember much about how air travel was prior to 9/11. How uncomplicated. I cannot also remember how easy it was to enter the USA, since I never attempted to do so in the last 8 years. Let us hope that we can change things to the better, to push for more freedoms and civil liberties, to give voice to the weak, and to only use war as a last resort or a no-resort.

Will Donovan, an American blogger whose blog is entitled Some Guy in Lebanon, shares how 9/11 changed his world:

I’d like to reflect on that date for a moment – September 11th doesn’t need an introduction. It is a day that will long be remembered in horrifying imagery as America was attacked in an unprecedented terrorist incident. On that day, it seemed, the long arm of Middle Eastern politics, upheaval, and affairs, reached out far across the seas, as Saudis, financed by oil profits, and under the nose of one of America’s key allies, obliterated our sense of security and isolation. Suddenly there was an enormous realization that America did not stand alone in a vacuum. There was a new interest in the Middle East – People took Arabic in unprecedented numbers, and our President and our foreign policy took a new interest in the region, often for the worse. It is impossible to deny that September 11th awakened me to an interest in the Middle East, as well.

American interest had its many disasters, including, obviously, the Iraq war, the disastrous financing of Fatah in Gaza, and a blind eye to Arab dictatorships, new allies in the “War on Terror,” as they brutally cracked down on moderate Muslim democratic movements. But it had one interesting moment – Bush loudly backed the “March 14″ coalition in Lebanon when it streamed into the streets in 2005 to protest Syria’s occupation of the country following the assassination of Rafic Hariri. I will not attribute the entire thing to American foreign policy, but it is hard to deny that, in an ocean of failure, this was one bright spot for the post-September 11th American agenda. It paved the way for my life now.

Another American living in an Arab country is the blogger behind 760 Days in Morocco.  As an American of Arab descent who is a convert to Islam, she shares a unique perspective on how the day affected her life:

It is that day eight years ago when a gross atrocity occurred.  “The day the world stood still.”  The day we all remember exactly where we were, and exactly what we were doing.  The day so many lives changed forever.  The day we have memorialized every year since then.  The day when a friend called me and said “Why are y’all doing this to us?”  I was not a Muslim then.  I had never really thought about Islam much then.  I had never heard of Bin Laden or Al Qaeda then.  Yet, still as an Arab-American of Lebanese decent, I was partly to blame for this event that even now as a Muslim I condemn with my whole heart.  I’m not the only one.  Most Muslims around the world condemn these actions too.  I believe deep in my heart that Allah has condemned these actions also.  What those people did is against Islam in every sense.  What they practice is not the religion I have come to know, love, and accept.  If what they did had anything to do with the true religion of Islam, I would certainly not be a part of it.

The blogger concludes by sharing a story about how she contributed to greater understanding:

Yes, we have to put ourselves out there to do that.  I recall a story my aunt told me about a Muslim family who lived in her small town.  After 9/11, the family organized a talk for the community to explain what Islam is and how terrorism is not related to it whatsoever.  They put themselves out there so that their neighbors could gain greater understanding of the truth about Islam.  At the college where I worked previously, I joined a faculty and staff discussion that was often way over my head in order to bring the Muslim voice to the table.  I had to put myself out there so that the others at the table could gain a greater understanding of the truth about Islam.  Putting ourselves out there to spread the true word of Islam is the real jihad, and it continues not only 8 years after that day, but until the Day of Judgement.

Moroccan blogger Myrtus shares a simple message:

I pledge to promote peace, love, freedom and coexistence whenever/wherever I CAN, with simple acts of kindness……and remember we're all humans first and foremost.

For an interesting perspective on how American views of the Arab world and Muslims have changed since 2001, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press has published a study entitled “Muslims Widely Seen as Facing Discrimination.”


  • Mohamed Zefzaf

    The Skies of 9/11

    I shall never forget that day: a crisp, clear day, the sky a transparent blue. Out of that sky came two airplanes crashing, thundering into the enormous World Trade towers; as if in a film, the first building collapsed-one floor on top of the other-till the entire structure reached the street. Smoke, fear, and hysteria enveloped lower Manhattan in a tragic haze. The second tower collapsed too, following the exact scenario of the first; more debris, more confusion, more pain. Smoke rose marring the perfect dome of the sky.

    I sat there watching it all on television from my home in Massachusetts. I don’t know why, but I had to step outside to make sure it was not the end of the world. For at that precise moment, it really felt as if the world was coming to an end. The September sky above Massachusetts revealed nothing of what was happening further down in New York. I returned inside and again was transfixed by the horrific images of people running wildly, dazed, utterly confused, scared, covered thickly with dust. From this dust people emerged ghost-like, not sure if they were dead live or alive. They-and indeed we- shall never be the same again, nor shall we see the world with the same eyes.

    Out of that violent day a new world emerged. We are still living with its consequences. It was the day when Manhattan became a dustbowl bleeding into the sky.

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