[Written on September 11, 2002]
It happened a year ago, in the morning of 11 September 2001: an episode that lasted for a couple of hours and changed the heartbeat of history. It was as if an asteroid had landed somewhere on our planet, a mindless, mammoth, unannounced intrusion that disrupted everything around and much beyond, causing death and destruction of inordinate proportions. Except that this was hatched in the minds of men, with passion and deliberation, for revenge and with prayers to their religion which had once been a fount of learning and science, of philosophy and poetry, but which has been pitifully sterile in creative science or world-enriching ideas during the past few centuries, and (as they saw it) treated with scant respect by a more successful and productive civilization. They stood tall and strong: those majestic Manhattan Towers, symbols of a nation in many ways, clearly visible from the Statue of Liberty that is holding high the torch of freedom. Those arch-haters did not have the heart to level Lady Liberty to the ground with the planes they had high-jacked with cowardly brutality. Or perhaps they calculated that wouldn’t kill as many human beings.But the structures they struck were towering over the surroundings like the nation does in the world, much to the annoyance of billions. The buildings symbolized America: grand in scale, strong like America’s might. They were brimming with business like America’s market-places, buzzing with economic activity, facilitating finance, providing jobs for a multitude, harboring people from all over the world. In the buildings were citizens of more than sixty nations, belonging to every race and creed. There were blacks and whites and browns working there, Hispanics and Greeks, Sikhs and Arabs too.
The premeditated murder of several thousand innocent individuals and the infliction of painful bereavement on thousands more should have been abhorrent to every decent and civilized person, and yet it was a matter for rejoicing, public and private, to millions who have been harboring venomous hate, for reasons justified and unjustified, for the giant of a nation called the United States.
Aside from the anguish and incalculable material loss, that eruption of inhumanity triggered many responses, including a public declaration of war against terrorism and the fiery destruction of individuals who were planning and plotting more such mischief, hiding in the dark dens of Afghanistan. In the process, the medieval Taliban regime was deposed in that unfortunate country. Its leaders – including the mastermind behind 9/11 – promptly went underground, and still remain there: alive or not is anybody’s guess.
Scholars began to analyze the roots of the ruthless savagery, and commentaries filled editorial pages. A sense of panic gripped countless people. Non-Muslims tried to understand what Islam was all about. Most of all, all realized that the world will never again be the same for the secure minority who live in relative comfort and freedom within the borders of the United States. Safety and civil rights began to take on different meanings here: those very features had facilitated the perpetration of the awful atrocity.
Even after a full year, the tremors haven’t subsided: it may take decades for this. Sadly, we are at the brink of another ominous war. The time hasn’t yet come for people of all faiths and races to join hands in gestures of friendship and mutual respect, and to seek peace and understanding, no matter what the price. But we must remember that hate is a cancer that eats away both source and target, and the price of uncontrollable anger and revenge can be very high too.