By Jahangir Mohammed
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, there has been extensive media coverage of the attacks that led to the death of nearly 3000 people on that day. There is no doubt 9/11 was a unique event in history. Nor can we doubt the terror and suffering inflicted on people in the United States that day. The United States and the West are entitled to recall that fear and remember their dead. No self respecting people or nation ignores those killed by wars, conflicts or terror. A government that does not respect the sanctity of life of its people is not a government at all.
In the United States people have gone one-step further and declared the whole of the area and streets around Ground Zero as sacred. They object to the building of a mosque anywhere near it. Imagine If Muslims were to adopt this logic, i.e. an area attacked by your enemy is sacred ground. We would then have the entire territories of Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Kashmir, Chechnya and Palestine as sacred lands and Western exclusion zones!
In the build up to the 10th anniversary, many Muslims have lamented, “what about the hundreds of thousands of Muslims killed by Western occupation since 9/11?” We can raise these issues as long as we wish, but we need to understand that Western governments do not care about Muslim life, they care for their own, and their interests above all else.
As we have just witnessed in Libya and Egypt, ethics, values and morality are not part of the Western political DNA. For decades these governments supported and aided regimes that inflicted great suffering on Muslim peoples. When the dictators could no longer survive, they swapped sides and pretend they are champions of the human rights of the people, without an ounce of remorse or guilt.
Anybody who believes that by highlighting these inconsistencies and hypocrisy there will be change in western policy towards the Muslim world is deluded. If the revolutionary movements in the Arab world have taught us anything, it is that the West will not change its behaviour and policies unless forced to do so, or they can no longer sustain them.
Above all we must realise these policies will continue unless and until we Muslims change our own attitudes to Muslim life and suffering. Therefore, the real question we need to be asking ask ourselves is, how much do we respect the sanctity of Muslim life and property.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. established the importance of this issue for us in his farewell sermon. He invited the people to listen to his farewell Hajj message at Mount Arafat a few months before his death. He asked his followers to listen carefully as he was about to address some important issues that needed to be conveyed to future Muslims. After 23 years of conveying messages of divine guidance on almost every issue, what is the very first issue of importance that he utters?
“O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust”.
This sanctity of Muslim honour, life and property, is emphasised in various narrations We are even told it is forbidden to hand over a fellow Muslim to those who would do them harm. The duty to protect Muslim life and property therefore represents the key duty of Muslim brotherhood and being an Ummah. But are we are fulfilling this duty?
In recent decades we have witnessed appalling crimes against Muslims around the globe. We support charitable giving to these causes, and march the streets in protest. But that is just about it. An attitude that treats Muslim life and property as a sacred trust requires much more from us.
Do we remember the crimes committed against Muslims? Can we describe the horrific nature of them? Do we know that names of every person killed? Do we know how their families suffered and coped? Do we know if they are suffering still? Have those who have committed the crimes been named, have we exerted any effort to bring them to justice? Have we pursued the aggressors to pay for loss of life and property?
If we look at a few examples we find that our memory and interest is short. The Soviet Union illegally occupied Afghanistan for over a decade, and destroyed its infrastructure. No one asked Russia to pay a penny in compensation. There are 10,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons without trial, do we know them? Israel habitually attacks Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, and Muslim money rebuilds? Yet Muslim nations host Israeli embassies, tourists and engage in trade. Is such behaviour consistent with a respect for the sanctity of Muslim life?
In Chechyna, a quarter of the Muslim population has been killed and almost all infrastructure destroyed, has this been raised by any Muslim States? Who is recording the atrocities committed? In Bosnia, around 6000 Muslim men and boys were shot in cold blood in one day, as the UN looked on. Do we care to remember this massacre each year? In 1998, the United States bombed the only civilian drug factory in Sudan. This led to thousands of innocent people being killed and dying because of lack of drugs. Where is the memory of this event and the compensation?
Muslim states have for decades been torturing, imprisoning and killing their own people. They have even been running ghost prisons to torture for the West and handing people over to them. In Pakistan the state kills on behalf of the United Sates and razed to the ground entire towns in Waziristan. No self-respecting state kills its own people for others.
And after the recent occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, what do Muslim states do? They trade and offer contracts to the West as if nothing had happened. They reward the killers with £60 billion pounds arms deals, giving them the financial strength to go on and do more killing. They host and treat with respect a war criminal like Tony Blair as if he was a friend of Muslims. They even pay him incredible amounts of money for his speeches and accept him as a Middle East peace envoy! Is it surprising then that he wants more wars in the Muslim world and claims Muslims have a false sense of grievance!
These behaviours and attitudes are inconsistent with respect for the sanctity of Muslim life and property. So why are we surprised when the West treats Muslim blood with total disregard? Because of our attitude and failure to expose and remember all this suffering, we have allowed Muslims and Islam to be presented as the aggressor and not the victims, in all these conflicts.
Any revolutionary change in the Muslim world must have at its core and any new constitution, the sanctity and respect for Muslim life, property and dignity that Islam proscribes. These revolutionary movements must also ensure that those in the West should not be rewarded for their support of oppression and dictators with lucrative contracts; to do so would show a total disregard for all those who have suffered and lost their lives and families as a consequence of Western foreign policy.
It is high time Muslims started to remember the suffering that has been inflicted on Muslims around the globe. There are far too many 911’s for us to remember, so let us have an International Muslim Day of Remembrance. I can think of no better day to have it than on 911.
Jahangir Mohammed is the Director Centre for Muslim Affairs and can be reached at [email protected] The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect New Civilisation’s editorial policy.