Tragedy, Compassion, and Blind Rage

By Khalid Baig
Posted: 29 Jamad-u-Thani 1422, 17 September 2001

In the immediate aftermath of the terrible events of 11 September, there was an outpouring of compassion and sympathy for the victims and condemnation of these acts from Muslims of all persuasions around the world. In Pakistan, Edhi Foundation announced a donation of $100,000 to aid the victims. This may be small change for some in the USA, but it is a huge amount for Pakistan where hundreds of thousands of people live in dire poverty.

Prominent scholar Sheikh Yusuf Qardawi, who was denied a visa to enter the US not long ago, because of his support of the oppressed Palestinians, condemned the attacks and urged the Muslims in the USA to donate blood. "Our hearts bleed for the victims," he said, echoing sentiments from across the Muslim world. In Palestine, there was a march in East Jerusalem to show solidarity with the victims. Just imagine: those who have been the victims of an American-financed and Israeli-operated machine of oppression marching to condemn an attack on the US. To be sure, they were not mourning the destruction of World Trade Center. They were mourning the loss of life and limb of fellow human beings. While the attacks showed the worst of humanity, this worldwide reaction showed the best of it.

This outpouring was largely unreported in the Western media and therefore unappreciated in the Western world. A billion dollar media campaign could not have achieved this goodwill that this tragic event created instantaneously. John Esposito noted that this was the first time such a consensus developed in favor of the US in the Muslim world.

Those engaging in hate talk and hate crimes did not even realize that several hundred Muslims also were killed or injured in the terrorist attacks.

In response, what did the Muslims get? Hate crimes on the streets and humiliating treatment by officials at airports, train stations, and ports. Passengers were dragged, handcuffed and interrogated for the crime of being Muslim, and therefore, by definition, guilty until proven innocent. More than 200 hate crimes against Muslims were reported in the first few days. Two persons were killed, while many other attempts were made at the lives of American Muslims (One victim was a Muslim, the other was a Sikh, thought to be a Muslim by the attacker). There were countless cases of pulling of headscarves of Muslim women and other assaults on them. Muslim owned businesses and mosques were targeted and vandalized. Internet chat rooms and talk shows on radio and television bubbled with hate talk directed against Islam and Muslims. Those engaging in it did not even realize that several hundred Muslims also were killed or injured in the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Narrow-mindedness, xenophobia, misdirected patriotism, ignorance, rush to judgment, racism, and plain old bigotry caused an opportunity to be lost. The wave of compassion in the Muslim world was replaced by a concern for safety of fellow Muslims living here. As usual, the pundits and experts did not notice this change. And some of them continued to insist that Islam teaches hatred!

There is more!

Even as Muslims in America line up to donate blood they shudder to think that the government is making plans to spill innocent Muslim blood in Afghanistan and who knows where else. America is talking about dropping its "big hammer" on Afghanistan. We are sadly reminded of the person who only has a hammer and therefore looks at every problem as a nail.

This is time to rally around the flag of reason, not of blind retribution.