Monday, January 04, 2010

The ghosts of September 11 are back

America is undergoing a deja vu period of 9/11 and it seems that the ghosts of those days continue to haunt Americans. On Sept. 11, 2001, millions of Americans were shocked by one of the most innovative and brutal killing sprees in history. The horrors that occurred on that day have been followed by two wars that have been going on for eight years.

Starting on that day, the life that Americans knew changed enormously. Their perception of the Muslim world also went through a dramatic change. The Muslim minority of the country, while mostly seen before 9/11 as people with an exotic background, who are nice to have a chat with and learn from, became a somewhat “different” group of people, who have a violent holy book which stems from a brutal religion and prophet.

Leaving aside the minority of the Americans, who have enough tools, time and interest to learn about Eastern culture and the religion of Islam, the rest concluded that it is Islam and the culture that is the real problem. If they could only study their own religion in light of historic evidence with objectivity, they could have seen that the Abrahamic religions, Christianity or Islam, actually are not that different from each other, and their scriptures similarly are full of belligerent versus as well as benevolent ones.

Though one has to concede the fact that it is not fair at all to blame this ignorance on the West, as it should not be expected from average Americans to have interest in the intricacies of the other cultures and religions for they have their own jobs, families and lives to worry about. The majority of people have to classify “others” and rank them in a group to make it easier to judge them. After all, don't we all love to categorize people so that we do not need to spend much time thinking about?

Unfortunately, Islam and the image of Muslim have been getting even worse lately. Only within the last two months, there have been three incidents that have scared American society, which seemingly all stem from pure religious hostility.

Only two months ago, Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army major, opened fire at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, killing a dozen fellow Army soldiers, and injuring tens more. Doctor Nidal Malik reportedly was against being deployed to the war theaters and when he was notified to be sent overseas to serve in a Muslim country for the American troops, he saw the mission equal to killing innocent Muslims. The later investigations so far have been proving that Nidal Malik was indeed sympathetic to al-Qaeda's vision and might even have had some links to its leadership.

In another incident in the beginning of December, five American citizens who had been reported missing from the Washington area were arrested in the eastern province of Punjab, Pakistan. According to the reports, those men were dispatched to go for training to join the ranks of al-Qaeda. According to the news reports, none of these five young men had suspicious backgrounds or any worrisome signs for possible terrorism links. On the heels of charges against them, this incident also showed once more that American soil is not immune to radicalism, and that Americans can be recruited within the United States to enlist in terrorist networks.

And finally on Christmas day, a young, 23-year-old Nigerian was caught in a plane only after he failed to detonate some form of explosive as the plane was landing. The suspect was identified as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, an engineering student at University College London, who seemed to get in the plane regardless of his banker father's tips to the American Embassy officials in Nigeria. While Obama initially stated what happened was an “isolated” incident, he later quickly changed his position when he saw that the incident was a serious security lapse. It looks like, after eight years and spending hundreds of billions, the airport security is still just a front. Anyone who wants to get on a plane to blow himself and others up, with little imagination, can very well do so.

Obama has been hit heavily by the latest episode, which made him seem like a weak leader when it comes to national security matters. Mid-elections in 2010 could be deadly for the Democrats if the economic recovery doesn't come or comes late in 2010 and if there will be more security lapses. This deja vu of 9/11 is certainly not good news for Obama, as he increasingly finds himself in a position to prove his hawkish sensibilities lately in domestic and foreign affairs. And 2010, so far, seems to be a year that he has to resort to those sensibilities more often with the potential for more episodes like the one on Christmas Day.

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