Ayesha Kazmi

A Day of Hate?

In The Political on 15/09/2011 at 23:53

The 10 year anniversary of 11 September has come and gone. Sunday, 11 September, 2011 in itself was an occasion in its own right.

Building up to the 9/11 anniversary “event”, material floods bombarded the public with items recapping a diverse body of stories to stir the mood. Despite the fact that these sources came from a variety of places and backgrounds, Americans, Europeans, Muslims, Arabs and Pakistanis, the underlying messages carried a similar tone (save a small handful): 9/11 changed the world.

Dissecting the 11 September 10 year anniversary narrative is an interesting process – particularly from the American side. Two major categories emerged: that of the American and the American Muslim. While many Americans spoke of and re-lived of their traumas associated from the day, American Muslims did much the same, but with the added layer of Islamophobia that followed suit. The American Muslim 9/11 narrative is now firmly rooted. A positive indicator.

Islamophobia, however, has worsened over the decade since 9/11 despite extensive efforts by human rights groups and local mosque initiatives to counter media and public perceptions. Add to this mix, the subsequent wars launched in many of the native countries of many American Muslims, and it’s not difficult to discern that for American Muslims, the consequences of 9/11 have had grave reverberations.

While the American Muslim narrative has established itself alongside the mainstream American narrative, most noteworthy is the discrepancy between the two. While Americans appear seemingly free to retell their traumatic experiences, the American Muslim narrative remains somewhat quashed.

Muslims, the world over, appear frustrated with the mainstream 9/11 narrative – precisely because of the direct impact 9/11 has had to their daily lives. For Muslims in the US, Europe, and in the Muslim world, 9/11 marked the beginning of political cost. It is for that reason, memorialising 9/11 leaves Muslims with complex feelings. One the one hand, it is critical to respect the victims who lost their lives on 11 September 2001. On the other hand, that the vicitimisation of one group has come to overshadow the victimisation of others as a consequence is a perplexing trend.

I suspect it is for that reason pockets of Muslims throughout the world struggled to pay heed to the 10 year 9/11 anniversary event last Sunday. That goes without saying that challenging the 11 September 2001 memorialisation processes is but an easy task. Consequently, authentic Muslim accounts remain filtered. Expressed dissatisfaction with the mainstream resulted in heavy ostracising; an outright overturn of the values the ensuing wars are meant to protect.  But is it any surprise?

Anyone who watched the 9/11 anniversary memorialisation on television can confirm that for a period of 24 hours, the events of that fateful autumn morning in 2001 were recounted, then retold, then recounted all over again. In combination, analyses and counter analyses of who, what, when, where, why, how and since. The most captivating component: video images of the twin towers being struck, falling, and Americans engulfed in dusts of debris. These are emotive reminders.

Outside of the immediate 9/11 anniversary events subsisted related events. Threats of another attack; fears that Al-Qaeda operatives had managed to sneak their way into the United States; beefed up security. As a result, passengers on airplanes with the wrong look, skin colour, or religion, were subjected to suspicion and humiliating arrests. Shoshana Hebshi’s 10 year 9/11 anniversary experience should stay with every single American.

Venues hosting their own 9/11 anniversary events bore the realities of how a nation in the midst of possible threats respond. Boston, for instance, hosted their 9/11 memorial event at the Hatch Shell with approximately 10% of the total Massachusetts state police force present. That statistic does not account for the number of civilian watchers also present to maintain order, to make certain unattended bags were not left lying around, and to watch for potential threats.

Finally, Americans, no doubt frustrated by the seemingly never ending wars, received a powerful reminder as to why the US went to war, who the enemy is, and why it remains at war with them to this day. The 10 year anniversary events of 11 September 2001 provided the precise milieu to an American public whose support for the war faded over the period of a decade.

Social networks displayed that the spectacle of the 9/11 anniversary memorialisation provided the remedying cocktail. Tweets from twitter user @ActuallyAlexIrl exposed the following sentiments: Tweet1, Tweet2. The following series of tweets also speak for themselves: Tweet3, Tweet4, Tweet5.

It’s painful to smudge 11 September 2001, a day that was distressing for so many, with sinister overtones. However, when people begin to advocate for genocide, the distressed voices also need to take a hard look at what is going on outside their 9/11 retellings – or worse, how their retellings are adding to the symphony of shadowy ceremony. I would much prefer that the notion of shadowy ceremony remain as fictitious as the “2 Minutes of Hate” from George Orwell’s 1984. Reality, however, may indicate otherwise.

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