Krisnadi Yuliawan and Zaenal Dalle, Gatra (weekly magazine),
Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 22, 2001.
collapse of the World Trade Center twin towers in New York has dramatically
altered Renee Hamels life, though this 15-year-old teen-ager
lives in Berlin, Conn., a small town about a hundred miles away
from New York City. For the first time in his life, Hamel is afraid
to admit he is a Muslim. I am afraid of peoples prejudice
and their allegations, he said.
has lost several friends since the attacks; however, he is more
fortunate than others. A Muslim housewife who lives in Oak Lawn,
near the Mosque Foundation of Chicago in Bridgeview, Ill., had worse
luck. The night after the attack that devastated the World Trade
Center, the woman, who is afraid to give her name, could not even
close her eyes. Since then, she and her husband continue to face
nights of terror. Every night, hundreds of youths stage a brutal
anti-Islamic demonstration in their neighborhood. My husband
has Arab blood, the woman said to Reuters. But he served
in the U.S. Navy for four years, putting his life at risk.
the devastating attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon on Tuesday
last week, latent racial prejudices have been stirred. Some Americans
eventually directed their rage at Muslims or those of Arab descent.
In Indiana, the day after the disaster, a gas station managed by
a Yemeni immigrant was bombarded with gunfire. Another gas station
belonging to a Jordanian immigrant was also targeted. In Anaheim,
Calif., three teenagers rode their skateboards through the windows
of Sinbad Ranch Market, a business owned by Arab immigrants. Adam
Lang, of Huntington, N.Y., tried to crash his car into a Pakistani
woman in a supermarket parking lot. Lang said that he would have
no qualms about killing the woman, Because she destroys my
country. In Denton, Texas, Molotov cocktails and bottles of
liquor were thrown into mosques and an Islamic school, while bags
of pigs blood were sent to an Islamic center in San Francisco.
Islamic leaders in America had predicted this offensive action.
Apparently, in Uncle Sams country, prejudice against foreigners
still has deep roots.
Ghali, executive director of the Islamic Society in San Francisco,
for instance, was forced to appeal to women who wear head coverings
not to expose their identities as a precautionary action. He also
told the women not to go out unless it was absolutely urgent.
dont want the 1995 incident to happen again, said a
former Moroccan soccer player who now lives in Washington. He was
referring to the attacks on American Muslims after the bombing of
the Federal Building in Oklahoma in April 1995. At the time, many
Americans immediately pointed their fingers at radical Muslim groups
as the bomb mastermind. As a result, hundreds of Muslims were seriously
injured in unfounded attacks.
Bazian, coordinator of the Graduate Minority Students Project at
the University of California at Berkeley, said that Muslims have
become the scapegoats for terrorism and that Americans tend to forget
that many Muslims also died in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Why arent we also identified as victims? Instead, we
are linked to the bombers, said Bazian.
declare that we stand hand in hand with all American people fighting
to bring those responsible before the law, said Salam Al-Marayati
of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
President George W. Bush called on Americans to stop the prejudice
against Muslims and people of Arab descent. But prejudice cannot
be vanquished by words.
Americas relationship with Islam and the Middle East has always
been prejudiced. For most American people, Islam and Muslims are
synonymous with violence and terror. And to some Muslims in the
Middle East, Americas unflagging support of Israel makes the
United States a big evil.
terrorism is more dangerous than other terrorisms, said Sheik
Hamed Betawi, the preacher at a mosque in the Palestinian city of
Nablus. According to him, what the U.S. government has committed
against the Palestinians is a crime. An injustice will bring
another new injustice, he added. The Associated Press reported
that the Friday sermons from Baghdad, Beirut, Gaza, and Palestine
repeated the message that the attack was an unavoidable consequence
of Americas total support for Israel.
In Indonesia, similar sentiment also arises. In a press release
sent to Gatra, Jafar Umar Thalib, the commander of Laskar Jihad
Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah [a fundamentalist Islamic group in Indonesia],
said that the attack was a heroic action of young people who are
disappointed with the United States. Happy condolence, America.
May you learn a lesson about the stupidity of your arrogance,
Jafar Umar wrote.
But there are also Middle Eastern Muslims who condemned the attacks.
The Friday sermon in Cairo at Egypts famous Al-Azhar Mosque
did so indirectly. Anyone who commits unnecessary killing
will not reach Paradise, said the preacher, Al-Sheikh Mohammad
Sayed Tantawi. Ikhwanul Muslimin, an established radical Islam organization
in Egypt, issued a statement saying the attack was inhuman.
American citizens, their cultural, economic, and military world
dominance is a matter of national pride. But Americas involvement
may have been the beginning of its problems. For example, the presence
of American troops in Saudi Arabia in Desert Storm operations in
1991 was uncomfortable for many moderate Muslims, and it made radical
Muslims angry. It triggered Osama bin Ladens hatred of the
United States. For America, dispatching troops to Saudi Arabia at
the time was done as a helping hand. But to Bin Laden, the entry
of American troops was an unforgivable insult to the Muslims
of any sort cannot be tolerated. However, debating who started the
cycle of injustice is not an easy matter. In a Palestinian refugee
camp near Bethlehem, Mahmoud Abdullah, a former clothes vendor,
could only ponder upon hearing the news of the destruction of the
twin towers. I can only be sorry for the civilians, both the
Americans and Palestinians, he said.