Saturday, 21 January 2012

Kamilia Hamidah, Jakarta | Wed, 09/14/2011 7:00 AM

Ten years have passed since the events of 9/11 struck the United States, taking some 3,000 lives. The so-called terrorist attacks have had enormous global impacts since then. We have marked two wars as part of the US-led War on Terror, in Afghanistan and Iraq, where somehow there are still few signs of stability despite the tens of thousands of additional lives that have been lost.

However, after 10 years, while the traumatic events still haunt the legacy of 9/11, we have seen some signs of hope with current developments, particularly with the democratic upsurge in the Arab world, which provided both the ideology and leadership for al-Qaeda. 

The current trend of the Arab spring is to smash the gulf that was created, deliberately or otherwise, between the Muslim world and the Western world — between the vision of al-Qaeda’s Caliphate Creed and the US championing democratic values.

It is not the collision between the two ideologies that created the wave of extremism and the later building of a global terrorist network, but this discourse is based upon conflicting policies toward the Middle East, particularly concerning the Palestine conflict, which is crucial for Muslim and Western-backed despotic regimes and rulers. 

The discourse will persist and will continue to have an audience as long as the collective West does not make adjustments in their policies toward the Middle East. 

For al-Qaeda itself, the end of the Osama bin Laden era this year has had a devastating impact on the organization in South Asia. Its remaining leaders will continue to be hunted, either being caught or killed. 

For instance, last week Pakistani and US security agencies collaborated in a joint operation to capture Sheikh Younis al-Mauritani, a senior leader known as the group’s global operations chief.

However, the threat of al-Qaeda might continue amid the rising turmoil in Arabian Peninsula and parts of Africa. The recent leadership crisis in Yemen might provide an opportunity for the organization to regroup, plan and carry out terrorist actions in the region. 

With the growing humanitarian disaster in Somalia we see al-Qaeda-linked groups intensifying their guerilla campaign, although the terror network has virtually lost their reign of action in the region where it planned international terrorist acts such as 9/11.

While the threat of al-Qaeda may have become less intense since the events of 9/11, this is not a cause for celebration, particularly from the Muslim world perspective. What the al-Qaeda leadership preaches has undermined and harmed Muslims more than anyone else. 

So, when Egyptians or Tunisians or Libyans fill the streets demanding their desire for democracy, they collectively reject Western-backed political despotism in their respective countries with religious despotism of the sort of jihadis militancy, such as Zawahiri.

Not only al-Qaeda and its terrorist manifestation are to blame for the global havoc, but the manner in which the War on Terror has been waged has made the world more unstable. Iraq in the post-Saddam era is not as stable as was expected before. 

Afghanistan is another battleground, which was supposed to end this year, but it seems that there are few signs of a US troop withdrawal anytime soon. 

The militaristic US response gives opportunity for despotic regimes to sustain their status quo by labeling or branding their political opponents as al-Qaeda-linked organizations.

President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, for instance, has employed this trick quite successfully for several years, as it would have been difficult for Gen. Musharraf to rule over Pakistan for so long in the absence of 9/11. 

While Col. Muammar Qaddafi also tried the same game, until recently the current wind of change in North Africa and across the Middle East are so massively popular that even Western desires to keep a Muslim despot and deny democratic opportunity are no longer feasible. 

Thus, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 should be a suitable opportunity to reflect upon why extremist causes spread and terrorism thrives within them. As revolutionary trends in various Muslim countries suggest, the way forward is reconciliation and democratization. The war can only end by reconciling with the enemy, as we have seen countries where al-Qaeda and its extremist-terrorist affiliates had flourished have finally chosen the path for democracy and are now looking for the support of the free world.

The response to 9/11 in the form of war has shaken the very fundamental foundation of the way world politics has evolved for centuries. In terms of inter-state relationships, the sovereignty of various nations has been violated with impunity in the name of fighting al-Qaeda. 

Now as the threat of al-Qaeda has started to recede, it would be the right time to revert to the same code of conduct that the members of the world community have long adhered to, which is to respect each other’s sovereignty.

Finally, while thousand of those who lost their lives in the tragic events of 9/11, or the many thousands more who have perished as a consequence of terrorism and the war on terrorism, they deserve our prayers. Their sacrifice for humanity can only be honored if the most powerful nations are willing to get their act together for the sake of greater democracy and peace in the world.

The writer is a post-graduate student of politics and international relations at International Islamic University, Islamabad. Was published at The Jakarta Post



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