The Legacy of September 11, 2001
by Stephen Schwartz
We have reached the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. I write late in the evening of September 11, 2012, after a day of prayer and meditation, having striven to organize my disparate thoughts on this occasion.
First, we must remember the innocents killed on 9-11, and the courageous police, fire, and other first responders whose lives were lost in seeking to rescue others. We must commemorate the sacrifice of those foreign military personnel who perished in combat against Islamist terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, and continue to do so in the latter country. We must pray for the guiltless Muslim and non-Muslim dead in both countries and elsewhere, recognizing them as martyrs.
Much has been said and written, and much has been forgotten, in the years since the assault on New York and Washington by the Wahhabi terrorists of Al-Qaida. The same is true of the terror bombings that followed in Madrid (March 11, 2004) and London (July 7, 2005) and the long catalogue of successful and unsuccessful conspiracies that have occurred since.
Time has sped up but memory has shortened.
Issues have grown more serious while their treatment has often been trivialized or misapplied.
History has entered a convulsion with no knowable outcome, or even a conceivable effect; unanticipated consequences have become the norm.
Mass trauma seems to induce a desire to forget.
But we cannot forget.
To the dismay of moderate Muslims as well as non-Muslims of good will, the problems revealed by the 9-11 atrocities have not been resolved. Rather, they have seemed to return in larger and more dangerous forms, like the metastasis of a cancer.
Unarguably, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahhabism, was changed by 9-11. Like Americans, many Saudis were shocked by the involvement of their fellow-subjects in brutal raids against a long-standing ally that protected Saudi security, while Saudi Arabia assured the Western energy industry of continuing petrochemical exploitation.
Before 9-11, Wahhabism – the inspiration for Al-Qaida – was unknown outside the Muslim communities. For a brief period after 2001, the whole world paid attention to the Wahhabi menace. But the lassitude and corruption of media and academia in many Western countries, enabled by financial and political incentives emanating from the Arab lands and South Asia, blurred a necessarily full examination of Wahhabism, its allies, and its effects.
Put simply, the rest of the globe had ignored the convulsions within the transnational Islamic ummah until awakened by 9-11 – but then failed to recognize, formulate, ask, and understand the questions relevant to comprehending the conflicts between moderate and radical Muslims. A planetary "will to sleep" is only briefly and restlessly interrupted by the pains of its internal maladies.
Still, as a wise man once said, the world is sick, and is vomiting up its infection.
What specialists can treat this illness? Numerous Muslim representatives around the world denounced Al-Qaida vociferously, but Western "experts" seemed, and still appear, little prepared to hear, understand, and transmit the message of the moderate Muslims to fearful non-Muslims.
Non-Muslims could do little to diminish the Wahhabi hold over the Saudi kingdom and the extensive international outreach by Wahhabi missionaries hoping to impose their perverse ideology on all Sunni Muslims.
And so the non-Muslim countries remain confused and surprised by the persistence of Islamist radicalism.
Intimidated by Saudi-Wahhabi control of the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina, moderate, traditional, conservative, and conventional Muslims are often stymied in opposing the Wahhabi offensive. Further, more powerful financial inducements than those provided to Muslim clergy and the academic and media élite in Western countries have bought silence and passivity in Muslim lands.
In such places as Somalia, Nigeria, and Mali, Wahhabi penetration has spread more chaos.
When he assumed the Saudi throne in 2005, King Abdullah was perceived as a reformer, and it cannot be denied that he has attempted to curb the excesses of the Wahhabi clerics inside his territory and across the world. The Wahhabi "mission" has shrunk except in the country where it had established a firm domination over Muslim believers: the U.S.
We cannot deny the truth: Wahhabis continue to "represent" Islam in America, while the similarly fundamentalist Deobandi sect has established a major foothold in the Muslim community of the United Kingdom. Britain is the front-line of struggle against Islamist radicalism in Western Europe.
In addition, we see encroachment by Wahhabi agents in the honorable and esteemed Muslim communities of the Balkans – which so recently underwent horrendous bloodshed, despoliation, mass rape, and other genocidal acts.
The much-praised "Arab Spring" has produced mixed results in its presumed march to democracy. The electoral victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was easily predictable; those in Morocco and Tunisia perhaps less so, but also foreseeable as probabilities.
The Syrian Revolution has produced a dreadful stalemate between the tyranny of Bashar Al-Assad and the rebellious majority – an impasse written in blood and fire. Turkey, having sunk into a regime dominated by neo-fundamentalists, vacillates between condemnation of Al-Assad and suggestions that it will provide major assistance to his opponents, and a paralyzing collective fear of a border war.
Wahhabism – camouflaged by the usurped term "Salafism," which is neither accurate historically nor legitimate theologically – has appeared in a more virulent form in Egypt and Libya. As in other countries, the fundamentalists have aimed their explosives and other destructive tools at the spiritual Sufis, our companions and the best hope for many in the Center for Islamic Pluralism.
In Libya, a cherished land of Sufi influence for many decades, the Muslim Brotherhood was thoroughly beaten in elections after the fall of the hallucinated Mu'ammar Al-Qadhdhafi. In revenge, Libyan Wahhabis have inaugurated a substantial campaign against Sufi monuments, desecrating graves and blowing up mosques.
With the help of God, mash'allah, Sufis in Egypt and Libya have organized to defend their Islamic heritage. Our hearts, and our prayers, are with them always.
But the Wahhabi menace has spread deeper into Africa, producing its characteristic vandalism at the distinguished Islamic complexes of Timbuktu.
In South Asia, the Deobandi and Mawdudist jihadis centered in Pakistan and Afghanistan continue their homicidal campaign against Sufis and Shia Muslims. The malefactors are assisted by the Pakistani government, which has demonstrated an astonishing arrogance in lashing out against the U.S. for eliminating Osama Bin Laden.
Muslims with no known jihadist history, such as the Uighurs of Eastern Turkestan, the Rohingyas of Burma (Myanmar) and Bengali-speakers in the Indian state of Assam, have, like the Bosnian Muslims two decades ago, been subjected to assault by their non-Muslim neighbors and rulers, and replied with acts of violence. The plight of the Rohingyas, a truly unknown factor in Islamic affairs, could not be worse: nearly a million of them may be expelled by the new "democratic" regime in Myanmar.
Finally, in Iran, the most significant reform movement in recent Islamic history began in 2009. But it was halted by the un-Islamic clerical dictatorship and its governmental apparatus, headed by the provocateur Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There the popular will for a new system based on civil society has languished.
As moderate, conventional, spiritual, and traditional Muslims, we in CIP have little to celebrate, aside from the benefits of our faith, after 11 years' active confrontation with the deviant and destructive doctrines of radical Islam.
Yet we continue, insha'allah, remembering the words of Qur'an (8:53): "God will never change the condition he has provided for a people until they change within themselves."