Eleven years ago, terrorists attacked the United States of America killing over 3,000 in multiple attacks in New York City and Washington DC, as well as Shanksville, PA, where courageous Flight 93 passengers defied terrorists from using their plane as another bomb to kill others in the nation’s capital.
On this 9/11, as every year, we remember their loss and we remember the brave sacrifice of those who gave their lives to rescue others and prevent more attacks.
One tragic legacy of 9/11 has been the use of this attack on America by people around the world to rationalize their political views, to justify their hatred towards others, and to use the attack as a call for additional violence.
We will never forget those such as the British group Al-Muhajiroun who praised the 9/11 terrorists as the “Magnificent 19” and used the 9/11 attacks to call for more attacks on America, as well as to spread their ideology of hate. We have seen many, many around the world rally around the 9/11 attacks with a perverted glee. But we have also seen those who would use the 9/11 attacks to rationalize hatred and violence against people of other religions, other ethnic backgrounds, and other nationalities because they are viewed as “different” or “the enemy.” We have seen how such hatred can fuel the violence of individuals such as convicted Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik who used his hatred of Muslims to justify murdering 70 Norwegians.
Finally, we have also seen the sad use of the 9/11 attacks by some in politics, claiming the world would be different if only their political group was in power. In eleven bi-partisan years after the 9/11 attacks, the one concrete lesson we have seen is that the challenges and our response to the 9/11 attacks is not the responsibility for any one political group, but is the responsibility for all of us as human beings.
While the immediate security issues around the 9/11 attack made us question who we could trust, the targets of terrorist organizations have become clearer in the subsequent years. The target of terrorists is anyone who will not submit to their tyranny, their violence, and their hatred. The target of terrorists is not one nation, not one religion, not one identity group, not one race, but their target is the WORLD.
We have seen racial terrorists continue to attack, harass, threaten, and kill people of their own race, who will not submit to their views. We have seen political religious terrorists do the same. In the greater Middle East and Africa, while we see killing and deaths of Americans, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and all other identity groups, the majority of the casualties by such political religious terrorists are Muslims. We see this every week, and on some weeks, every day. Yesterday, over 100 people died in a day of terrorist car bombings and shootings in Iraq. This morning, in Turkey a suicide bomber attacked a police station. Terrorism did not “stop” after 9/11; it simply spread on the disease of hate throughout the world.
The reality is that the terrorist views that inspired the 9/11 attackers have resulted in such terrorists committing acts of violence and killing — mostly against Muslims. The terrorists’ world war against humanity means that religious extremists who claim to be acting on behalf of their view of “Islam” must kill fellow Muslims, who have become the majority of their victims. That is what hate can drive people to do.
But while they choose hate, we must choose love. While they seek the tyranny of extremism, we must defend the universal human rights for all of our brothers and sisters in humanity. While they seek destruction of humanity, we must assume responsibility to build human bonds. While they seek us on our knees, we must defiantly stand on our feet as human beings – free and equal in dignity and rights.
Over the past eleven years, the dialogue has changed from security solutions, military solutions, and even law enforcement solutions, to a greater focus on human rights solutions. We cannot build a fortress strong enough, an army strong enough, or law enforcement vigilant enough to protect everyone all the time. The Cold War strategy of endless war against one another has continued to lose favor among people in America and around the world. We increasingly spend less time identifying enemies, and more time building friends. Certainly, America’s security organizations have done everything they can to protect the nation. But it is not enough to defend our fellow human beings’ bodies. We must reach our fellow human beings’ hearts, minds, and conscience to renew and rebuild a commitment to shared human rights and respect for our brothers and sisters in humanity.
Over the years, we have seen the growing integration of groups from different religions and identity groups, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, American and Pakistani, men and women, and every other group (religious, ethnic, and otherwise) working together to renew and rebuild this commitment to human rights – around the world. Where once attention was focused on the terrorists’ actions, now a growing attention is on those working for human rights and dignity.
In some parts of the world, dictators have been overthrown and others are on their way out. Where we see human rights abuses in those areas, there is no longer the convenient excuse of the dictator, and people must face the issues of human rights in their culture and national history. Like America and every other nation, we have to own our mistakes in human rights, and do something about them.
We have to be responsible for our shared human rights. We must cherish every day as another good day to be responsible for equality and liberty for one another.
There is hope to the worldwide challenge of terrorism that resulted in the attacks on 9/11.
That hope can be found in our shared commitment to our universal human rights, dignity, conscience, and safety for one another, and our common bonds as brothers and sisters in humanity.
Choose Love, Not Hate.