I was in my first week of upper school when the 9/11 attacks took place and a lot has changed since, writes Dilly Hussain.
The bell rang at the end of the first lesson and everyone gathered in the common room for a 15 minute break. My friend was the first to tell us (incorrectly) that “America had been bombed”. We then found out that two planes had been flown into the Twin Towers but had no idea of those responsible.
At first, our instinctive reaction was that of joy and support for the “underdog”, though we had no idea who they were. We simply saw it as the bully had been hit back. The following day, once the media had united on accusing Muslims for the attack, a sense of “us versus them” had been established.
In a predominantly Muslim school, most the boys chanted and cursed the US and George W Bush, and the politically “clued up” among us decided to integrate some curses upon Bush Sr. Quite shocking to imagine such scenes in a British school, however, students were predominantly Muslim and the boys were testosterone raging teenagers.
Five Muslim boys (also a white non-Muslim who shared the sentiment) were suspended for doing graffiti in the toilets of planes hitting the twin towers and a further dozen or so were suspended for having screen savers of Osama Bin Laden on their Nokia 3210 and 3310. The head teacher at the time held an emergency assembly with each year group highlighting that “support or glamourisation of such an atrocious act of terrorism will not be tolerated”.
Invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq
But what followed immediately after was when the reality hit home. Afghanistan was invaded under the pretext of sheltering Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The Taliban were the enemies that had to be defeated and the bombing and indiscriminate killing began.
Two-years later, in 2003, Iraq was invaded under a similar pretext, this time WMDs and the need for “regime change”. Over a million have died, mostly innocent children, women and elderly, the country is in rubble and the “fruits of democracy” were rotten long before the seeds were sewn.
With both invasions, the justifications were falsified intelligence used by our governments to fool the masses. Bin Laden was not hiding in Afghanistan and now negotiations are taking place between allied forces and the Taliban. In Iraq, no WMDs were found and now it’s clear that it was a war waged on intentional lies used by Bush and Tony Blair in their crusade to establish democracy through the end of a barrel.
The influx of Afghani and Iraqi asylum seekers were very much visible in our schools and British society in general, many of whom spoke about life under US occupation.
Pakistan and Yemen
The “War on Terror” has now taken a new dimension. It is no longer Afghanistan and Iraq, but Pakistan’s North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and Yemen. Instead of sending ground troops and despatching military resources to these locations, they can now be dealt with unmanned remote controlled predator drones – how brave of the western super-cowards.
Out of a possible 1200 killed by drones in Pakistan, more than a thousand were innocent civilians who were bombed at schools, mosques and weddings. In the case of Yemen, the death toll is lower but the ratio of guilty (before trial that is) and innocent is massively disproportionate.
Battle for hearts and minds
The fight was not only taking place abroad, eventually a domestic plan was introduced – the battle for “hearts and minds” had begun in the West.
Across Europe, Islamic groups were getting banned, draconian legislation were implemented, the massive effort to de-politicise Muslim youth is still ongoing especially after Woolwich, and the age-old colonial strategy of divide and rule became evident.
We had new labels that are now used as if they had been part of the English vocabulary for decades. Terms such as “liberal”, “moderate”, “secular”, “extremist”, “fundamentalist”, “radical”, and (our favourite) “Islamist” had become the norm when categorising Muslims – of course, this was the plan all along, Bush’s whole “with us or against us” and Blair’s “evil ideology” ethos.
Western governments are investing millions of pounds in secularising Islam, and re-interpreting fundamental principles and beliefs. As a result, it has bred Muslim apologists who are rewarded by position, status and government funding.
You may be thinking, I’ve not spoken much about 9/11 and how bad and sad it was. Of course, it goes without saying that it was a very unfortunate event that resulted in the death of nearly 3000 innocent people. But I will not entertain and fall into this narrative where the disproportionate media coverage and “human sadness” will be devoted to one event that happened on one day to one country. The phrase commonly used on social media is emphatically true – “Your 9/11 is our 24/7”.