Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Anniversary of Fear - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

The 10th anniversary of the September 11th 2001 events is currently taking place in the United States. This has re-opened a blazing door, fuelling the flames of conflict between the Muslim world and the West, under the umbrella of what has become known as the “War on Terror”.

The anniversary has now begun to resemble a major consumer festival, similar to that of Christmas or the summer seasons. The mass of books, documentaries, news programs, and commemorative souvenirs relating to the occasion have created an “industry” around the September 11th anniversary, of which there are many beneficiaries.

On the face of it, it seems that the Islamic world has convinced itself that al-Qaeda and its leaders are primarily responsible for the erosion of relations with the West, and that George Bush Jr. and his neo-conservative associates have inflamed the issue further. Meanwhile, the West on the other hand has declared an open war without any clear aims or results. It is a war against an entity whose identity and features are unknown, namely terrorism. The declared goal has always been to “eliminate the bad guys”, but this is a grey area open to interpretation, and hence it has been easy for some to prolong this war, and benefit a great deal from it.

During the long years before the September 11th events, the relationship between the Muslim world and the West was one of hypocrisy. Both sides were fully aware of their true stances toward the other; they accepted it and remained quiet for many years.

The West, in its films, books, and policies, always consecrated the portrayal that the Muslims and Arabs were a barbarous, aggressive, primitive, and backward people, who could not be trusted. This continued until it became the stereotypical image entrenched in people’s minds.

Likewise, the Muslims have long considered the people of the West to harbour suspicious intentions that cannot be trusted, and they must be considered enemies by all means. However, materialistic “pragmatism” controlled by desires and interests prevailed on the surface [with regards to relations between the Muslim world and the West], and all these hidden sentiments were “swept away”, until a later on date on which they would explode, which they did.

Today, on the hugely significant 10th anniversary of the pivotal incident in the relations between these two peoples, has the situation between the west and the Muslims improved? Dialogues have been initiated, critical issues and related reasons have been exhumed, and all cards have been placed on the table, and hence the ice has been broken. However, all this has failed to abolish extremism, hard-line attitudes, or intolerance.

Extremist religious opinions in the Muslim world are still prospering. The examples are still there for all to see. However, in the Arab world, the youth are now looking for freedom and dignity, and trying to limit the role of extremism in this region. Nevertheless, extremism is keen to hijack the Arab spring from its makers, and ride its wave in order to exploit it, as we can see in more than one Arab country.

In the West, the voice of extremism still prospers as well, especially in light of the recent debate that took place between the US Republican Party presidential candidates. We have heard the opinions of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich, all of whom are affiliated to the extremist, Zionist, Christian right-wing. Their opinions do not bode well, and they reflect an increasing tendency towards extremism within the United States’ “Bible Belt”. This is the conservative stronghold of the south, and one of the most important electoral blocs. The support of the Bible Belt was one of the principle reasons behind George Bush Jr. twice winning the presidential elections.

The same applies to Europe, with the emergence of extremist cells in what had previously been considered “oases”, such as the Scandinavian countries. Here, extremists are directing their anger and worries toward the Muslim communities, blaming them for the “loss of identity” and the economic regression.

The required dialogue between the East and West has not yet developed into a dialogue between people on the ground; it is still dominated by the ruling elites and the influential classes around them. This is an issue that is being exploited by the media in a dangerous and unhealthy fashion. Naturally this will affect in the status of the future relationship between the two sides. Perhaps we should meet in 10 years to gauge the magnitude of the development, and whether it has been positive or negative.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

More Posts