Saturday, August 28, 2010

Do Muslims really bear no responsibility at all for 9/11?

In a now (in)famous interview on the show 60 Minutes, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said, "I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened ... In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA."

Despite the fact that many people have feigned outrage at Rauf's statement, everyone knows that there is a great deal of truth to it. The US ran a massive covert operation in Afghanistan in support of the resistance to the Soviet occupying forces from 1978 to 1988. There is no denying that the intervention by the US helped to pave the way for the Taliban coming to power, and it also helped to create Al Quaeda as a powerful, international political-military organization.

In fact, Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden are textbook examples of what is often called "blowback":
The concept "blowback" does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. This means that when the retaliation comes - as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 - the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.
Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, p.278
Let us, then, at least for the sake of argument, consider it as not only proven, but obvious on the face of it, that US policies in the Middle East were a contributing factor leading to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Fine. But once having accepted this, how can anyone seriously claim that Islam itself and the worldwide Muslim community do not also bear a certain amount of responsibility?

Fareed Zakaria is a American Muslim journalist whose father, Rafiq Zaqaria, was an Islamic scholar. Zakaria has been a vocal supporter of the Cordoba Initiative and a harsh critic of those who oppose the plan to build a mosque at Ground Zero. But in the days after 9/11 he wrote that Muslims must accept their share of the blame for the attacks:
[B]in Laden and his followers are not an isolated cult like Aum Shinrikyo or the Branch Davidians or demented loners like Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber. They come out of a culture that reinforces their hostility, distrust and hatred of the West--and of America in particular. This culture does not condone terrorism but fuels the fanaticism that is at its heart. To say that Al Qaeda is a fringe group may be reassuring, but it is false. Read the Arab press in the aftermath of the attacks and you will detect a not-so-hidden admiration for bin Laden. Or consider this from the Pakistani newspaper The Nation: "September 11 was not mindless terrorism for terrorism's sake. It was reaction and revenge, even retribution." Why else is America's response to the terror attacks so deeply constrained by fears of an "Islamic backlash" on the streets? Pakistan will dare not allow Washington the use of its bases. Saudi Arabia trembles at the thought of having to help us publicly. Egypt pleads that our strikes be as limited as possible. The problem is not that Osama bin Laden believes that this is a religious war against America. It's that millions of people across the Islamic world seem to agree.
Fareed Zakaria, The Politics of Rage: Why Do They Hate Us?