September 11, 2001 was and should be a turning point in the lives of many people forced to define and identify themselves. Are they civilised human beings or are they not, do they find reason to accept the killing of innocent human beings, whatever the cause, or do they feel revulsion at those who committed the unspeakable crimes by attacking the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington, killing close to 7,000 human beings of around 60 different nationalities?
In essence, a civilised human being is a person who thinks and acts rationally, respects the rights of others and avoids causing pain to others, deterred by his own moral values. A terrorist, is a person who is not capable of doing either, hence the carnage arising from terrorist acts in many places of the world, which always seems to claim innocent victims.
Today, conscientious human beings will wish to act (within their means) to save this world from descending into the domain of barbarians who are, in their different forms (blatant or disguised) causing untold pain and injustice unto others. The most blatant forms are the recent massacre in the US, the killing of innocent human beings in Algeria, bombings in public places where life and limb of innocent bystanders are claimed, such as in Oklahoma where 168 innocent people were killed and the bombing of the two US embassies in Africa where 200 people were killed and 5,000 injured; the examples are regrettably many, all reflecting the cruelty of the perpetrators.
Disguised terrorism is just as abhorrent, no matter what legal guise it takes, especially if it takes the form of M1 battle tanks or Apache helicopters or M16 assault rifles used to enforce a political agenda on a practically defenceless people who are merely asking to be allowed their internationally recognised rights. This is terror just as much.
To our dismay, in this part of the world, some people transcend the teachings of Islam, and all civilised norms of behaviour for that matter, by imposing their backwardness and brutality on others. Massacring whole families in Algeria, treating women like inferior human beings in Afghanistan and imposing a medieval system on the populace in this advancing modern world is something that has nothing to do with Islam and should not be tolerated by anyone.
The war against civilisation and civilised norms must be addressed resolutely, so that we will not all end up as victims of subhumans imposing their cult of barbarism and backwardness under whatever pretence. On the other hand, there must be a proper definition of terrorism, as distinct from the legitimate struggle for legal rights, recognised by international law, international conventions and UN Security Council resolutions.
There was a transparent attempt by the Sharon administration and those toeing the Israeli line to equate the struggle of the Palestinian people with the terrorism that was manifested in the attacks on New York and Washington and further manipulation of the US public to serve the Israeli agenda; this must not be allowed to pass.
It will be futile, for the US and the West, to try to recruit the support of Arab and Muslim countries for the campaign against international terrorism while terrorism is not defined and whilst the US continues to accommodate Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people, thus fuelling the “cause” of unrest in our area and maintaining suspicions towards the US and making it very difficult for Arab and Muslim governments, which have a sincere desire to fight international terrorism, to do so.
It seems that the American officials and public need a crash course in pertinent facts of the Palestinian cause. The American public should not remain encaged in the mental complacency brought about by a manipulative media bent on spreading misinformation, bigotry and opportunism, a regrettable fact that has created a “cause” for deep resentment and anger, spilling into frustration and violence.
The US needs to address that “cause” honestly; only by doing so will it help avoid the animosity that has reached dangerous levels.
The writer is an Iraqi lawyer resident in Amman. He contributed this article to the Jordan Times.