Approaching the anniversary of September 11, the date reminiscent of the ignominious event seared into the collective memory of mankind, a period of introspection is sorely required of Islamic societies. It is intriguing whether the tragic event of September 11 will be known as the day that led to the reformation of the Islamic World or will it be the final straw at which relationships between Dar-ul-Islam and Christendom finally decide to part ways. The terrible loss of lives will be a lasting memory in the annals of human history; the attack was an assault on every thing ‘human’ that we are proud off. In its cruelty, 11th September crossed the limits rarely ventured by even the worst of barbarians and vandals. To commit a heinous crime on this scale against innocent civilians in a world inundated with knowledge and global connectivity is beyond human comprehension as it defies all rationale, common sense and reason.
On the other side of the coin its ‘political’ influence in contemporary history can be compared to divisiveness, cunning, mischief and the catalyst impact of 1914 assassination of the Austro-Hungarian successor to the throne. A member of a band of Serbian conspirators assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, in Bosnia. Upon investigation of the crime by the Austro-Hungarian authorities it was revealed that the conspiracy against the life of the Archduke was prepared and abetted in Belgrade with the co-operation of Serbian officials. That single event was the catalyst for the First World War within Europe. The sequence of events from the assassination in Sarajevo was swift from 28 June 1914, when the Arch Duke was assassinated, to 1st August 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia.
Indeed it does not take too long to fire a tinderbox in tense situations and Osama bin Laden’s attacks on civilian targets in the pre-eminent city of the largest and strongest nation on earth is like the veritable throwing of the gauntlet. On its first anniversary of this mass tragedy, the after effects are not a great world war but it is no exaggeration to see that the most intolerant Islamic state of Talebin lays in ruin within the first anniversary. The cradle of terror was destroyed in no time, the safe haven denied and sanctuary uprooted. It is heart-warming to see that the fringe elements all around Islamic crescent of instability are on the run, the connection between seminaries and Wahabi Islam and the funding of intolerant ideological education is for the first time being choked. The enlightenment and renaissance that missed the Islamic societies en-masse is now being surely but forcefully introduced to the most hardened of the Jihadis from Kashmir to Chechnya. The shroud and garb of ‘freedom fighter’ has been torn, the terrorists with global agenda of coercion are being accurately scrutinized. The world since 11th September has become a smaller place for these fringe elements. The blood money rewards for the ringleaders have made these leaders fear even their own shadows. If Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda represented a cancer within Islamic societies, 11th September is undoubtedly the day of reckoning when surgical removal of the tumor commenced and continues to treat the metastasis tumors, the tumors that arise at sites away from the original location.
Anyone who has any doubt that this gauntlet would not be picked up was sadly mistaken. If Muslim societies continue to maintain their eerie silence and quiet tacit approval of the action by not condemning and stopping future acts of aggression, I see no reason that 11th September is not the beginning of a struggle that may have long-term ramifications for the Islamic societies at large. Fault lines within Islamic societies have crystallized post 11th September. Definitely there is an overwhelming segment of the society whose sympathies lies with the terrorist who believe that they have evoked a new era of recognition of Islam as a counterpart to Western civilization. Rather the effect is exactly the opposite. It has cast suspicions on the entire nation of Islam, and most of the Islamic countries have lost significance and political influence. The Palestinian cause in short run has suffered the most, the Palestinians leadership embracing terrorism, have almost become diplomatic pariahs and politically destitute. The collective political capital of all Islamic states has been reduced to naught in shortest term possible.
The uncertainty around the ‘assets’ of Muslim nations is another pitfall; the sword of Damocles hanging over Saudi assets in USA is an issue that is a direct result of these non-sensual attacks. Libya is ready to pay a sum of 10 billion US$ to escape the global sanctions levied on Libya post Lockerbie Pan Am flight 103. Libyans have learnt the lesson well after Lockerbie; punishment and retribution for a crime of terror is essential.
The dawning of reality that how flimsy an asset can be is the biggest after effect of 11th Sept for the oil rich Middle East. Assets today are scattered as small specks of cyber numbers but the Fed Reserve can freeze any amount within seconds as evinced when $100 billion worth of Kuwaiti asserts were frozen within hours of the invasion by Iraq. In the last ten years isolated nations like Iraq have realized that proven oil reserves mean nothing if the financial markets are closed on them. Since ‘Oil’ is a commodity that fetches mostly $’s, it is worthless if it stays under ground and even if pumped can be insignificant if sanctions cripple the mobility of money received. From Middle East oil wells to Rotterdam the dependence of the oil rich nations to act within set of acceptable norm and global rules of conduct cannot be more eloquently emphasized.
The 11th Sept brought the day of reckoning closer the realization that oil and $, the life blood of most of the middle eastern societies, are so prone to sanctions has weakened the entire political class and structure of oil rich peninsula. The resulting effect has been that the arrogance of oil and grandeur of wealth has notably taken a backseat. The world has woken up to new research priorities; it is in search of new global oil markets through the Caspian and new alliances that may bring the demise of oil age closer. The oil age as Zaki Yemani, the powerful Saudi Arabia Minister for oil and mineral resources in the 60‘s and in 70‘s, used to say: “The stone age did not finish for lack of stones. So the oil Era will not be over for lack of oilé” Oil age is not about end of oil, it is about the aura of oil and control, and it is about ‘power, money and political control’. The end of the oil age will be marked by the loss of traditional oil power. Sept 11th events have set the ball rolling in that direction that may cripple the peninsula. Osama Bin Laden may have wished that revolutionary movements within political Islam may flourish after 9-11 but contrary to this, from Algeria to Turkey and Pakistan mullahs have been dealt a devastating blow. The political Islam embodied by its message of intolerance and lack of pluralism has lost the support of Governments all over the Islamic world. The Islamic world needs to know that the “street” wants freedom of expression and a loaf of bread. Osama’s political Islam is long on sloganism and short of delivery. With the exception of some fringe geographical outposts, 9-11 has definitely seen the decline of the clout of extremist Islam personified by the terror of Al-Qaeda.
The muted ambivalent nod in Saudi Arabia, notably in the province of Asir and other hotbeds of extremism, to the actions of 11th Sept should be dealt with an iron hand. If left unchecked, unbridled extremism can lead to dire repercussions such as loss of sovereignty over oil. If the richness from oil becomes a tool to create trouble within the global community, it can be argued that sources of those riches should be curtailed. The extremists of the Osama’s breed are wealthy kids who like their ideology but love their luxuries too. Al Qaeda operatives, if faced with riches to rags threat, will first save their empire than their ideology. “Martyrdom” is a stunt of publicity! Appeasement encourages them and challenges make them run like a coward.
If anyone has any doubt on the resolve of United States and global community to let ‘fringe elements’ dictate the direction of global economy, they are sorely wrong. I have a petite cue of what I believe the free world symbolizes in this war against terror ‘Oderint dum metuant’ – ‘Let them hate me, provided that they fear me.’
The writer is in Paris, France.