The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Farooq Murad Headshot

Ten Years on, Everything has Changed and Nothing has

Posted: Updated:

This week, we commemorate the loss of thousands of lives lost during and after the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre ten years ago. It has been a sad decade, but it has ended with grounds for optimism.

Muslims have condemned these attacks many times, and will continue to do so. Terrorism and the targeting of innocents has no place in our global community and no justification in the doctrines of Islam. Muslims the world over want nothing to do with the ideology of hate and destruction that drove the 9/11 bombers. As we saw this year in the Arab world, Muslims want peace, democracy and the freedom to live their lives without fear and intimidation.

On September 11th 2001, the world stood in sympathy with America. Many hoped it would be a new beginning, a chance to raise from the ashes a better kind of world; fairer, more just, more humane.

Sadly, this hope was not realised. Today, Afghanistan remains unstable and Iraq, riven by security problems and sectarian strife, is a shadow of the country it once was. The cost of these wars in blood and treasure has been vast; playing no small part in exacerbating the ongoing economic problems in both Britain and the US.

The real cost is not just counted in dollars or casualties, but in the betrayal of the principles that once set our nations apart as beacons of liberty, bastions against the exercise of unaccountable power.

Guantanamo remains a bleeding sore on the face of the world, images of Abu Graib remain strong and every day more details emerge of extraordinary rendition, collusion in torture and deals with vile despots like Colonel Gadaffi. This is where the "with us or against us" mentality of the War on Terror has left us.

In Britain, civil liberties have been eroded to an extent unimaginable a decade ago. We have yet to see how subsequent counter-terrorism legislation or policies have made us any safer. And we have witnessed the adoption of strategies formulated by an increasingly powerful lobby whose sole aim is to delegitimise the role Muslims have to play in British society.

It is against this background that, last year, America saw the Ground Zero Mosque controversy over a building that was neither at Ground Zero, nor a Mosque. It is against this background that many European countries have moved to ban the veil, apparently blind to the irony of dictating their dress in the name of their liberation and to the fact that only a tiny number of women wear the veil. It is against this background we must see the rise of Islamophobia, particularly, the English Defence League (EDL) - a far right organisation that claims to be against 'radical Islam' but shares much of the rhetoric, imagery and tactics of racist organisations like the National Front.

And it is against this background that the vile acts of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian bomber and gunman, who appears to have had links with the EDL must be understood.

But there is a counter-narrative. Last week, the EDL marched on Tower Hamlets, the same place where, 70 years ago, Oswald Mosley's Brownshirts were repelled by groups of Jewish activists and trade unionists. This time there stood against them an even broader coalition of local community groups and leaders, - Muslim, Christian, Jewish, of no faith, black and white.

This is not the story of a Britain at the mercy of radical, separatist Muslims. It is the story of people of all backgrounds uniting to defend their communities despite media fear-mongering; despite the apparent capitulation of successive governments to narratives of infiltration, division and threat.

Just a few weeks ago, the streets of Britain were in flames at the hands of a ragtag bunch of looters and opportunists. In the chaos, three men from Birmingham died as they were run down by a carload of looters. The men were Muslim, the driver apparently black. Tensions ran high and there was a real danger of the situation deteriorating into racial violence. Then, the father of one of the murdered men stepped forward. Tariq Jahan stood in front of his enraged community. He urged them not to march in his son's name, he urged them to hold the peace. "Step forward if you want to lose your sons," he said "otherwise, go home."

Mr Jahan's forbearance, dignity and concern for his whole community - not just the ones with whom he shared a religion or a skin colour - moved many people to tears. More importantly, it dissuaded the hot-headed from taking to the streets and turning a bad situation into a catastrophe.

For me, Mr Jahan's words and actions embodied the best of Muslim and of British values, showing that there is not, and never was, a conflict between the two.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years but one thing remains the same: ordinary Muslims have continued to live by the values that have always made them decent, hard-working and community-oriented citizens. They have moved to address rejectionists and extremists in their midst and they have not responded in kind to the frenzy of bile shown by some politicians and sections of the media.

On the anniversary of 9/11, Muslims, more than any other, are well aware of the cost of terrorism. Bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, often killing and maiming tens, have increased to such an extent since 9/11 that do not even make headlines anymore. Nor do the retaliatory bombings and attacks by those conducting war on terror, often killing the innocent and destroying their lives. Yet we know that the attacks have been used to further a divisive agenda that has done much to damage the chance of future conciliation.

I hope that the next 10 years will see a process of dialogue, building of alliances between "us and them", a reassertion of common values and the abandonment of the vicious rhetoric and counterproductive policy that has, sadly, prevailed since that fateful day. Two keys to that would be recognition hat human life is worth the same wherever and that terrorism is a heinous crime which has no religion, colour or race.