Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Eleven years ago, on this very day, al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into buildings on American soil. Over 2,000 people in New York, Washington D.C and Pennsylvania died and many were injured. The attacks marked a moment in modern history that would have major consequences for the entire world.
Most of us remember where we were when the news broke. I am no exception. I clearly remember how I was sat in school, totally oblivious of what was happening. Little did I know that these events would not only change the lives of those killed in the attacks but also have a devastating and profound effect on millions of people across the globe, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
While the world and many of us remember the people who lost their lives, we must not forget the voices of the voiceless who have indirectly also suffered as a result of 9/11.
In the after-math of 9/11, the Bush and Blair administration responded to the attacks in the exact way al-Qaeda wanted. The War on Terror mantra was what al-Qaeda desperately required in order to make itself into a global brand. The decision to remove the Taliban by invading Afghanistan and then Iraq only strengthened the al-Qaeda narrative and was used to expand global recruitment, as noted by Chris Hedges, the former al-Qaeda correspondent for the New York Times.
Since the United States commenced military action in Iraq, over one million Iraqis and over 4, 000 (officially acknowledged) U.S military personnel have been killed. The total number of UK troops killed in operations in Iraq has reached 178.
While it is difficult to determine the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, it is estimated that this figure could be well into the millions and thousands for military personnel. The innocents, however, have not only been restricted to foreign lands. London, Madrid, New York, and other major cities throughout the world have been targeted by smaller attacks, which intelligence services warned would be made more likely if the US and UK invaded Iraq.
Along with military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the War on Terror also led to the introduction of counter-terrorism policies that were specifically targeted at Muslims in the name of countering al-Qaeda terrorism. While targeting Muslims may not have been intentional, these policies bought on a wave on anti-Muslim sentiments ranging from racial attacks to carte blanche surveillance programmes which are still being felt throughout the world today.
We must also remember people like Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician who was shot dead on the London underground by UK police after being mistaken for a 'suicide bomber.' Men like Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan are also notable examples of those who have suffered as a result of imbalanced counter-terrorism policies implemented in response to 9/11.
Let's also not forget the hundreds of innocent inmates who were and are still held in Guantanamo Bay. A document published by Wikileaks showed that hundreds of Guantanamo detainees are merely innocent Afghans or Pakistanis, including drivers, farmers and chefs who were illegally charged for offences relating to terrorism and placed in Guantanamo Bay.
Whilst the mainstream understanding has been based on projecting Western nations as the only victims of al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks, this is far from the reality on the ground. Indeed more Muslims have perished in al-Qaeda attacks than non-Muslims living in the West. According to an article published in the Washington Times, in 2004 to 2008, only 15% of the 3,010 victims killed in al Qaeda-related attacks were Western. And in 2006 to 2008, only 2% (12 of 661 victims) were from the West, the remaining 98% of those killed were inhabitants of countries with Muslim majorities.
While many of us around the world attend and watch memorial services or express our condolences to those who were killed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, let's also remember those one million plus who have been the silent victims of 9/11. They also deserve our two minutes of silence.