Sunday, September 26, 2010

Heads or Tails

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Thousands died on 9/11, and thousands of innocent people are dying in Afghanistan, and Iraq. America waged two wars in Asia after 9/11. And, like any other war, American soldiers are losing their lives, and taking lives of many innocent people who have nothing to do with the doctrine of Bin Laden or any other fundamentalist group out there.

For American Muslims, August was probably the worst month. Muslims were called a lot of names in the media, all because they wanted to build a community centre near Ground Zero. The issue of Islamic extremism was plastered over and discussed on every single news channel. But, what the media refused to acknowledge, explicitly, was that the elements of extremism also exist in their American society. Fanatics like Pastor Terry Jones, Pamela Geller and the Fox News clan, in my humble opinion, belong under the extremism umbrella. They are doing an awesome job in dividing the American society and deteriorating peace. If you objectively look at the narrative of Al-Qaeda (Bin Laden clan) and right-wing ignorant Americans (The Fox News clan) they are the same. Their narrative is antagonizing, offensive, manipulative, and simply hatefully ignorant.

I am typing this as I am watching 60 Minutes' cover story, A Relentless Enemy, about the war in Afghanistan. Lara Logan reports, American lives are in danger in Afghanistan. They are being attacked by unknown Afghans and Pakistanis, when all the Americans want in return is peace.

This is expected when the war Americans are fighting is so abstract. The "War on Terror" is a very abstract phrase. What is terror? Who are terrorists? These two terminologies have never been clearly defined. And, yet so many of our soldiers (both American and Canadian) have lost their lives in the past 9 years. My heart goes out to them as much as my heart goes out to the innocent civilians who lose their lives everyday. Sometimes because of the drone attacks. What I find so inhumane about the drone attacks is that in the eyes of Americans these civilians are so worthless that they can just die by a machine with the push of a button. The lives of these civilians are so worthless that they don't even deserve to die by someone who would be able to experience the direct repercussions of his or her actions. The lives of these civilians are so worthless that they don't even deserve to get killed by a human, but by a machine; just like how animals are slaughtered by a machine in an assembly line.

There are peace loving Americans. And, there are peace loving Muslims. The moderates, which I believe is the majority, want the same thing - peace. But sadly their message gets lost and never crosses over to the other side.

The problem we are faced with is that we never see both sides of story. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have two different narrations, "theirs" and "ours". Now that the war in Iraq is supposedly "over" we may term it a victory, but the country is still unstable. We may call the Karzai government in Afghanistan a democracy, in other words a success, but his government is extremely corrupt. Just like there are always two sides of the same story, there are extremists on both ends of the "West vs. Islam" spectrum. Until we don't recognize the similarities between the two extremist camps we would be stuck in the same abyss, which is the war on terror.