Helen Ang's article (Flight from normalcy) seemed to have made sweeping conclusions linking the cause of terrorism, terrorist acts and anti-terrorist measures. If I read her flow of thoughts correctly, she is effectively saying:
- There are now stringent anti-terrorist measures messing up all our lives (including unacceptable ones like profiling).
- These measures are necessary, and perhaps even understandable, in view of the terrorist acts and threats that do happen.
- The cause of terrorism is because Muslims choose to be Muslims first, preferring solidarity with their brethren over all else.
Let's consider whether her premises hold up to scrutiny.
There are now stringent anti-terrorist measures messing up all our lives (including unacceptable ones like profiling).
Granted, this is a statement of fact. However, acts like racial profiling have been happening even prior to 9/11. Racial discrimination is a major issue, prior to and independent from any link with terrorism. It will always be more difficult for me to clear immigration in Heathrow compared to a Caucasian New Zealander, regardless of my faith or the state of security.
My consolation is that my ability to converse in English and the fact that I am not from North Korea or Iraq would mean that I will ultimately clear the immigration hurdle 15 minutes earlier than my friends who happen to be born in those other countries. (By the way, I was given a difficult time the last time I flew into Heathrow, but less difficult than the African in the next lane).
These measures are necessary and perhaps even understandable in view of the terrorist acts and threats that do happen.
Some anti-terrorist measures are necessary, but to conclude that unacceptable forms can be "understandable" is surely going overboard. If we seriously want to go down the "understandable" route, surely we can justify anything and everything under the sun, including genocide, senseless shootings and the continued perpetuation of the New Economic Policy.
This can be contrasted to, say Mahatma Gandhi, who chose to respond to oppression with non-violent resistance, because he understood that his means was as if not more important than his ends. (I wonder whether an Englishman of a different generation would have deemed the occupation of India or the strong-handed response to the anti-colonialist to be "understandable").
The cause of terrorism is because Muslims choose to be Muslims first, preferring solidarity with their brethren over all else.
Now, here is a leap of faith (in the Western media and its leaders), if ever there was one. How can a group historically marginalised and who continue to bear the marks of the Crusades on their psyche be singled out as the cause of terrorism?
Sure, the Crusades were long ago, but it's not just the Crusades. It is the Crusades plus the literature (see Dante's Divine Comedy) plus the paintings plus the insults on the Prophet (pbuh) plus Palestine plus Iraq plus cartoons plus Pope's quotation plus everyday experiences plus what they read and hear in the news plus half-truths spread in the form of rumours plus continued arrogance and hypocrisy of Western leaders.
Undoubtedly, most Muslims are not close to being saints, but neither are they demons. The fact that so many of them have chosen to reside in Europe is proof that they seek what everyone else wants - a stable family, a growing economy, a healthy environment, peace, opportunity to advance, good education, freedom from harassment and bigotry, etc.
In short, Muslims like all of us have a dream of a better world. Unfortunately, when these dreams are shattered, a minority of them go off into the Afghan desert to take on the challenge of creating a better world by force.