November 23, 2005

11/9 in Amman...what do we do?

The events are not on the front pages anymore...the wedding doesn't make headlines in the evening news. But the reality of the situation still exists. Bombs still go off in crowded police lines in Iraq, and who knows where it will be next...
When I first heard about the bombings in Amman, I was really surprised. Unlike in other places, like Bali or Sharm el-Sheikh where there were previous similar events, Jordan has been very quiet, despite the fact that it's surrounded by the worst current conflicts in the ME and two of the most oppressive regimes. Israel/Palestine and Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Syria. And now Syria has some "drama" too. Stupid to think that something like this wasn't about to happen, really.

When it happens to your country, though, it's different. Even for me, and I'm not an apologetic person when it comes to targeting civilians; I've been angered by all the previous random terrorist attacks and never believed they were justified. But it was in Jordan, my uncle works close to one of the hotels. It could've been my cousin or friend... It didn't hit me as hard as 9/11 since I live 20 mins away from the Pentagon, but it hit me hard. I'm human, and we all tend to relate more to "our people" whether it's in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, cultural group, age group, etc.

Let me break down the feelings...

Anger: at the perpetrators mainly. at the government for failing to protect its citizens. at those individuals, many from my own country, who gave excuses for previous terrorist attacks.

Sadness: for the victims. for the state of our world. for the lack of peace and security in almost every corner of the universe. whether from terrorism, hunger, occupation, unemployment, disease, homelessness....

Frustration: because the perpetrators kept getting away. the real bad guys kept lurking somewhere in the background. this was not relieved that much after the would-be bomber was caught. we don't know what she told the police, if they have any evidence to catch zarqawi, what they will do to her, etc.

Cynicism: at the protests that occurred in the streets of Jordan. Not that I don't agree with their condemnation of terrorism and Zarqawi...but because this strong reaction was not seen when similar attacks took place in the region and elsewhere.

But then again, did Americans really give a damn about terrorist attacks before 9/11? Did the majority of the population know about or care to give a damn about the atrocities committed (directly and indirectly, overtly and covertly) by the US government and other allies of the US? Since when did we care about Afghan women and their oppression by the Taliban?

I immediately came the realization that from the horrors of the attacks, something good may emerge. Maybe Jordanians, and other Muslims and Arabs, will begin to realize that there are some terrorists who are blinded by their ideology of ignorance. The last person I want to sound like is Bush or one of his henchmen. I don't want to say, "we told you so. terrorism is blind. you should always condemn it. they hated you because of your freedoms" or some BS like that.

BUt really, we need to do some serious self-reflection. Where did this Zarqawi come from? and OBL? and his followers? and the 9/11 hijackers? How were they brainwashed and convinced? Did their leaders use Islam to justify their actions, and if so, how could a sane person fall for that?

I seriously believe that we as Muslims need to take a closer look at our communities, we need to stay blaming others, and we need to take the initiative to solve our own problems. Muslims are not infalliable, nor will they ever be. And just because there may be some bad apples in the bunch doesn't mean we can't weed them out. The key component is US, WE, not THEM. We need to take care of our own internal issues. If we have individuals who interpret the Quran without much knowledge of it, who have their own agendas, who have personal interests, who may think that they are all-knowing about Islam, then we need to question them. How are they reaching our children? Why are they pushing their extremist ideas on to them? Why is it that we can't be responsible for what our teens listen to, who they interact with, who preaches to them? Parents need to be more active. I want a grassroots kind of change. I don't want the Jordanian police to be spying in mosques and kicking out 'controversial' imams. I don't want the US to be providing help with intelligence to the Jordanian government. This will not end terrorism. It will not end Islamic fanaticism. We need to bring the change from with in.

No, I"m not calling for an 'Islamic revival' or 'revolution'. What I'm taking about is something that is so simple that it can't even be called revolutionary. We need to think.
Think about what we are told, question what we are taught. Not for the sake of questioning, but for the sake of not blindly following.

It's so hard to say what I think. We can't just accept the authority that tells us what Islam is. Each of us has been endowned by God with the necessary brain power to rationally interpret the Quran which is the source of laws and human regulations within Islam. Yes, we need some help. We need to read books to tell us the context of verses. To elaborate on them. Of course. I'm not rejecting or condemning the Islamic scholars who dedicated their lives to the study of religious texts. However, we need to not just follow one individual blindly. I read an interpretation, I should realize that it's simply that, an interpretation. A human being's interpretation. There are other human beings who interpret, and even though I can't read all of them, I shouldn't just take one for granted. I should make more of a personal effort to understand the Quran, the religion that tells me not to kill and murder and terrorize. It's my responsibility. I will be held accountable. And when I do something against it, I will be held for that, not the "imam who told me."

Some people will say, don't question, it's haraaaaam. Wrong. First of all, saying this is haram and that is not, that's a problem within itself. Questioning for the hell of it, for wasting a person's time and energy, that's messed up. I say don't question, but reflect on what you hear, what you read. Make an effort to find out for yourself what it means. But also use the knowledge of those who have studied these texts for ages. Use both.

Use common sense. Indiscriminate murder doesn't make sense. Whether it's committed by an individual, an organization, or a state. Wrong is wrong.
Murder is wrong.
Oppression is wrong.

MY hope is that Jordanians learn from this event. Learn not to blindly follow religious or political authority. Protesting and cussing out Zarqawi ain't gonna solve it. Loving the king and waving his picture ain't gonna solve it. It takes individual committment and community involvement. We need to bring back the essence of Islam, peace.

Wassalamu Alaikum (peace be with you).

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