A Pakistani ponders the legacy of 9/11

by Tahir Wadood Malik
Islamabad - The 11th of September 2001 was a hectic day at work for me in Islamabad. Just back from a holiday in the United States, I was catching up on work when my son called to give me the news that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center in New York.

I recalled how only two months earlier I had stood on the observation deck of the Empire State Building looking over at the towers, deciding to go there on my next visit.

What followed in the decade since is history: a sad and unending tale of chaos and death. Even more people have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in terrorist attacks worldwide, than in the actual fall of the towers. The so-called “war against terror” has left a trail of blood and broken homes in its wake.

More often than not, violence and hatred begets only more violence and hatred. But is that the future we want for our children?

What then should be the legacy of 9/11? Loss, anger, frustration? Or can we find a way to move past the pain to understanding and compassion? Can we, perhaps one day, even seek to find forgiveness?

Small, simple steps are needed to build credibility, understanding and faith between those divided by the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Engaging in interfaith dialogue, identifying and addressing racial, religious and cultural inequality, matching actions with words and correcting the perceptions of the world about America and Americans can all help.

In short, we need to move beyond “war” and embrace a new paradigm and a new narrative of peace, solidarity and love.

Just as Americans remember loss every year on 11 September, many people all over the world, especially in the Middle East and South Asia, remember American military interventions. This is counterproductive, vituperative and an affront to our sensibilities.

The alternative is peace. If we are given a chance to enter into a dialogue with each other and offered the opportunity to discuss our differences, we will discover our similarities. Our basic humanity will come through and we can create a path toward peace.

Unless we give peace a chance – away from the “playing fields of Eton”, as the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo – and come to a meeting of minds, we cannot find our similarities or dream of anything but loss, grief and blame.

For this to happen, we need governments all over the world to focus their efforts and resources on engaging in dialogues with societies and groups that hold grave misperceptions of the “other”, and reach out to people in other “affected” countries to address the need for an integrated approach to effective, meaningful engagement.

I may seem naive to aim my suggestions toward governments, proposing they should exercise a shift in policy. But with this shift, peace and forgiveness can be given a chance.


* Tahir Wadood Malik is Co-Founder of the Global Survivors Network, and Founder of the Pakistan Terrorism Survivors Network, which aims to provide survivors of terrorist attacks with the support they need. This article is part of a series marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11 written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 13 September 2011, www.commongroundnews
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There is a better way
A brave new world after September 11th
Three keys to Christian-Muslim rapprochement in the United States
Winning without war: empowering youth associations in Indonesia
Making sense of 9/11
10 years later: did the terrorists win?
Decoupling crime and identity after 9/11
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Other articles in this series

There is a better way by Rev. Wayne Lavender
A brave new world after September 11th by Asma Afsaruddin
Three keys to Christian-Muslim rapprochement in the United States by Michael S. Bos
Winning without war: empowering youth associations in Indonesia by Testriono
Making sense of 9/11 by Prince El Hassan bin Talal
10 years later: did the terrorists win? by Yasser Khalil
Decoupling crime and identity after 9/11 by Alexander Kronemer