[Reader-list] Australian Arabic Council statement on 11/9

Alex English a.english at ugrad.unimelb.edu.au
Tue Sep 18 15:59:02 IST 2001

The following is an article concerning the events in New York of September
11 2001, written by Alexander Kouttab of the Australian Arabic Council.
apologies for the bad wrapping; I've done the best I could...

Alexandra English.
Melbourne, Australia.
- -

The haunting footage of United Airlines Flight 175 rapidly approaching the

South Tower of the World Trade Centre in downtown Manhattan, the massive

explosion that followed, the thick black smoke, the confusion and disbelief,

the two towers collapsing within a short time of each other - these are

placed to become some of the most enduring images of human vulnerability
tragedy in our time.

The sophistication, scale and sheer audacity of the operation behind the

suicide attacks in New York and Washington became apparent in the hours
followed.  In targeting the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and the
House, those responsible had intended to simultaneously destroy America's

economic, military and political infrastructure. At the same time, they
sought to undermine America's dominance as an untouchable military
power by
preying on its internal vulnerability and providing the world
with some of
the most visually arresting images of destruction and powerlessness.

Today, four days after the suicide attacks and the wider global impact is

also beginning to take shape.  Most notably, this includes the rethinking
international security and protection under the banner of 'collective

security'; the crackdown on suspected terrorist organizations; fears of
downturn in the global market; and the geopolitical realignments that
later surface as the U.S seeks to consolidate what it is calling an

'international coalition against terrorism'.

Some of the most prescient commentaries over the last few days are those

that in trying to understand the motivations behind the attacks, have sought

answers that go beyond the wholesale vilification of an entire region and

its people.  They are commentaries that see these events as an indelible

reminder of the unfolding tragedy of recent global history.

If the scale of this attack on American soil is unprecedented, the horror
speaks of has a long history of colonization, imperialism and resistance;
ideological divisions and countless lives lost; of global antagonism
and the
'East-West' divide, out of which terrorism has emerged as an ugly

manifestation propagated by the fanatical few in an increasingly militarised


Nothing happens in an historical vacuum, and after the shock and anger have

abated, it is this tragic history, one that has now engulfed America, that

must come to insinuate itself into our making sense of why this happened.

Nothing can justify the taking of innocent lives, and there is no cause
God in the name of which               such devastation can be sanctioned.

The images of Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Centre and the
that followed portray the tragic underside of a global history that
not spared any corner of the world.  They portray a human story in which

humanity has somewhere gone terribly wrong.  And they predict a future where

the cycle of grievance and revenge is making it increasingly difficult to

see a light at the end of the tunnel.

For many, however, the lines of battle seem already in place.  With those

suspected of hijacking the four planes all Arabic and all Muslim, this has

quickly become cause for some in the West to judge the entire Arab world

With familiar gusto, the Middle East is readily placed in opposition to
'democratic', 'free' and 'civilized' world.  It is a rehearsal of old

divisions that only serve to further compound the tragedy of September 11th,

not resolve it.  One cannot help feeling that the battle between good and

evil, democracy and tyranny, civilization and barbarity is somewhere and

somehow going to eventually implicate the whole of the Arab and Islamic

world as the enemy against which we are warned to remain vigilant.

Indeed, the increasing appearance of blatant anti-Arab racism in some
of the media and the enormous jump in race hatred crimes at
schools, in Australian workplaces and on Australian streets
indicates that
the street is already one step ahead.

This wholesale vilification and 'scapegoating' of Arabic communities around

the world also has a long history whose ideological origins are well known.

Racism was around before the suicide attacks in the U.S and it shall linger

long after or as long as racists scramble to find justification for their

actions in ways that parallel the delusion of those responsible for the


Arab mosques and churches have been fire bombed; women who wear the Muslim

headscarf have been spat at on trams and threatened with rape when they
down the street; our businesses have been vandalised and have been
painted with swastika's; Arabic schools have been forced to close
and the
parents of children attending non-Arabic schools are keeping their
kids at
home amid threats of violence and retribution.

Members of the Arabic community respond to September 11th as any decent

person would, with both shock and horror.  Our community and religious

leaders have emphatically condemned the attacks and offered their full

support to those in Australia who have lost friends and loved ones.  They

have been at pains to point out that 'Islamic fundamentalism' is a narrow,

unrepresentative and distorted interpretation of Islam that is held together

by anti-American sentiment and whose influence is restricted to a few
across the globe.  Leaders in the Arabic world were amongst the
first to
condemn the attacks and have been unambiguous in their opposition
to terrorism.

This should all be patently obvious, yet Arabic community groups in
are having to defend our community's very innocence.  For the
it seems that we are all under suspicion, so much so that
opposition leader
Kim Beazley has, with characteristic simplicity and
confusion, called on
our community to 'dob in' terrorists.  Not far behind
is Peter Reith's
appalling attempt to capitalize on the tragedy by
manipulating it into
a justification for the current government's hysterical
and xenophobic
reaction to asylum seekers arriving in Australia.

With an absence of political leadership shown by either main political party

at the Federal level, it is left to the wider community to rediscover a

sense of humanity that is inclusive rather than exclusive, that is
rather than racially and religiously divisive, one that
brings home our
need to differentiate right from wrong both here and abroad.
  And it is
those from the wider community who are shocked at the
devastation in New
York and Washington and equally appalled at the current
racial vilification
of the Arabic community in Australia who with dignity,
have taken up the
challenge of finding a light at the end of the tunnel.

Alexander Kouttab.

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