September 21, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 273

Terror in America (7): Dr. Ma'moun Fendi: We should condemn terror, with no 'buts'

September 21, 2001
Special Dispatch No. 273

Dr. Ma'moun Fendi, a columnist for the London daily, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, criticized intellectuals in the Arab world whohe believes displayed hypocrisy by condemning the September 11, 2001 attacks, while at the same time offeringjustification for them: [1]

"The acts of terror that shocked New York and Washington… gave rise to a dichotomy of the world before the explosions and the world afterwards: a dichotomy of the forces of destruction and oppression in the world and the victims who died as they worked diligently at their jobs, leaving behind children who dream of their future, and families waiting at the dinner table; a dichotomy of the world of crime, and the world of strict observance [of the law]; [a dichotomy] of the world that tries to build, and the forces of destruction."

"A few, mainly those who claim to know the reason [for the attacks], [claimed] that the tragedy had its roots in American policy… This is a kind of ambiguity, a kind of evasion. Statements such as 'We condemn the terror, but,' or 'We are sorry about what happened, but,' are unacceptable. Either we clearly condemn the terror, or we do not; either we are sorry, or we are not."

"When such human tragedies [occur], one cannot hold the stick at both ends. There is a clear boundary between humane forces and the forces of terror; between human beings and inhuman beings; between criminals and those who observe [the law]; between those who destroy and those who build. Each of us must state his position clearly, with no 'buts.'"

"The deaths of thousands… under the ruins is an unforgivable crime. What happened in New York can happen in Cairo, in Amman, in Riyadh. The hearts of the powers of oppression and destruction have no mercy; these hearts do not acknowledge blood ties or human fellowship; these are the forces that work solely for their own interests."

"According to all reports, Al-Sayyed Atta and his cousin, two of those accused of carrying out the suicide operations, spent their nights in Florida pubs! I do not know what kind of Islamic fundamentalism this is [supposed to be], nor what [kind of] Islam they belonged to?! It is obvious that they are criminals, not Muslims. No matter how [tightly] they envelop themselves in the robe of Islam, the [real] Islam is innocent of their crime."

"The test is now clear: Do you belong to those who want people to be able to live their lives in safety, and work anywhere? Or do you belong to the forces of oppression, destruction, and terror? There is no place to answer 'yes, we're with you, but,' or 'we're against you, but.'"

"White is distinct from black; on one side [stand] righteousness and its forces, and on the other side [stand] injustice, madness, and those who support them. Where do you stand? No 'buts'! This destruction is no longer an American matter. A person's a person, regardless of citizenship, gender, race, religion, or language. Is this not what the Arabs demand of the world? Is this not what we demand from the US when we seek to defend Arab-Americans or Muslim-Americans? We demand always justice; are we not required to act justly towards others also?… We must be just so that when we demand justice someone will listen to us."

"There is oppression, and there are the oppressed; there are murderers and there are the murdered; there is crime and there is punishment. True, these are black and white concepts, but in such cases there is no other color. There is no room for 'justice, but.' In this instance, we must choose whether we support injustice, encourage it to continue its tyranny, and place our fate in its hands, or whether we subject our societies to the forces of justice and righteousness. This is our choice at the beginning of the new century."

"Whatever reservations Arabs have about US policy, this is not the time for grievances. There is an appropriate time for everything. Please, hold the 'but' for another time. Please, join in to form an alliance against the forces of oppression and destruction; do not allow arrogance to lead you to deny your humanity. This does not mean that I repudiate the conspicuous difference between terror aimed at sowing destruction for the sake of destruction, and peoples' rights to resist the oppressor anytime, anywhere."

"In spite of all the sorrow and anger in American society, President Bush, his secretary of state, his attorney-general, and senators have acted in an exemplary manner by defending Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans at the height of passion. The American media also have been careful not to make generalizations, and they have hosted many Muslims and Arabs, [allowing them] to express their apprehensions. All this is testimony to the humanity of this society, whatever criticism we may level at it. At the height of the anger and pain, the Americans – both leadership and people – managed to differentiate between the criminal and his religion, between him and his people. This is to [American] society's credit… If only we, in our moments of anger, could reach such a level, and not harm people because of the deeds of others… American society's position towards its Muslims and Arabs was a sublime act of the human spirit…"

"We must demand such sublime acts from ourselves as well… We must confront these forces with determination. Terror and terrorists have a television channel that presents itself as the only channel [in the Arab world] defending freedom of expression; this is the only channel that encourages terrorist leaders to be interviewed (referring to Qatar's Al-Jezeera television, which has interviewed bin Laden and many other fundamentalist leaders)… The terrorists choose this particular channel… because its crew carried weapons in Afghanistan and today wear three-piece suits and host programs promoting those same ideas (evidently a reference to the Egyptian Ahmed Mansour, known for his connections to fundamentalist elements, who has a talk show on Al-Jezeera)…"

"The vast majority of the Arab peoples were very sorry about the killing of innocent people in New York, in Washington, and in Pennsylvania. These are the [real] Arabs; those who qualify their verbal expressions of sorrow with 'but' are, deep in their hearts, praising the terror…"

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 17, 2001.

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