A Tenser Sept. 11
By Gustavo Chacra
Translated By Perola Vieira
11 September 2010
Edited by Sam Carter
Brazil - Estadao - Original Article (Brazilian Portuguese)
It’s been nine years since what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. Here in New York it’s as sunny a day as it was on that Tuesday of the largest terrorist attacks in history. But the world has changed after the attacks. Besides the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we started using terms like jihadists, al-Qaida, Taliban, Islamic radicalism, and knowing cities like Basra, Kabul, Kandahar, Najaf.
In 2001, Barack Obama was so unknown that he was not mentioned by any Brazilian publication. Hillary Clinton was still just Bill Clinton’s wife. Yasser Arafat led the Palestinians. The Intifada intensified. Saddam Hussein was in Iraq, ignored, weakened, and remembered only in South Park episodes. A moderate for Tehran’s regime standards governed Iran. Syria was still occupying Lebanon. Fernando Henrique Cardoso was the President of Brazil. Obviously, in Venezuela, it was already Hugo Chavez. The Pope was still called John Paul II. In 2001, Sept. 11 marked only the date of the military coup in Chile.
Anyone who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, already knows how to read, how to write, the multiplication tables and some of the world capitals. The FUVEST’s (University Foundation for Vestibular*) candidates were only 9 years old at the time of the attack. There was no Orkut or Facebook. YouTube would take about four years to become popular. People used to search on Altavista and Yahoo. Hotmail surpassed Gmail, which didn’t exist in the U.S. yet, in popularity. Skype had not revolutionized the communication. Twitter was not something imagined. The iPhone and iPad were perhaps in the dreams of Steve Jobs but not in those of the common people.
Nine years later, Bin Laden is still alive and free. Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with the attacks, is dead. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the real leader of the Sept. 11 attacks, is imprisoned at Guantanamo.
This will be my sixth Sept. 11 in New York. Certainly, it is the tensest of all. Until last year, the date was marked with discretion in New York. The ceremony was restricted to only a reading of the names of the victims at ground zero. This year, clashes and protests are foreseen from the U.S. to Afghanistan.
Worried about possible hostile acts in town this year, the New York police will strengthen security around Ground Zero. There will be protests both for and against the construction of an Islamic center two blocks away from where the World Trade Center once stood. The police also fear actions against other mosques in the city where Muslims will celebrate the end of Ramadan.
In recent days, the growth of Islamophobia in New York was marked by the stabbing of a taxi driver. Other actions against Muslims and their properties were registered in the country. At the same time, there was a greater involvement of American Muslims in violent acts in the country and abroad. A soldier with roots in Islam killed 14 soldiers in an army base in Texas in November; an American of Yemeni origin became the most dangerous leader of al-Qaida overseas, and another Muslim tried to blow up a van in the middle of Times Square in May.
According to an Abt Srbi survey, 25 percent of Americans do not believe that U.S. Muslims are patriotic. For 28 percent, Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to run for president, and 32 percent say they should not join the Supreme Court. Another 43 percent say they have an unfavorable image of Islam. Using these figures as a basis, Time magazine wondered, in a cover story, if Americans are Islamophobic.
A coalition of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders published a statement warning against the dangers of Islamophobia. "As religious leaders in this great country, we have come together in our nation's capitol to denounce categorically the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America's Muslim community," it says.
On the other hand, a big part of the city's population continues to ignore Sept. 11. For some people, today is the men's semifinal and women's final at the U.S. Open. Others are concerned about Fashion Week. Some look forward to the football games. Baseball followers have come to the end of a season. Freshmen at local universities begin to mingle. Those who hate the summer come to celebrate. Those who love it enjoy their last days, but the temperature is already far from 30ºC. New York, on Sept. 11, is much more than ground zero and these endless discussions we have here on the blog.
Whoever wants to make good use of Sept. 11 in Sao Paulo — to talk about tennis, fashion and a little bit about Middle East — can go to the readers’ meeting today. At this time, I won’t be able to go because I live outside of the country. But it's worth it. Fabio Nog is responsible for the organization.
*Translator’s Note: Vestibular is an examination system used by Brazilian Universities to select their students.
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