Baum: Addressing Radical Islam
9/11 reminds us to keep fighting against radical Islamic terrorism.
On Sept. 11, 2001, two jets originating from Logan International Airport in Boston flew into the World Trade Center towers. Though many initially believed the first crash was accidental, these were confirmed to be terrorist attacks when the second plane flew into the South Tower 17 minutes later. Within the next two hours, two more planes were hijacked by members of al-Qaeda — one struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the other, allegedly targeting the White House or the U.S. Capitol, crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to combat the hijackers. The four attacks were carried out by 19 terrorists.
On this horrid day, 2,996 people lost their lives and over 6,000 were injured at the hands of radical Islamists. These attacks largely influenced the War in Afghanistan, which began less than a month later, as well as the invasion of Iraq, which President George W. Bush declared just nine days after the attacks.
Like Holden Harris ’20, who addressed these issues in his column on March 2, I was also just 3 years old that day. 9/11 is one of my earliest memories. I remember watching tennis at home as the news broke of the attacks and “Emergency” flashed across my family’s TV. Less than two hours later, I learned that the final plane crashed in Shanksville, just 57 miles from my house. Although I was not in an area that was attacked, I was still in grief. Our great nation was under attack; our future safety uncertain.
I write this not to shame Harris’ view of 9/11 but to remember each person affected by the attacks and to ponder a civil way to speak about radical Islamic terrorism. In our culture, we often try to avoid offending Muslims rather than discussing the evils of radical Islamic terrorism and its victims. We need to respect every individual’s right to freedom of religion while uniting against radical Islamic terrorism. Though Harris is correct in arguing that we cannot be biased against all Muslims, we also cannot let our fear of political incorrectness weaken our resolve against radicals.
It is thus essential to remember and honor those affected by 9/11 while ensuring that Muslims are not discriminated against or restricted from practicing their religion. On Sept. 14, 2001, President George W. Bush gave his “bullhorn” speech atop rubble in Manhattan, New York. He declared that “America today is on bended knee, in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn,” and that “the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” This was a unifying moment where Bush honored victims of 9/11 and promised to fight against terrorism.
Unfortunately, just 15 years later, President Barack Obama was not willing to state the words “radical Islamic terrorism” when discussing the attacks. After the Orlando shootings in June 2016, he refused to describe perpetrator Omar Mateen as a radical Islamic terrorist. In defense of his stance, Obama stated that he has been careful about discussing radical Islamic terrorism to “make sure that we do not lump these murderers into the billion Muslims that exist around the world, including in this country, who are peaceful…”
Obama’s commitment to political correctness was dangerous. Our focus should not be on political correctness but on fighting Islamic radicals in unison with all Americans, including non-radical Muslims, using strategic programs such as Countering Violent Extremism, a Homeland Security program designed to prevent Americans from becoming radicalized by international terrorist groups.
I would like to, again, quote Bush. To all Muslims near and far, “We respect your faith.” As he went on to say, “the enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends” but “a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.” We did not make “the enemy ... all of those who follow Islam,” as Harris argued. Our country advocated freedom, liberty and the right to practice any religion or none at all. However, our country also needs a strong national defense.
I encourage all Americans to respect the religious practices of Muslims. I also encourage Americans never to let 9/11 escape our minds. We must stay unified and passionate against radical Islamic terrorism until it is no longer a threat to the precious lives of so many around the world.
A simple way to help is to donate to charities that support all those affected by 9/11, such as Tuesday’s Children, the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund or the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. We cannot forget 9/11. We must use it to motivate us in the ongoing fight against radical terrorism.