I write this eleven years to the day since terrorists decided to hijack several jets and crash them, along with the hundreds of innocent passengers, into US buildings, an act that would take the lives of thousands and leave the world shaken and facing an uncertain future. In those eleven years it appears we have learned very little.
Mohammed Atta and his cohorts doubtless believed that their vile atrocity would be rewarded by the reception of seventy-two virgins, and possibly a handshake from Allah himself. Whilst it is certainly true that the cause of 9/11 stretches beyond a purely religious foundation, make no mistake that their actions were largely justified by recourse to Islam and the Koran, as utilized by Al Qaeda. Many will claim that the Koran does not tolerate such atrocities. If only that were the case, for it is equally true that these fundamental maniacs are just as able to cite passages that make their martyrdom a blessing and a glory unto their delusional godhead.
Let us not forget that Christianity has also played a not insignificant role in all of this. Al Qaeda chose to strike at a time when the President of the United States, the most powerful man on the planet, was a drooling imbecile who could hardly be trusted to operate a door handle. If reports are correct, this is a President who claimed god speaks to him, having told him to invade Iraq, and at one point being stupid enough to use the slightly emotive under the circumstances word 'crusade'!
Yet whilst the more unhinged members of Islam attacked the US and President Dribblechin retaliated, there is another truth we would do well to remember – neither side has even the slightest evidence the 'god' who guided their actions exists. Even if we trace back the troubles in the Middle East we find it largely revolves around the displacement of a group of people who had long lived in the area to make way for the founding of Israel, ironically for a people who themselves had just been subject to ethnic cleansing yet saw no parity or hypocrisy in their land grabbing. And why was Israel founded where it was? Because of a damned biblical prophecy, from a god whom they cannot even prove is real.
When viewed from the perspective of an outsider without any faith it strikes me as an indictment of how badly religion still poisons our species. How many more centuries must man be forced to live under the tyranny of religions that impose themselves on believers and non-believers alike, how many more must die in the same of Yahweh or Allah?
Sadly it appears that the US, the very nation targeted for that appalling attack, fails to understand how religious fervour is doing their potentially great country no favours. Currently there is a dispute over the placement of a cross at Ground Zero, one formed from the beams of the World Trade Centre (given the construction of the towers it is far from a 'miracle' that such a structure was left standing). Atheists are requesting that it not be granted permission and are being accused of intolerance for their efforts.
Yes, of course Christians require and deserve a place to go to remember those who lost their lives that day. But it was not only Christians who perished, there were victims from every faith (and atheists), and they came from around the world. Would the Christians who are hell-bent on having a cross to bow their head to be quite so accommodating if the families of Muslim victims wanted to place a monument depicting their religion at the spot they died? What about Hindus? Sikhs? Buddhists? In a secular nation, as the US is regardless the historically ignorant protestations of the Christian right, each one of those faiths should be accorded the right if Christians can have their cross.
The logical conclusion, at least as far as I can see, is the construction of a secular memorial, one that serves the families of all who died and either displays the religious symbolism of all religions, or one that displays none. Ideally I would say none, because everybody was united in loss that day. It may even help mend the wounds in inter-faith relations that were inflicted that day if Christians saw Muslims mourning and vice-versa. Instead it appears Christians would rather further the animosity and deepen the rift by stamping their faith on the location.
Thankfully I lost nobody that day, I can only imagine the sense of senseless loss endured by those who did. Had I done so and were I to visit New York to pay my respects the last thing I would wish to see is a cross because to me it would symbolize one thing, the fanatical adherence to a baseless, anachronistic faith system that should have been consigned to the pages of history. Just as with the faith that inspired the lunatics that had brought me there to pay my respects.
It is a sad fact that whilst a handful of Islamic extremists hijacked four planes in 2001, far more Christians appear to be determined to hijack the place of remembrance.