in search of al qaeda
homethe journeyinside the tribal areasground zero: pakistandiscussion
the united states and us - who is attacking whom?

By Rahma Hugira
Rahma Hugira is a Yemeni journalist who writes for The Yemen Daily. After interviewing seven Al Qaeda suspects in prison, she became sympathetic to their cause. In this essay, written for FRONTLINE, she pleads, "Refrain from sending your sons to kill us in our homelands and loot our resources, so that our sons do not come to you in search of revenge."

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Nov. 7, 2002

Rahma Hugira photo
Rahma Hugira photo

Never before has the Unites States explicitly declared war and enmity upon Muslims and Arabs -- until now. The American president announced that his war is a "crusade" -- a word that carries historical connotations in the context of Islamic-Christian wars. The American media waged a war against Muslims, and depicted the American war effort as being directed at Islam. A long list of allegedly terrorist organizations was formulated, most of which were Islamic associations. The support of various countries -- Muslim and other -- was enlisted, and used to perpetuate the United States' unconditional support for Israel. The American president described Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, a man who is responsible for the most horrific massacres of Palestinian people, as being a "man of peace."

Instead of fighting only its enemies, the U.S. administration chose to fight a whole religion -- thereby creating more supporters for Al Qaeda.

These developments, as well as other American positions that emerged after Sept. 11, created feelings of hatred and enmity between the U.S. -- the aggressor -- and the Muslims. It is not, as some would have us believe, a religious war between Islam and Christianity, and there is evidence to support that. Al Qaeda's war is directed only at the United States. The alienation that Arabs feel is merely a reaction to American policies -- it is not directed at the French, the Australians or the Germans. The United States has, in fact declared war upon a major world religion and an entire people. Never before in history has a geographic region waged war upon a major world religion just because a few of its followers independently committed political attacks.

In that respect, the American president and his administration revealed a lack of competence and diplomacy in managing the aftermath of the events of Sept. 11. The ignition of hatred between Americans and Muslims brings to mind the historical facts and bloody atrocities that make up American history -- the murder of millions of Native Americans, the enslavement of millions of African-Americans, and the meddling in the internal affairs of many sovereign countries. Also -- note the double standards. On one hand, the Unites States preaches democracy and human rights. On the other hand, it is responsible for atrocities that led to its being voted off the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and being replaced by Sudan. Furthermore, it refused to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.S. and Israel also reject the notion of an international criminal court for war crimes -- because they hold the record for the most violations.

It is not only Muslims that reject the United States' attacks and use of force. Demonstrations protesting American policies frequently accompany the visits of American dignitaries in many other countries. The United States has now put out the candle of the first anniversary of Sept. 11, a reminder of a time when it was vulnerable and had a broken spirit. In the aftermath, the United States has killed thousands of Afghans, and pressured other countries to detain thousands of innocent civilians who are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda without any substantive evidence. The Islamic world is now lighting its candle of oppression, alienation, and loneliness caused by current United States policies. It has also revised its perception of the United States, and we are now wondering who "we" are, who are "they" are, and how do "we" confront "them"?

+ Who stands to benefit from the American-led war?

The events of Sept. 11 turned reality upside down. Not only did they affect the symbols of greatness in the world's mightiest power, they also unleashed the United States' abuse of power in the world, especially in Islamic countries. The events also uncovered the real mannerisms of the world's greatest power -- the one we used to uphold as a role model -- as its administration made military threats and implemented discriminatory practices that revealed its true feelings towards us.

The country that we had believed protected the rights of even animals went on to violate the legal, human and constitutional rights of its citizens who are of Muslim origins. It also went on to influence other countries -- spreading the hatred and discrimination against Muslims worldwide, motivated by fear and greed and the hatred and extremism of its administration. Instead of fighting only its enemies, the U.S. administration chose to fight a whole religion -- thereby creating more supporters for Al Qaeda. Initially, only a few fundamentalists and Al Qaeda thought the U.S. should be fought. Today, the majority of Muslims agree -- more so since the onset two years ago of the daily massacres that Israel commits using American weapons and political sanction against our Palestinian brothers and sisters.

Some Arab and Muslim people see the American reaction and condemnation of their societies post-Sept. 11 in a negative light. I see things differently. The continued American aggression towards Muslims has many benefits, and will have many more:

  • Sept. 11 triggered an Islamic "Renaissance." It revived the religion and the sense of solidarity that exists among Muslims. It made them look after each other, their religion, and their nationalism -- all of which had previously been neglected. No one has been or will be immune from American targeting. Arabs and Muslims share the same predicament. The differences that used to divide them no longer seem important, and they are all united as so-called "terrorists."

  • The American aggression bridged the gap between Iraq and its neighboring countries of the Persian Gulf. It made them overlook their differences and forgive the Iraqi leader. The region's countries saw that they all face the same United States-driven fate, and this made even communist, Islamic, and nationalist parties unite. They softened their respective party lines, and focused on the collective cause.

  • Muslims' protectiveness of their religion led to their support of everything Islamic, and this in turn has contributed to the success of Islamic parties in elections in various Arab and Muslim states -- Morocco, Bahrain, Algeria, Pakistan and Turkey. Yemen is preparing for the victory of its Islamic party. Jordan postponed its elections so that the so-called "extremist" parties do not win, citing poor conditions in the provinces as an excuse. This is further evidence of the benefits Islamic parties reaped from Sept. 11 and the American aggression that ensued.

  • Another benefit of Sept. 11 is that it carried several important and timely messages to the arrogant American people. The first is to the American thinkers who wrote the last scene of the history of the world as being the victory of the United States -- the sole superpower. They now have to reassess their analysis, develop another scenario, and acknowledge that history has not yet come to an end, and that Muslims will assume their roles in the clash of civilizations. The second message is an affirmation that the U.S. is not immune for the wrath of its enemies. The third message is from God the almighty -- that we should never lose faith in him and in his ability to bring about justice. He heard our prayers and saw our tears as we cried for our brothers and sisters in Palestine who were being killed by American weapons and political will.

  • We saw that the American so-called "greatness" was fragmented, not unlike the face of its leader, as its security apparatus -- backed by the world's leading security agencies as well -- was unable to fulfill its primary goals of destroying Al Qaeda's structure and capturing Sheikh Osama Bin Laden. He and his followers defeated the efforts of the entire world with a just cause and a sincere belief in their mission.

+A Message to the American People: We Say No to War

We all hate war. We hate to see our countries burnt and our skies filled with smoke. We are all human beings, and have the same rights -- whether it is the 3000 Americans killed on Sept. 11, or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed at the hands of the Americans, or the Iraqi children who drop like leaves everyday as a result of American sanctions, or the millions of Palestinians who are killed by the American Apache helicopters and with complete American support for the crimes of Israel, or the Afghans who were killed by the U.S. war, with the support of the American people.

When you violated our human rights, we had to violate your rights.

If the Americans cannot forget the image of their killed, as they fell from the high floors of the World Trade Center, then how can we forget what we see everyday -- murdered innocent civilians and children in Palestine at the hands of Prime Minister Sharon, described by your president as a man of peace? How can we forget the orphanages in Iraq, where hundreds of women and children were killed at your hands? How can we forget the Afghan wedding that became a horrific funeral at the hands of Americans and other crimes that you committed against us? What should we feel and wish for? Are you alone human beings and victims that deserve compassion and the right to burn the world in the name of avenging your victims? And are we mere ants or insects that you can murder in our homelands and steal our resources? No, this is not just. If today you are powerful enough to persecute anyone you wish, rest assured that the day will come when another power shall reign. If you read history closely enough, you will see that no great empire remained unscathed.

+A Warning to Americans: Refrain from Making Foolish Choices

Your choice/election of extremists to govern you is not in your best interests, as they will drag you into a quagmire of endless wars. Your enemies will become more fundamentalist, and instead of confronting an organization, you will have to confront countries and peoples. I believe that the United States' engagement of Al Qaeda in a war only reveals the brute force and injustice of American policies, and drives more people to become supporters of Al Qaeda, breathing new life into the organization. The American Congress itself said that the number of supporters for Al Qaeda exceed its actual membership.

Refrain from making foolish choices for your leadership that will only lead to your guiding the world into a crisis -- the victims of which are your people and our people. Refrain from sending your sons to kill us in our homelands and loot our resources, so that our sons do not come to you in search of revenge. When you violated our human rights, we had to violate your rights. Ask yourselves, if we truly have enmity towards Christians, then why do we target only the Americans, and not the Germans or the French? You are the ones who instigated a war against us. You are the ones who come to us with your destroyers to conquer us. We have had enough wars and destruction -- and enough fear and tears for our victims.

[Editor's Note: Read FRONTLINE's interview with Rahma Hugira.]

home - introduction - mapping the journey
inside the tribal areas - ground zero: pakistan
discussion - interviews - producers' dispatches - readings & links
producer's chat - teachers' guide - tapes & transcripts - press reaction - credits - privacy policy
FRONTLINE - wgbh - pbs

photograph ©afp/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation