Tag Archive for '9/11'

From terror suspect to college grad

Amitava Kumar in The Daily Beast

He will be graduating this Sunday from Trinity College in Connecticut. He is not a very good student. His GPA is only 2.7. Once he was even threatened with expulsion because he had been quarrelling with his wife and had missed classes. He surprised me a few days ago by saying that he wanted to give a speech at his graduation ceremony. Would I read the draft he had written?

There was a further surprise. In what he had sent me, there was mention of his incarceration, in a federal prison in upstate New York, a few months after the events of 9/11. He was suspected of being a terrorist. I had known of this, but I had also found him taciturn and secretive; I was surprised that he was prepared to stand in his blue and gold robes at graduation and read aloud about having been put behind bars.

I will call him Khalid Farooq. He is 34 years old, and grew up in Abbotabad in Pakistan. He arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 5, 2001. Over the year that I have now known him, Khalid had mentioned his arrests—the first only a few days after the September attacks—but the details I was now reading were new to me. He had written that one early morning in 2002, he was taken out of his apartment and asked to sit in a car. Then, one of the Joint Terrorism Task Force officers came back and pulled Khalid out. He wanted to take pictures of him being handcuffed. Khalid was ordered to hold his head up. more

Granta audio: Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer tells Ellah Allfrey about his run-ins with security officials the world over, both pre and post 9/11.  From Granta

The Granta Podcast Episode 22 by Ted Hodgkinson


Who was behind Pakistan’s 9/11 ad?


Pakistan’s officialdom is proving reluctant to take responsibility for dreaming up a half-page advertisement taken out in The Wall Street Journal last weekend to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The ad asked, “Which country can do more for your peace?” It went on to list the sacrifices that Pakistan has made in fighting terrorism over the past decade, including suffering almost 3,000 deaths of armed forces personnel.

One Pakistani government official said the idea for the ad came from the army’s public relations division, which has been keen to counter the U.S.’s contention that Pakistan continues to harbor Taliban militants. More:

Also in WSJ: It was not clear whether the ad was carried in other U.S. publications. Pakistan’s government also tried to place it in the New York Times. The Times asked for “more clarity in the ad about who was placing it,” according to a spokeswoman for the newspaper. The Times did not hear back from the government and so has not yet run the ad, she said.

Pakistan newspaper Dawn, which describes the ad as “a feeble attempt” to reach out to the American public, said it was first offered to the New York Times “but they refused to publish it, forcing Pakistani officials to go to a business newspaper with a specialised but influential readership.”

Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit

On September 11, 2011, Shoshana Hebshi, who describes herself as a “half-Arab, half-Jewish housewife,” was aggressively cuffed and detained from Frontier Airlines Flight 623, then strip-searched, for the apparent crime of being ambiguously “ethnic” and sitting next to two Indian men she didn’t know who got up to use the toilet in succession. The two Indians, too, were detained. A fellow passenger on her flight had told a flight attendant that she and her dark-skinned seatmates (all of whom were strangers to one another) were “suspicious.” This is her story:

Silly me. I thought flying on 9/11 would be easy. I figured most people would choose not to fly that day so lines would be short, planes would be lightly filled and though security might be ratcheted up, we’d all feel safer knowing we had come a long way since that dreadful Tuesday morning 10 years ago.

But then armed officers stormed my plane, threw me in handcuffs and locked me up.

My flight from Denver landed in Detroit on time. I sent a text message to my husband to let him know we had landed and I would be home by dinner. The plane stopped on the tarmac, seemingly waiting to have the gate cleared. We waited. I played on my phone, checking Facebook, scrolling through my Twitter feed. After a while of sitting there, I decided to call my husband to tell him the plane was being delayed and I would call him when I got off the plane.

Just as I hung up the phone, the captain came over the loudspeaker and announced that the airport authorities wanted to move the airplane to a different part of the airport. Must be a blocked gate or something, I thought. But then he said: Everyone remain in your seats or there will be consequences. Sounded serious. I looked out the window and saw a squadron of police cars following the plane, lights flashing. I turned to my neighbor, who happened to be an Indian man, in wonderment. What is going on? Others on the plane were remarking at the police as well. Getting a little uneasy, I decided the best thing for me to do was to tweet about the experience. If the plane was going to blow up, at least there’d be some record on my part. More:

After 9/11, hate begat hate

Ahmed Rashid, a journalist and the author of “Taliban” and “Descent into Chaos”, in The New York Times:

In their shock after Sept. 11, 2001, Americans frequently asked, “Why do they hate us so much?” It wasn’t clear just who “they” were — Muslims, Arabs or simply anyone who was not American. The easy answer that many Americans found comforting was equally vague: that “they” were jealous of America’s wealth, opportunities, democracy and what have you.

But in this part of the world — in Pakistan, where I live, and in Afghanistan next door, from which the Sept. 11 attacks were directed — those who detested America were much more identifiable, and so were their reasons. They were a small group of Islamic extremists who supported Al Qaeda; a larger group of students studying at madrasas, which had expanded rapidly since the 1980s; and young militants who had been empowered by years of support from Pakistan’s military intelligence services to fight against India in Kashmir. They were a tiny minority of Pakistan’s 150 million people at the time. In their eyes, America was an imperial, oppressive, heathen power just like the Soviet Union, which they had defeated in Afghanistan.

Now, with the United States about to enter the 11th year of the longest war it has ever fought, far more of my neighbors in Pakistan have joined the list of America’s detractors. The wave of anti-Americanism is rising in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, even among many who once admired the United States, and the short reason for that is plain: the common resentment is that American plans to bring peace and development to Afghanistan have failed, the killing is still going on, and to excuse their failures Americans have now expanded the war into Pakistan, evoking what they did in the 1960s when the Vietnam war moved into Laos and Cambodia. Moreover, while Pakistanis die for an American war, Washington has given favored deals to Pakistan’s archenemy, India. So goes the argument.

The more belligerent detractors of America will tell you that Americans are imperialists who hate Islam, and that Americans’ so-called civilizing instincts have nothing to do with democracy or human rights. A more politically attuned attitude is that the detractor doesn’t hate Americans, just the policies that American leaders pursue.

But both groups feel trapped: Afghanistan is still caught up in war, and my country is on the brink of meltdown. And so now there is something beyond just disliking America. We have begun to ask the question of 9/11 in reverse: why do Americans hate us so much ? More:

Life goes on. It must

Namita Bhandare for AW. In our part of the world we don’t have a single 9/11 but an embarrassment of choice, terror as number soup. How many days do we set aside to mourn our dead, victims of someone else’s war? When you live amidst risk, life has a way of just going on.

Already the front pages are crowded: Air India plane buys are under fire, BJP leader L.K. Advani dares government to arrest him in the cash for votes scam and did Reliance violate government norms?

Two days ago there was no other news. The phone had started ringing minutes after the bomb blast at Delhi High Court’s gate number five. Facts were still fuzzy: was it a bomb in a briefcase? How many injured? Any dead? Was there a second blast? Twitter was abuzz and so was my phone.

Lawyer Arjun Pant, my friend took my call just to say, “I’m ok,” and then hung up. I found out later that he had been busy helping the wounded, no time for leisurely fact exchanges. That moment, that precise moment when a bomb goes off is a call for action. When I spoke to him again later that evening, he told me he had returned home, his white shirt splattered with blood. He sounded weary more than shocked.

Within a few hours Arjun will be back at the courts. Apart from a full bench reference to those killed the previous day and an unusually high deployment of commandoes and cops, Delhi High Court was going about its business: a bunch of income tax cases here, a Delhi Jal Board hearing there.

I am always slightly bemused when I read reports about a city’s ‘resilience’ after yet another bomb blast. It’s as if we have a choice. When your daily life is littered with conversations about red alerts, when a weekend trip to the local movie hall must be conducted through a metal detector, when frisking and searches become routine at community celebrations, when livelihoods must continue to be earned, and commutes negotiated hours after a bomb blast on a train, do we really have a choice but to go on? Continue reading ‘Life goes on. It must’

9/11: Portraits of grief

A decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, The New York Times revisited families to learn how they have coped, changed and carried on since that day.


Islam’s eloquent face

As a Kashmiri Indian woman, Daisy Khan prefers high fashion to hijab. In New York Times Michael Grynbaum profiles the eloquent and indefatigable  public face of the maelstrom surrounding Park51, the Islamic community centre she and her husband Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf trying to build.

Daisy Khan had never seen so many Jews in her life. The year was 1974, and Ms. Khan, an awkward, artistic 16-year-old who had just emigrated from India to the suburban Long Island enclave of Jericho, N.Y., was attending her first day of school in America. It was not going well. Her fellow students giggled at the newcomer with the dark skin, exotic accent and unfamiliar religion. Few Muslims, it seemed, had ever attended the mostly Jewish Jericho High School. When a teacher asked her to stand and introduce herself, the questions came fast: Did she ride a camel? Did she ride an elephant? more

Islamophobia and the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ debate

Ishaan Tharoor in Time:

Opposition to a proposed mosque near Ground Zero swelled into a furor this week after its planners on Aug. 3 passed the last municipal hurdle barring them from building it. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg spoke passionately in defense of the project. “Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans,” Bloomberg said in a speech that day. “We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.”

Bloomberg’s predecessor didn’t agree. The former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, claimed that the project, which is partially intended to be an interfaith community center, would be a “desecration,” adding that “decent” Muslims ought not object to his opinion. Other GOP politicians and talking heads who have far less to do with the events of 9/11 — or, for that matter, New York — have joined the chorus, arguing in some instances that a mosque near Ground Zero would be a monument to terrorists. (See the moderate imam behind the “Ground Zero mosque.”)

Such Islamophobia is unsurprising in the post–Cold War age of al-Qaeda and sleeper cells. And Islam, of course, has long been a bogeyman for the West. For centuries, a more advanced, more powerful Islamic world haunted the imagination of snow-bitten Christendom. When the Spanish arrived in the Americas, they brought the language of the Reconquista with them, sometimes referring to Aztecs and Mayans as “Moors” and to their ziggurats as “mosques.” The Sultanate of Morocco was the first government in the world to recognize the existence of an independent United States, in 1778. But it was America’s naval expeditions to North Africa — the two early–19th century Barbary Wars — that first marked the U.S.’s arrival on the global stage and crystallized a new American patriotism at home. More

Shah Rukh Khan vs Shiv Sena

Update: Mumbai calls Sena bluff as movie opens to full house


Multiplex chains in Mumbai will have only a limited release of Shah Rukh Khan’s new film “My Name Is Khan” following threats of violence by the ultra Hindu-nationalist Shiv Sena party. As things stood on Friday noon, single-screen theatres will not show the movie.

Bal Thackeray, the leader of the party, has warned that he will not allow the movie to be released unless the actor apologises for opposing the party’s call to boycott Pakistani cricket players.

Shah Rukh Khan is the owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket team. He had said Pakistani stars should be included in the Indian Premier League teams. Shiv Sena supporters say that Pakistani players are not welcome in the city after the 2008 terror attacks.

Thousands of police were guarding Mumbai’s cinemas on Friday.

The movie is a classic love story set in the US after the 11 September 2001 attacks, and the Times of India’s critic has given it a rare five-star rating:

Ok, let’s get this straight from the very beginning. It’s Khan, from the epiglotis (read deep, inner recesses), not `kaan’ from the any-which-way, upper surface. In other words, it’s the K-factor — Karan (Johar) and Khan (Shah Rukh) — like you’ve never seen, sampled and savoured before. My Name is Khan is indubitably one of the most meaningful and moving films to be rolled out from the Bollywood mills in recent times. It completely reinvents both the actor and the film maker and creates a new bench mark for the duo who has given India some of the crunchiest popcorn flicks.

My Name is Khan


Eight Years After 9/11: Why Osama bin Laden Failed

From TIME:

He may have eluded justice and the long reach of the world’s most powerful military force; his followers may (and probably will) strike again at some point in the future, near or distant; but history’s verdict on Osama bin Laden has been in for some time now: al-Qaeda failed.

The 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington – like those that preceded them in East Africa in 1998 and those that followed in London, Madrid, Bali and other places – were tactical successes in that they managed to kill hundreds of innocent people, grab the world’s headlines and briefly dominate the nightmares of Western policymakers. But the strategy those attacks were a part of has proved to be fundamentally flawed. Terrorism departs from the rules of war by deliberately targeting the innocent, but it shares the basic motivational force of conventional warfare – “the pursuit of politics by other means,” as Clausewitz wrote. More:

Last train from WTC

Shazia Omar shares how the shock of watching 9/11 unfold in front of her eyes. She is the author of Like a Diamond in the Sky. From Open magazine:

The New Yorker 9/11 cover

The New Yorker 9/11 cover

I was part of the post-undergrad elite of Manhattan, earning an-almost six-figure salary a year, with an expense account, a limo service, a secretary and an expensive wardrobe of designer suits. I liked the respect it earned me. In a few years I’d have a million dollars in my bank account, a penthouse on the Upper West side, a beach house in the Hamptons, Jimmy Choo shoes and Louis Vuitton purses, what more could I ask for? My Ivy League education had landed me a chance to play in the big league, all I had to do was accept this as my path.

I bent over to lace up my strappy heels and noticed that the man sitting next to me on the subway was reading the papers, an article about Third World poverty. I tried to read over his shoulders and broke out into a cold sweat. He seemed calm and collected, detached perhaps, from the emotional turmoil that bites away at a young woman who questions her purpose in life.

Despite the ample pay cheques, I had mounting credit card bills to add to the college loans on my shoulders. I had no time to do groceries or find a husband or ponder spirituality. I knew I was on track, an independent professional moving steadily towards the financial security of a stable corporate career. I was a South Asian father’s dream come true. It was a rare opportunity for a girl from Bangladesh, but I wondered if it was the right direction for me. Did I really fit into that world of trophy wives and box-office seats at baseball games? At 21, I already had wrinkles on my forehead from staring at a computer screen all day. More:

Al-Qaida: Tales from Bin Laden’s volunteers

Eight years after the attack on New York, intelligence reports from captured western recruits suggest the terror network is weakening. Jason Burke and Ian Black in the Guardian:

The meeting was tense. The six recruits, from immigrant communities in France and Belgium, had decided to confront their al-Qaida handler. Before leaving their homes, they had watched al-Qaida videos on the internet and seen massed battalions of mujahideen training on assault courses, exciting ambushes and inspiring speeches by Osama bin Laden.

Now they had spent months in Pakistan’s rugged frontier zones and had done nothing more than basic small arms training, some physical exercise and religious instruction.

They had been deceived, they complained to the Syrian militant looking after them. The videos had lied.

Their handler was unapologetic. The flashy videos were a “trick” that served a dual purpose, he told them, “to intimidate enemies and to attract new recruits – propaganda.”

The exchange, which took place a year ago, is revealed in interrogation documents obtained by the Guardian. The six would-be recruits are currently on trial in Europe after being arrested on their return home. But their experience is illuminating, amplifying suspicions about the current capability of the al-Qaida movement, and raising crucial questions: how strong is Bin Laden’s terrorist group? What control and influence does it exert beyond its safe havens in south-west Asia? As British troops fight and die to secure Afghanistan to make Britain safer, where does the main threat come from? How close is the image of al-Qaida to the reality? More:

Amitav Ghosh on the attack on Mumbai and the metaphor of ‘9/11’

From the Hindustan Times:

logoSince the start of the terrorist invasion of Mumbai on November 26, the metaphor of the World Trade Center attacks has been repeatedly invoked. In India and elsewhere commentators have taken to saying, over and again, ‘This is India’s 9/11.’ There can be no doubt that there are certain clear analogies between the two attacks. In both cases the terrorists were clearly at great pains to single out urban landmarks, especially those that serve as points of reference in this increasingly interconnected world.

There are similarities too, in the unexpectedness of the attacks, the meticulousness of their planning, their shock value and the utter unpreparedness of the security services. But this is where the similarities end. Not only were the casualties far greater on September 11, 2001, but the shock of the attack was also greatly magnified by the fact that it had no real precedent in America’s historical experience.


The future of terrorism

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri in Hindustan Times:

They may call the next several years the “Era of Mumbai Terror.” An increasing number of counterterrorism specialists say the nature of the attack is clearly different from the South Asian norm and possibly even by any global measure. And because it is was so successful – a score of armed men holding an entire country to ransom for three days – it may become a model for the next wave of jihadi fighters.

Colonel Jonathan Fighel of Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism is among those who has pointed out that the Mumbai attacks are “unusual not only for India, but also on the international scale.” The subcontinental norm has been a “series of explosions undertaken simultaneously by radical Islamic organizations aiming to kill” masses of people. This was an “all-out offensive, with clear military hallmarks.”


After ban of 40 years, Pakistani film opens across India

From The Independent, UK:

It came from nowhere tobecome the most successful Pakistani film of all time. Bold, striking and widely acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, Khuda Kay Liye focuses on the lives of Muslims in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the Bush administration’s “war on terror”. Now, it has become the first Pakistani film in more than four decades to go on full release at cinemas across its predominantly Hindu neighbour, India, receiving rapturous applause at its Indian premiere in Mumbai on Thursday.


And a review in Hindustan Times:

For sure, it leaves you with mixed feelings. Gratifyingly, they’re not the sort that you erase like an unwanted sms. Any which way you look at it, Khuda Kay Liye is  a thought-provoking work on the state of the Muslim identity today, in particular post the 9/11 devastation.

Indeed the topic is,  “All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.” Even as Hollywood draws caricatures of bearded, gun-toting maniacs, here’s a successful attempt to redress the balance. Pakistan’s director, Shoaib Mansoor seeks to say – stop looking at the Muslim with suspicion. And worse, prejudice.