In attempting to understand 9/11, the first question asked by the world’s elites — exemplified by leading media and academics — was, “What did America do to provoke such hatred?”
Ten years later, that question is still asked by the same people. And it is as morally repulsive now as it was then.
Such a question is on a moral par with, “What did the Jews do to antagonize the Germans?” Or, “What did blacks do to enrage lynch mobs?”
As long as people keep asking this question, nothing will have been learned from 9/11.
Sept. 11, 2001 was the tragic product of a human trait that is as evident today as it was when Cain killed Abel: The worst hate the best (and the second best and the third best and so on). Evil hates good.
The United States of America is a flawed society. Composed of human beings, it must inevitably be flawed. But in terms of the goodness achieved inside its borders, and spread elsewhere in the world, it is the finest country that has ever existed. If you were to measure the moral gulf between America and those who despise it, the distance would have to be measured in light-years.
If the academic and opinion-forming classes of the world had any moral courage, they would instead have asked the most obvious question that the events of 9/11 provoked: Were the mass murderers who flew those airplanes into American buildings an aberration, or were they a product of their culture?
As far as those elites are concerned, only the first explanation exists: The 19 monsters of 9/11 were, for all intents and purposes, freaks. They were aberrations, no more representative of the Arab and Islamic worlds than the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was of Americans. According to the elites, the hijackers just happened to be Muslims — only in name, we have been constantly reassured — but were not influenced by anything inherent to Arabic or Islamic society. Merely to ask whether anything in those worlds produced the 9/11 terrorists — or Britain’s 7/7 terrorists, or Madrid’s March 2004 terrorists, or the raft of Palestinian terrorists, or the Taliban, or Hamas — is to be a bigot, an “Islamophobe,” the ingenious post-9/11 label for anyone who merely asks such questions.
It can be said, therefore, that not only has the world learned nothing from 9/11, but it has been effectively prohibited from doing so.
The Muslim regime in Iran violently represses its people and, along with the Muslims of Hamas and of Hezbollah, bluntly vows to exterminate the nation of Israel. Muslim mobs murdered innocent people because of . . . cartoons, in Denmark. The Muslims of the Taliban throw acid in the faces of girls who attend school. Muslim mobs kill Christians and burn churches in Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, and elsewhere. But we are told that merely mentioning these things is an act of bigotry.
After 9/11, the normal and decent question that normal and decent people — people who fully and happily recognize the existence of vast numbers of decent Muslims in the world — would have posed is: What has happened in the Arab world and parts of the Muslim world?
But given that this, the most obvious question that 9/11 prompted, has not been allowed to be asked, what lessons can possibly be learned? The answer is none.
Still, that has not prevented our media and academic elites from drawing lessons.
And what are those lessons? One is that it is America, not the Islamic world, which must engage in moral introspection. Another is that we must oppose all expressions of religious extremism — Jewish and Christian as well as Muslim, since, according to the Left, America’s conservative Christians are as much a threat to humanity as are extremist Muslims.
Perhaps the best known exponent of these non-lessons has been Karen Armstrong, the ex-nun who is a widely read religious thinker. She was invited to give a presentation on compassion at the nation’s religious memorial service this past Sunday. And what was her message?
“9/11 was a revelation of the dangerous polarization of our world; it revealed the deep suspicion, frustration, and rage that existed in some quarters of the Muslim world and also the ignorance and prejudice about Islam and Middle Eastern affairs that existed in some quarters of the West. . . . ”
There you have it: Muslims have rage and deep suspicion; the West has ignorance and prejudice.
If that is what the world learns from 9/11, then those who died that day perished in vain.
— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. He may be contacted through his website, dennisprager.com.