The Attacks of September 11th: The Expression of a Conflict with Multiple Roots

[1] Like all human conflict, the attacks of September 11 possess multiple dimensions, arises out of various causes, and have diverse actors with greater and lesser degrees of responsibility. It would be a grave error to interpret, and above all to attempt to resolve, this event in a simplistic way. Let me enumerate some of the factors pertaining to the events: a) From the perspective of racial and religious discrimination, the existence of negative stereotypes of Arabs and Islam in western countries, including countries on the northern basin of the Mediterranean, cannot be denied. Political parties and extreme right wing organizations spread xenophobic ideas and carry out attacks against Arab goods and persons. b) The Gulf War and the Palestinian Israeli conflicts, with their political, strategic significance, add a highly sensitive ingredient. Various western countries, especially the United States, are perceived as acting mostly in defense of Israel and against Arab interests, needs, values, and culture. c) The propagation of western values as if they were “universal” and the pressure exerted on others to adopt them has pushed many to return to cultural roots through religion and has collaborated in stimulating reactions of a fundamentalist character. d) The Taliban in Afghanistan is a dramatic and eloquent paradigm of powerful religious sectarianism and a narrow perception of cultural identity. In the same sense, in many other Arab states, the connection between political culture and religious practice and education is established on the basis of a messianic, threatening, and simplistic discourse. Before hurling ourselves into the logic of war, we ought to redouble our efforts to dilute the terrifying spiral of violence of whatever kind. We should do so by a concerted strategy of a democratic equilibrium of power and authentic recognition of the other. In this strategy, the churches have a fundamental role.