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Salaam from here and now About 30 hours after the tragedy, I am already tired although I got a few hours of nervous sleep last night. I am starting this journal today, Sept. 12, 2001. It is a few minutes after 2:00 PM here in Tucson, Arizona. I am sitting before the computer in my […]

An Iranian in Tucson

by Moji Agha

Salaam from here and now

About 30 hours after the tragedy, I am already tired although I got a few hours of nervous sleep last night. I am starting this journal today, Sept. 12, 2001. It is a few minutes after 2:00 PM here in Tucson, Arizona. I am sitting before the computer in my home/office.

Why state the obvious?

I don’t want to begin by stating the obvious. I am tired of having to state the obvious. Like everyone else, of course I am extremely sad and horrified. I resent that as a person of Middle Eastern origin, I am supposed to declare that I am anguished and horrified. I am tired of the fact that I am supposed to condemn what happened yesterday, not just because I feel for the victims, like everyone else, but in order not to be seen as a terrorist, in order not to be possibly attacked, in order to protect my community from even more harm.

I want to write as a person, not a professional or civic-minded person. I am tired. I am just tired. I am tired of having to declare that I am a human being with a heart. I am tired of having to declare and prove my humanity.

Hiding from hatred

There are already reports of hate crimes against people who APPEAR to be “Muslim/Middle Eastern,” and not only in the U.S. In Sweden, an Iranian cab driver was beaten up by drunk Swedes today. They accused him of being behind the attacks in the U.S. !

I want to write about what happened yesterday in New York and Washington D.C. and how it has impacted me so far, and I don’t know exactly why. I suppose I need to write. I have advised others and I have been advised by well-meaning people to be cautious and keep a low profile.

A well-meaning “Victim Advocacy Coordinator” has advised: “I urge all of you to be cautious as to what you write on this link” [the disc. list of Iranians for International cooperation]. She is afraid, like the rest of us, not only for our own safety from terrorist attacks, but also for harm that could come to us from racist hatred.

I have been told to hide in order to shield myself from such blind rage and hatred. Since 9:00 AM yesterday, I have not experienced any actual hate crimes against myself personally (except for the stares), but I have not gone out much either. I want to write as a way of going out.

Not all are racist robots

Last night I was invited to dinner at a “white” American friend’s house in order to see that “not all of us Americans are racist robots.” Although I was tired for having been glued to the T.V. since 6:00 AM, and I was more anxious than hungry, I went in order to avail myself to his caring and to express my gratitude. The food was good too, especially for an American meal!

Later on, I felt guilty for not having gone to the house of an immigrant Iranian family (arrived recently from Iran) to comfort them and explain the meaning of the horrible images that they were seeing on TV but could not fully understand due to not knowing much English. I was too tired to go to their house, but I had talked to their 16-year-old son earlier on the phone, when he came home from school around 4:00 PM. I made sure that he understood what had happened. I told him to be careful in school or on the street and not argue with other children. O, I am so so so tired of having to protect innocent children from ignorance.

The birth of a peace ambassador

Among other things that I did yesterday was to phone and congratulate an Iranian friend whose new son was born at 7:00 PM. I told him: “What a day to to be born, what a day!” He said with his customary habit of understating: “I have had a hectic day.” My friend’s American wife (the baby’s mother) and the Iranian-American newborn are fine.

Having been born on September 11, 2001, perhaps tiny Armin will grow up to be an ambassador of peace. What will our planet look like when he grows up? Will he be on his 43rd birthday as tired as I was yesterday? Will he have to prove that he is not evil? I am tired of worrying about the state of our fragile planet.

Interfaith quest for understanding

In about two hours I am going to the University of Arizona (UA) to attend a gathering of people who want to express their feelings about the horror on the East Coast. The memorial is a service co-conducted by a Jewish and an Islamic organization. Its announcement was e-mailed to me from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University at 3:30 PM yesterday. Its first paragraph reads:

“The Islamic Center of Tucson and the UA Hillel Foundation are jointly sponsoring a memorial service on Wednesday, Sept. 12, from 5 to 5:30 PM on the UA Mall. The service will be led by Imam Omar Shahin and Rabbi Tom Louchheim. The entire campus and Tucson community are invited to join us in front of the UA Mall stage.”

To family in Iran: We are safe

Yesterday morning, as soon as I saw the news on TV, even before the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, I began to worry. But first I called the houses of my brothers in California to talk to them to make sure that they and their families are fine. Then I called the house of my other brother in Tehran. At 7:00 PM Tehran time (7:30 AM Tucson time), they had not yet heard about the news.

My 14-year-old nephew turned their TV on and saw the first news bulletin about the tragic events in “Amrica.” My brother was still at work. I told my sister-in-law that we are all far far from the East Coast and we are fine. She thanked me for calling them, because otherwise they would have started to worry about us upon seeing the news. She said that she would call the rest of the family to let them know that we are SAFE. As I was talking to my sister-in-law, I overheard my nephew telling his 12-year-old younger sister that they could boast to their friends that they were the first ones to know “directly” about the news. I smiled.

The many faces of fanaticism

After I got off the phone, I went to check my e-mails. I tried to maintain a sense of normality and answered a couple of them. Then I went to the website of the Iranian.com magazine and read Setareh Sabety’s “Fanaticism” essay about the tragedy [Blond or Bearded]. I shook my head.

Then I began reading the initial e-mails on the e-mail discussion lists of the Iranians for International Cooperation (iic.org) and of the Persian Watch Cat (antidiscrimination.org). I felt the need to contribute to the discussion. I thought for a while as to what would be useful to say, while I also kept an eye on T.V. At 9:00 AM I sent the following e-mail to the disc lists:

“As a result of this horrible tragedy, I am very worried about a new Middle Eastern witch hunt. There are indications that this is probably Osama Bin Ladin’s work, in which case the Taliban is finished–so some good may come out of this afterall. But prejudice against “Middle Eastern-looking people” (FBI’s term after the Oklahoma City Bombing) is deep. I am deeply worried about another witch hunt against people who appear to be Middle Easterners in civilized countries. I think PWC in coordination with CAIR [Council on American Islamic Relations], should urge FBI not to repeat their previous behavior and not whip up anti-Middle Eastern hysteria. At present, people who look Middle Eastern should exercise extreme caution. I pray for the lives of all the people who have been and will be negatively affected.” Prayerfully, Moji Agha

Coping with a double burden

Throughout the day I kept watching the developing news and checked my many many e-mails. Most of these messages expressed sadness, fear and concern about the tragedy, but also shared ideas as to how we could shield our community from more hate crimes, the ways we could prove our humanity–that we are not responsible for this immense crime. I also checked various news sources to see the Iranian government’s reaction. I was hoping that the Iranian leaders would condemn the committed atrocities, and soon. Later on Khatami did just that to my immense relief.

Being held in the Light

I also kept talking to several people on the phone. Among the people that I called to thank was a wonderful person named Barbara. I gave her the phone number of the Associated Press office in Arizona and suggested that she could call them to say that regular Americans are concerned. I suggested that maybe she could form a group to get more visibility for her humane efforts. I was calling her because at 9:30 AM she had sent the following e-mail to the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, entitled: “Holding you in the Light” :

“I just finished teaching my 8:00 AM class on Community Conflict Resolution, and as a class, we agreed to reach out to the Middle Eastern community here at the U of A. We know that the scapegoating that is common in this country will make people of Middle Eastern heritage feel unsafe. As Quakers say, we will hold you in the Light. Please know that there are many of us who wish you no harm and will protect you, if needed. Let us know if we can be of assistance during these next troubled hours and days.” Barbara and the Conflict Resolution class.

Being blind to one’s own shadow

At 5:00 PM, I saw the e-mail of an Iranian friend with whom I have been having an exchange of ideas about the nature and the evils of ideology–namely, that ideology keeps one from seeing the reality AS IS. As part of my e-mail to her I said:

“I wonder if you read Setareh Sabety’s piece today about the East Coast tragedy. In it she lashes out at those “fanatics” –another kind of “them” as opposed to “us” freedom loving people! And she was soooooooooooo blind to the fact that her mentality (in a different form of us vs. them ) is partially responsible for the tragedy. But, nooooo she is blameless–quite holy!” Peace, Moji Agha

In the website of the Iranian.com magazine I read Jahanshah Javid’s Editorial [Holy Smoke]. I was very very disappointed. As a journalist, he should not have rushed to judgment. Furthermore, in prematurely blaming “Islamic fanaticism,” he has inappropriately focused blind rage onto innocent Iranians here, if not onto his country of origin. I asked myself: Does he really care about Iran?

Where can my humanity go?

As I mentioned before, at 6:30 PM or so, I went to my friend’s house for dinner and for supportive companionship. I came back home around 10:00 PM. I found the following chilling letter in the letters section of the Iranian.com–apparently to all Iranians:

* Get out Get out of my country. It will never be the same with you here. Erik

I was too tired to be able to respond. I watched the news some more. The only thing that gave me some comfort was President Khatami’s strong condemnation of the terrorist attack and his expression of profound sympathy for the “American nation.” I finally went to bed around midnight, but could not sleep well. What a surprise!

I woke up at 5:30 AM today (Sept. 12) and watched the news to see the latest developments. The tone of the news and professional commentators has become more strident, but fortunately they are focusing more on Osama Bin Laden and to some extent on Iraq. Iran’s name is mentioned much less frequently. This gives me some comfort.

At 6:00 AM I sent the following response to the writer of the letter above:

“This is in response to your letter to the Iranian: “Get out.” I can’t get out, I am an American “immigrant” of the Middle Eastern origin, the same way you are–although your later ancestors were probably “Europeans” (after they moved West from the Middle East). So, you are a Middle Eastern immigrant citizen of this country too, if you go back to only 4000 years ago. But, I will not call you a terrorist and will not ask you to get out of “my country” just because Tim McVeigh (Oklahoma City Bomber) and Ted Kezinski (the Unibomber) were “white” as probably you are. Please remember you are a human being who abhors victimizing innocent people. Right?” Peace, Moji Agha

Uniting against ignorance

It is 6:30 PM now. I have just come back from the memorial session at the University of arizona. Seeing Jewish and Islamic clergymen next to one another was really really good. It reminded me of Hafiz:

Maghsood-e man az ka’bevo botkhaneh toyee tow maghsood toyee ka’bevo botkhaneh bahaaneh

Who I intend by the Ka’beh (Islamic holy shrine) or the house of idols is Thou [the Beloved] Thou are the intended one, Ka’beh or the house of idols are just excuses [means].

It was really good to see a Jewish rabbi and an Islamic imam next to one another, hand in hand, both calling for understanding. The imam said: “If you want to be understood, understand others.” The rabbi nodded his head vigorously.

On the way there I felt the gazes (like the days after the Oklahoma City)–and I look not as “Middle Eastern” as some other men.

Who is misguided?

As I was standing in the back of the crowd at the memorial I saw a perhaps 20-year-old boy (and I am assuming he was a “Christian” fundamentalist) who shouted at the crowd–thinking they are Muslims and Jews–saying that we were all “misguided.” Or was he one of those who are calling for “nuking” the “ragheads and the sand-niggers” and believe that holding a memorial is “misguided?”

I wanted to go and talk to him, but I was afraid of calling attention to myself and to the scuffle that he would probably start, and it would be undoubtedly reported as a violent incident involving a “Middle Easterner” by the local media who were heavily present, and almost all of them like sensationalism in order to sell ads, so they usually speak to the lowest instincts of their audience.

Cruelty takes humanity’s breath away

My mind went to the tragic scene of the Palestinian women and children rejoicing–the scene that was shown on TV over and over. I wonder about the kind of hell they have been through, under the boots of the so-called “defenders of Jews,” to become so incredibly “cruel.” I am worried about what the Israelis will do to them now, away from any cameras. Indeed abuse begets abuse. Why don’t the Israelis understand that?

Later on, I read an e-mailed letter from an Iranian woman somewhere in the U.S. She said:

“I have not been able to take a breath comfortably since yesterday. My whole face is in pain just trying to control my emotions. I wish I could cry. I wish I could turn the clock back and all this was not true.”

Ignorance is so crude, so selfish

I later read the following among the letters of the Iranian.com, in response to Jahanshah Javid’s editorial:

“I agree with the majority of your article ["Holy smoke"], particularly the part about how good you and your Muslim brothers and sisters have it in the United States. But even hinting that there are reasons to dislike or hate America somehow justifies these fucking animals’ actions. Your problem in general is trying to convince other Americans why you even live here. All we hear from Muslim groups are complaints about how our country acts in the Middle East. Well, if you don’t like it; GET OUT!!! ALL OF YOU!!! “

Did Jahanshah Javid understand the consequences of his premature ranting against “Islamic fanatics” so that he could presumably feel safe in not being seen as a “fanatic?” Did he write this editorial just to generate excitement and ad revenues? Did he think about the hate crimes that he UNINTENTIONALLY would legitimize, to be perpetrated by the enraged “real” Americans who want to just “kick some mother fucking ass and flatten a few sand niggers?” Did he turn his tongue in his mouth before he spoke? Are all of us, is the humanity engaged in a game to just feel good NOW–the hell with what happens to others?

I kept on reading in the letters section. A “Persian Girl” has written a few heart-felt words in response to the guy who told all Iranians to “get out” of “his” country. She reminds him, in a tone almost as harsh as his, that he is not a native of this continent either. She has continued:

“Do you wanna know why we left our country and emigrated to “YOUR” country? Because the U.S. screwed up our country by allowing [causing?] the revolution to happen, by buying our oil at the cheapest price possible, by making war between Iran and Iraq to be able to sell weapons, and by interfering in every single thing happening there. So if we’re living here and you don’t like it, blame it on your government!”

We need enemies

I saw on CBS the extensive interview that Dan Rather had with the Democrat Senator, Joseph Biden, the chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services (or Foreign Relations?) Committee. He said in no uncertain terms that “evidence” is mounting which points to Osama Bin Laden, and the Taliban in Afghanistan. He essentially threatened the Pakistani government to join the “civilized coalition” to fight terrorism, or else. He said for the first time that the Taliban were brought to power by Pakistan–not mentioning that this was with direct involvement by Saudi Arabia, and with the U.S. support, for the purpose of encircling or “containing” Iran.

Now, the Taliban has turned against the U.S. much the same way that Saddam Hossein did after he served his obedient role in “containing” Iran. Remember how all kinds of economies got a big boost as a result of arms sales to both Iraq and Iran, to feed the cruel beast that was an 8-year-long imposed war?

Senator Biden said that our “friends” in the Arab world must choose between good and evil. He reminded Saudi Arabian rulers that Osama is a former “disgraced” citizen of their country. This sounded like asking these oil rich rulers to essentially pony up a large portion of the costs of this war against terrorism, or else. He said that the Egyptian President and the King of Jordan have already promised “full cooperation” in being part of this coalition. Do they have any choice?

Dan Rather asked him if the U.S. was going to try to bring Iran into this coalition. Biden was visibly uncomfortable answering this question. He said that this coalition is against all terrorists and states that aid, train, or encourage terrorists. He essentially said that the U.S. government would not invite Iran into the coalition but would expect Iran to “stand down” –remain neutral.

I wonder why is it that despite Iran’s common interest with the U.S. with regard to terrorism, the Taliban and the flow of drugs, they don’t want Iran’s joining their “holy” coalition against “the evil of terrorism?” Could it be because they NEED Iran as an enemy? If the hostile rhetoric of all Israeli leaders these days are any indication, the answer is Yes. Are they keeping open the option of destroying Iran’s not-yet-operational nuclear power plant in Bushehr, under the pretext of fighting the “state infrastructure of nuclear terrorism?”

Searching for hope on the football field – part 1

I checked the website of iransportspress.com and the persianfootball.com to see the latest news about the Iran-Bahrain World Cup qualifying game on Friday. FIFA has allowed the games to resume on Friday (Sept.14) in Asia. I thought that if Iranian players, people, or leaders showed some gesture of sympathy toward the American nation’s tragedy, it would be a wonderful way of counteracting the dehumanization of “Middle Easterners” in the “civilized” world. As to what specific thing I would like them to do, I did not have any thought at that point.

Dreaming for power at any cost

I was finally hungry. I had something to eat. Then I went back to my computer and read a recently arrived e-mail about what the Shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi had said. Appearing on a Spanish-speaking cable channel Mr. Pahlavi had “shamelessly put the blame on the doorsteps of the Iranian government.” He apparently had said that the Islamic regime supports these terrorists morally, financially, etc. and that “all [terrorism] roads end in Tehran.”

The author of the e-mail said that “Mr. Pahlavi either does not understand the impact of his words or is so irresponsible and selfish to be ready to potentially sacrifice the country and great many Iranians for his goals.”

The author of this e-mail had continued:

“[He] should know that the American public and the government are justifiably angry and are going to retaliate very harshly…He must have heard the President saying that he is not going to distinguish between the perpetrators of these inhumane acts with the country that harbors them… How do you know Mr. Pahlavi [who was responsible, without investigation]? Shame on you.”

An American contributor to the disc list of the Iranians for International Cooperation had said:

“The U.S. reportedly dropped more bomb tonnage on Iraq during the Persian Gulf War than all the ordnance expended during the Second World War. The ability to retaliate is immense. Indeed Mr. Pahlavi has no concept of what he is inviting.”

I called and talked about this to a couple of my American friends. One said: “What Reza Pahlavi has said, given the gravity of the situation, is pure treason against his country.” Another American friend from New York said: “This is the era of PR my friend…The military industrial complex needs for its puppets to be more than ruthless and power hungry these days…Stupid puppets need not apply.”

I finally went to bed before midnight on Wednesday Sept. 12. My sleep was a bit less agitated than the previous night. I was so tired, so tired of people who say they love their country, love humanity, but all they love is their own selfish interests.

Nostradamus was right?

On Thursday Sept. 13, I woke up at 6:00 AM. I found the following e-mail on the discussion list of the Persian Watch Cat (antidiscrimination.org):

“Someone just forwarded this to me; I’m not a believer in this sort of thing–but found it interesting, if nothing else..

Nostradamus 1654

In the City of God there will be a great thunder, Two Brothers [WTC?] torn apart by Chaos, while the fortress [pentagon?] endures, the great leader will succumb. The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.

In the year of the new century and nine months, From the sky will come a great King of Terror… The sky will burn at forty-five degrees. Fire approaches the great new city….

I found the specificity of this particular Nostradamus “prediction” particularly suspect, especially its second part. I wondered if it was a hoax. I know of some “Christian” fundamentalist groups in the US who insist that we are close to the second coming of Christ. They insist that Nostradamus’ predictions are accurate. I wondered if this group was behind the hoax, just to capitalize on the opportunity to get some attention.

Later in the afternoon, I found through an e-mail on the same discussion list that indeed this so-called prediction was a hoax. I guess it was too precise to be true. I did not have time to check into which groups or individuals were behind the lie. However, later on I felt a bit guilty about judging these possibly fanatical “Christian” fundamentalist groups without any evidence. I did not have time, however, to linger too much on my own imperfection. It sure is easier to find fault with others. Who wants to look inside nowadays?!

Searching for hope on the football field – part 2

Before noon, I finally had an idea on what peace gesture could be expressed in the Iran-Bahrain game. I composed the following e-mail and throughout the afternoon hours I sent it to as many sources as I could think of:

“Please pass this on to all who would ACT ON IT QUICKLY! Tomorrow is Iran-Bahrain Game at the Azadi stadium in Tehran. It is the first world cup sports event after the U.S. East Coast tragedy. I wanted to suggest that something symbolic be done before the game to show Iranian sympathy with the American people.

Perhaps, President Khatami (if he would go to the game) could release a white pigeon (kabootar) in the air –or maybe the players could each fly a white bird in order to show love for peace–or some similar gesture. If they decide to do it, this should be communicated via a press release to the wires/press (AP, AFP, BBC, etc…) to get coverage. Please pass this suggestion ASAP to whoever you think would act on it quickly. It is a unique opportunity. Thanks.” Moji Agha

In the evening, I saw in the news segment of the persianfootbal.com (PFDC)–to which I had sent my e-mail above several hours earlier, the following:

A Request to IFF Thursday, September 13, 2001 “PFDC has sent a letter to the Iranian Football Federation (IFF) in regards to the tragedy of the World Trade Center which left the whole world in state of shock. With this letter, PFDC and its members have requested that the Iranian players wear a black ribbon in their Friday’s game against Bahrain as a sign of solidarity and compassion with the people of the United States. Below you can find this letter in Farsi which was sent to IFF today.”

In the Persian Football Community Forum (message board) of the same website I found the following post by the “Iranman” :

“AFTER FIFA APPROVED THE GAMES TO GO AHEAD IN ASIA, IFF ANNOUNCED THIS MORNING THAT THERE WOULD BE A ONE MINUTE SILENCE BEFORE THE FRIDAY’S MATCH BETWEEN IRAN AND BAHRAIN IN THE AZADI STADIUM.”

I called the Arizona office of the Associated Press (AP) and gave them the news. The man who answered said he would pass it on to their international and sports wires and would notify AP people in Tehran.

It is about 11:30 PM now. I am planning to shave, take a shower and try to get some sleep. In a few hours, I am to go to the house of my friend, the father of Armin (the baby who came to this strange world on Tuesday Sept. 11, 2001), to visit the family for the first time after the baby’s birth, and to watch the Iran-Bahrain game live on their satellite TV at 6:00 AM Tucson time.

My intent needs no gift wrap

I have not had time to go out and buy a gift for the newborn. I have decided to take as a gift, a ceramic vase that my older uncle (dayee jaan) brought for me from Iran several years ago. I don’t have the time or the talent to properly gift wrap the little cobalt blue vase, in some box covered with some nice gift wrapping paper. I am taking it in a grocery bag. I know it is not graceful, but I figure they recognize my intent and forgive me for being a regular male. Afterall, my friend is a male football player and the baby is a boy. His mother will have to understand.

Good night for now.

Armin was wondering

It is now 9:00 AM friday Sept. 14 and I am back from my friend’s place where I saw with disappointment Iran’s 0-0 draw with Bahrain. Before the game started, I actually watched what has been reported in the following report, which I found in my first e-mail this morning:

“Tehran, Sept. 14, IRNA — Iranian and Bahraini soccer players on Friday observed a minute of silence before starting their match in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, to honor the victims of the terror attacks in the United States. It came after around 200 young Tehranis held a silent, candle-lit gathering in Tehran on Thursday evening, many wearing black in a sign of mourning.”

This was heartening. I hope it gets reported by the Western media widely. One funny comment brought needed laughter to the room when an Iranian commentator of the game was complaining about the poor quality of refereeing in the game. Most of the bad calls were against Iran, as usual. The commentator said: “The right side referee (linesman) calls every tackle as a foul, while the main referee will not call a foul unless you bring him a doctor’s note.” We laughed. It was also amazing how “fragile” the Bahrainy players appeared to be. They would fall on the ground as if they were leaves in a fall windstorm. I am sure wasting time in order to force a draw in Tehran was not on their minds at all!

As for the baby, although I insisted per Iranian custom, I did not get to see the little Armin, who was in sound sleep in the back bedroom. In the 15-minute break in between the two periods of the football game, as we were eating breakfast, Armin’s proud papa showed us his very first picture. With his large, open and alert eyes he was “reflectively” looking to the side, his little right fist underneath his chin. I said: “Wow, look at those eyes, he will become a philosopher.” His footballist father said: “He is asking, should I shoot or pass the ball?” As we were laughing, I silently wondered if he was reflecting on the meaning being born, as an Iranian-American, on Tuesday September 11, 2001.

An unlikely beneficiary of terror?

In another e-mail, I found about a report by the New York Times which “was apparently taken off their active list of articles” (on their website) but it “may be still available on-line.” In this report, a former right wing Israeli Prime Minister has been interviewed. Part of the report says:

“Asked tonight [last night] what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, replied, “It’s very good.” Then he edited himself: “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.”

The current Israeli Prime Minister has been reported as saying that this attack on the U.S. was the worst thing that could have happened to Arafat. It has been reported that in the past 72 hours the Israelis have killed at least 14 Palestinians.

The latest events

I watched the game this morning with my 16-year-old Iranian friend–the younger son of the family that I talked about above. He said that in his high school he has not been attacked but feels the stares of the other children. On my way back to my home/office, as I was dropping him off at his school after the game, I noted the long and suspicious gaze of a man, who could be the father of another child at the school. It brought back all the memories of the Oklahoma City Bombing. O, how I wish that the perpetrators of this atrocity the other day would turn out to be “regular” Americans! But the reports are to the contrary.

As it has been reported widely, there have been numerous incidents of hate crime, harassment, beatings, vandalizing and intimidation against “Middle Eastern/Muslim-looking” persons, families, businesses, buildings, and organizations around the U.S. if not around the world.

There has also been many many reports of such targeted people, including Iranians, showing their horror at the events, but also taking courageous individual and collective steps to express sympathy with the many victims of this tragedy, with their families, and with the American nation. I really feel resentful that we should be victimized twice. Not only we feel the weight of the tragedy, but also we have to shield ourselves. Because of this, I feel even angrier at the terrorists, but I know if I show my anger, I would be seen as dangerous. So, I feel as if I am taken hostage by ignorance.

It has been reported that the number of people killed in this incident is over 5000, over 200 of which died at the Pentagon. The number of casualties is estimated to be at least twice that number. Of the number of the dead, I fear that at least a couple dozen have been persons of Iranian origin. All the planes who were crashed were headed for California, where over a million Iranians live. It is truly horrible.

As I am writing these words, the National Public Radio is reporting that the FBI has released the name of 19 “suspects” (all apparently dead) as the actual terrorists who committed these suicidal acts of horror. It is reported that 7 of them have been pilots, at least one trained in a flight training school in Florida. All their names sound Arabic. The reports say that these are all member of the terrorist organization headed by Osama Bin Laden. They say that his organization has been technologically quite sophisticated. As a result of this, I wonder if our community is set to experience even more barriers to its technological advancement, just because we may be dangerous.

A few minutes ago (it is now around 1:00 PM, Sept. 14) I saw the interview on ABC with the U.S. Secretary of State (Foreign Minister), General Colin Powel. He talked about how much progress they have made in building the coalition to fight the “war” against terrorism. What disturbs me is that he said that this is a new kind of war, because the “enemy also lives among us.” Is our community moving toward being interred like the Japanese after the Pearl harbor attack? It has been said that the number of the victims of this terrorist attack is far higher than the number of people who died on that “day of infamy” over 50 years ago.

Finally: Absolutely positive proof that it wasn’t us

I am tired of all this, but I cannot give in to fear. I cannot to give in to helplessness, hopelessness. Rather, I am going to insist to keep hope alive. I am going to try my hardest to be a human being. I am even going to laugh.

To this end, I hereby present a bitterly funny observation of these tragic events by one of the most prominent political satirists of contemporary Iran: Mr. Ibrahim Nabavi. I found this satiric gem in one of my latest e-mails this afternoon. He says:

“Tuesday’s operation was [reportedly] the result of punctual team work of a group of 50 terrorists. Since Iranians are always late for all events and usually don’t get involved in any [serious] team work, positively they could not be responsible for these attacks. If a group of 50 Iranians [ever mange] to make a plan for a [terrorist] project, before they can materialize it they would split into a few separate groups and destroy each other, before they get a chance to inflict any harm on anyone else.” CP

Moji Agha is a visiting scholar at the Center For Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He recently founded a non-profit center for inter-cultural and interfaith dialogue.

CounterPunch’s Complete Coverage of the Attacks on the World Trade Center/Pentagon