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What I Think I’ve Seen

by Ali Zaoua

My name is not Ali Zaoua. Ali Zaoua is the title of a Moroccan movie directed by. It is also the name of the main character in the movie, a homeless kid in the streets of Casablanca who dreams of a better life as a skipper on a boat. Why a boat??? Maybe because the sea is the only pure, peaceful space left on this world.

I have seen this movie the Saturday preceding the terrorist acts of New York and Washington DC; Two horrible acts that have put so many things in perspective. The title of this piece was inspired by a column in the French newspaper “Jeune Afrique”. The editorial from the author Bachir Ben Yahmed is called “What I believe” (“Ce que je crois”). However, things are moving so fast, and we are so blinded from truth that “What I believe I have seen” is a more appropriate title to my short stories than “What I believe”.

It is in a state of profound confusion and depression that I have started to write this piece. Where will it lead me? God only knows.

I am Arab (partly if not completely) and Muslim. Although my life has not been shattered like the hundred of thousands who have lost loved ones in the terrorist acts, it has nonetheless been seriously shaken.

Most of the people in the developed world (“as we call it”) live a “regular” life consisting of work and other materialistic things. Until very recently, I was one of those people. I am married and have a decent job with a Medical equipment company. My main concerns until a few days ago, were to try to earn more, save more, afford a house and be able to send my baby daughter and another one on the way to very good schools. I love politics and was to a certain extend involved in the world problems. I have after all lived in three continents and I am after all African, Arab and Muslim. I have felt (although not publicly voiced it) anger and frustration at the lack of intervention of world powers to help the Palestinians in their justified struggle to liberate their land. I have felt and still feel anger for the millions of Iraqi kids that have been killed by bombing and embargo. Was the war against Sadam Hussein justified? No doubt in my mind. What about the embargo and constant bombing in Iraq for the last 11 years? Is the population of Irak responsible for Sadam Hussein’s action? It would be hard to find a rational person that would argue that this was a justified response. Was not there an injustice committed in Iraq? Is it normal that Palestinian territories be occupied for 34 years without the people of the developed world asking their leaders to take action or to voice their disapproval of that occupation? Those injustices involved to a certain extent the governments of the United States and Israel. Where the people in both those countries responsible for this injustice? NO, NO, NO and NO.

I used to believe that the Palestinian terrorist acts were a punition to the Israeli government. The magnitude of the disaster of New York City and Washington has shaken the foundation of my beliefs. The Palestinians will not have their independent state because Israelis died in a pizzeria, and the US will not stop bombing Iraq because thousand of innocent people died in America. I was never as convinced as today that violence could not be a human response to violence and that it can not solve problems. Today, because of the horrible, inexcusable, terrifying events that took place in NYC and Washington DC something changed in the way I perceive the world.

I understood that the cycle of violence will not only kill humans, but it will also kill the humanity in us.

Unfortunately that click did not occur with many leaders in America and the rest of the Middle Eastern world who had last experienced a horrifying event of this magnitude in the early forties (Pearl Harbor).

Our leaders react: Will war bring us closure and understanding?

On the weekend following the disaster, I did a few things. I have gone to the mosque on Friday to pray for the victims and their suffering relatives. Friday was declared a day of prayers and mourning by president Bush. At the Santa Clara mosque, this holy Muslim day was an opportunity for the Imam to remind us that Islam meaning peace in Arabic is a religion of rightness, tolerance and guidance. The acts that were committed in NYC and DC cannot and will not be justified in Islam.

The other thing I did on the weekend was to buy a book titled “Islam in Democracy” from a renown Moroccan sociologist, professor Fatima El Mernissi. Ms. El Mernissi wrote her book after the gulf war in 1991. In the first pages, Ms. El Mernissi exposes the lack of understanding in the Arab world for an action of war to seek peace. Today, I voice a similar concern. The reason I do voice this concern are many. The embargo and bombing of Iraq has obviously not brought justice to the region. Saddam Hussein is still in power and the only result of the Iraqi war is the death toll of innocent people in Iraq and the suffering of the once still alive, none of which are guilty of invading Kuwait. I can help to think that a similar war offensive against Afghanistan will lead to the same result. A majority of innocent Afghanis will probably die and suffer the same way they are suffering under the Talibans and their hatred will someday be at the roots of other terrorist acts. It may have been wrong for me a Moroccan to expect another reaction from President Bush and his administration, but I did. Some will tell me that the irresponsible policies from some middle-Eastern leaders are even more extreme than the one preached by Bush and his administration. I will agree.

However, it is from a country of liberty and freedom and acceptance that you would expect tolerance and justice. If the Americans and Europeans do not preach a message of peace, justice and tolerance, then the last hope for a more human world will be forever gone. If we do answer dictator actions (such as Saddam Hussein’s invasion) with more injustice, we will feed into the cycle of violence. The US government and people should know better. A Iraqi or an Afghan bombing the US as a suicide bomber will never be right. His actions will always be appalling, horrible and wrong. But if we do not try to understand the reasons of his actions (which could be the destruction of his country, the death of his people), we will not solve the problem and will further the cause of violence.

In the last few days, I have heard Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Barak and Mr. Sharon asking all the governments to choose the side of the civilized world against the one of darkness.

In the last few days I have chose my side. It is one of a few responsible organizations such as the “KPFA” radio station in Berkley, such as “In These Times” magazine, (and, of course the “Counterpunch” website) such as the “not in my name” organization. Those represent the civilized work. They are the ones fighting against violence. They are also fighting. But their fight is a fight for understanding, truth and justice. The people inflicting terror on us are driven by despair and injustice. They need help and not violence.

Do not get me wrong: I condemn terrorism and the latest attacks in NYC and Washington DC. I just believe that there is a different way to fight it.

Peace on Earth. CP

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