The emphasis must be on justice not revenge
Stabroek News
October 23, 2001

Dear Editor,

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 mark a watershed in the history of not only the United States but the world. The horrifying news that passenger aircraft had been used as live bombs to destroy the most visible symbols of American power stunned people across nations. The images of rubble and smoke that mark the mass grave of over five thousand innocent people will remain seared forever in the minds of an entire generation. The stories of courage and self-sacrifice of over three hundred fire and police personnel who lost their own lives in order to save others, will be remembered with gratitude by the future generations.

Anger was the most common reaction to this terrible tragedy. But anger can be a blinding emotion, and does not necessarily lead one to a response that is fair or even in one's own interest. In this hour of tragedy, despite our anger and pain, our hearts must humble themselves before the Creator, and reach for His Guidance. For this tragedy can either serve to perpetuate the cycle of hatred and violence, or mark a new beginning for the entire human race.

A government, angry and mourning is now responding with air attacks on Afghanistan, with threats of attacks on other nations as well. News of this military action is being tightly controlled, but the devastating effects of Tomahawk and Cruise missiles are well known. The scores of inevitable civilian deaths and the flagrant violation of international law have become insignificant issues on the altar of the thirst for revenge. The hijackers used civilian aircraft as messengers of death for innocent people. The attacks on Afghanistan have replaced civilian aircraft with sophisticated B-2, and B-52 bombers.

While we are entitled to seek justice, we must ask whether bombing a people that have been beleaguered with war for the past twenty-two years will be successful in punishing the perpetrators of the inhuman acts of September 11. Will these attacks be an effective deterrent against future acts of terrorism? If these attacks result in killing those who were not responsible for the tragedy, will they not spawn more people blinded with hatred?

Those who perpetrated the horrendous acts of September 11 had lost their humanity and were akin to wild beasts with only one thought in mind, to devour their prey. These persons, so depraved, only wanted to bring death and destruction because of their hatred for the United States of America. They killed indiscriminately, and in doing so, posed a challenge to the values of an entire nation. Do we kill their innocents, just as they killed our innocents? Do we kill multitudes to punish a handful? Do we use our overwhelming superiority in military power to bomb the country of the perpetrators back to the Stone Age? It is our response to these questions that will shape the future of the human race.

The universe is constructed on what the Qur'an calls the mizan, or a balance. That balance is justice. The Glorious Qur'an says:

"And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice), In order that ye may not transgress (due) balance, So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance" [Al-Qur'an 55:9]

Justice is essential to maintain the balance of the human mind. Whenever any human being is deprived of justice, the mind is inclined to imbalance. The greater the injustice, the greater is the likelihood of imbalance. In democratic societies and in civilized nations, institutions are established for the redress of grievances, and the success of granting to those who seek the redress of their grievance and having it done ensures the balance of the human mind.

One of the requirements of justice is respect for the rule of law. Undoubtedly we must do our utmost in apprehending those who were responsible for the evil acts committed on September 11. We must seek justice through the institutions that were established to redress grievances between nations and to punish those guilty of crimes against humanity, namely, the United Nations and the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Allowing blind hatred to subvert the authority of these institutions cannot serve the cause of justice, but only the cause of hatred and injustice.

In our quest for justice we must also empathize with those who are seeking justice in other parts of the world. The Palestinians have been seeking justice for more than half a century. They have cried out in every forum for the redress of their grievances and justice has not come. They live in refugee camps, are scattered throughout the world and every day they live with the horror of what they suffer. People in Chechnya, Iraq, Uzbekistan and several places across the world, are suffering the horrors of state terrorism on a daily basis. This state of affairs causes some minds to become imbalanced to the degree that life has no more meaning, for there is no joy in being free if there is no justice. If we are to seek a lasting peace for this world, we must address the structural imbalances that perpetuate such unjust and oppressive systems.

It is time therefore, to reaffirm our commitment to peace and justice. For these two go hand in hand. It is the deprivation of justice that leads to the disruption of peace. Let September 11 mark a process of renewal and rekindling of the human spirit. We must seize the moment to remember that our identity as human beings supersedes our nationality or race.

Yours faithfully,

Fazal Aliahmad

Editor's note

Mr bin Laden could be taken, if captured alive, before a special court like the one set up to try Mr Milosevic, not the International Court of Justice at The Hague.