Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Legacy of Hate


It is time to heal ourselves now

A children’s coloring book recently published by Big Coloring Books, Inc., in St. Louis, titled,We shall never Forget - The Kids Book of Freedom has sparked much controversy of late. It claims to be a tribute to the victims of 9/11, but many are questioning its deeper agenda.
Responding to criticism, Wayne Bell, the publisher of the book, has denied it advocates anti-Muslim sentiment. He was quoted on Abc News as saying, “This book under no way… zero, zero… no way… mentions Islam or Muslims…it does not mention Islam in generalities...” He claims the book was “created with honesty, integrity, reverence, respect and does not shy away from the truth.” However, a cursory glance through the book makes one pause to consider the implications of the message it appears to advocate – albeit unintentionally, if we are to honor Wayne Bell’s words.
To begin with, the phrase ‘radical Islamic Muslim extremists’ appears ten times through the course of its 36 pages, and in one section the book claims: “These attacks will change the way America deals with and views the Islamic and Muslim people around the world…”, connecting all Muslims living in countries around the world to 9/11, and making no attempt to distinguish between the small minority engaged in promoting violence and the majority of peaceful Muslims worldwide. It might be true to say that the attacks have influenced the American foreign policy towards Muslim countries since 9/11, but the last decade has also brought to us the sad reality of how America has changed the way it deals with its own Muslim citizens, where despite assurances otherwise embedding of FBI informans pretending to be Muslim converts inside mosques are now old stories. This has been widely criticized as a counter-productive measure since it appears to treat all Muslims as part of the problem.
 On a more personal level, Americans now view their fellow countrymen with suspicion and hatred. This has alienated huge sections of the society and pitted communities against each other which should have been working to buid relationships. Similarly, institutions that should be working in collaboration with each other to defeat violent extremism end up being in collision due to lack of trust. This situation has undermined the strength of the American society and created fissures in the beautiful mosaic of ethnicities, cultures and Faiths that America has always been proud to host.
The book also makes other observations that appear to be unfounded and based on conjecture, for example, “Children, the truth is, these terrorist acts were done by freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists. These crazy people hate the American way of life because we are FREE and our society is FREE.” The simple fact of the matter is that 9/11 and later acts were not carried out by individuals who hated the American way of life, but by individuals who have used their religion as an excuse to further their personal agenda. Terrorism is all about power and control, and terrorists of all affiliations use excuses to further their agenda, and gather support from the like-minded. A simple question we can all ask ourselves is, if the supremacy of Islam is the main motivation for these self-proclaimed defenders of faith, why do they continue to kill innocent Muslim men, women and children in staggering numbers in Muslim countries?  No one can refute the fact that the 9/11 bombing was carried out by individuals who were Muslim. We know they were Muslims because they believed themselves to be, and we have to accept how a person wants to define himself,  but why are we failing to make a clear distinction between them and the mainstream Muslims?
Perhaps the American nation needs to pause for a moment and try to make sense of the cacophony of messages it receives from multiple sources, each with its own agenda, and reflect not only on the immediate impact of the sad event of 9/11, but also the long term effects of the decisions they make today that will shape the lives of their future generations. The periodic resurfacing of hateful agendas may be the price of living in a free society, as a dear friend pointed out to me, but freedom also comes with responsibility – a responsibility for everyone, but more so for those who may not be on the receiving end of this campaign of hate but who believe in upholding justice and fairness for all. It is only when the silent majority stands up to deny anyone the opportunity to contribute to further disintegration of societal fabric that we will begin to heal.
The publisher’s claim, if we are to acknowledge as credible, that the book has already sold out of its first print run of 10,000 copies should be a cause of alarm for all of us. Can we hope that more parents will begin to make a conscious choice to not let anyone pass on a legacy of hate to their children? Can we, indeed, hope to leave a better world for our children based on tolerance and respectful engagement?
Let us say, “Enough!” and move on now. We owe our children a future full of hope, not regret. 

A version of this article was published in Sharon Patch as Divided, We Fall 


  1. Wow, I had heard vaguely of that book, but not of its claim that the attacks were motivated by a hatred of freedom. What naive nonsense! There is a good and intriguing article about this by John Mearsheimer here:

    "One possibility is that al-Qaeda and its supporters loathe us because of who we are; in other words, this is a clash of civilizations that has arisen because these extremists hate Western values in general and liberal democracy in particular. Alternatively, these groups may hate us because they are furious with our Middle East policies. There is an abundance of survey data and anecdotal evidence that shows the second answer is the right one. Anger and hatred toward the United States among Arabs and Muslims is largely driven by Washington’s policies, not by any deep-seated antipathy toward the West."

  2. Thanks for your comment, Shane. Alternate media does have a very different take on world politics than the mainstream.


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