Islam, July - Sept 2009

Who Are the Real Terrorists?

By Ghadah Ali Gutierrez

Many moons ago, my people lived. We existed peacefully in a beautiful land unmarred by progress. Although occasional inter-tribal conflicts arose, they were quickly dealt with and life continued. We had no highways, no televisions, no computers, and yet we were happy. Food was plentiful, as was clean water and air. We lived by the seasons and moved according to the movement of the buffalo. The entire continent was our home, and we lived in harmony with her. Grandmother earth extended her arms to enfold us, and the people were well.

Then they came. Came with their manifest destiny and declaration of independence. Independence for whom? Our freedom was taken, our children were taken, and our land was taken. Many things were given to us as well, alcohol which out bodies were not equipped to metabolize, diseases for which there were no cures and to which we had no resistance. We were relegated to inhospitable plots of land where nothing would ever have a hope of growing and expected to make a life there. We became a people lost.

Nearly 500 of our tribes became extinct. Our children grew up not with fresh air and water, but with concrete and drugs. Our elders were no longer allowed to die in the comfort of their homes, but were put into white man’s nursing homes. Our warriors were good enough to fight in wars of the white man’s making, but were not good enough to be treated like men in their own country. Our families disintegrated and became dependent on the white man’s welfare system. Our mothers grew fat, our fathers lazy. We were shunned by society and made ashamed of who we were, in our own land.

In the time of Five Rabbit, my people lived. We were an advanced society, well versed in medicine, in astrology, and in art. We were a creative society, producing some of the most beautiful objects the world has ever seen. Our gardens were fragrant and enticing beyond imagination. Our crops grew with the help of an advanced irrigation system of our own invention. We had sophisticated systems of government and military. We were a spiritual people, our religion was tightly interwoven with our every day lives. Our great temples, architectural marvels, rose in tribute to our deities. We had cities fabled as built of gold; while not truly of gold, our cities were large and flourishing. Our warriors fought bravely and our enemies captured and sacrificed to appease the never-ending appetite of our gods. We were a mighty people, brave and feared, but above all, respected.

But then they came, tall, pale men covered in hair and metal. Pretending to be our friends, they raped our women, murdered our warriors, and enslaved our children. All was lost to their greed for gold. The great rulers, Montezuma and Cuauhtémoc, were overtaken and killed. They knew nothing of respect or honor. Lies and deception were the most effective tools they possessed. No regard was given to our sciences, we were nothing but a lot of backwards pagans. When the smoke settled, our people were extinct, never again to walk the earth.

On the plains of Serengeti, our people lived. Proud and strong; hunters and warriors. We needed nothing from the outside and asked nothing of anyone. We were a brave people, content to fight for only what we believed to be ours without the thought of impinging upon the rights of the other tribes. We worshiped, we celebrated, and we danced. Our world was safe and our way of life ancient. We loved and admired nature and respected all of her powers and her ability to provide for us while asking nothing in return. Stately giraffes, regal lions, and immense elephants roamed freely through the land that we knew was not ours, but only ours to borrow for a time.

And then a great change came over the land. Our kings were captured and sent in tiny, filthy ships to a strange land far, far away. Woman were sold to traders for slavery in a land we had never heard of. Never again would we have families – or freedom. Those that did not die onboard the ships, went on to live a life not fit for an animal. We were bought and sold like cattle and treated with less respect than livestock. Our women were raped repeatedly and forced to bear the children of our oppressors while our own children were sold off. The men were beaten savagely until nothing remained of their will and their memories of a better time.

Now our people live. In our great country where freedom is valued above all else, our right to practice our religion and dress as we please is in grave danger. Our mosques are counted and watched, our leaders suspect. Organizations that provide for the needy and helpless are accused of financing terrorists. All immigrant men of certain races are required to register with authorities and yet their permission to be here can be revoked on a whim. Their potential contributions to society are ignored. Even Americans are no longer exempt from harassment, both by common people and politicians.

Because of the acts of a few, our entire way of life is in danger. Our religion is one of beauty and peace, and yet daily we are portrayed as bloodthirsty savages. Our contributions to science, medicine, and the arts are downplayed as an aberration or downright ignored. Our women, once free to walk the streets garbed in modesty and secure in the protection of their garments are now shamed while brazen, half-dressed women are admired and respected. Our children are heckled in the street and called such names as “bin Laden lover” or “habib.” Jokes circulate through all gatherings and on the Internet defiling our way of life. Even the politically correct feel that it is all right to defame our way of life. Daily, we lose more of our basic freedoms, those freedoms by law guaranteed to all who reside within these shores.

Webster’s dictionary defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” The entire history of the United States and Mexico could well be defined within these terms. The numbers speak for themselves.

During the period of 1865-1890, the so-called Indian Wars, an estimated 35,000 Natives were killed. According to Selected Statistics on Slavery in the United States (http://members.aol.com/jfepperson/stat.html), there were 3,953,696 slaves in the U.S. in the year 1860 alone. Because slaves were considered livestock, mortality records are difficult to come by, but it is a well-known fact that millions of slaves died from disease, malnutrition, abuse, and hundreds of other causes. Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec empire, had a population of 300,000 when Cortes put an end to life, as they had known it. As only one city in Pre-Columbian South and Central America, it nonetheless puts into context exactly how many lives were lost by colonization.

There is no denying that the events of 9/11 were tragic; 5000 innocent lives were lost needlessly. But before casting stones and declaring wars against other countries, perhaps the United States needs to glance back in its history books. The government of the United States has demonstrated over and over again their willingness to commit genocide. Who are the real terrorists?