Five Years Later: The Terrorists' 2001 Victory Over "Infidels."
By Sally Bishai (09/11/2006)

sallyMost people past the age of 13 can probably remember where they were and what they were doing on September 11th, 2001. And if people remember the tragedies as they occurred (as well as their own reactions), they might also remember the inconveniences that began soon after the acts of Twin Terror:

 having to arrive at the airport two hours pre-flight (rather than the previous and more-tolerable one hour); the increased probability that one might be pulled over for a “random check,” especially if one happened to have dark hair, a natural tan and/or an excellent case of five o’clock shadow; the lengthy checks of every single car entering through the gates of an international airport.

Then there was Richard Reid, “The Shoe Bomber,” who made it impossible for me to get through security wearing platforms or combat boots. (Since I would only have been forced to take them off, and since it would have taken me years to put them back on again, forcing me to arrive that much earlier for the flight, which would have meant... akh. Anyway.)

And who can forget about the Anthrax scare? White powders were seen as The Great Satan, and anyone carrying Bare Escentuals cosmetics (basically, jars of loose, somewhat pricey, but rather miraculous powder makeup) was seen as the AntiChrist.

Lately, however, with the more-recently attempted acts of terror (both in the States and abroad), Homeland Security’s airport branch has been banning lotions, gels and other quasi-liquids from carry-on luggage.

For example, the other week, boys at JAX (Jacksonville International Airport, and the bane of my existence) swiped a brand-new mascara ($18) and an almost-full tube of Britney Spears Deliciously Whipped Body Soufflé ($24) from my purse and pitched them into a beastly Rubbermaid Rubbish Bin of Doom, and I have a feeling that I may not be the only one that this happened to.

Point being: When are they going to stop?

I’m not saying that I don’t see the need for security measures and such, but when do they plan on stopping? Are we (God forbid) one day going to be denied carry-on luggage... or luggage in general? It feels like we’re on a slippery slope of retroactive retribution for the sins of a few.

Meaning, WE the (innocent) people are the ones being punished for the (potential) crimes of a relative few. Not that I think we should have NO security whatsoever, because that would be equally bad.

By the way, I am in no way detracting from the horror and tragedy of September 11th—only a monster could do that.

But if they could hijack a plane, they can hijack a train or a bus or an office building or a Wal Mart Supercenter. Any place that has lots of people. Any place that is an important symbol of Western freedom, mobility and economy.

And if box-cutters, liquids, gels, lotions and height-making shoes are the current tops of the “suspicious items” list for air travelers, I’m almost unable to imagine what the next vehicle for terror will be.

Maybe a bomb-concealing cell phone? Maybe a nicotine patch made of plastique? Or maybe the ubiquitous “they” will soon find a way to make an undetectable knife out of plastic or wood or stone? (And for those of you who fear that my ideas might actually be used, may I suggest that the bloodthirsty terrorists with honorary PhDs in Bomb Design have probably already thought of such things, so why should I hold back from making a mention here?)

But what if the terrorists abandon air travel as a battleground for their twisted ideals... what if college campuses are next?

After all, how difficult would it be to get a die-hard would-be-terrorist with movie-star looks infected with AIDS or some other highly communicable disease?

He could move through a few hundred people in a matter of months, creating a Lonely Hearts Club with a mortality rate (via pierced condoms or the whole “It’s SO much better without it” thing). I would have said “He or she” could move through a few hundred..” but

1- Islamic Fundamentalists don’t think women are worth much, from what I’ve heard,
2- incidence of female-to-male transmission of AIDS isn’t half as high as the reverse, and
3- well, 1 and 2 are enough.

Moving on, what about water supplies? How hard would it be to find some highly deadly yet slow-acting drug or poison, then get it into the water supply somehow?

You may be wondering, “Well, how could they get around security and actually have access to the water?”

Search me, but there ARE such things as murder, bribery, and blackmail. And for those of you who don’t actually drink tap water (I certainly don’t), what if the poison chosen can go through your skin? If you showered or washed your hands, you’d be done for. (Lest we forget the whole “LSD” thing.)

I could go on, ad nauseum, with scenarios that “the terrorists” could possibly hit us with (I did begin as a fiction writer, after all), but that might prevent me from sharing the moral of today’s story, which is this: The Terrorists Won.

I don’t mean that they won five years ago, when they killed thousands of people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, because they (sort of, and in a grisly manner) did Americans the favor of binding them together in the way people usually bond after a tragedy or crisis.

Rather, the terrorists won because we allowed ourselves to be terrorized by them. That is, we allowed them to scare us into changing our behavior. They WON when people turned into scared rabbits who have to travel in fear, sans Coppertone, Shower To Shower, and Visine.

Sure, we can carry our toiletries in checked baggage, but it’s just as easy for them (the beasts, I mean) to stash some new form of bomb in there, too. Not to cite James Bond in a serious discussion, but this checked-baggage bomb could be detonated by one of those clickie pens, and take down an entire jumbo jet, mid-flight.

(Contrary to popular thought, terrorists don’t just target airplanes for reasons of commandeering them... any show of “power” from them, together with any incidence of death or destruction of the “enemy” will please them. And, failing that, a group could always take responsibility for the miscreance and use that as leverage later on.)

Back to the matter at hand, however, the terrorists and their ilk also won when they infiltrated the country and then used America’s own anti-discrimination laws and “freedom of religion”-type policies against us, to house them, to allow them to make money that they put back into their operation, to spread their message, to allay the fears of a nation still bristling from the last attack, and to further their own ends.

(You could say they hijacked the nation like they hijacked those airplanes. And I’m talking radical Islam now, please don’t think I’m saying all Muslims are terrorists.)

Don’t know what I mean?

Then consider that public schools are allowed to teach and discuss Islam (in some cases there are programs that take young students through the steps of becoming a Muslim, including getting them on the floor to do that bowing thing, called a “Rakaa” in Arabic) BUT if the administration gets wind of Christian prayer going on in school, they’ll reprimand the teacher and maybe, just maybe, fire him or her. (Meaning the religions are treated unequally, even though no one’s actually killed in the name of Jesus for hundreds of years...)

Consider also what numerous Islamic schools in the U.S. are “innocent” of teaching their students.

From Daniel Pipes ( we hear that “seventh-grader Miriam told a Washington Post reporter in 2001, ‘Being American is just being born in this country,’” and that “eighth-grader Ibrahim announced that ‘Being an American means nothing to me.’”

From the same article we learn that “the Institute of Islamic Learning is a Canadian emulation of the extremist Deobandi madrassahs [schools] of Pakistan. It focuses exclusively on religious topics, has students memorize the Koran, demands total segregation from the Canadian milieu, and requires complete gender separation. Former students complained about the school's cult-like devotion to its head, Abdul Majid Khan, and complained that it is a ‘twisted religion.’”

Larry Cohler-Esses tells us that “at the Muslim Center Elementary School on Geranium Ave. in Flushing, Queens, a textbook for grades 6 through 8 teaches that Jews ‘subscribe to a belief in racial superiority. … Their religion even teaches them to call down curses upon the worship places of non-Jews whenever they pass by them! They arrogantly refer to anyone who is not Jewish as ‘gentiles,’ equating them with sin.” (From )

Finally, we come across this snippet from “Sharh Kitab Eltawhid,” 8th grade, published 2001, page 43:

"The Jews and the Christians are the enemies of the believers. They will not be favorably disposed toward Muslims and it is necessary to be cautious (in dealing with them)."

Then it goes into discussion questions like:

“With what types of weapons should Muslims arm themselves against the Jews?"

Additionally, “this textbook explains why Jews and Christians were cursed by Allah and turned into apes and pigs. Quoting Surat Al-Maida, verse 60, the lesson explains that Jews and Christians have sinned by accepting polytheism and therefore incurred Allah's wrath. To punish them, Allah has turned them into apes and pigs.” (Source,

American Congress for Truth also points out that “15 out of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and were taught such education.”

Now, you may be wondering why it’s a crime to be teaching Islam to students, many of whom belong to one minority or another, and many of whom belong to immigrant parents.

Here’s how I see it: these kids are already suffering from an identity crisis as a result of growing up one place and belonging to another.

In fact, psychologist J.W. Berry would say that these first-generation kids could fall into one of four modes: separation (hating the new culture and embracing their parents’), marginalization (being neither new culture nor parents’), assimilation (fully embracing the culture they live in, while shunning their parents’ culture) or integration, the healthiest option (whereby the child is a mix of both old and new cultures).

The problem of which I speak arises when the child feels torn from his parents’ culture, and wants to grab on to anything that will make him (or her) feel closer to it.

For example, I might place great value on listening to Abdel Halim Hafez because he’s the most famous (and best) Egyptian singer of all time. Or, I might insist on marrying someone Fresh Off the Boat from Egypt, despite the fact that I might not even speak Arabic. (I do, however.)

At the other end of the spectrum, a Muslim child (of any non-Western nationality) may also run into problems because of his or her dead-giveaway appearance or name. (And I don’t need to tell you that every single “Ahmed Mahmoud” or “Aysha Mohammed” is NOT guaranteed to speak Arabic...or even practice Islam, for that matter.)
These problems might range from something as minor as a racial joke or a bit of mild harassment all the way to being taken in or arrested on suspicion to commit terrorist acts.

Taking my previous “grabbing onto whatever will prove I’m not a Westerner” theory further, we arrive come across Hammasa Kohistani, the first Muslim Miss England, who supposes that “even moderate Muslims are turning to terrorism to prove themselves. They think they might as well support it because they are stereotyped anyway.” (From )

So what’s the answer, then? Are we (the West) doomed to living in fear for the rest of our days?

I certainly hope not, and for two big reasons. First of all, we could just as easily be killed crossing the street (cliché, I know) but second of all, no matter what our actions are, there are some things we actually can’t control. Like:

“After the terrorist bombing in Bali in 2002, one man reacted by giving up traveling. Three years later, he finally took his family for a holiday in Bali, together with 50 tourists from Newcastle, Australia. The trip ended in tragedy when his family was caught in a suicide bombing at a café on Jimbaran Beach.” (

Why the man was obsessed with Bali, I couldn’t say, but the moral of THAT story (in a very roundabout way) is that 1- you can’t escape your fate, and 2- if you think that sitting around your house is safer than going out and living, or that induced cabin fever will protect “life and limb,” you might well live to the ripe old age of 97.

You might, however, have no friends, and spend all your time carrying on long conversations with your three cats (two of whom are imaginary) as well as the wallpaper.

And those limbs you stayed home to protect? They might just be riddled with pressure sores from extended hours on your plaid velveteen sofa.

Or, fate might really throw you a loop and toss a tree through the living room window and squash you where you sit on that sofa of plaid velveteen...

Sally Bishai is a writer and journalist who founded X Culture Magazine in January, 2004, and Photo X Quarterly in January 2005. She is also president of the Copt X Fellowship, a non-partisan group dedicated to promoting love, harmony, and respect among Egyptians (and friends). Sally is Egyptian American (or, more specifically, Coptic) and loves to tell people what that means! Her previous titles include "Mid-East Meets West: On Being and Becoming a Modern Arab American," and "Date like An Egyptian: The Egyptian's Guide to Finding a Mate...Or Date." Sally is the host of "Sally Bishai's 30 Minutes With," a webshow that largely focuses on Coptic, civil, and human rights issues, as well as topics dealing with the Middle East. Her documentaries include "Back To Square One? Fifty Years After Emmett Till," "Strange Behaviour: How Westerners Feel About Gender Roles in the Middle East," and the soon-to-be-released "Children of Kemet: The Copts, Culture, and Democracy of Egypt." Sally's blog, "The AntiSocialite," holds information about current projects, as well as impassioned articles about politics, current headlines, the trouble with society, and many other things that will probably end up getting her killed. (Check it out at ) Sally's Bachelor's of Science was in psychology, but her Master's and the Ph.D. she's currently working on are in speech and intercultural communication. She teaches various classes at the university level, and finds time to lecture (off-campus) about her books, her culture, and other controversial topics. Sally has worked in radio (international and "domestic"), fashion photography, and film, most recently working as a documentary filmmaker (as mentioned above). Her current project deals with the persecution of Egypt's Copts, which, if you'll remember, she happens to be.

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