April 16, 2013

Boston: Where the Bombs Begin

Two bombs that exploded next to the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday killed three people and injured over a hundred. U.S. President Obama vowed to bring to justice those responsible for this "act of terror".

Egyptian journalist and blogger Nadia El-Awady voiced her reaction to the bombings in her most read worthy post: Boston: Why Arabs Like Me Are Horrified

In it, bravely and frank as is typical of her, she describes her reactions to the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the fears with regard to the new attacks yesterday in Boston. Her courage to tell what others rather keep a personal secret, is admirable. I felt compelled to answer and urge you to first read her post, before continuing here to read my reply.

When I saw the second plane fly into the WTC on September 11 – there was shock on my face and horror. Not, because this happened to the U.S., but because I knew that this happened to humans. The single mother battling hard with her two children after her husband had left her, the young man aspiring to become a scientist finding a cure to diseases, the old woman who had lost her husband and son in a car accident early and been alone and brave for 30 years, the businessman from abroad on a strenuous conference trip, working hard to ensure a living for his family and education for his daughter and son, the over 600 Muslims working in companies in the towers, being unaware of getting killed this very minute by so called 'Muslim' brothers – who were in fact no brothers nor Muslims but cold, pathetic terrorists and murderers.

These were the pictures that flashed through my head in a fraction of a second as I watched the plane plunge into the tower and explode in a fire ball. How could I have smiled, knowing that humans, real living human individuals were pulverised to nothing in this very moment? It wasn't the U.S. that was getting attacked in that very minute, it were humans, humans of flesh and blood, all the humans I had in my mind. And it was visible if the vision was not, for whatever reason, blurred.

I have had more than my fair share of anger over the U.S. (and that is putting it very euphemistically). But when the bombs exploded in Boston yesterday, I only saw the people, the humans torn to pieces and killed. The 8 year old boy, who was so proud that his father had run the marathon and reached the finish line, or the woman who had perhaps managed to fight a terminal illness and was just getting back on her feet, the young man, who had successfully made it through high school and thought his whole life lay before him – how could I see them other than 'humans', how would any other 'label' fit but 'humans'?

Some say: The U.S. was attacked. And to them that is the truth. That was the plan of those who planted those bombs. They wanted to 'attack the U.S.', and sometimes this gives a feeling of satisfaction to people, who do not realise that they are falling for the trap laid out for them by the bomb planters.

No, whatever they tell us or want us to say, it wasn't the U.S. attacked yesterday in Boston but innocent human beings: boys, girls, women and men – humans like you and me. And vice versa it also wasn't 'an Arab' or 'a Muslim' or whoever who planted those horrific bombs, but a coldhearted, pathetic murderer, like you sadly find them in any society around the world. There are murders happening in the Western world by Westerners that, regarding brutality, easily match this bomb attack. Not in numbers, but in ruthlessness. So how can a label of nationality or religion explain anything where inhumane horror is concerned, where we are talking of tearing young children's bodies apart for the sake of power and greed?

We must learn to do away with these labels that never tell us any truths but only help to manifest what the murderers want: That as a human community we fall apart, that our compassion for our fellow humans is halted, that we become divided into labels and camps of 'U.S.' and 'Arabs' and 'Muslims' and 'Christians', of 'Blacks' and 'Whites', of 'good' and 'bad' – into labels of 'them' and 'us' – of 'they' and 'we' – into never making it together.

A mother crying over her bomb torn boy cries the same, whether in Baghdad or Boston. The pain is no different. Why then should we allow the killers, who inflict these pains, to divide us into groups where the same very horrific pain over a dead child becomes a 'their pain' over an 'our pain'? Why play into the hands of those who kill and triumph if we fall for the categories they have decided for a distorted world of hate and power?

It is the categories in our heads that tear us apart. The bombs come later. If we would understand this, there would be no room for smiles, nor now for the fear to learn of the nationality of a bomb planter, of hearing, he might be "one of us", of dreading to "learn how far behind we will fall yet again". Because, no matter what he says and perhaps even believes, he did not plant that bomb as an Arab, or a Muslim, or a Christian, or an American. He planted these bombs as a pathetic, mentally disturbed, sick person full of hatred for himself and others. And he wants us to join him in his madness of thinking so he can feel that he's not alone with his disease.

I won't go along. You were never an Arab to me Nadia, and not a Muslim. You were a human being. The rest was a colourful and wonderful add-on that helps shape your personality. Nothing more. But nothing less. Like my add-ons, you like or dislike. Some we share, some we don't. But your tears are like mine, your smile is too – well, your laughter is a lot louder than mine, I admit it, but hey, there's got to be some difference! – you're a woman, I'm a man, you're a human, and so am I.

If one day – God save us from this – we both should get killed in a bomb blast in a terrorist attack, will you die as an Arab and I as a Westerner? Or won't we both die as the humans we were? Will anyone try to tear us apart even in death, in you 'the good' and me 'the bad' or vice versa? How dare anyone? We are humans. And as such we meet, and if fate wants it, we die.

Let us embrace our heritage, our cultures, our beliefs, our nationalities, as a unique personal gain and a richness of our diverse world. Let us respect and treasure it. But in the end – if we don't remove the labels of otherness from our heads in life and in death we play into the hands of those who plant bombs and horror. And with that we will never be able to stop the terrorists from doing their horrific deeds. Not on the ground. And – much more dangerous – not in our heads.

It's there after all, were the bombs begin.


  1. There are 2 levels of meaning. One where the US/Kurds/Christians/women/Shiite/Jews/etc were attacked for their identities. One where they are attacked for not being soldiers.

    If you remember the 1st level of meaning you're not helping the terrorists, you're hurting them. Because they want to eradicate/marginalize/subjugate people's identities and you're saying "No. We stand in a pluralistic community side-by-side with those identities."

    If you TOTALLY forget the 2nd level of meaning, then Yes, you play into the terrorist's hands.

  2. Is not humanity pluralistic? On the logical, indisputable, I think you read into it so much you missed it level?