This year marks 20 years since the events of September 11, and the deaths of over 3000 Americans, caused by planes crashing into the World Trade Centre towers and pentagon. The subsequent US led Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), has seen dozens of countries invaded, including Afghanistan, and Iraq. Drones have been used to target supposed militants, with dire impacts on civilians, and the US has built tens of bases and forward deployment operation centres across the world, especially in Africa and the Middle East. domestically within the West, Muslims have been targeted, scrutinized and in many instances arbitrarily arrested. Further, dictatorial regimes, including in China and parts of the Middle East have labelled their opponents and dissidents ‘terrorist’, providing them the leverage and international legitimation to adopt violent means of suppression.
Speaking to Radio Islam International, Anas Mustapha, spokesperson for the UK based advocacy group CAGE, noted how the GWOT has led to borderless forever wars, especially in Muslim countries, with over a million being killed and over 30 million displaced as a result. “So the response to nine 11 set in motion 2 kind of wars, the concept of forever wars and wars without borders, without limits, without oversight and accountability at all… domestically in each country, the GWOT has had implications, such that we have seen the introduction of new laws, new policies, which have eroded our freedoms, our rights, and have led us to a situation where, for example, in the UK, It’s very openly acknowledge that secret evidence is used in a number of high profile legal cases, And in fact, even introduced in cases where there’s differences between spouses.”
Mr Mustapha also noted how policies such as the UK’s prevent have been implemented, and opposition to these have been delegitimised, even in Europe and the UK. Further, he noted how states such as China have begun co-opting these laws as a means of control and coercion. “So, we see in many countries across the world, they don’t necessarily have a terrorism problem. They don’t have any of these issues in their history, but they have terrorism rules. These are designed to crush descent to limit political opposition and to straight jacket people. Accepting the knowledge from the state on all issues is that it’s used as a form of control and coercion.
Mr Mustafa also noted how most of the countries and people targeted were Muslim. Further, he noted how this has othered people, especially Muslims outwardly practicing their faith, including the wearing of the Hijab. He further cautioned against dominant language and concept usage, especially in Muslim media, “But now one of the things that fuels these prejudice policies is the language and terminology that’s constantly used, particularly within mainstream media. Every day you hear things like ‘extremist, Islamist, Jihadist.’
Twenty years later there is a reckoning about the impacts of these forever wars. This does provide space for questioning dominant narratives and needs to be instrumentalised.