Searching for the Roots of 9/11

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Searching for the Roots of 9/11 is a documentary which aired on the Discovery Channel in 2003. It is hosted by New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman


Arab sentiment towards Americans and seeks to explain the factors that contributed and ultimately caused the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 in an effort to help Americans better understand the tragedy and prevent similar events from occurring in the future. He feels that civilization cannot truly be safe until we understand the roots of 9/11, because if we don’t fix the problems within civilization ("a war between the good guys and the bad guys"), we are going to continue to have a war between civilizations. At a time of war, he is searching for the answers to two fundamental questions: (1) what motivated the 19 young men to board planes to kill 3,000 of our American brothers and sisters, and (2) why did so many of their fellow Arabs applaud their actions?

Since 1981, Friedman has traveled widely covering Middle Eastern Affairs (including the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the First Palestinian Intifada, and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict) and has specialized in U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy, international economics, and the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat. By immersing himself in the Islamic culture, Friedman attempts to locate and articulate the source of the Arabs' intense anger towards Americans.

In this film, he explains the mixed feelings that Arabs had in response to 9/11 through a series of group and individual interviews. Many media outlets showed Arabs dancing in the streets in response to the reports of the Twin Towers falling, and Dyab Abou Jahjah, a Muslim political leader residing in Belgium, explained this. He states that while it was disturbing for Arabs to see people jumping out of the windows to their deaths, Arabs instead chose to focus on the notion that America finally got punched in the face. Jahjah also advances the point that George W. Bush educated the Arabs on the credence of killing. The collateral damage that resulted from the bombing of Iraq amounted to tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, yet the American justified this with the viewpoint that this unintended consequence is regrettable, yet acceptable. Arabs have adopted the American’s logic, and it is hypocritical for the Americans to condemn the attacks on September 11, as they were the ones disseminating the knowledge and approach that the Arabs utilized.

Omar Islam Shalaby recognizes that poverty, ignorance, and oppression may have been the causes of 9/11, but Arabs all want peace now. Arabs want to reach the stage where the battleground over Israel between the Arabs and the Jews ceases to exists, as Arabs want a better future for themselves and for their kids. Many Arabs are also learning to embrace democratic ideals. Since it has worked for many other civilized nations, many of these progressive thinkers feel it is in their best interest to make an attempt at democracy, and they feel that America should support them in this quest.

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