Of September 11, 2001

10. “The Stockholm Syndrome
and American Muslim Intelligentsia”

In the aftermath of September 11th, American Muslim Intelligentsia are suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome without even knowing what it is.  This is a term in Psychiatry in which the disease manifests when the victim, for example a captive sympathizes with his captors and takes up the cause of the captors or oppressors as his own cause in order to get special privileges.  The syndrome was first described after World War II during the trial of war criminals in which captives of war criminals identified themselves and sympathized with their captors and even cooperated with them during concentration camps.  Thus, they themselves became the tools of the oppressors, acting on their behalf in order to gain their sympathy and be in their “good book”.  In more recent days, the syndrome was best manifested by the behavior of Patty Hearst who was kidnapped by SLA and then participated in the theft and violence by SLA while being their captive. 

             The response of most of the American Muslim Intelligentsia to the tragedy of September 11th is in two extremes, both suffering from the same syndrome.  At one extreme is the group most visible on the internet,  still working on the conspiracy theory, that is this evil act was done by the work of Mossad, the CIA, the Pentagon, the Militia or the remote control devices blowing up the World Trade Center, completely denying the possibility that it could have been the evil act and plot by Muslim  Terrorists.  This group did not say enough to the fellow Americans that this act was an attack on humanity and not just on America, an attack on innocent civilians and even on the peaceful religion of Islam.  Thus, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, this group became a manifestation of the disease, identifying themselves with those terrorists who might have done it and even justifying their actions. 

             On the other extreme is the group of Muslim intelligentsia, who after recovering from the shock of September 11th, suffered from unwarranted guilt complex and became apologetic.  After visits by the FBI, they realized that they must make a politically correct statement now in order to save American Islam and their own leadership.  Otherwise, they may not get invited again to the White House parties.  They had to change their external outlook, tone of speech and writing, and even retracted and regretted their statements given before September 11th against the “super power”.  Now, some of them are telling the same American Muslim audience, whom they incited before against America that “if you do not like the West, go back to your own country”.  Another prominent writer wrote, “ the Muslims are hypocrites of grand scale,  in opposing the oppression by Israel, Serbia and Hindu but when the same acts are done by Al Qaeeda and other Muslim terrorist groups they look the other way”.  True, but apples and oranges can not be compared.  Two wrongs do not make one right and there is no trade off, i.e. we must choose between two types of terrorists, two groups of oppressors and accept state terrorism over the group or individual terrorists.  Another group of Muslim intellectuals find someone else to blame rather than accept responsibility.  Not too long ago, I was on a public forum at a Town Hall meeting.  My other counterpart speaker was an Afghan origin Professor who put all the blame of the recent trouble with the Taliban on Pakistan in creating, training and sponsoring Taliban terrorism.  Those who are true students of Taliban history know this is not true fact.  Talibans were created and strengthened with the help of CIA and the American government.  This Afghan Professor never acknowledged the help given to mujahideens by Pakistan in fighting Russian aggression on Afghanistan.  He did not realize that if there was no Pakistan, Russian’s would have won their “great game” in very little time and conquered Afghanistan.  It was Pakistan who gave sanctuary to mujahideens and helped them with everything that they had to re-arm and regroup themselves to go back to Afghanistan and fight.  Again, the psychology of this Professor’s mind is nothing but Stockholm Syndrome in order for him to say something to please his captors. 

             The American media and the Jewish organizations, never a fan of Muslim intelligentsia in the past, are now out to discredit them even more, saying something like his to the  State Department policy makers and American people.  “ Do not believe these American Muslim leaders.  Look at what they wrote in the past and said in the National convention of Muslims 2 years ago.  Look at what they have actually done themselves to fight terrorism.  Look at what they said against the killing of Israeli’s like the Cabinet Minister Zeevi or Christian worshipers in a Pakistani church.  Do not listen to what they are saying now under the pressure, against Bin Laden or AL-Qaeeda”. 

             Thus, while our leadership is in disarray suffering from Stockholm Syndrome,  the average middle class, Mosque going Muslims who run grocery stores, are office workers or students, are totally confused at what they should do or say.  Should they side with the Muslim terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere or with the super power who is bombing the innocent civilians in hospitals and houses there in order to free the whole world of these terrorists.  How can we present Islam to those who stereotype, profile and even attack us?  On record are close to 1,000 cases of such hate crimes since September 11th.  Is the FBI our friend or our foe?  Will our children ever get admission to schools of flight training, biomedical research and nuclear physics or will we ever feel comfortable flying as a passenger in an airplane?  Will our women in hijab be able to go shopping without any fear?  The joy of being a Muslim in America is gone, at least for now.   All the progress we have made in the last 30 years is being reversed.  We have to start all over again.  How can we live our faith while we work  with those who defame it?  We American Muslims are going through the most difficult time in our history in this country.  These are difficult questions and I have no simple solution to offer.  My advise is to the mainstream ordinary American Muslims and not to the intelligentsia and leadership.  I hope and pray the latter get healed from Stockholm Syndrome and instill in us our stolen and bruised self esteem.  Even if they heal, I’m not sure if they will not relapse again.  Many of these leaders, especially those from overseas, tend to live in the past and not in the present.  While their bodies are here, their hearts and minds were left behind somewhere else.

             I suggest to myself and all ordinary American Muslims to wake up and take charge of our religion as we  have to take charge of our families, our health and our lives.  We should learn Islam for ourselves as a religion of love, peace and tolerance and prove it by our individual actions.  If we want to be counted as American Muslims, we must take all the concerns of Americans, whether terrorism, Anthrax, drugs, violence or even pollution as our own concerns.  We must show Islam by their actions, not by speeches, video tapes and pamphlets.  We must denounce all those who use religion for their political gain and denounce political powers who wish to abase religion of Islam.  Thus, we as ambassadors of Islam, must be careful in what we say and to whom we lend our ears and even our money.  We must reclaim our faith from the terrorists who hijacked it and also from the leadership who apologize for them.  We did not do anything wrong so we should not have low esteem.  Allah has chosen Islam for us and we are thankful for it.  As for the question being asked “are you with us or with the terrorists?”, we say “we are neither with the terrorists nor with those intent to terrorize us.  We are here to stay, vote and participate in the American process and we are neither going back no can we be interned.  Make no mistake!”

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Shahid Athar, MD
8424 Naab Road
Suite 2D
Indianapolis, IN 46260