WLUML statement on attacks in the USA

The network Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) wishes to extend its deepest condolences to the aggrieved, their families and the people of America following the crimes against humanity that were committed on 11 September 2001.
Our sorrow is particularly heartfelt because many of those linked through the WLUML network have directly experienced terror and the devastation that goes with it. And also because of our links of solidarity with allies in the women's movements and other progressive people in the US.
We know that indiscriminate violence and terrorism by state and non-state actors are a global phenomenon. We are particularly aware of the human cost of terrorism and war frequently perpetrated in the name of religion or belief systems. However we regard all of these as assaults on the principle of respect for civilian life.

Vengeance is not Justice
We urge the US and their allies not to pursue fruitless retaliation with military force. The world must focus on transparent investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice under the principles of international law through an appropriate forum such as an International Criminal Court (ICC).

Violence cannot eradicate terrorism. Many people in our communities are deeply distressed by these events but many are at the same time also angered by the poverty and deprivation, injustice and exploitation they experience; they are also angered by domestic and foreign policies that they perceive to be hypocritical. All of this can fuel extreme and violent attitudes. Ending terrorism requires addressing the roots of global inequality.

Misguided Retaliation?
It is WLUML's experience that terrorism in the name of Islam is a trans-national force. Politico-religious movements across the world are reinforcing each other through funding, military training, educational exchanges, joint international lobbying, etc. The profound impact on women can be seen, for example, through restrictions on access to education and limitations imposed on freedom of movement as well as changes in family laws that severely curtail women's legal rights.

And yet the current focus of retaliation is against one person and one country. If the US is talking about taking action against "those harbouring terrorists" it should consider that the US and the UK have both become safe havens for those who openly advocate violence against those who do not share their opinions. For example, Anouar Haddam, a leader of the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front, is currently seeking asylum in the US and numerous politico-religious extremists are operating out of the UK. Human rights concepts such as freedom of expression have been misused by some international human rights organisations as well as manipulated by governments and co-opted by politico-religious extremists, thereby giving unwarranted space and credibility to such views. Also Saudi Arabia has been bankrolling extremist Madrassahs in Pakistan where many Taliban supporters are being trained. It should be remembered that Bin Laden and the Taliban emerged in the context of Cold War confrontation and the vacuum of its aftermath. Global reaction should not be determined by US political and economic interests alone.

We are concerned that legitimate grief is being exploited as a cover for increased military spending - weapons that are aimed mainly at civilian populations. Such military action will cause further suffering to civilians elsewhere. After 20 years of war, Afghanistan is already destroyed while the intended "targets" have fled. Furthermore, Bin Laden and the Taliban are not Afghanistan.

The Consequences
The demonising of 'the other' has already increased, resulting in violent attacks on innocent individuals. Talk of 'crusades' is buying into the agenda of the perpetrators, at the risk of world war. Already the situation has given public exposure to previously unheard of fringe groups. And already there have been moves towards sweeping restrictions on civil liberties under the guise of this crisis. In those countries which will bear the brunt of any military action, the space for alternative positions will vanish. People may find themselves forced to make choices which they had no say in formulating. Any military action will de-stabilise an already unstable and nuclearised region. Women in Muslim countries and communities in particular may suffer the direct impact of militarisation and a potential backlash from politico-religious movements.