9/11 and our perception of the Muslim community nearly 20 years on

Peter Williams 11/09/2020

This is an op-ed written by Magic Talk Mornings host Peter Williams

OPINION: It is September the 11th, 19 years after the day that changed the world. What do you remember about that? Of course, it was actually September 12 in this country, but the way the Americans have phrased this particular date with their unique method of putting the month before the day of the month means that this day will be forever known around the world as nine-eleven. So this morning, I thought I’d invite you to share a few memories of 9-11. Where were you when you heard about it? Just how shocked and horrified were you when you saw those unbelievable images of the planes flying into the buildings? I’d be especially keen to hear from you if you were in New York or indeed anywhere else in the United States that particular day. 

And how much do you think this day changed the world? I guess the obvious change in our way of life in this country is in the way that the security industry has grown and become all encompassing in our daily lives. Remember before 9-11 we could go to the domestic airport, check-in and get on a plane without having to line-up and put our bag through a scanner and take out the laptop and take off our watch and then face the possibility of somebody in a uniform waving a metal detector around you. Has aviation security ever apprehended anybody in this country with something they shouldn’t have? It is, as we know a total pain in the bum being scanned and searched - and it’s all because of 9-11.

It’s the same at big sports events or outdoor concerts. Your bag is searched. Your water bottle is emptied. It is ridiculous. It’s all because of 9-11. That’s how it changed the world in this country. Are you over it? Is it worthwhile considering some relaxation of our security rules? We are, after all nearly 20 years on from 9-11, and a whole new industry of people in hi-viz jackets has developed in the last 2 decades. Yes, many of those are because of the rise in health and safety obligations, which we can mostly all accept, but do you think security guarding is a necessary inconvenience, or is it overreach? Just how necessary are all the x-ray and scanning machines we have to go through at airports? How necessary is it to have your water bottle emptied when you go to a concert or a cricket match?

And then there’s the relationship in New Zealand between Muslims and the rest of us. If you are a Muslim, what was it like in New Zealand after September 11, 2001 do you still have to live with the stigma, not just of that but of other Muslim terrosist attacks? And whatever antipathy you may have been feeling for all those years after 9-11, did you find it change to one of support and sympathy and much more acceptance after the Christchurch attacks in March last year? But is the stigma of September 11 something that you as a Muslim still have to put up with nearly 2 decades later?

What about the rest of us. Are you like me and spent the best part of two decades being highly suspicious of the Muslim faith, not because anybody in this country offended me in the slightest, but because of what we kept on hearing from overseas. The conflict in Afghanistan and in Iraq which America started in retaliation for 9-11, and which New Zealand joined in with, despite it not being our war, dominated news bulletins for years. Then came ISIS. The much repeated saying was “not every Muslim is a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Muslim.” After Christchurch, you don’t hear that anymore do you? So how do we regard the Muslim community in New Zealand now? Were you very wary and non-inclusive as a result of 9-11, but have subsequently changed your mind?

And if you’re a regular traveller, are you happy to put up with the inconvenience of the security scanners and the frisking, even though nobody to my knowledge has ever been caught with anything trying to get on a plane in New Zealand.

This is an op-ed written by Magic Talk Mornings host Peter Williams