Reflection on 9/11 

11th September 2020

Ahead of the nineteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in America, I am reminded of how far Americans and the global world have come since that horrific incident that killed almost 3,000 innocent people in the United States. We must also remember that similar atrocities and acts of terrorism remain a daily occurrence for ordinary people living not just in the United States but in Asia and Africa in particular. 

The threat of transnational terrorism and violent extremism from groups such as the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al-Shabab — to name a few — appears to be increasing. In countries like in Mozambique in East Africa, Islamist extremism, though not the only form of violent extremism, has seen a ten-fold increase of attacks since 2017. They are the new battleground. 

At present, we are now confronted with an evolving threat which stands in stark contrast with the events of September 11, 2001. Nineteen years ago, the world equated violent extremism with al-Qa’ida, Usama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri. Academics, governments and policy makers throughout the world are now confronted with threats emanating from white supremacists, Incels, black supremacists and a range of far Left and far Right groups with a mixture of ideologies and final desired outcomes. These groups may both work together, and independently. 

For experts, and particularly observes of terrorism studies, this changing nature of a terrorism threat makes it that much more challenging to determine an appropriate response that promotes off-ramping and alternative options away from extremism. In many ways, the likes of Anwar al-Aulaqi, Usama Bin Ladin, Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Al-Baghdadi, the former leader of ISIS have received more fanfare and attention in their graves than when they were alive. Social media, new recruits and the new and sophisticated technological innovations that extremist networks continue to employ have in one sense rendered them immortal. 

As the world’s oldest counter extremist organization, with offices in both the United Kingdom and United States, Quilliam continues to engage in direct efforts in disengagement, demobilization and deradicalization here in the United States and globally. 

As we acknowledge another anniversary, Quilliam International strongly condemns all forms of violent extremism and terrorist attacks. We recognize that extremist beliefs of all types represent a continued threat, both to the US homeland and the world. 

On this anniversary, we remember both the victims of these heinous acts and the burden borne by their families, who are left with the task of rebuilding their lives after the devastation of loss. 

Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, Ph.D., Executive Director (North America) Quilliam International