26 December 2009, 05:13am IST
Last week, I took the Euro Star from St Pancras International station in London to Paris. Just after clearing immigration, I was stopped by a security officer. Nothing unusual in that, except I was the only one he stopped and questioned in literally thousands of passengers. I had some time to kill so I stood beside him to watch who else he interrogates . In 40 minutes, he only stopped two other people. The first was an old man clearly recognisable as a Muslim: beard, cap, badly-fitted suit, Arab (I guessed Tunisian) origins. The other was a person who strikes terror in the heart of every security officer: a Muslim woman in hijab.
This is perhaps the most noticeable feature of the passing decade for us Muslims. We are now universally regarded as objects of suspicion and subjects for interrogation.
The main reason behind this is the momentous atrocity that began the Noughties: the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. It is hardly surprising that the last decade has been dominated by the consequences of that attack. Most of the negative as well as positive developments in the Muslim world during the last ten years can be traced to that fateful event.
Terrorism, however, was not new to the Muslim world: it had been a problem before 9/11. In Pakistan , Kashmir, Egypt, and in Palestine, the cycle of sectarian and ideological terror and counter terror had already cost innumerable lives. In Chechnya, Bosnia and occupied Palestine, Muslims were victims of what can only be described as state-sponsored terrorism. And the vast majority of the victims of this internal and external violence were Muslims.