Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years Have Passed


I  can't pretend to speak for all the Saudis here in this country, but I can tell you what I have been told by the few Saudis I have spoken to about what happened on September 11th eight years ago. It is a sad day for them here too. They were horrified when it happened and even more so when it became known that most of the perpetrators were from Saudi Arabia. It frightens them to think that their own children could grow up and be capable of carrying out such hateful missions against innocent people. There are even moderate camps now for families to learn how to recognize and discourage radical ideas and behavior in their children. However, I have spoken to some Saudis who are convinced that the whole truth isn't out there - that the 9/11 findings were a conspiracy, that some of the alleged hijackers are still alive and were used as scapegoats. Yes, there are Saudis who are in denial about the 9/11 theories and believe that others were responsible and that the finger was pointed at Saudis as a US government cover-up or some such logic.


They may not always agree with American foreign policy, but they don't think that America was deserving of what happened on 9/11 either. The typical Saudi loves Americans and American culture. They love to travel to the US and enjoy doing things there that are not available here. Saudis love products that come from America, fashions, ideas, cars, television shows and movies, technology. Saudi women love Oprah! However, this love for American ways and products was one of the reasons why the small faction of radical fundamentalists feared these changes they saw in their own people and culture. They don't want change to come to Saudi Arabia. They want to keep women sheltered, barefoot and pregnant at home. And they always disguise their reasoning as religious somehow, and we all know how strong the religion is here.

I have always been treated very well here in Saudi Arabia. When we first arrived, my husband wasn't sure of the climate towards Americans - he had been gone for thirty years. He even went so far as to tell me that if I were asked where I was from, to say that I was Canadian, just to be safe. I did that a few times, and I just didn't feel right about it, and I told him so. So I started telling the truth. "I am American. Ana Amreeki," I would say in Arabic. And the Saudis would smile warmly and tell me how they've been to New York or California or Florida and what a wonderful time they had, and how beautiful they think America is, and that they want to go back again someday. Hubby saw the positive reactions from his fellow countrymen upon learning I am American and he was relieved.

This is my second year to spend 9/11 here in Saudi Arabia. The memories of what my family went through in Florida during the aftermath of 9/11 still haunt me and I'm sure always will. I must admit it feels a little wierd for me to be here amongst the very people who were accused and blamed for 9/11, but am I afraid? No. And as Ramadan rounds its final stretch here in the Magic Kingdom, the serene peace in the hearts of the countrymen here is palpable. I feel safe here. I feel welcome here. And I feel loved here.

To read a little more about what my family experienced after 9/11, please see my prior post that I wrote about it.

41 comments:

  1. wow susie!
    thats must have been a very confusing time for you.

    i love your blog, and it never fails that im always amazed by your posts!

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  2. Well America has taken revenge .
    Afgans and Iraquis still suffering.

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  3. It feels good that sensible people are the majority everywhere. The problem is no body cares much about their voices. Thanks for sharing your experiences..

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  4. It's terrible how a small fraction among us seems to represent all of us as a people, from both the West and the (Middle) East.

    The majority of people are nice. They live and let live, and they are willing to accept outsiders and even learn from them. Bet then you have that handful, that somehow gets into power and commits heinous acts that ruin it for the rest of us...

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  5. Hi Susie:

    Thanks for informing us with your blog. It's nice to hear that the Saudi's have a good heart when it comes to America, especially with what happened on September 11th. Unfortunately, the stigma remains that people from the Middle East, particularly Muslims, are inherently our enemy. I've always known this not to be true, but I hope the true message in your blog spreads. This way, we can ultimately be united against any form of destruction to humanity and the respect for all human lives.

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  6. I agree with the previous post.... the small handful that is influential, powerful, loud and hateful with twisted ideas..... this had happened over and over again through out history.... until the majority become as loud and continue to work for peace.... the handful will continue to have a field day
    Thanks Susie... I too always look forward to your posts... maybe you should write a book?

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  7. I was living in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia when 9/11 happened. I will never forget it. It was like living a nightmare. It was not comfortable at all being an American woman in Saudi Arabia after that. I left as soon after 9/11 as I could (which wasn't soon enough for me) and have never been back.

    However, I have a lot of fond memories of the 3 different times I lived in Saudi Arabia. At times I miss living there. Let me clarify that I lived in Western compounds each time I lived in Saudi Arabia.

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  8. Susy what a story!! I had no idea.

    I want to think that Hani went to California because he cared for your family and did not want to implicate you. Of course there is no way to know but I want to believe this.

    Dr. Qanta Ahmed describes a very different experience of the Saudi Arabian reaction to 9/11 in her book In the Land of Invisible Women. It is soooo good to hear that you have had a more positive experience.

    May God/Allah/Yaweh/Superspoobless you and know I join anyone willing to struggle for justice, peace and a better world.

    Annie

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  9. I only wish the anti-middle eastern rhetoric in this country would end.

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  10. Hi Angie - Thanks - I appreciate your comment.

    Hi Zahra - Many people are suffering in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as many people in America still suffer because of 9/11. None of it makes it right or deserved.

    Hi Turqoise Diaries - I hope that people care - Making incorrect assumptions about people doesn't help anything.

    Hi Nidal - That's so true. In America the same things has happened with the small % of religious fanatics taking over the Republican Party...

    Hi Erica - Thanks! Great comment!

    Hi Saida - I write for my own pleasure and therapeutic value - it would be nice to get paid for it!!!

    Hi Kristie - I can imagine how uncomfortable and distressing it must have been for you being in KSA when 9/11 happened. I'm glad it didn't color all your memories of this place.

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  11. Magic Kingdom? Surely you do not mean SA, the same place that still flogs people, that in its laws permits the cutting of the right hand...and the like. What magic is this? Where is the magic, where is the fun?

    Anna

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  12. Hi Annie - Thank you so much for your comment. I prefer to believe that Hani had no idea what his future held for him when he came to stay with us, that he had not yet been recruited, and that he truly wanted to be a real pilot. I just can't bring myself to believe otherwise.

    Hi Always - You and me both!

    Hi Anon/Anna - The Magic Kingdom is what ex-pats living in KSA call it - it's tongue-in-cheek, facetious.

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  13. I made friends from the ME (a couple being Saudi) a year or two before that happened & I remember them having that reaction. They were in as much shock by it as I was... What's sad is I'll never forget one of them (Egyptian not Saudi this time) gave me his last few min on a phone card so I could call home & check on family members & when I did they accused him and our other friends of doing it.

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  14. I really hope to God every terrorist who was involved in September 11 suffers for the rest of his life.

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  15. Your blog is very interesting and an eye opener. As an American, do you and your family wear Western dress? I will have to read more. The comments from Anna...What kind of exposure have you had to such things?

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  16. Hi MamaKalila - What a wierd reaction from your family members! Mine were instead concerned for my family's safety from the backlash.

    Hi Zaher - I second that.

    Hi Lori - My husband is Saudi, so he is equally at home in either traditional dress or Western wear. My son dislikes wearing the traditional garb - he prefers Western clothing. I have some traditional long dresses and I wear them for certain occasions. Out in public I always wear the abaya (long black cloak) and cover my hair as well (at my husband's behest).
    I've personally had no exposure to hands being cut off (rare but still done occasionally, surgically) or flogging, although it happens.

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  17. Interesting post, and reminder of your last September 11, and the one in 2001.

    I haven't met an Arab or a Muslim yet who approved of 9/11, and most were very distressed and eager to tell of their government's offers of support, including Libyans, about Gaddafi's offer (refused), and Palestinians.

    Some have been reluctant to believe that the US was not implicated, but only in the sense of "leaving the barn door open" which the 9/11 commission seems to have proven. Saudis seem to take more responsibility about their fellow countrymen's extremist behaviour that GWB about the fact that it was Saudis admitted directly to the US and not Iraqis via Canada who were the hijackers.

    I think 9/11 has affected everyone to varying degrees and the Muslim world and Muslims living abroad the most. But certainly, for you, Susie, this hit extremely close to "home" in all senses. I'm glad you feel positive about being an American in Saudi.

    And, at least Adnan didn't make you wear one of our flag pins, or flag headscarves! Many an American has backpacked around Europe and other countries with a red maple leaf prominently displayed! LOL :)

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  18. PS I don't think Afghanistan and Iraq were revenge for 9/11 they were about access to oil, and oil respectively.
    Afghanistan offered bin Laden on condition he be tried in the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and GWB refused, on the grounds (pretext?) he wanted bin Laden tried in the US.

    NidalM--agreed.

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  19. Hi Chiara - Thanks for your comment. US Immigration Svc definitely dropped the ball regarding 9/11. I've always been fond of the red maple leaf and wouldn't have minded :)

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  20. Oh my gosh, Susie! I can't even begin to imagine what you went through on that fateful day!!! I'm glad that the Saudi people have, for the most part, greeted you with an incredible amount of warmth and kindness, regardless of where you came from!

    I hate stereotypes of cultures/nations, both good and bad. I've had the privilege of going to school and hanging out with several people from Iran (they are one of the largest groups of international students here, the other big one being China), and I tell you - they are all super, terrific, warm, friendly people. Many of them commit a lot of time to volunteer within the community, a far cry from the 'Axis of Evil' stuff. On the flip side, I can assure you that unfortunately not all Canadians are polite ;)

    Chiara - your comment made me think about that one Tim Hortons commercial where the Canadian backpackers recognized their countrymen by the Timmies mugs hanging off their backpacks, hehe

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  21. Susie, thank you once again, for educating us on real life. It's so easy to believe that Americans are no longer liked anywhere accept Canada and the UK. I would be very uneasy in your shoes, just as a woman used to the freedoms that we American women take for granted.

    You are a brave soul.

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  22. Susie, thank you for your perspective. It is so hard to know the truth; we are never told everything and we have to choose whom to believe when reports contradict each other. I appreciate hearing from someone who is on closer terms with the Saudi people than I can ever hope to be.

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  23. As was seen in Saudi Arabia, or Northern Ireland, or just about anywhere else in the world, it can take a small minority of those who think they are in the right, and turn everyday life into a horror show.

    I have heard the opinion you expressed from others that Saudi's were truly horrified of the events of 8 years ago, and I hope the Saudi government is acting forcefully in routing out those that would perpetuate this same kind of violence again.

    As a retired NYC paramedic, who just happened to be in NYC that day (I was home for a wedding), I suppose my own outlook is a bit jaded. I lost a colleague when Tower 1 fell (see my recent blogpost), and had many EMS and police friends that were hurt, some badly. All still bear the psychological scars from that day.

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  24. Thanks Susie for your post. It must have been an awful time for you.

    It was a dreadful series of events, which also really destabilized the global community. I can only imagine how anyone with any direct connection to the tragedy must have suffered and still suffer.

    In Australia, I was also shocked at the backlash against Muslim members of our community afterward. Various sections of the media and certain politicians sought to generate a climate of fear. Some women wearing Hijab were harassed or vilified when out in public. I also heard about Muslim community centres and other places being subjected to hate mail and threatening phonecalls.

    I rang every such community place I could think of to leave messages, trying to counter the nastiness that some members of my society were whipping up. I expressed my shame about hearing of people behaving in such a way. I said that, as a non-Muslim Australian, I was outraged. I said that people deserved to be treated with respect, no matter what their religion and that there were many of us who felt the same.

    I was surprised by a number of people who answered the phone, warily, probably expecting some abuse. These people were extremely warm when they heard me out and kindly indicated that they thought that the hate-mongers were in a minority.

    I felt a small sense of relief after making the marathon of phone calls. Perhaps in some small way, making connections and reaching out like that could bring us together when there are a few people who would like to drive us apart.

    I think that we need to remember the things that we share, no matter where we come from, our religion, our culture: we are human beings, we have families and friends. When we are mistreated, we experience pain and loss. We can be fragile and sometimes incredibly strong. We generally want to live in peace and have a meaningful life. We deserve to be treated with respect

    Regards

    Kristina

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  25. I was in Jeddah on 9/11. In the aftermath- I overall felt safest here. With much sadness, the backlash in the US towards Muslims made me very uncomfortable and worried for my children. In Europe- the anti- American feeling made me uncomfortable (I really did at times travel in a Canadian t-shirt). Ironically, the anti-Americanism in Saudi was pretty limited, and people overall seemed to distinguish better between what the US govnm't did and the Americans that lived here. My children, however did experience some grief as half-Americans in school.

    A sad time for so many, - I hope and pray the world is now on a better course.

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  26. Susie, a wonderful photo and narrative for the day. As in all countries, the majority of people are generally warm and friendly and devoted to friends and family. It is the extremists in all cultures that cause issues. It is great that you have had such a good experience. I am currently posting photos from a photography tour I took to Vermillion Cliffs and Slot canyons. I do not now if you went to that area when you were in Arizona but you may enjoy some of the photos especially the slot canyon photos.

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  27. Susie--I'm sure you look great in red and white! LOL :)

    Mel--I haven't seen that one, I will check youtube for it. I like the Molson's old "I'm Joe and I'm a Canadian" one--great Canada/US joke comparison. There is a "Second Cup" in Hong Kong unrelated to Canada's answer to Starbucks,and the British owner can spot a Canuck at the first "Oh, do you know about the Second Cup?" WHAT THE *&^%$#@ DO YOU MEAN RUDE?????!!!!! LOL :)

    Kristina, Sandy, and Mr Nighttime--very touching comments. Thanks. Sandy, I'm sure you did us proud!

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  28. Hi Mel - Stereotypes are such a broad generalization that certainly don't apply to everyone in the groups they portray. Thanks for commenting.

    Hi AmyK - You are so welcome - thanks for taking the time to let me know - much appreciated.

    Hi Dimple - My pleasure...

    Hi Mr.Nighttime - I can only imagine how your horror must have been magnified, having actually been in NYC that fateful day. I'm so sorry you lost a friend in the attacks. Thanks for your comment.

    Hi Anon/Kristina - Wow - to personally make those phone calls you did - I'm sure it did a world of good for them as well as yourself. What an incredible gesture - you are an amazing human being.

    Hi Sandy - My son, too, experienced a little backlash in school in FL, but he was only in the 3rd grade, so it was minimal. I'm glad he wasn't in middle or high school at the time. Thanks for writing and sharing your story.

    Hi Julie - Thanks, I'll have a look!

    Hello again, Chiara!

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  29. I so enjoy your blog and have subscribed to it on Google Reader. I wish you would join the Twitterati - would be great to get daily input from you. If you do - do send me a msg on mita56.

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  30. Hi Susie,
    I'm glad that you feel safe and loved there. That's what's important after all isn't it?

    What I am most curious about is Hani's family. How did they deal with it? Were they shocked? proud? Why do I have a feeling that the answer would be different if you were to ask them than if say Adnan A were to ask them? Did Adnan A believe that Hani was guilty?

    Coolred was in Bahrain on 9/11 and she wrote about the reactions of the people around her, the people that she had thought were decent human beings that she trusted as friends and they cheered for the terrorists on 9/11. Forgive me if I don't take all the praises and friendliness towards Americans at face value when it comes out of the mouths of Arabs or Muslims.

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  31. I didnt fear for my personal safety after 9/11...I was after all dressed the part of a proper Muslim woman at the time. Most people who met me assumed I was Egyptian or Syrian etc because of my coloring. Those that knew I was American didnt really give me personal grief...BUT did claim either out right or indirectly that America "had it coming" and "got what they deserved".

    As Queen mentioned...I was visiting some long time friends who disappointed me and truly stabbed my heart when they began cheering and clapping when we realized exactly what was going on...and I was standing there looking at the tv with tears streaming down my face in shock...yet it was a party like atomosphere for the rest.

    Since 9/11 Ive had plenty of arguments concerning it...most are with Bahrainis who believe God punishes those that deserve it eventually...so we essentially brought it on ourself. A few have sympathized with the terrorist...a few...but a few is too many in my opinion.

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  32. I lived in Egypt at the time, and unlike Coolred, I did not blend in at all. That said, Egyptians were overwelmingly warm and kind for the first week or so. At that point, many conversations were held in English in front of me or my only other American colleague in which statements were made that echoed those which Coolred experienced in Bahrain.

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  33. Hi every one..
    (Anonymous)... for me.. and for many people around the world the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is more than a magic country...

    the 9/11 event is a conspiracy...
    Saudies are not as murderers as that...

    cutting hands is not for poor people who stole because they do not find anything to eat....

    it is for a millionaire steals a poor's bite!

    then if everyone knew that rule... no one will steal any thing!

    if anyone was poor.. the country would give a salary....
    and charity from rich people to poor people is a must in Islam...

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  34. The Queen
    "Forgive me if I don't take all the praises and friendliness towards Americans at face value when it comes out of the mouths of Arabs or Muslims."

    I suppose then, Arabs and Muslims shouldn't take friendliness from Americans at face value? And what about American Muslims??? Or Arab Americans?? Or Arab Americans who are Muslim (cause some are Christian)???

    I found it very sad that my half and half family felt safer and more comfortable in Saudi than in America.

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  35. 'I suppose then, Arabs and Muslims shouldn't take friendliness from Americans at face value?'

    What?! Americans act friendly to Arabs and/or Muslims? Give me their phone numbers!! LOL

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  36. I'm proud to say many of my fellow Americans have been able to be friendly with Arabs and/or Muslims- and no, I don't hand out phone numbers. I'm sure if they want to talk to a bigoted person who finds their civilized behavior laughable they can find one on their own.

    I'll add I know many people Arab, American, Muslim, Christian and various combinations of all of these, and more- who are warm caring people able to see beyond race, religion and nationality, and I thank God for all of them and may he bless their lives, families and good endeavors.

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  37. Sandy, I was being facetious. I know very well that Americans are able to be very friendly with Arabs/Muslims. Who do you think surrounded the local mosques with a wall of protection on 9/11? Yep, non-Muslim Americans did.

    You'll just have to forive me if I feel that the American's hospitality might just be a bit more genuine rather than just being an imposed cutural tradition.
    Don't get me wrong. I am all for civilized bahaviour, I wish there was more of it in this world and I wish I could trust the ones that act civily to my face, to continue to act civily when I turn my back. I don't expect that they will cheer the deaths of ANYone, particularly not my countrymen and especially not in my presence. I don't expect that they will sanitize the dishes I ate off of or the chairs that I sat on while being 'honored' guests in their homes either. How do I trust someone who hugs and kisses and greets someone with all kinds of friendliness and then when they are gone they turn to me and say bad things about the person? Trust me when I say that every single individual that I meet will meet the real me and I will be civil and hospitable right up until they personally prove to me that they are no longer worthy of it. Me not necessarily taking them at face value does not mean that they would or should be treated poorly by me but I can guarantee that if I don't like an individual, there is a darn good reason and you won't see me acting friendly towards them.

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  38. "How do I trust someone who hugs and kisses and greets someone with all kinds of friendliness and then when they are gone they turn to me and say bad things about the person?"

    I guess I would say that happens both ways- and also within both communities. I had some awful things said to me by Americans who knew me and should've known me better.

    Anyway- I'm glad you were being facetious even though I couldn't tell. And certainly everyone uses additional caution when they've been badly burned. I can understand that as long as people are given the oppportunity to show their worth.

    Thank you for further explaining, and all the best.

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  39. hi ..
    I'm Mohammed from Saudi Arabia from Taif city. Do you know this city suse ? if you'r remember (http://susieofarabia.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/caught-in-the-act/ ) lol ..
    ok , i found this blog via google reader and read this post , thanks for this post . i cann't explain what does happen in 9/11 in English because i'm very poor in Dictation & writing skills in English however i can read english as perfect . but if you would explain that i can explain in Arabic if you know Arabic Lang.

    finally , happy life in Saudi Arabia

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  40. Hi
    There are a growing number of Americans too who do not believe the "official" version according to the american government. Please reflect that in your blog. There are now even architects and engineers that are questioning the 911 report and the FEMA report. And YES some of those accused to have been on the plane as hijackers are alive and well. You only need to search on the internet to uncover some of the lies that are being spread by the American government.
    Visit www.ae911truth.org, architects and engineers for 911 truth for more info.

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  41. It was after 9/11 that I began studying islam.

    Let me say the news is not good. I look at islam and I see hypocrasy and denial everywhere, standing next to deceipt and maliciousness. The future will not be nice.

    I can say that after hundreds of posts on Muslim sites, the news is not good.I do not believe that Muslims wish to live in peace or that they respect equality and freedom. Be sure I can argue this easily. I have never yet met a Muslim that knows as much about Islam, its writings and early history than I -- or maybe it is just that they do know as much but prefer not to talk about it or pretend the words dont really mean what they say.

    Sussie, you have a pretty good blog. Been here a few times but can't remember ever leaving a comment. Probably because religion is a side-show here. Keep up the good work.

    Yeah, masroor, you keep it up, too. Keep that brain rolling and working on spreading those facts. Of course it wasn't Muslims. Those martyr videos and notes, the airport security cameras and the onboard phone conversations, the money tranfers, the flying lessons, the dna remains, are all the work of the evil Israelis or Rightwing Christian wacos, right? I am sure some of the hijacker survived the crash and are alive and well and the only reason that there are no videos is because 1. They are on vacation and camera shy, or 2. the jews tricking them into not giving interviews. What can I say?

    Kactuz

    PS: Converstion with a typical Muslim:
    http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/09/21/usa-eid-postage-stamp-provokes-hate-in-tennessee/

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