United States: Statement in Response to Events of September 11, 2001

September 17, 2001

All of us at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission are still shocked and horrified by the events of Tuesday, September 11. Our staff and board members in New York and Washington, D.C. are themselves safe. But we have all been touched in various ways by these massive losses, some more closely than others. They bring home to the inhabitants of the United States the reality of violence which many peoples in the world face daily. They have also brought forth sympathy and solidarity worldwide. We hope that this global support foreshadows a new understanding that intolerance is always intolerable, and suffering is always shared.

We condemn these appalling acts of terror. Terror strikes at innocent civilians because it recognizes no innocence. It relies upon mass destruction because it discounts the value of individual life. As such, it offends profoundly against our common humanity. Yet at the same time, we condemn any response to terror which would further confuse innocence with complicity, or efface individual identity and worth in a mass attribution of guilt.

We are deeply concerned by the readiness today to speak of waging war rather than of doing justice. We are deeply concerned by reports of xenophobic attacks on Arabs, Arab-Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, and people of color. We are deeply concerned as well by the possibility that widespread rage may lead to a response which targets innocent civilians rather than aiming directly at the perpetrators of this crime.

The attacks on September 11 struck not just at one nation but at the values of all peoples. They must be answered by the international community in the spirit of justice and law. Vengeance is not justice. Violent, sweeping, and indiscriminate retribution violates rather than affirms the law. The peoples of the world must respond to murder by confirming their respect for innocent life; must answer division with solidarity, and hatred with impartial understanding. Hard though this may be, it is essential. To do otherwise is to mimic the practitioners of terror, and to hand them their most dearly longed-for victory.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (UCCR) has established a hotline for reports of hate crimes against Arab American, Muslim and South Asian American victims of violent incidents following the hijacking attacks on September 11. The hotline number is 800-552-6843.