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As the world tries to come to terms with Tuesday's bomb attacks in the United States, a panel of distinguished broadcasters, politicians and writers reflect on how we will all be affected in the long-term.

Terry Waite, CBE

When this terrible event happened I was just about to get to my feet and address a Disaster Planning Conference on the subject of International Terrorism.

At first I thought it was a conference exercise, but then the awful truth dawned - it was real.

Islam has literally been hijacked by terrorists

Terry Waite
Terrorism will not be defeated by military might. Wise politicians will see acts of terrorism as being symptomatic of a deeper disorder, and it is that disorder which must be addressed.

Too many people in this world live in abject poverty and are denied adequate food, education and justice. Many see the rich nations of the world as being manipulative for their own ends.

Islam has literally been hijacked by terrorists and of course they must be brought to justice.

At this critical time it is vital that America does not allow itself to descend to the level of the terrorist and harm further innocent people.

The rule of law must be followed; evidence must be produced, and new relationships must be forged with Islamic leader across the world, the majority of whom condemn terrorism.

They need to be encouraged to deal with the problem that is bringing dishonour to their noble faith.

They also need to be assured that the rich nations of this world will address the root problems in a just and fair manner.

Millions are spent on arms, but the sad fact is that millions will not be spent on the many who will die tonight simply because they do not have enough to eat.

Suffering is always painful but it need not destroy. This terrible event gives us all an opportunity to deal creatively with deep-seated problems. I pray to God we shall take it.

Tony Benn, Former Labour Cabinet minister

My first thought was overwhelming grief for the people who have suffered and the friends and family left behind. What has happened is unspeakable.

The next thought I had was what does it all mean? I believe this is the most significant event since the outbreak of the two World Wars.

This is the most significant event since the outbreak of the two World Wars.

Former Labour Cabinet Minister, Tony Benn
People thought, wrongly, that because America headed the world, economically, militarily and politically, she was invincible. They were wrong. What good could Star Wars have done on Tuesday? It would not have been able to deal with this.

The reality is that you can threaten people with military force, but that means nothing to a suicide bomber who has decided to sacrifice his life for his cause.

There probably will be retaliation, but will it solve the problem? We have seen how Israel with all its military might is unable to deal with the Intifada.

It would be better if we found the time to think about how you can change the way things are, so that people no longer feel so strongly that they are prepared to lose their lives.

Tuesday's events will also have an impact on the world economy. Countries with a balance of pay deficit usually rely on foreign borrowing, but will they be alright with the collapse of Wall Street?

There are so many areas of all our lives that will be affected by what has happened.

Elaine Showalter, Writer

People have been talking about how this whole thing was like a blockbuster action movie without the superhero.

But I think that behind the myth of the action hero was the "average hero."

The Internet has allowed us to help people

Elaine Showalter
What struck me was the overwhelming courage, determination and calmness of dozens and dozens of people whose names and faces we don't recognise.

They include the fire-fighters, the cops, the medics, the secretaries ... the people who called their mother or husband from the hijacked planes to say they loved them for the last time.

This event feels like we have returned to the days of the Holy Wars, but I don't think new technology has failed us.

The internet has allowed us to help people - whether by offering to donate blood or by giving a room to someone who is stranded.

I know of hundreds of cases where this has happened.

I think in the long-term, people will be more fatalistic. How can we have any normal sense of security faced by this kind of fanaticism?

But I think, overwhelmingly, people will decide that they cannot let this change their lives. I think this is the most important response people can make.

Khaled Hroub, Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University

No words would be helpful enough to describe the cruelty of this act, or to convey the deep sympathy that one feels toward the families of the lost innocent people.

As a Palestinian brought up in circumstances where scenes and stories of death were so frequent, I know exactly what it means to lose close and beloved people by blind force.

First thing I whispered to myself when I saw the terrifying scenes was 'oh God, let the people behind this brutality be non-Muslims.'

Not that this would have lessened the magnitude of the catastrophe, but at least it would limit the damage to already uneasy 'West-Muslim relationships'.

Soon after, I felt so frustrated witnessing the media coverage, promptly and once again, holding Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians, guilty until proven innocent, and putting them in the defensive.

The mutual negative perceptions between Westerners and Muslims in recent years have reached a dangerous point for many reasons.

First thing I whispered to myself was: Oh God, let the people behind this brutality be non-Muslim

Khaled Hroub, Middle East expert
Those reasons include the Gulf War, the injustices in the Palestine/Israel conflict, the Balkan atrocities, the death toll in Iraq due to sanctions, the madness of a few fanatical Islamic groups around the world, and also the irresponsible stereotyping and shallowness of Western media in exaggerating the 'Islamic menace.'

Could the criminals not be from inside the United States itself, as in the case of Oklahoma bombing?

At a time when we are all in desperate need of a concerted effort to help develop healthier relationship between Muslims and Westerners, the last thing we want to see is a bloody act of terror that will capture the popular imagery for decades to come, providing ammunition to those of a 'war of all against all' mentality.

Let us hope that the criminals are non-Muslims not only to dismay of "clash of civilization exponents", but also in the sheer interest of our shared humanity.

Lord Hannay, British Ambassador to the UN 1990-95

These terrible events are bound to have a profound effect on all our lives.

Firstly, they represent a major threat to western democracies and everything they stand for; they are a brutal onslaught on the approach we champion of trying to resolve the world's problems by peaceful means.

Facing down this threat is crucial

Lord Hannay, Former British ambassador to the UN
So, facing down this threat is going to be crucial. We cannot afford to succumb to that kind of blackmail. Even if this means, as it probably will do, much-increased security and considerable inconvenience for many people, it will be a price worth paying.

The most important thing is that as many countries in the world as possible, particularly democracies should fight this evil in a concerted and effective manner.

This page was started on Wednesday, 12 September 2001.

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