Perhaps the single most asked analytical question as we reached the tenth anniversary of 9/11 was a variation of the following: "Ten years after those attacks, are we safer now than we were then?"
I believe that the answer to this question lies not so much in what is happening in the military realm of which side - us or the terrorists - has the most men left standing, but in the ideological world, where our understanding of the threat must necessarily come from.
The terrorists who committed those acts did so in the name of Islam. As several 9/11 conspirators stated in an "Islamic Response" to the American government who put them on trial, "killing you and fighting you, destroying you and terrorizing you, responding back to your attacks, are all considered to be great legitimate duty in our religion. These actions are our offerings to God. In addition, it is the imposed reality on Muslims in Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, in the land of the two holy sites [Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia], and in the rest of the world, where Muslims are suffering from your brutality, terrorism, killing of the innocent, and occupying their lands and their holy sites. Nevertheless, it would have been the greatest religious duty to fight you over your infidelity. However, today, we fight you over defending Muslims, their land, their holy sites, and their religion as a whole."
The conspirators quote from the Qur'an at least a dozen times in their response, including immediately following the statement that "In God's book, he ordered us to fight you everywhere we find you, even if you were inside the holiest of all holy cities, The Mosque in Mecca, and the holy city of Mecca, and even during sacred months."
Elsewhere, al-Qaeda and rafts of other terrorist groups have justified their actions, again and again, by referring to Islamic texts and teachings.
And yet, despite all this, a decade on, we still live in a world where even to speak about such things is not only considered politically incorrect, but actually the height of vulgarity. Again and again, our political leaders insist that even though the terrorists themselves say that Islam is their motivation, actually it is not, and we must ignore Islam in all this and focus on "extremism".
Only a few days ago, Liam Fox, the Defense Secretary of the current British government, insisted on BBC's Question Time that "we must not fall into the trap" of believing that terror attacks by Muslims "have anything to do with Islam", and the lemming-like audience applauded him. Even David Cameron, while critiquing the failed policy (or pet project) of multiculturalism, claimed that "The point is this: the ideology of extremism is the problem; Islam emphatically is not."
So even though Islam contains within it doctrines which are violent and supremacist, and even though terrorists repeatedly invoke those teachings to justify their actions, we must overlook this, because David Cameron says that there is this "ideology of extremism" that is out there somewhere, and can presumably be invoked as the terrorists' true inspiration, and we should focus on that instead, and that will help us beat them.
It is a sad time for the rational thinking person when a Muslim in Fort Hood, Texas, gives an academic lecture to his victims explaining that he is soon going to attack them because of his religion, and yet this atrocity is not only allowed to still happen, but the man's reasons for committing it are later whitewashed in the US military's official reports on the incident.
Similar willful ignorance has also led to widespread political support for the so-called "Arab Spring", despite the recent antisemitic rioting in Egypt, and despite a whole host of other things that make the Middle Eastern Muslim commitment to "democracy" (when understood in its expansive Western formulation) seem questionable at best.
Self-imposed unawareness of the threat doctrine has also led to the increasing capitulation to sharia throughout the Western world. Sharia is a draconian system of totalitarian law that violates fundamental human rights and crushes individual freedom. And yet, in America, sharia has been considered or applied in state court judgements in at least 23 states, in violation of the US Constitution. In Germany, it is frequently used in court decisions. And here in the UK, sharia is an increasingly threatening - and worryingly sanctioned - shadow legal system that is issuing rulings that run counter to British law.
All of this was happening to a certain extent BEFORE 9/11. But since, it is almost as if the fall of those towers has acted as the catalyst for the Western world to hasten its own decline, out of fear and shame. Those infamous events have produced greater levels of organised resistance to the jihad threat than existed before them. But we cannot possibly consider ourselves "safer" when we will not even acknowledge the motivations, goals and origins of the ideological threat we face. We cannot be "safer" when we are so fixated on one organisation - al-Qaeda - that we ignore the well-developed mindset and worldview that generated it. Although the attacks gave us the kick up the backside our security agencies needed to guard us more effectively against all future attacks, that in itself will not be enough.
As sad as it is, a decade on from 9/11, we are only marginally safer now than we were then.