2001 was perhaps the most peculiar year, as there were numerous random happenings around the globe. While I was being humiliated in my sixth-grade class for not understanding scientific theories, a stream of unfortunate events was transpiring in the world.

The following all occurred in the above year: an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 hit El Salvador and killed 800 people, George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd President of the U.S., an incident of self-immolation happened at Tiananmen Square, another earthquake of magnitude 7.7 in Gujarat left 20,000 people dead, an FBI agent was arrested for being a Russian spy, the Taliban started to destroy Buddhas, mass riots by Serbian nationalists stoned 300 Bosnians, a woman drowned all five of her kids to save them from “Satan,” a fire incident in which 28 mentally ill persons were chained and set on fire, and the World Trade Center was hit by two airplanes killing 2,977 Americans.

It was after that last incident that the War on Terror broke out. This war has caused millions of lives and has painted a gruesome picture of Muslims in the minds of citizens everywhere.

Over the course of the year, I thought about how these radicals may be able to relate to J.K. Rowling’s The Prisoner of Azkaban and to Professor Xavier’s X-men. Both Death Eaters and mutants from their respective titles subtly touch on the grotesque images of “terrorists” that our minds have formed.

Voldemort and Bin Laden

While growing up, there was a global War On Terror raging around me. Osama Bin Laden’s name was trending everywhere – people could not stop talking about it. The image of Bin Laden often reminded me how the characters in Harry Potter reacted to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Both radicals had created a mess in their worlds: the fear that Lord Voldemort was lurking the streets and would cause imminent death was quite like the dread of this rumored-ex-CIA trainee (Bin Laden) striking again. Both terrorists were leaders of extremist groups that had spread fright and alarm in their worlds while being loyal to their front-runner; both factions protected the sanctity of their customs against outside influences.

X-men vs. Brotherhood of Mutants...kind of like Good Taliban vs Bad Taliban?

I knew as I got older that the image painted by mainstream media was not always the truth; I knew there was more to every story than what we were being made to believe. I am not, by any means, attempting to defend the tyranny of extremists; rather, I am trying to understand how reached a point where they felt the need to take such severe measures.

This is where I feel the comparison to X-men is valid as they were just normal people who were considered dangerous because of their mutant abilities. X-men editor, Ann Nocenti, believes that attitudes towards mutants do not make sense in the Marvel universe as non-mutants with similar abilities are not regarded as fear (e.g. superheroes). She says,

“I think that's literary, really - because there is no difference between Colossus and the Torch. If a guy comes into my office in flames, or a guy comes into my office and turns to steel, I'm going to have the same reaction. It doesn't really matter that I know their origin.” (Nocenti)

Similarly, the world has built a monstrous image of extremists, not realizing that we are all fighting the same battle: to protect our loved ones from the hate present in the "outside" world.

The only difference is the implementation of our values and the tools we use to make a statement. This is where the philosophical debate between Charles Xavier and Magneto takes effect. Xavier believes in the peaceful co-existence and settlement of mutants and homo sapiens as they are both the same at their core – they are humans. Magento, on the other hand, has been facing negative repercussions since Nazi Germany and believes that power is key in coping with differences. Magneto states,

“So… in effect, you swapped 5,000 human lives for one mutant one. That’s regrettable. But when there are less than 200 mutants on the planet, I can live with that…We all have felt the sting of human hatred, seen the disgust smoulder in their eyes, we have grubbed and hidden like beaten animals anxious for a crumb from [our] master.

We have lived too long in darkness and fear. No more! Nature has made us superior.”

A vicious cycle

According to a recent study by Brooking Institute on unmanned drone strikes, three to four civilians are losing their lives per each terrorist the hit is aimed at. It seems like the civilian lives are considered expendable to the greater cause. This, however, is creating more and more extremists. The children and family members of those lost in the battle see their innocent loved ones die and feel hateful towards those trying to better the world. They then seek justice and revenge for their loss, and in turn, more terrorists are formed. This may or may not be where we are going wrong in our battle to bring peace on earth – just food for thought.