We became the vicarious victims of terror for 60 hours while terror was let loose in Mumbai. The city was not virginal--hundreds had died there in various terrorist acts before. But the moment was—it became India’s 911.
After three days of fierce battling, the Indian commandos succeeded in ending the siege. Not just India, the whole world took a sigh of relief.
Shocked and grief stricken, people could begin to think of food and sleep. Some wiped the tears off their faces and decided to move on with life. Others seethed with anger—at the impotence of the system—a system that failed to protect citizens from repeated carnage of terror.
There was intelligence that warned the authorities of the impending attack. How could the system let such warning pass? Why did they not act in time?
Enough is enough, said angry citizens. We don’t want words, we want action, they demanded of the country’s leaders. Heads rolled, politicians at the state and union’s level resigned.
Meanwhile, after the 60 hours of live reporting, the media moved on the act II. There began the parade of armchair terror experts and page 3 personalities. Politicos were added to the combo to balance the debate on terror. The whole system was found guilty. And the attack’s culpability was thrown into the backyard of Pakistan where it always belongs.
While all this debate and shouting made good television, one thing was completely lost-- the message that the terrorists had brought with their bullets.
Global terror comes to India
Whatever group the Mumbai terrorists belonged to—Lashkar-e Toeba, Jaish-e Mohammad or Al Qaeda—the message was clear: global terror had come to India, as it had come to the UK and Pakistan, the allies of the global super power America.
This time it were not homegrown terrorists—Muslims or Hindus trapped in the cycle of communal vengeance—who had come, planted the bombs and melted away in the crowds. These were Al Qaeda style fidayeens (suicidal terrorists) who were there to create a spectacle, sure to get carried away on radio and television waves to the far corners of the world. They could not create another 911 in New York or Sydney or Shanghai because of the tight security in those cities, so they chose Mumbai—a soft target.
In other words, it was not national terror—it was global. Any country, any citizen was the target. That’s why they targeted the Americans, the British and the Israelis. That’s why a Singaporean became the first victim of global terror. Indians who were killed at the railway stations or other places were perhaps fodder to divert the attention of the police. This allowed the terrorists to take hostages at the tourist rich places—The Taj, Oberoi and the Nariman House.
And what did the terrorists rant about? The persecution of Muslims in India and the festering Kashmir problem. Stop persecuting Muslims in India, they told TV stations. They had no other demands.
It is not just about Kashmir or Pakistan
It were these demands, these assertions by the terrorists that got relatively suppressed in the media chatter about intelligence failure and government irresponsibility and body counts.
We all know that Kashmir, Afghanistan and Palestine conflicts are festering wounds that have bedeviled life and politics in South Asia and the Middle East. But why would the Muslims in India want ‘global terrorists’ to bring home the message of their persecution to the Indian government’s attention?
No matter what, Indian Muslims will never want any terrorist—domestic or international—to articulate their woes and tribulations. They can and they are fighting within the democratic system of India to right the perceived ‘wrongs’ done to them. And they are doing it along with millions of liberal Hindus who empathize with their problems.
That’s why, perhaps in a show of pop patriotism, Muslims of Mumbai refused to open the doors of their cemetery when the police sought to bury the bodies of the nine dead terrorists. These terrorists who killed innocent people cannot be Muslims, they argued.
The terrorists who came to fight in the name of Indian Muslims or Islam were not friends of Muslims or Islam. That’s why it is important to delink terror with Islam. Terrorism is terrorism. Period.
Islam as the only competing vision?
Why then the terrorists are playing this game? The Palestinians fight for Palestine, the Chechens for Chechnya, and the Kashmiris for Kashmir?
Then why are the ‘global terrorists’ bringing the ‘Jihadi’ fight to the country with the second largest population of Muslims in the world?
This is very important to understand as its implications will be grasped only in the next few decades.
As I have said before, this ‘global terrorism’ is not just about Kashmir or Palestine. It probably started from these grouses but I think the game plan has changed. Despite the efforts of Al Qaeda and its acolytes (whoever envisions the world domination of Islam and the end of the international system that we have now), majority of Muslims in the world have by and large remained peaceful. They have denounced the Jehadi elements, the misguided suicidal sickos that wage war with terror in the name of Islam.
The lack of Muslim response to their cause has made the ‘global terrorists’ desperate. In desperation, they have gone for a far more sinister plan—if you can’t alienate the Muslims for global Jihad, make everyone else hate the Muslims, then they themselves will get alienated. Make things so worse that everywhere people will begin to equate Islam with terror (a small example). Then Muslims will be cornered. Muslims then will have no choice but to get radicalized and that’s when the clash of civilizations will take place. Radical Islam against the capitalist-globalised-liberal democratic world—the world of pure Islam against the ‘consumption and fornication’ (Tariq Ali's formulation) fuelled world of the West and its satellite states. After all, other than Islam, which other world religion provides a banking, financial, moral and system of jurisprudence of its own?
This is the game plan now. And they are achieving this bit by bit, with every terror attack. The charge of terror is ionizing the populations—the poison is slowly spreading without people barely noticing the phenomenon.
The only way to defeat this ‘global Jehad’ is for ‘frightened’ people and governments to understand this game plan and take corrective measures.
As global terror expert Brian Michael Jenkins says, frightened populations are intolerant. They worry incessantly about subversion from within. In the case of India, it could mean the subversion by 150 million Muslims from within. In the case of USA, subversion by 5 million and in Europe’s case, subversion by 53 million Muslims, and so on. To make things worse, there already are active elements everywhere that demonize the Muslims as a community or are Islamophobic. They will act as the nature allies of the terrorists.
Security not an anti-dote to terror
To borrow another line from Jenkins, security is necessary but security alone is not an antidote to terror. It is imperative for governments to step up security and beef up intelligence gathering but more needs to be done.
There are already reports that the next 911 might be nuclear. Will terrorists go nuclear? Will they use biological or chemical weapons? Who knows but fear mongering always works. Even for terrorists, it is easier said than done. Kitchen table nuclear bombs are myths, as Jenkins says.
The bottom-line is that no amount of security or preparation can completely stop mad terrorists unleashing terror somewhere in the world. What we can and should do is to make our minds free of fear and prejudice and force our politicians to solve the festering wounds of the world, starting from our own country, to build a just world order. If we do that, ‘global terror’ of this nature will die its own death.
Let me finish my rant by quoting Jenkins from the last chapter of his book, Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? (Prometheus Books, 2008):
“We can behave like frightened sheep, content to fill our stomachs while we are herded about by terrorists and cynical politicians who chip away at our liberty. Or we can behave as citizens whose first mission is to defeat the tyranny of terror. If we value democracy, our choice is clear.”