Thursday, December 04, 2008

Defeat the tyranny of terror

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.”


Zafar Anjum said...

Sri Lankan writer and social activist Elmo Jayawardena sent this message after reading this piece:

"Excellent write up with the truth unveiled for the average to understand what terrorism is all about"

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks a lot Elmo):

Kaushik said...

Very good points Zafar -- very good analysis ... keep it up. Call me when u r in delhi -- will catch up surely

Take care

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks much Kaushik da. Sorry, haven't been able to call you but will do one day.

You too take care):

Zafar Anjum said...

Comments from Sarah Islam Mukherjee:

Dear Zafar

Well done on a great piece of writing! I agree with you. You are absolutely right. The moment we create panic among the different religious communities that co exist in India, we are playing right into the hands of these terrorists. I am not feeling very coherent or articulate as the tragedy is still so raw, but I do know one thing: this time India has to act tough. No more posturing or lots of empty words. All of us need to get out there and help vote in who we think is the best equipped to run this country and then help them build this nation slowly and peacefully.

Vigilantism is not the qnswer to this problem and neither can we suddenly turn paranoid or closed now. Let us engage Pakistan politicaly and work along with the international community to take out the jihadi terror camps that dote the country side in Pakistan. I should know, I spent 10 years in Pakistan.

If Pakistan resists, we need to take lobby more with the world community and make sure that that country sees how their home grown jihadis can one day destroy them too.

Enough is really enough this time!

What really saddens me is the blatant chest thumping and hate mongering that is carried out on national television channeld in Pakistan and there does not seem to be a peep of protest coming out from any section of society.

I am really proud of the restraint that we have shown as Indians and now instead of writing about this tragedy for a couple of weeks, we can not afford to go back to sleep.


Sarah Islam Mukherjee
Freelance writer and columnist

Supriya said...

Hi Zafar,

Some very interesting points! Unfortunately, most of the things that are critical to stop this freehold of terror are easier said than done and each of these terror activities creates a deep dent in our beliefs and efforts. Terrorism is a like a Frankenstein, a creation of human beings that has gone out of control. Trust me, I am not cynical, rather practical.

We (read different nations, including India) used terrorism or terrorist groups for our short term benefits. We never realized that it would snowball to this level. It took many years for an LTTE or an al-Qaeda to become this powerful. They have not mushroomed overnight. We watered them, nurtured them and let them grow. Now it has virtually become impossible to nip them down directly.

We need to create an environment that alienates terrorism in all its forms, including the Naxals in India. So, a direct fight against terrorism, once again, is a short-sighted endeavor. It is probably important but it will surely not solve the problem. We need to focus on the aspects that give birth to terrorism -- lack of education, poor living conditions, social oppression, dismal health and hygiene systems. It requires concentrated, sustainable efforts. Terrorism is not going to stop unless we improve these basic requirements of a stable livelihood. An unstable mind is the first step to become an insane killer.

Zafar Anjum said...

Hey Supriya, thanks. Very relevant points and agree with you. That's why I too have argued for building a just world order, just and well-balanced societies. Terrorism arises out of the unjust distribution of problems. It can be countered with the just distribution of solutions. It works from micro to macro to international levels.

Hasmita said...

Worth thinking about, Zafar. The roots of terrorism are deep and twisted. Only unity with intelligence as well as goodness can eradicate it.

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks Hasmita for your comments. I like your formulation: unity, intelligence (I guess of both kinds) and judgement...

CHANDRU'S said...

It is really an insightful critique of a global problem. I appreciate your research. If it is not out of context, I may add one point here on the topic.
The UN Security Council having been siezed of this global prolem belatedly, passed its resolution 1373, demanding sovereign nation states to ensure prohibiting their subjects from using their territory as safe haven for those who finance or plan terrorist acts. The Resolution enforeceably demands that states must ensure that any person who engages in financing,planning or otherwise supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice, and that domestic legislation shall establish that such terrorist acts as serious criminal offences, with appropriate punishments. Resolution 1566 of 2004, though not worded on the same fashion, clearly defines in unambiguous terms the meaning of the criminal acts committed in the name of terrorism and inccludes those acts which fall within the meaning of terrorism.
However, as things would have it, these resolutions continue to remain as paper-blastering relics, without the potency of enforceability.
Seymore Hersh, the acclaimed investigative journalist of the NYT, empahtically marshals his findings that certain petro-dollar filled coffers of dynastic states in the Middle East have been freely opened for fundamentalist groups, not for promoting their professed religion but to broker their existence amidst threats of over oeverthrow of their governments by the terrorists for reasons that the fundamentalist groups have taken in their strides to black-mail these states of their engaging in lavish life styles, fuelled by oil money. Though they take pride in being theocratic nations, "they are increasingly corrupt, alienated from the country's religious rank and file." These countries pump in millions of dollars to these fundamental groups as "protection money". And, as usual, the UNO pretends to be in deep slumber, dreaming that the world has become an absolute place of peacefulness, unheard of in the human history.
Member nations in the UNO continue to skulk behind America, waiting for the big brother to break its feigned Rip Van winkle sleep - these member nations also pretend to be unaware of the fact that Uncle Sam has his own "strategic" intersts in these petro-dollar based dynastic structures and he would not throw away his hat in the ring as along as the White House is 'pentaganally' protected from future any such 9/11 attck.
I once again appreciate your piece of writing. Regards.

Zafar Anjum said...

Chandru, thanks for sharing your comments here. Your larger point is true but there is even a deeper truth behind this. Very few will talk about this truth: Globalisation, led by America, is the other side of the coin of terrorism. Unfortunately, the media ignores it or is not interested or is afraid to highlight these things. Why is America reluctant to introduce liberty and democracy in the Arab states? Why only Iraq? There are clear proofs that from Jimmy Carter to Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, had links with Al Qaeda elements. Al Qaeda was CIA's creation. And it is still controlled by elements of global powerhouses. Misguided terrorists are just pawns. The fact is, as mentioned by Thomas Sebastian, a Mumbai based writer and academician, US imperualistic powers do not want to end terorrism, but to monopolize it.

Zafar Anjum said...

Pls ignore the typos: I meant imperialistic here: "US imperualistic powers do not want to end terorrism, but to monopolize it."

Zafar Anjum said...

From Mirza A Beg:

Dear Zafar Anjum:

Thanks for a very thoughtful expression. I completely agree with you. Those who claim to fight in the name of Islam and/or Muslims may have had such intentions, perhaps at the outset, but as always such intentions give way to tactics bred through anger and self justification taking refuge in destruction of the perceived enemy irrespective of means, rendering them a scourge to every thing humane, decent and sacred. They thrive on goading the society and government to overreact.

Governments usually fall for it. One of the most unfortunate traits of human organizations is that, to conquer what they consider to be inconvenient, they try to destroy it by "Any" means. Justice and laws are easily jettisoned to covert and off the record actions. This creates a reaction; which creates more reaction and so on.

Eventually the illegal covert monster that thrives on hate demands to be fed. If not fed, it turns on its creators. It appears that the different sides are locked in this death struggle.

Decades of lies and hate do not easily yield to love and justice. But that is the only way to starve the hate and injustice. One of the great gifts of democracies is that we get a chance to draw back and start anew with every election. I hope Obama with his intelligence and understanding will help the world to take a different path. Thanks and warm regards,


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