Jobs @ MG
Looking beyond the tragedy
By Saeed Suhrawardy
|Every Muslim who prays five times a day
is familiar with the words and meaning of Surah Fateha. Namaz is not
possible unless Surah Fateha is recited. The prayer is the essence of
Islam. It represents the commitment of Muslims to universal peace and
compassion for mankind. In every rak'at of all types of Namaz, Farz,
Sunnat or Nafil, the commitment has to be reaffirmed. Naturally if Muslims
condemn the terrorist attack on New York and Washington, they are acting
according to their Faith.
It is the first major tragic event of the century. The perpetrators of the
crime have already met a tragic end in the prime of their youth. But many
others having nothing to do with the conspiracy may become victims of the
backlash, which already seems in the offing. However, that does not lessen
the gravity of the tragic event. Its condemnation has been universal. But
mere condemnation is not enough. It has to be ensured that such tragic
episodes do not recur in future.
The efforts of the United States to build an international coalition to
pursue its new war against terror, have to contend with the different
agendas that the allies bring with them. Some of these clash with American
goals in other areas. There will be contradictions among the different
interests of the potential allies. The tension is already visible in the
subcontinent, where Pakistan offers to support American actions against
the Taliban regime, but wants to limit the forward movement in Indo-US
All the key players, who can influence the situation in the region or help
the US effectively pursue its new war effectively have their own interests
at stake. Whether it is Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Israel or moderate
Arab nations, every one among them would want to promote their own
interests in supporting the American war. The extent of their gain will
depend on their bargaining power which would be based on their internal
strength, geopolitical position and the resources they can bring to the
Pakistan, which has become crucial to the pursuit of this war, could gain
enormously. But internal weaknesses has left it with little capacity to
bargain effectively with the U.S.
The terrorist attack on USA has to be judged from several angles. The most
important being legitimacy of the action being undertaken by USA and its
camp followers. It shall not be prudent to limit us to political and moral
lessons of the grim disaster.
The photographs released by US authorities do not suggest that they were
orthodox Islamic fundamentalists of "Taliban" variety. To impart
the tragedy, a vision of ‘Islamic terror’ along with them, old
photographs of Osama bin Laden were flashed on TV screen repeatedly. That
media ploy has had a disastrous impact.
Arabs, Muslims, mosques, Islamic centres and colleges were attacked with
petrol bombs in as far as Australia. Sikhs also, who had no role in the
terrorist activity against USA became victims of mass fury due to mistaken
identity. The architects of the attack should have known the gravity of
what they had planned to do and its long-term implications.
However, it is surprising the senior and seasoned leader, our Prime
Minister has jumped to hasty and immature conclusions. The face of
terrorism may be ugly, but the appeal of the Prime Minister of India, Mr.
Atal Behari Vajpayee asking every Indian to be a part of this global war
on terrorism lacks depth and sincerity. He continues the rhetoric by
asserting ‘we must and we will stamp out this evil from the land and the
world.’ He was eager to jump on the US bandwagon for a quick solution of
But the full-page advertisement published in leading national newspapers
on September 18, 2001 in connection with so-called Solidarity Day against
Terrorism by the government agency, Directorate of Audio-Visual Publicity
(DAVP) shows what terrorism means to Mr. Vajpayee. It reveals the
anti-Muslim bias of Vajpayee regime. It has cleverly linked the attack on
WTC Towers with acts, which according to Sangh Parivar represent
‘Islamic fundamentalism’ or ‘Islamic terror’. It did not contain
pictures of anti-Sikh terror of 1984 or the outrage against Babari Mosque
in 1992. Obviously the intention of NDA publicity was to incite feelings
against Indian Muslims.
It is relevant to invite his attention to this extract of a recent article
by Mani Shankar Aiyar, suggesting that ‘Vajpayee terminates a century of
Gandhi and Nehru.’
"Will George W. tell Ariel Sharon of Israel that sending helicopter
gunships into Gaza to target and bomb the Al-Fatah headquarters of
President Yasser Arafat is terrorism of the same order that destroyed
World Trade Centre. Or swear they will never again bomb someone else’s
palace as they did when Muammar Gadhafi’s three-year old daughter was
killed by US Air Force sleeping in her cot? Or a pharmaceutical factory in
Khartoum pummeled because the CIA thought (oops, wrong again) that it was
Osama’s munitions manufacturing facility?" (Indian Express,
September, 18, 2001)
There is no guarantee that similar mistakes shall not recur during
"Operation Infinite Justice" announced by US President Geroge W.
In his misplaced enthusiasm, Mr. Vajpayye has completely ignored and
bypassed the issues that are the breeding ground of terrorism. Terrorism
arises when normal forms of protest go without a just response. Terrorist
activities are acts done in desperation or frustration.
The terrorist attack on USA is undoubtedly a heinous crime. It caused the
collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and other buildings
in New York. It caused damage to the complex housing the defence
establishment of USA, better known as Pentagon. If the President of United
States of America described the terrorist response to US policies in the
past as ‘an act of war’ that is understandable. He was expressing the
sentiments of a nation, which finds it hard to concede that the act of
terrorism has revealed a grave failure of their intelligence services and
inadequacy of their security environemnt. They had been living in the smug
belief that their arsenal of nuclear weapons and stockpile of arms was
sufficient to secure them against outside attack.
Their sense of complacency has been shattered. Their inflated ‘national
ego’ is sadly and badly bruised. We share their grief in the present
tragic moment. We should do everything possible for their relief and
succour. The great people of USA deserve that. In spite of several inhuman
acts of their government, they have stood up for human rights and just
causes. Their role was significant for the end of brutal involvement of
USA in Vietnam. They have generously contributed to a large e number of
However, a distinction has to be made between sympathy with the people of
USA and censure of political conduct of their government.
The present outcry of USA and its camp followers has missed an important
point. "War" is not the right strategy for combating terrorism.
USA has a dismal record as a champion of lost causes. The political
establishment of USA has not learnt much from its past mistakes. The USA
establishment has a sinister record of perpetrating terrorist activities
of the most inhuman variety. Their brutalities in Vietnam find a sinister
parallel in their conduct in Iraq. But what have they achieved so far?
They failed against Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. They could not achieve their
political objectives against North Korea.
USA failed to dislodge Imam Khomeini in Iran. He died a peaceful natural
death. With a sinister record of death of thousands of children to their
credit or debit side, to their chagrin, Saddam Hussein continues to be in
power in Iraq. Mu'ammar Qaddafi continues to rule Libya. Their desperate
demand to get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive they might excite many among
his young followers to risk their lives for martyrdom.
While sharing the grief of the people of USA, directly affected by the
terrorist attack, Indian Muslims have to take into account the role of
their own government. It appears that the BJP component of the NDA
Government seems over-enthusiastic for the favours of USA, by taking
advantage of their discomfiture at present. It appears that they have
given up all concern about national sovereignty and solidarity.
After being criticized by the opposition for its eagerness to
"embroil India in a US war" against Afghanistan, the Vajpayee
government was urged by two of its key constituents to go slow on its
promises of help to USA. The Samata Party and the DMK warned the
government against endangering India’s interests by going along US
strategy that could ignite a wider conflict.
If the government is keen to offer comprehensive support to the war
against terrorism, it can only do so on the basis of a consensus. But that
is nowhere in sight. The record of USA against Islamic countries has been
dismal so far. Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Libya know
the bitter taste from their own experience. Mr Vajpayee must know that it
is always politically difficult to offer bases to the US to launch attacks
against the Islamic world. If the US response is framed as a UN action and
clearly directed at "terrorism" that would have given reasons
for justifying its support to US action. But UN is at present a
‘captive’ of US policy-makers. It has become an effete and ineffective
body lacking the authority and resources to enforce its decisions.
Here it is relevant to cite the second extract from Mani Shankar Aiyar’s
article, "Yes, it is terrible that 5,000 innocents lost their lives
to terrorism at the World Trade Centre. But is it not true that 500,000
have died in Iraq because Americans orchestrated a blockade of essential
medicines over a decade? George W. will retort that it is Saddam, not
Bush, who has brought this terrible retribution on the Iraqis. In which
case we have to ask the president’s father, Bush Sr, why the Allies did
not move to Baghdad to eliminate Saddam. The answer, we all know, was the
need to save American lives. In which case the ground war against Osama
bin Laden be pressed with the loss of American lives—or is it only
passing Pakistani shepherds who have to pay with their lives for American
missiles that do not quite find their targets?"
The Operation Infinite Justice is flawed from the very beginning. USA has
no exact knowledge of the persons who plotted the terrorist attack. They
do not have exact knowledge of the place where the conspiracy was hatched.
US Intelligence has not been infallible. They were clueless about the
assassination of President J.F. Kennedy. If the needle of suspicion
pointed towards Osama bin Laden and they were aware of its network, they
should have kept a watch on their activities. If that was done, the
tragedy might have been averted. What is the guarantee that their accusing
finger at Osama bin Laden is right now?
U.S.A. seems to be bent upon undertaking a military adventure without
realizing its economic consequences. It might turn out to be war against
world economy. The risk is that USA may end up losing its status as world
economic and industrial leader. It might also be the end of USA as
It is difficult to calculate the damage to global economy at the time of
terrorist strikes. The ominous signs are already visible. Insurance, air
transportation and hospitality sectors have already suffered crippling
blows. With increasing unemployment looming large on the horizon, the US
economy might be pushed into a full-blown recession because of a fall in
consumer spending. Japan, with the second largest economy is having too
many structural problems.
The European Union is just about to complete its monetary integration with
the introduction of euro bank notes. But, in all these three years, the
euro has not lived up to the expectation of being a countervailing force
to the dollar.
Most of the Asian economies, including India, depend upon U.S. market for
their exports. For example, the fortunes of India’s biggest hope
software industry are tied to the U.S. Even before Black Tuesday, the
impact of the American slowdown was being globally felt. The possibility
is ever there that when the impending conflict ends, US may yield place to
China as super economic power.
I would like to conclude the piece with the comments of Muzammil Jaleel
(Indian Express, 19 September), which represent the feelings of average
Indian Muslim on the subject:
"A military strike against Afghanistan—or even the death of Osama
bin Laden would be actually counter-productive. Islamic militancy does not
need any bin Ladens. It is the psyche, which has roots not in Islamic
fundamentalism, but somewhere else, although it only grows amidst
religious fanaticism. It is the result of a politics of oppression and
suppression. Though we are being constantly told that it is war between
"terror" and "democracy", it is really much more than
that. It certainly has its roots in double standards of the democracies of
the world. q