Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Demythifying the Terror Hydra


Maryam Sakeenah

The Great Divide yawns wider, gaping threateningly, asserting the terrifying fact that Huntington’s controversial thesis may well be true.

For, as the Muslim world seethes under occupation, oppression and deprivation, the West clearly grows obsessively Islamophobic. As terror plots are unveiled one after another in a well laid-out sequence, all sanity drowns in the frenzy. The Terror Hydra resurfaces at expedient times, whenever the West’s callous adventures seem to be stirring public opinion in favour of the suffering Muslims. Terror strikes at tube stations, on planes, in railway carriages, creating in the public consciousness, fear of and hatred for the persona of a vile, savage, beastly misanthropic mischief-monger_ the ‘Islamist’_ who leaves trails of bombs to devour innocent populations, fired by his fanatical creed.

The reaction is predictable: more than 22% Americans today prefer not to have Muslims as their neighbours; white arsonists routinely attack mosques in London and New York.

A lot of reality is eclipsed as an outraged media whips up the scare and the hatred. What suffers most tragically is the Truth. It is obscured and buried under. The media defines the perpetrator to be the loathsome ‘Islamist’. Full stop. But the real questions are not asked: where is the evidence? Why would these people do it when it so outrageously harms their cause? Everybody’s tuned in to the Matrix.

Even if all evidence unmasking the Great Untruth is ignored, there remain facts to be shown which the world media, if it is to save itself from becoming a propaganda machine, must take it upon itself to convey to the duped public: terrorist behaviour cannot be identified with Islam or its followers. It is an aberration, extrinsic to its ideology and spirit, and that when a nation is sinned-against, victimised, oppressed, the frustration for being unjustly treated boils over and the sores erupt. It is a lesson of history. What is important is to recognize and identify the agents and factors wreaking havoc in the Muslim world, the causes of the widespread sense of desperation among the Muslims.

As Lebanon is incorrigibly scarred by a relentless military assault that has no rhyme or reason, it hurts the Muslim sensibility. When pictures of rotting bodies of Muslim children in their dead mothers’ laps are splashed across newspapers, it hurts. When appeals for a timely ceasefire to end atrocities are vetoed with rhetorical justifications, it hurts. As Palestinians are driven out of homes, squatters and impoverished refugee camps are pounded by helicopter gunships, it hurts. As havoc is wreaked in Afghanistan because the regime refused to play the Western tune, and as Iraq is crippled and set ablaze in a war waged under a false pretext, it hurts. When the rulers placed in Muslim lands play sheepish bystanders, the seething hurt festers, creating a collective psyche of hopelessness, helplessness and despondency.

After the Khilafah fell the sentiment continued to rise and pervade Muslim societies. The failure of the nationalist governments to deliver made the Muslim lose faith in the politics of servility and perpetual neo-colonisation. Consequently, there was a rise in the growth of Islamic movements which addressed the grievances of the average Muslim that their rulers had failed to do. Here was a promise of deliverance, and this accounted for the tremendous success of these movements.

In the charged clime of the international scene today, it is easy_ perhaps expedient_ to demonize these Islamic movements as fanatical militant groups sponsoring terror, aiming for political ascendancy to unleash a Reign of Terror or inaugurate a Dark Age. The Western public buys the logic because it comes with all the proof of those vile terror plots hatched by ‘Islamists’ periodically.

It is important to understand the ground reality. These Islamic groups are veritable outgrowths of the mass Muslim sentiment and have deep support in Muslim populations all over the world. They promise an effective bulwark against all that Muslims have suffered since the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate. They subscribe to a scrupulous, sublime ideology that is highly appealing to the prevailing Muslim emotion, edifying in its moral consciousness, egalitarianism and sense of justice. One such is the Hezbollah, certainly no demon as its heroic defence in Lebanon, its readiness to accept a peace and fully abide by the terms of a ceasefire have proven. At home, we have the Jama’at ud Da’wa, very often demonized by the Indian press as a terrorist outfit fomenting unrest in Kashmir. The Jama’at, however, is conspicuous for its humanitarian and philanthropic orientation. Its aid and welfare work in quake-hit AJK and rural areas in Punjab are praiseworthy. Its track record in Occupied Kashmir shows no instance of harm to civilian life and consequently, tremendous and deep-rooted support among the occupied population. Certainly, these are not the terrorists we are taught to fear.

What is important to note is the perfect consensus among all Muslims and Islamic groups that deliberate harm to civilian life is unjustifiable by Islam, and can never be condoned. No ends can justify it. Remember the attack on Qana, killing hundreds of terrified asylum seekers_ children mothers, the aged and the sick? Here lies Islam’s difference with aggressors dismissing the wreckage of human lives as ‘collateral damage.’ There is absolute clarity in the Muslim mind about Islam’s strict warning against harm to non-combatants. Branding a religion as ‘terroristic’ whose Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) forbade harm to women, children, the aged, the sick or worshippers even in the event of war is a grotesque lie, to say the least. Any outfit or organization that does not subscribe to the irrefutable stand of Islam has no right to claim affiliation with it or to be viewed as having any such affiliation. Its existence is an aberration, an ugly deviation from Islam, and a symptom of the upsetting of all order and the death of all sanity that has resulted due to the endless prejudice-fired campaign against the Muslim world.

As terror plots make Islamophobia scale higher and world leaders passionately claim grounds for prolonging the War on Terror, the pressure on Muslim governments is great. Pakistan has received its coveted pats-on-the-back for handing over the suspected terrorists_ evidence or no evidence_ but the command to ‘do more’ is fairly audible. The government’s response is predictable: slapping bans on Islamic groups, disowning them, handing over a few ‘suspected terrorists. The effects too are predictable_ a lukewarm approval by the imperious West as the only gain and at home, deeper frustration, a deeper sense of alienation and a greater tendency towards reaction… perhaps greater sympathy and more recruits for the ‘banned’ groups.

What is required is a mature, far-sighted approach vis-à-vis the issues in question. It is unwise to fall in with Western propaganda for branding Islamic groups as responsible for the terror plots. We know this is not their agenda, and it is suicidal to the very cause they stand for. The perpetrator, his act and his perverted mindset is condemnable and punishable, and must be singled out for the crime, shorn of any pretense of association with any creed or ideology. For a terrorist is never Muslim, and this truth must be shown to the frenzied world. These isolated individuals cannot be allowed to harm the cause espoused by Islamic revivalist groups that have justifiably won myriad hearts and minds.

The government needs to realize the truth staring in the face that these Islamic organizations have grown from within their societies and reflect the aspirations of the Muslims abject in their state of perpetual subjugation. Their sense of victimhood increases with every measure undertaken by the government to clamp down on their ideals under dictation of orders from abroad. These organizations cannot be brushed under the carpet, for it is a self-defeating move. They cannot be repressed or disowned, for this very approach will create shades of violent militancy. If such an element seems to be surfacing given the prevalent distressing conditions, the government would do wisely to engage with them, acknowledge their legitimacy and accept them as a veritable entity; to sit with them on the negotiating table and achieve mutual understanding. Imposing syllabi made on order by a select team of yuppies on peevish madrassah clerics ill at ease to implement them was a move rotten to the core. The government should engage a group of accredited and learned scholars of Shariah to devise a uniform curriculum in line with the pristine essence of Islam. This, because only in disseminating this essence do we have an assurance that only that which is sane, straight, good and true will prevail. The integration of these organisations into the system helping them keep to the singular, glorious vision of mainstream Islam is what will assuage the long-suffering Muslim and keep him from a reckless course which undermines his own cause. This ‘confidence building measure’ so much desired for the rulers to undertake is what will infuse among the people a sense of hope and confidence, radically diminishing the helplessness and deprivation that threatens to make monsters of men. Then can we sit at ease.