Asghar Ali Engineer
(Secular Perspective October 1-15, 2001)
The attacks on the two World Trade Centre Towers in New York on 11th September 2001 was, what can be said to be terrible and horrible. No words can be adequate to condemn these attacks specially as they were directed at innocent civilians who are in no way involved in political or matters of state policy. These towers were chosen by the terrorists probably because they are symbols of American economic domination and imperialistic designs. The terrorists wanted to convey the message that even a mighty power like America is not invincible.
The modern technology by its very nature cannot be confined to a particular area and a country. This is the mistake the USA is making. Its own technology was used against it. However, it is beyond belief that a few Arabs and Afghans could master such advanced technology and could accomplish such well co-ordinated and precision task. It requires great skill and advanced knowledge of technology. I wish these young men who destroyed their own lives, besides those of six thousand innocent people had utilised their skills in developing technological base for their own countries and then engaged American military might.
It is also to be borne in mind that the young men who were not merely unemployed youth who did it merely out of frustration, but were highly trained and skilled pilots and other technologists who were capable of precise planning who sacrificed their lives for the sake of a "cause". Thus they were highly motivated and strongly believed in their cause. Modern technology in the hands of such highly ideologically motivated individuals can prove as disastrous as in the hands of a country. The USA should also bear in mind that many victim nations of its policies may remain silent for the interests of their ruling classes coincide with those of US ruling classes, but some angry victim citizens of these nations can retaliate with deadly efficiency and may bring disaster. Besides destruction of lives and properties, it can also use biological weapons with much more disastrous results.
The reaction of the US rulers to the deadly attacks was not of wise mature people but of those who know only of revenge and retaliation. If the terrorists had something bad, America wants to do something worse. Its anger can involve many countries of South and West Asia in a needless war causing thousand fold more destruction of lives and properties. And still the desired result may not be achieved.
Also, declaring war against Afghanistan would hardly do much harm to it even if it is bombed to the stone- age as Mr. Bush, the President of mighty America says. Afghanistan has already been reduced to stone age by the policies of super-powers on one hand, and, the fanatical Talibans, on the other. What more the people of Afghanistan will lose than they have already lost? Moreover the people of Afghanistan can fight guerrilla war for their independence for another hundred years. The Afghans, their history shows, have not submitted to even their own co-religionists from outside. The Mughal rulers of India could never hold the Afghans under their own tutelage. They are known to be the fierce fighters for their freedom all through the history.
Another thing we must remember here is that Islam, however it is used for legitimation of the actions of the terrorists' act, is not the issue. Also, we must make a difference between religion as faith and religion as an identity. Religion as a faith has largely a spiritual function and religion as an identity acquires political overtones. The terrorists are using Islam as an identity as ethnicity becomes a powerful function of identity. The ethnic terrorism is as dangerous as religious terrorism. The western and Indian media, some subtly, some more openly, began to target Islam as a religion of fanatics and violence. It is co-incidental that the terrorists in this case happens to be Muslims (though yet not conclusively proved but in all probability, yes). In case of Ocklahama they were Christians.
The terrorists, it must be noted, are not product of religion, they are product of certain state policies. The USA has made this grave mistake. It thinks these terrorists are product of Islam, not of its own policies in the Middle East. Usama bin Laden, if he is involved in the terroristic attacks on New York towers, has not carried out these attacks as Islamic theologian. The foremost Islamic theologian of Saudi Arabia Bin Baz, has issued no such fatwa to carry out attacks on World Trade Centre. In fact Usama has been thrown out from Saudi Arabia. He is a rebel. All Afghans do not even agree with him. There is already civil war going on in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance is a sworn enemy of the Taliban. There are thousands of Afghans who hate Taliban but are helpless. The Taliban's Islam is Islam of fanatical fringe and any violent group is always in need of such fanatical interpretation of religion to bind their followers together. Again we should remember that such violence and fanaticism are not products of religion but such religion is product of desperate need of such fringe groups.
Most of the Muslim `Ulama have condemned these terror attacks. The leaders of the Islamic Movements have also issued a statement which says, "We have un-equivocally condemned the dastardly terrorist attack on establishments in New York and Washington, whose victims belong to some forty countries and major religions of the world. Islam upholds sanctity of human life as the Qur'an declares that killing one innocent human being is like killing the entire human race. The tragedy of the 11th September is a crime against humanity and the Muslims all over the world mourn all victims of this aggression as a common loss of America and the whole world." The above statement should make it clear that there is absolutely no Islamic approval behind what has happened on 11th September. One has to see these events in the light of the policies USA has been following in the Islamic world today. There is no other light in which it could be seen.
America thus rather than planing a war against terrorism should dispassionately think of policy measures which can ultimately end this brutal kind of terrorism. Its arrogance of power could not defeat Vietnamese and will not be able to defeat Afghans. Its bombing to stone age of Baghdad (significantly this statement of bombing Iraq to stone age was also made by the father of Bush the then President Bush on 11th September 1998 in the UNO) did not overthrow Saddam. It made its position stronger, if any thing.
Thus America should not think of either bombing Afghanistan to stone age or launching war against terrorism and long war at that. America is a mighty nation, no doubt what might, despite the age-old adage, can not make it right in any case. Let it remember violence will produce more and much more viscous violence. America, as pointed out before, has been humbled several times before and will be humbled even more if it continues to follow the same policies.
In 21st century problems should be solved in a more civilised and intelligent ways. Wisdom, if sincerely used, can become much more powerful weapon than even a hydrogen bomb in human affairs. By declaring war against Afghanistan the USA will fuel more anger in the Muslim world and will have to pay much greater price in coming days. New security measures being devised will be as fragile as the existing measures have proved to be and some way again will be found out to penetrate through even the tightiest security. That is absolutely no guarantee for absolute safety.
In fact USA should drastically review its policies in the Middle East. Its blatant pro-Israel stance may have some internal compulsions but cannot win it friends among Muslim countries. It will be more and more alienated from the peoples of these countries, if not the ruling classes. The repeated Israeli aggression against the Palestinians will alienate it more and more from these peoples of Muslim countries. No amount of media management can save it. The CNN or the New York Times or other US and major media cannot can not stand it in good stead. This media management can save America only among the American people who, in any case, do not matter, in the Middle East.
The events in New York should also serve a wake up call for the ruling classes in the Muslim countries. They are sitting on volcano. The American alliance or American weapons cannot save them. The Shah of Iran's fate should be a lesson for them. It was no mere exception. Such a thing can repeat in countries like the Saudi Arabia. It would be wrong to think that mere suppression of democratic rights and brutal oppression can save them. The SAVAK of Shah's regime was most brutal and barbarous and yet could not save the Shah from being overthrown. Let America not delude itself by declaring that it would wipe out terrorism from all countries. Its arrogance can only intensify it. Thus USA will lose more allies as in Iran.
India should also not entertain delusion that USA will help it fight out terrorism in Kashmir. If Kashmir is to be retained as integral part of India it will have to drastically revise its policies towards the people of Kashmir. It also requires wisdom rather than suppression and violations of human rights. The RSS hawks like Mr.Gurumurthy even declared on Zee T.V. that India has fought "Muslim terrorism" for one thousand years and now there is chance to send Indian forces in Pakistan to wipe out training camps. Such utterly hawkish and aggressive attitude will make the Kashmir problem thousand times more difficult to solve. Kashmir can be retained as part of India only if India is secular and democratic. The RSS training camps within India also need to be closed down for solving the Kashmir problem.
A word for Islamic terrorists. No amount of terrorism and violence will
ever solve any problem. It will not only attract world-wide condemnation
as in the case of terrorist attacks on New York World Centre it will also
compound the very problem they seek to solve. If they really believe in
Islam they should do everything possible to project proper image of Islam
as a religion of peace and compassion, not of jihad and violence. Non-violence
is the only way to win sympathy of people. These misguided terrorists should
seriously reflect as to why Islam today is being equated with fanaticism
and violence. Their acts are greatly responsible for this bad image of
Islam. They should also reflect seriously as to why Muslim world has not
produced persons like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela? The violence torn
world needs more of them today to solve our problems with the most morally
powerful weapons of peace and wisdom.
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Posted 2 June 2001
Last revised 1 October 2001
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