Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Perpetrator as the victim

by Balbir K Punj

How do we define the identity of a terrorist? How do we characterise his creed that motivates him not only to kill but also undertake suicide missions to achieve 'holy' goals? The answers to these questions can help us understand the phenomenon of terrorism and plan a suitable counter-terrorism strategy.

Is it correct to term serial bombings across India as part of globalised Islamic terrorism? Why should these terrorists be known for their Muslim identity and the equally violent Maoists not for their Hindu identity? Do we attach the 'Islamic' tag to these bombings because of our prejudiced, anti-Muslim mindset?

The Maoists are not known as 'Hindu terrorists' because they do not identify themselves as Hindus, though most of them are born Hindu. The creed that inspires them to take to violence and wage against civil society is not Hinduism or Gita, but Marxism-Leninism as interpreted by Mao Tse-tung and other ideologues of the far-Left. Since being born in a Hindu family is inconsequential to the Maoists, they are identified by their political creed and not their religious faith which they have repudiated.

On the other hand, Muslims who have taken to jihad proclaim that their "war" is against kafirs, in defence of Islam, and for the restoration shari'ah. Kafirs include all non-Muslims as well as Muslims who, according to them, are not true to their faith and thus not 'good Muslims'. That explains jihadi violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan, both declared Islamic countries.

The 14-page e-mail sent out minutes before the September 13 serial bombings in Delhi begins with a quotation from the Quran and vows "to carry on the struggle and fight against Kufr (disbelief) till our last breath". From Mohammad Ghazni to Aurangzeb to the present day terrorists, all have invoked the Quran and claimed inspiration from Islamic theology. Gory details of razing temples and forcibly converting Hindus to Islam are available in plenty from the accounts penned by court historians of Muslim rulers. Can we (non-Muslims, including secularists) claim better understanding of Islam than those who have been killing and getting killed to uphold the fundamentals of their faith for more than a thousand years?

Darul Uloom Deoband is one of the principal seminaries of Islamic theology in the world. Established in 1866 by the ulema in the aftermath of the debacle in 1857, the seminary, less than 200 km from Delhi in Uttar Pradesh, has affiliate institutions in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the UK, South Africa and hundred other places of all over the world. Its official Website proclaims in flowery language, "The whole of Asia is redolent with the aroma of this prophetic garden."

The Deoband syllabus states, "When the Muslims enter the enemy's country and besiege the cities or strongholds of the infidels, it is necessary to invite them to embrace the faith, because Ibn Abbas relates of the Prophet that he never destroyed any without previously inviting them to embrace the faith. If, therefore, they embrace the faith, it is unnecessary to war with them, because that which was the design of the war is then obtained without war. The Prophet, moreover, has said we are directed to make war upon men only until such time as they shall confess, 'There is no god but one god'." Can one ignore the Deoband message and then claim to understand the phenomenon of jihad?

What is the extent of Deoband's influence? In a recent article, scholar and former Cabinet Minister Arif Mohammad Khan has quoted a study by Sohail Abbas, a leading Pakistani psychologist. The study, based on personal interviews of 517 mujahideen arrested in Afghanistan and later lodged in two Pakistani jails, asserts that "the figures on rural / urban jihadis become even more interesting as all the jihadis, barring just a few, belonged to the Deobandi school of thought". Is this mere coincidence? Is there no co-relation between Deoband's curriculum and the results of this study?

Will negationism and denial of reality help us combat the threat of terrorism? To demonstrate the patriotism of the entire Muslim population of the country, it is repeatedly said that they proved their love for India by opting to stay back at the time of partition. While most Muslims in India are indeed patriots, it is also an unpleasant fact that the agenda for the creation of Pakistan was aggressively pursued not by Muslims belonging to the areas that constitute Pakistan today but almost entirely by those belonging to Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Kashmiri Muslims, who now constitute nearly the entire population of the Valley after the forced exit of Pandits to the last person, did not migrate to Pakistan. They continue to remain in India while openly working for Pakistan. At the slightest provocation, thousands of them come out of their homes, chanting "Death to India" and waving the Pakistani flag. So merely staying in the country is no guarantee of loyalty.

It's because of the confusion on such fundamentals that our response to the threat of terrorism is muted, ineffective and befuddled. In spite of all the periodical 'red alerts' and 'bold statements' against terrorism, we are able to neither stop terrorist activities nor secure convictions against terrorists. The reaction of several sections of society to the police encounter in Jamia Nagar underlines this confusion.

A familiar litany is now being heard in Jamia Millia Islamia -- that it was a 'false' encounter and innocent Muslims have been targeted. The post-script of such litany is that the police and others want to target Muslims and hence stage such 'false' encounters. Their fevered imagination has also invented the theory that the Delhi Police officer, MC Sharma, who died in the encounter was killed by the police to make the episode appear real!

After every encounter, policemen are painted as communal, cold-blooded killers and terrorists as innocent young men. Or it is claimed that the system is unfair to Muslims, leaving them with no option but take to such devices that are available to them.

Terrorists believe that god has given them the mandate to establish a Taliban-like Islamic rule through whatever means available; master terrorist Osama bin Laden is their hero. Why cannot we see this reality? Have we started suffering from the 'Stockholm syndrome' -- and begun sympathising with our tormentors?


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