Twelve years since the invasion of Afghanistan and 10 years since the invasion of Iraq, a decade after the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, 7 years since the execution of Saddam Hussain, two years since the killing of Osama bin Laden, numerous “renditions” and waterboardings later, the American government and public at large and, to a lesser extent, other governments and people in the West, are living on edge, not knowing when and where the next attack will occur.
(Daily Times, 14 August 2013)
(Note from author: The para below highlighted in bold was excised by the editor in the version published in the Daily Times.)
A false spectre is haunting the West, the spectre of Global Jihad. The total number of westerners killed so far from this so-called “Jihad” has not reached five thousand, a majority of them in one incident only, namely, 9/11. On the other hand, the total number of Muslims directly killed in “Anti-Jihad” – western invasion of or intervention in Muslim countries in the name of “war on terror” – now runs in the hundreds of thousands.
Of course, the historical significance of events is never measured by the number of people killed. Some events impact more than others, such has always been the case. Surely, 9/11 will remain etched in the world’s collective memory for a very long time. So will, to a lesser extent, the Bali bombings (2002), Madrid train bombings (2004), London’s 7/7 (2005), Mumbai’s 26/11 (2008), the recent senseless bombing of the Boston Marathon and the brutal murder of Lee Rigby in London.
Western governments seem powerless to stop such attacks, despite unprecedented border controls, security checks, sweeping surveillance and curtailment of civil liberties of their own citizens. While Guantanamo, where 47 inmates are destined to stay locked up for life without facing a court, continues to be a stain on the country which considers itself a beacon of freedom and justice, we now learn that the US has been collecting phone and internet data of Americans, which would have been unthinkable before 9/11.
In the latest scare, the United States has officially closed its embassies in 19 North African and Middle Eastern countries. Twelve years since the invasion of Afghanistan and 10 years since the invasion of Iraq, a decade after the capture of Al Qaeda’s chief of operations Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, 7 years since the execution of Saddam Hussain, two years since the killing of Osama bin Laden, numerous “renditions” and waterboardings later, the American government and public at large and, to a lesser extent, other governments and people in the West, are living on edge, not knowing when and where the next attack will occur.
Many now see a “Jihadi” concealed in every face with a beard, hiding behind every burqa, camouflaged in every person named Muhammad or Ali and lurking in every public place. Unless sanity returns, one may live to see mob violence against perfectly fine, harmless people just because they look or sound like a Muslim.
Surely, one cannot talk rationally to people who are prepared to butcher unsuspecting runners or passers-by and blow themselves up with intent to kill others for any reason whatsoever. One sends such people to jail or to the gallows. But, beyond that, one hopes that governments and leaders know better and they draw from knowledge and experience. In their pursuit of being seen to be doing something, Western governments ought not to forget what it is that they are doing. In the heat of the chase, they should not forget what it is that they are chasing.
It should be clear by now that this terrible “War on Terror” – this “Anti-Jihad”, if I may – is embroiling the world in a vicious cycle of terror and counter-terror, of misperceptions, hatred and more terror. Anti-Jihad creates more Jihadis than it eliminates. It is not making the world more safe, but dangerously unsafe.
Owing to skewed reporting, false propaganda, rampant stereotyping, malicious interpretation of events, quoting Quran out of historical context, citing Quranic passages which only a handful of Muslims take literally and even fewer act upon, and highlighting fatwas to which hardly any Muslims pay any heed at all, many people in the West now view Muslims as a dangerous global threat and revile Islam as a source of evil.
It will help to get a historical perspective on this “Jihad” and “Islamic terrorism”. But first, a few words about non-Muslim terrorism. Timothy McVeigh, a white American Gulf War veteran, blew up a government building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring over 680, to make the point that the US government is “evil”.
Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 fellow Norwegians to punish the ruling Labour Party for the influx of Muslims. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards shot her dead in 1984 to avenge the “desecration” of their holy shrine in Amritsar. And Hindu mobs burned alive, slashed and decapitated 3,000 Sikhs in revenge attacks in Delhi alone. Sikh militants blew up an airplane over the Atlantic in 1985, killing 329 passengers. Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh was killed by a Sikh suicide bomber in 1995.
Sri Lanka’s LTTE carried out at least 378 suicide attacks between 1987 and 2008. Among others, they killed approximately 8,000 fellow Tamils accusing them of being traitors and expelled both Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamil Muslims from areas under their control. They may not have employed religious terminology, but their goal was a state for the Hindu Tamil people of northern and eastern Sri Lanka. LTTE’s victims included an Indian prime minister and a Sri Lankan president, who were killed by female Tamil suicide bombers in 1991 and 1993, respectively.
And, while we are at it, why leave out Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot who, between them, and within the last hundred years only, killed perhaps many scores of millions of people in the name of racial purity or a “socialist paradise”? Their victims’ only crime was to belong to the wrong race or religion or to the upper socio-economic classes.
Or the Serb massacre at Srebrenica in 1995, where 7,000 Muslims were executed in cold blood in one day for their religious affiliation. Or the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, when at least half a million Tutsis were massacred over one hundred days by Hutu mobs because of their ethnicity.
The list is long. The further we go back in time, the longer and more grisly it gets. No nation can escape culpability or claim the high moral ground.
(To be continued)
By Razi Azmi