Thursday, November 10, 2005

Random Thoughts

One is struck by the "clash of civilization" between the "West" and "Islamist radicalism". Iraq experiences terrorist attacks each day defying the writ of the world's most powerful military coalition. There are intermittent terrorist attacks in Egypt, a key American ally. Jordan, another ally of the west, reported three suicide bombings yesterday that claimed the lives of at least 56 people. There were earlier sporadic incidents on Jordanian territory. Australia barely pre-empted a wave of terrorist attacks this week with the sweeping arrest of 17 alleged Islamist fundamentalists. London had its Islamist suicide bombers in July 7 that killed 56. Madrid experienced a wave of Al-Qaeda inspired train bombs a while back. Indonesia has witnessed repeated attacks on western installations. Israel is not safe either. The upheaval in Iraq is set to continue. Al-Qaeda has demonstrated the ability to strike globally.

Meanwhile, Iran will remain defiant of the west and the violence in the Caucasus is not likely to end.

The civil unrest in France has continued for the past 14 days. While this is not Islamic fundamentalism at work, the divide between immigrant communities of Muslim origin and the French is evident. The French Minister of the Interior has taken a hard-line stance towards the rioters hoping to reap a rich dividend in the upcoming elections. There have been four days of intermittent street violence by Moroccan youth in Belgium. The far right in France and Belgium has called for the expulsion of all immigrants caught in arson attacks. The extreme right has increased its electoral strength in Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland indicating a hardening of the European mind-set. The clash between Islamist radicalism and the West is apparent even if the liberal intellectual establishment were to deny that.

Can India insulate itself from all this? I believe it can and should. China offers a precedent here. Terrorist attacks in India sponsored by renegade groups in Pakistan will continue but can be limited in scope. India can and should tread a cautious middle path when it comes to the West's war on terror. Switzerland was caught in the middle of World War 2 but remained neutral. While India will need to insulate itself from Pakistan and ensure that the Islamist unrest in Kashmir is confined to the valley, it should be wary of the western coalition. This is not Asia's war.

Or have I got it wrong?


cynical nerd said...


Exactly my points. better to stay away from this clash. The West is reaping its past actions as a colonizer.

We had mentioned about it while commenting about a WSJ editorial which suggested India join the coalition of the willing while making peace with Pakistan.

Primary Red said...

Not sure if you are right, Jaffna. This is India's war in as much as democracy and pluralism are being attacked by forces of darkness -- there is no neutral ground in this war.

Best regards.

libertarian said...

Jaffna, cynical nerd, agree completely with PR. Neutrality bought us nothing in the past (remember non-alignment - India leading a bunch of 4th-world countries). Further, whether we admit it or not, we've been at the receiving end of this terror much more than any other country. If anything, we've appeased these fools far more than we've needed to. Sometimes silence is not golden, it's just plain yellow.

Conservative_Indian said...

Jaffna is correct to a great degree. While engagement with the US is needed China provides a good example of not getting your feet too wet needlessly. While there is no neutral ground, we should fight it from the issues affecting us (Kashmir etc) without joining the American Bandwagon of exporting 'democracy', 'freedom'.

Jaffna you got it exactly right in this post. I am no commie, but this American fixation has to go.

We have a problem in Kashmir which has ethnic overtones for which the current American war against terror
can be used to gain leverage. Nothing more.

Let us remember the US is an oppurtunists. See the about-turns Pakistan has been dealt with over the last few decades from the US. We should not make the same mistake. Indian should be a strategic oppurtunist too, not the 'Can I be ur lapdog, uncle sam ?'.

China was a good example Jaffna. Agree with you on this one.

Usually I agree with Primary Red, but this time he is sounding like Cheney and Rumsfield. Too much of an instapundit fixation it seems to me.

Conservative_Indian said...

Sorry about the Instapundit comment. Should not have said that, my apologies PR.

libertarian said...

conservative_indian, Jaffna,

China is not geographically or culturally exposed to terrorism as India is. It's easy for them to ignore what's going on. They have not had externally funded terrorism directed against them yet (should the Uighurs become a major problem, I'm sure they're fence-sitting will end immediately).

Jaffna, regarding your "clash of civilizations" statement, I hardly think the goons perpetrating this terror represent any civilization. They're cowards living in caves whose attacks are inefficient (as of now) going by the casualty numbers. If we don't take a hard line against them and wipe them out now (and ignore/appease them ) their attacks will get more destructive.


Aditya K said...

Completely agree with Jaffna and cynical nerd. If the 'clash of civilizations' between the West and Islamic radicalism does actually happen, India should not get involved. This is not India's war.

Anonymous said...

Hindia and Hindians are great as long as they are fending their own territory.

Nitin said...

Those who argue that this is not India's war need to think of the consequences if the secular, liberal democracies of the world (what you term 'the West') lose. Can it be any reasonable person's case that a world full of emboldened-after victory Irans, Pakistans and Saudi Arabias will allow India to pursue its own course?

China is not a good example. It is neither a secular democracy or an open society. Its strategy is to ruthlessly curb religious and political freedom within the country and buy geopolitical protection by paying off states like Pakistan. How long this model will succeed is anyone's guess.

Indeed, I would go so far as saying that a state of India's size, position and composition cannot be neutral in this conflict, even if it desires to. It is impossible for India to be neutral just as it was impossible for India to be 'non-aligned' in the past. Indeed, the cold war lesson for India is that unless it makes a conscious choice, sitting on the fence will result in it falling, involuntarily, onto one side or the other. In spite of non-alignment, India was thick with the Soviets, who ultimately were on the losing side.

Primary Red is right - there is no neutral ground in this conflict.

indianpatriot said...

Jaffna is exactly right in this respect. India does not have a dog in this fight between Jihadists and a coalition including secular Iraqi nationalists who may not have loved Saddam Hussein but hate foreign British and American occupation and what west calls war on terrorism but mainly done by a coalition in USA of fundamentalist evangelists of Pat Robertson Variety, Oil addicted Lobby of Dick Cheney and oil executives and liberal turned conservatives calling for New American century who see rising power like India to be contained not coopted . Here are the four reasons India cannot be like Australia (which is protected by occean on all sides) and Britain which tries to act like superpower by clinging on American apron strings. All 3 countries are Anglo Saxon , mainly white protestant christian countries who have little respect for other cultures (not just Indian). Here are the 4 reasons.
1) Betrayal of the first order in Kunduz. Pakistani army officers and Brigadiers were completely surrounded in Kunduz by Northern Alliance but USA allowed all Pakistani officers to be airlifted out by Pakistani Airforce which US MSNBC analyst Michael Moran called operation air evil drop. Those Jihadi officers continue their jihadi campaign against India. Probably US thinks that if Jehadis target India they may not give as much attention to West.(I believe this is opinion of many Indian strategic analysts like Raman and is the reason US is giving 80 F-16 to Pakistan which while not condusive for stability think is in Wests interests by increasing terrorism against India).

2) If you respect democracy you donot try to influence another democracy's internal affairs during polling time. This is what exactly Colin Powell did during LokSabha election 2004 by declaring Pakistan as Non Nato Ally after visiting India for 2 days. It was an ultimate act of betrayal on an NDA govt which had spent much of political capital on improving relations with USA.

3) Apart from Kashmir, India has problems in NorthEast. Here the problem is not created by Jihadists but Evangelical christians(Especially in Nagaland, Tripura) by their proletyzation funded by evangelists like Pat Robertson.

4) US opposed Cryogenic engine deal from Russia (which delayed Indian space program little bit but did not reverse it). Opposed vociferously Indias obtaining strategic autonomy by testing nuclear weapons and keeps putting pressure on India not to take action against insurgents in Pakistani Occupied Kashmir. What is the guarantee that USA impose Kosovo Type solution for Kashmir on India( All strategic Indian experts Brahma Challaney to Bharat Karnad indicate Pokhran II was an immediate necessity to ward off that possibility)

I believe in Indian national interest let west(I limit to 3 countries USA, UK and Australia) and Jihadists fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let the fundamentalists fight among themselves for oil or religion. India does not have a dog in this fight

nukh said...

In a west versus Islam scenario.
India can ill afford to sit it out. India has to and should throw in her lot with the side which most closely espouses her ideals.
Because, if such an event does unfold, the victorious will write the new contract and India, by virtue of her geography could stand to make huge gains. Least of which would be a resolved Kashmir.

China? As one of you gentlemen mentioned, they will jump in as soon as the first suicide bombing is carried out in Shanghai...

doubtinggaurav said...

Interesting discussion here,
My thoughts come here,

1) I, by and large agree with this War on Terror ( the accusation that GWB/Cheney is doing it for oil is hilarious).

2) While I do give moral and implicit support to west, I insist that any active support must be strictly on reciprocal basis (i.e west must unambigously support India on Kashmir issue), I dont see it forthcoming.So in that respect I differ with PR and other desi neo-conservatives(assuming this is the official neo-con position).

3) I dont know how sincere is US about its alliance with Pakistan and RSA, but I think US will come to grief from these allies, and unless Pakistan/RSA is dealt with War on terror will not achieve what GWB has set forth to.

4) I think B Raman is unreasonably anti american.While US-India alliance is not a given at present moment, I am optimistic about it.

5)India should continue re-orienting its foreign policies with self-interest in mind.
It will do India good to get rid of Socialists/Anti-Imperialists/NAM mindset.

6) While French riots do have economic undertones, I am not convinced that Religious/Civilizational conflict has no part in this.
(Remember France is also host to fairly large number of Vietnaamese
immigrants, yet we don't hear any trouble from that quarter.)

7) Libertarian, this is a civilizational conflict, however one of them is relatively modern (French)and another is still stuck in dreams of bygone era.
This other civilization could do with Reform/Renaissance
(In case this sounds too P-In- C I apologise )

8) What is wrong with InstaPundit?
(that is, except for disabling comment)


history_lover said...

Michael Scheuer on Al -Qaida here :\11\11\story_11-11-2005_pg7_46

Anonymous said...

This is by far Jaffna's best post.

India should only get involved if attacked, we should then defend
ourselves vigorously, else we should stay out. Let the Americans do the dirty work for us.
I understand that this is a war between good and evil. India should recognize it as such, but stay out of it. This war will eventually help India and China.

America and the West will be spent fighting the never ending tide of Muslim extremism. India and China can then pick up the economic pieces.

Moreover, India can participate in the war even by staying out. It
offers a model of integration which even the French and the Americans cannot emulate. The Chinese repress, the Indians integrate. Note that India's President is a Muslim, its top tennis player is a Muslim, its fast bowler is a Muslim, its top IT company is owned by a Muslim, and how can we forget the four Khans in cinema. Integration is taking place in India because the focus of India's policy is to educate Muslim women and generally
provide Muslims with economic opportunity. In the long term, it is wealth that trumps religion and the promise to meet umpteen "Virgins" in heaven.

history_lover said...

How Green is my Valley?
- By M.J.Akbar

Islam and Muslim nations, particularly those with
energy resources, are being subjected to an intellectual assault, based on a carefully constructed dialectic, disseminated through mass media, that must be challenged by facts and reason. We Muslims lose the argument when we become either submissive-defensive, or aggressive-hysterical. There is a lot of space in-between. We need to establish that an alternative voice is not a hostile voice. It is ironical that there should be so much misunderstanding between Americans and Muslims over faith, given that they may be the only true believers left. A Pew poll taken early this year indicated that 60% of Americans pray once a day, 70% say that the American President must have strong religious beliefs and 61% favour tighter restrictions on a moral issue like abortion. I do not have equivalent figures for Muslims, but in each category the number would probably be the same or higher. A Muslim President or Prime Minister makes it a point to be seen periodically at Friday prayers. Europe, in contrast, lost religion to rationalism or one of its by-products, communism. Two European atheists, Marx and Lenin, had such impact that they ravaged Tao, Confucius and Buddha in half of Asia and Christ in half of Europe. Religion is not limited to human reason. Faith is ethical, aesthetic, doctrinaire and inspirational. Islam acknowledges the power and beauty of the one Creator, Allah, and accepts that while we may know how we are born and die, we do not know why. Muslims believe in existence before and after death: Inna lillahe wa inna e-laihe raajaoo (From Allah we come, to Allah we go). The Islamic view of heaven and hell is no more "unreasonable" than the Christian or Judaic one. Problems arise when one incidental aspect of a faith is wrenched from context and used to demonise a religion and its believers. Every suicide mission is sneered at as a journey to the virgins of Heaven than seen for what it often (though not always) is: a cry of despair. Even a cursory reading of the Islamic text indicates that we do not retain our physical bodies after death and that the needs and pleasures of this life are very different from those of the next. But allegory is deliberately misrepresented, because it seeks to trivialise the roots of sacrifice, particularly the sacrifice of life. Demonisation is conducted like a choir through the media and it must be answered. This answer must come from a common voice. The Organisation of Islamic Conference must have two sets of priorities: tactical and strategic. An immediate
priority is to establish that common voice to win the
battle for the mind. A critical fact: the intellectual onslaught against Muslims started long before 9/11, it was not a reaction. Huntington wrote about a clash of civilisations seven years before 9/11. It was a time when almost every Muslim nation had supported America in the wars for the liberation of Afghanistan and Kuwait. To blame the neocons is not enough. We have to answer them. Judging by some of the reporting in the West, one would imagine that suicide was invented by Muslims. Suicide missions have always been an element of war tactics, with the highest honours being reserved for those who risk their lives to the maximum. One commentator wrote recently in the Guardian that surely Samson was the world's most famous suicide-missionary. Japanese air force pilots in the Second World War made kamikaze a tool of battle. The American reaction was interesting and is still relevant. "The psychology behind (kamikaze) was too alien to us. Americans who fight to live, find it hard to realise that another people will fight to die," said Admiral William Frederick Halsey (1884-1959), commander of the US 3rd Fleet, after the kamikaze attack on USS Intrepid, 25 October 1944. The Japanese did not view kamikaze as suicide: they called it a moral victory over cowards who take comfort in numbers. They told the pilots: 'Put the sorrows and joys of life behind you, for as you move towards death you move towards heaven.' Vice Admiral Takiiro Onishi wrote a haiku for the pilots: Blossoming today, tomorrow scattered Life is like a delicate flower Can one expect the fragrance to last forever? The most effective use of suicide missions in what might be called irregular war has been made by the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, who are Hindus. One such mission took the life of a beloved Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi. But such has been the distortion of world opinion that the average person today believes that "terrorism" is something created by the doctrines of Islam. This is calumny of the most perfidious kind. We must address the complex and emotive reaction to events like 9/11 and the London bombings. I do not agree with suicide missions, but surely we need to understand that they are not all alike. In some cases, as during the obvious occupation of territory by a foreign, hostile power, a suicide mission becomes an expression of the depths of a young person's despair and desperation. We must work to end suicide missions by finding answers to that desperation. We must also define the difference between unacceptable terrorism and the need for struggle. There is no age in history without its share of problems and injustice. But if injustice is addressed through peaceful dialogue, which must always remain the objective of any sane individual or nation, then there is no need for armed struggle or suicide missions. This must be a central theme of our world view. A few weeks ago, in mid-August, I was at a seminar in Berlin on "Europe and Modern Islam". My German hosts, members of a political party that hopes to be in power later this month, were neither prejudiced nor malicious; in fact they were anxious to build bridges over the stream of ignorance that has entered contemporary consciousness. And yet, almost every prejudiced nuance about Muslims was raised, almost always unconsciously. The chairman of one session kept criticising female circumcision until I pointed out that its origins were African-tribal. The hijab, naturally, was mentioned, until I argued that covering the head was a normal symbol of modesty for women in the east across religious denominations — and that I had never ever seen an icon or painting by a Christian of the Virgin Mary in which she did not wear a form of hijab; and that every Catholic nun till today wore the traditional headdress. It was a strange paradox, I thought, that a thong was considered civilised but a scarf was called barbaric. I heard the oft-repeated jibe that Muslims had not had their renaissance and had to point out that you needed renaissance only if you had gone through the Dark Ages: China, India, and the regions of the Ottoman Empire had no experience of such a dark age, for there were a hundred bookshops in Baghdad when Oxford University was still two hundred years away. A lady who had a doctorate said, in response to my remarks, that a Muslim had assassinated Mahatma Gandhi and was astonished when I pointed that a Brahmin called Godse had been the assassin. Like so many other Muslims, I too have been taunted and told that my religion is nothing but "Jihad". I am not defensive about the basic tenets of my faith. Islam is a religion of peace, but it recognises that in certain conditions, war may be forced upon you. It defines a legitimate war vis a vis an illegitimate one. Jihad is a war against injustice. The Prophet (PBUH) never took up arms during the long years of oppression and tyranny in Makkah; the war verses of the Quran were revealed only when persecution began to try and destroy the faith, and the Prophet was forced to take up arms against injustice. Jihad has clear rules: it has been stressed that you cannot kill women, children and innocents in a Jihad; you cannot even destroy palm trees. And hence my proposition: Every Jihad is a war fought by Muslims, but every war fought by Muslims is not a Jihad. The very title of the Berlin seminar, "Europe and Modern Islam", was nonsense. To begin with, there is nothing called modern or medieval or ancient Islam; Islam is Islam. Second, 'West' is geography and 'Islam' is a religion. How can you compare the two? You can discuss the West and West Asia, or South Asia, or wherever. Alternatively you can discuss Islam and Christianity. West vis a vis Islam means something only if there is a prejudiced sub-text in which 'West' implicitly corresponds to enlightenment, progress and all that is modern-good, while 'Islam' represents darkness, regress and all that is old-decadent. The notion of Islam as a "barbaric" religion while Christianity was civilised, a staple of the Crusades, has not been eliminated from the discourse. The term 'Islam', when used as a collective noun for Muslim nations, throws a range of different histories and cultures into a meaningless common basket: the reasons for Indonesia's current levels of economic, political and social development have absolutely nothing to do with Morocco's. To suggest that Islam has kept some nations both poor and/or autocratic is a corruption of facts and a reduction of complex reality to stupidity. Similarly, 'Islam and Democracy'. Islam is 1,400 years old. How old is democracy? America is the only nation with any right to call democracy two centuries old, for the American Constitution is an outstanding template of individual and collective freedom. And yet American democracy did not mean the same thing to a black and a white a generation ago. It was only after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the number of registered African-American voters in a state like Mississippi rose from 7%, in 1964, to 70% by 1968. France promised itself liberty, equality and fraternity three years after America won her independence, but took another century before doing something institutional about it. Universal franchise in the mother of democracies, Britain, is a 20th century story. Eastern Europe is just discovering the pleasures of adult franchise, and more than a billion Chinese have not known democracy till this day. I do not know if any academic institution has held a seminar on Confucianism and democracy. If many Muslim nations remain undemocratic, the reasons lie in their history, including, in many cases, the history of colonisation and neo-colonisation, rather than in faith. It is wrong to blame Islam for the sins of Muslims. It was not Christianity's fault that Latin America was mostly run by dictators who went to church. Islam does not glorify autocracy; instead it consciously advocates democratic ideas like social justice, equality and charity as fundamental principles. Progressive Muslim scholars have noted consistently that Islam is a democratic doctrine. In 1940, one of the great Indian Muslim thinkers and freedom-fighters, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, gave a speech at Ramgarh upon being elected president of the Indian National Congress. Among Islam's greatest contributions to India, he argued, was the gift of democratic ideas. A famous thesis talks of the end of history. When attempting to understand the state of the Muslim world today, let me propose an alternate thought: The beginning of history. This history begins in 1918, for that was the year in which, for all practical purposes, every Muslim in the world was colonised. Iran might claim that it was independent, but only nominally so: Britain and Russia had divided the country into "zones of influence" as far back as in 1906. The defeat of the Ottoman empire in 1918 (after the collapse of the Mughal empire 60 years before) was the last nail in the long-festering coffin of Muslim independence. Nationalist Arabs expected what had been promised during the war. Instead, the policies of the West, then led by Britain and France, hinged around the politics of oil. For the people, the control of oil became the most important definition of independence. Democracy is essential, but it is impossible without sovereignty. A free vote under the watchful eye of American soldiers will always be suspect, irrespective of how sincere it is: no one needs a fifth wheel on the democracy coach. This is not the first time that occupation has been sold as a form of liberation: this was the rationale used by the British in Egypt in 1882. I might add that no one wants to conquer a poor nation. Robert Clive called Murshidabad, a provincial capital of India, as rich as London when he entered the city as a victor in 1757. In 1790 (about 85 years after the death of the last great Mughal, Aurangzeb, and therefore nearly a century of instability) India produced more than 23% of the world's manufacturing output and Britain less than 2%. In 1947, the year India became free, Britain had more than 23% of the world's manufacturing output and India less than 2%. An ideologue could not have hoped for neater figures. But answers do not lie in anger. They lie in introspection. The strategic vision of the OIC must address the basic problems of the Muslims, problems that Muslims have created for themselves. The OIC must offer an agenda for action to reverse this decline. A deep political, economic and social apathy afflicts too much of the Muslim world. There is no common formula for this: each Muslim country must find answers that emerge from its own stage of development. We must have the honesty to acknowledge that all Muslims do not live in the 21st century. Many still live in the 19th century, through no fault of their own, for they have been betrayed by their leaderships. But there is at least one idea that can be considered relevant across boundaries: the need to invest in knowledge. We are sitting in the shadow of the Kaabah
Sharif: I suggest to you that there are two Islamic
conferences going on, one inside the room and the
other in the Holy Mosque. We are the establishment.
The other is the conference among the people. The
distance between the two has grown too large. Look at
the faces of Muslims and you will see on many of them
poverty. The OIC has little right to exist unless the elimination of poverty among Muslims becomes a vital priority of the next 10 years. Hunger is the worst form of oppression. We need an immediate anti-poverty programme. This does not mean just handing out aid: aid is just band-aid when the disease is a cancer. We need programmes that create an economy in the poorest Muslim nations, free of waste and corruption. Muslim nations are in decline not because they have a shortage of guns, but because they have lost the Knowledge Edge. Power does not flow from the barrel of a gun; it flows from the fountainhead of knowledge. In 1232 the Sultan of Egypt presented Frederick, leader of the Bloodless Crusade, with an astronomical clock that opened the doors of technology to Europe. By the 18th century Egypt could not compete with the cuckoo clock. That decline has to be reversed. We need a Knowledge Fund that can create half a dozen universities and many times that number of schools that rank among the best in the world, pay the best salaries to teachers and create an environment nurtured by academic freedom. There is enough money; we need the will. The OIC must stake a strong stand against the self-destructive sectarianism that divides Muslim societies. We often behave as if the interpreters of the law are more important than the faith. The Prophet gave us one Islam. Muslims have divided it into many sects. We need social reform — to ensure the full participation of women in education and development that was among the glorious achievements of the first phase of Muslim history. If you tell a non-Muslim today that the Prophet's wife ran a successful business, you will invite an incredulous sneer. We need political reform. Every Muslim nation must have an inclusive polity in which traditional systems leave sufficient space for contemporary demands. Democracy may be a new idea, but it is the best one we have. The test of a democracy is the vulnerability of a government. Europe has shown that democracy can co-exist with a traditional system like monarchy. We are vulnerable because, in a classic symptom of despair, the Muslim voice is being taken over by deviants. Why? Muslim governments must look into their hearts and ask whether they are doing enough to end internal and external injustice. Why do Muslims fantasise about Saladin? Precisely because they want a leader who will stand up for their legitimate demands. Saladin was no extremist; he was in fact almost assassinated by deviants of his time. The OIC has a claim to be the legitimate voice of Muslims. If so, it must challenge double standards. An Iranian has the right to ask why his nuclear programme is being threatened while Israel is permitted to become a nuclear military power. Why should there be two laws? Israel no longer has to fear for its existence. King Abdullah's breakthrough peace proposals recognise the right of Israel to exist, and correctly so. Does Britain, which actively helped Israel to become a nuclear military power, accept that there are conditions in which a nation might be justified in becoming a secret nuclear power? Too many Muslim nations believe in a bank account rather than an economy. Many nations have wealth; how many have used it for laboratories that employ scientists to do basic research on biotechnology? Instead of creating industries to produce goods that can be better than the best, we have created a mall economy in which shops are full of imports. I am not an isolationist; but I would like 'Made in Saudi Arabia' to compete with 'Made in USA'. We are vulnerable because our intellectual elites have lost the plot, and our political-financial elites have lost the courage to dream of a future for their people. The Makkah conference, convened at the behest of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, to formulate a new vision for the many nations in which the ummah lives, must begin the long and difficult journey towards a new dream.
On Sept 9 a select group of intellectuals gathered at holy city of Mecca at the invitation of King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud. The objective of this three day of intense discussion was to formulate a vision for OIC. M.J.Akbar was the only indian invited.

Conservative_Indian said...

I am all for greater engagement with the US - economic, social, cultural. However War is funny business, and this is an area where the Indian Polity should tread with caution.

We should fight our own war - not a war where American's are fighting with their own agenda while masking it with empty platitudes - 'Democracy', 'War against Terror'.

2 Oft repeated points:

A. Saddam had WMD.
B. Saddam was part of 9-11.

In retrospect is it not better we were not active partners of this justification for going to war ?

While Terrorism is definitely an evil and there is no neutral ground in this I agree, we would be better off fighting 'Terror' as per our own definition instead of fighting 'Terror' as definied and conviniently ammended by the Americans for their own purposes.

If somebody is suggesting that by not actively alligning with the Americans on this, we are 'against' civilized world, I must say they have too much of a rosy view of the Americans.

While China admittedly dose not have the pressure from Islamic Jihadis the way India has, their approach is the correct one - negotiate on your own terms.

Jaffna got it right.

Nitin said...


India should only get involved if attacked, we should then defend
ourselves vigorously, else we should stay out.

I think you've not been reading the papers...for about, hmm...18 years at the least :-)

Anonymous said...

There is a case for alignment with the states that have been attacked - Russia, USA, UK to state a few.

This is a war, and the sooner all common Indian citizens treat it as such its better. The problem with Asymmetrical warfare is the bigger side can get lulled into complacency or thinking that it aint a war.

The neutral ground is only for those can benefit from the terrorists and the West - like Pakistan or China for instance. Not for terror victims like India.
And the fact that victims are fellow states like ours - as Nitin, PR and liberatarian state, should spur us even more in taking a stand that isnt neutral.

As much as we align with them, we must also tell them that platitudes dont work. Saying "terrorist attacks anywhere are to be condemned", and then not putting pressure on Pakistan to crack down on them is not done. And we should put our own house in order as well - not spend millions of $$ on terrorists when our own people are unfed.

That India will throw in its lot with the "West" on anti-terror does not mean we cannot differ with the West. The US/China relationship is a good example in that context. One week they were squabbling (like kids over a toy) over China's defence spending, the next week, the joined to scuttle the G4's permanent seat ambitions.

PS: In Asia, India is the only major country affected by terrorism. So we cannot compare our case with the rest of Asia.

cynical nerd said...

Some one talked about reciprocity.

About the Jordan terror attack from U.S. State:
The last major terrorist attack was the July 7 bombings of the London transit system that killed 56 people, including four suicide bombers. (See related article.)

Faithfully reported by the dorks at AP:
The last major terror attack blamed on Islamic militants was the July 7 bombings of the London transit system that killed 56 people, including four bombers. The most recent major attack linked to al-Qaida was the Madrid subway bombings that killed 191 people on March 11, 2004.

No mention about the attacks in Indonesia or the Delhi attacks. So much for solidarity among secular, liberal democracies.

Anonymous said...

History Lover: Thanks for the illuminating article. M.J. Akbar had turned parochial and the link with the Saudi sponsored Organization of Islamic Conference proves it. He seems to be defending Jihad. There were three inaccuracies in his angry and agitated essay. He quotes Maulana Azad to mention that Islam gifted democracy to India. Not true. The Indian republics of the 6th century BC in the gangetic plain were incipient democracies already. M.J.Akbar says that female circumcision was "African-tribal" in origin. Incorrect once again and racist as well. The practice had its origins in the pharoanic era of Egypt (like male circumcision) and there are references to it in several Hadiths. M.J. Akbar mentions that the Prophet's wife was a female enterpreneur. Yes, she had been one long before she met him. As a editor, M.J. Akbar needs to be more honest the next time to ensure that Islam is better and more convincingly promoted in the realm of ideas. It has much to offer but what the OIC stands for is not one of them. He has too much anger in him - much like Bal Thackeray interestingly.

Pankaj said...

Hello Jaffna,

I think your assessments seem to imply that Islamic terror is *coming* to India via the west. I would say it has finally reached the shores of the west via India. So there is no question about India insulating itself from this terror as it has already crippled India for the past 15 years.

The South Asia terrorism portal reports that over 50,000 people have died in terrorist related violence India since 1994.

Link { }

I would agree with PR – there is no neutral ground in this war as silence would be tacit approval. The Islamist seeks the destruction of the west and the core values of civilization, products of the enlightenment. The Indian nation state also widely shares these enlightenment values of democracy, individualism, equality for all, women’s right and freedom choice, although we have not been able to realize it in full measure. Indians surely would not be keen on joining the mad maniacity of running backwards to realize the perfect society of 632 AD.

To history_lover,

I would say that the MJ Akbar article you have posted was his grand coming out party. Akbar proved that for all his sophistication and language skills, he remains a closet mullah to the core.


history_lover said...

To anonymous :
Things have come to such a pass that even liberal muslims are being called mullahs.
So what sort of muslim is acceptable today ?

M.G.Akbar was just stating the mainstream muslim view .That was why I posted his article.
Regarding democracy in India Amongst the principles of democracy is equality of mankind.Whatever be the lineage or status of the person.Islam (well atleast in theory) advocates that.

* Secondly it is not racist saying that FGM is practised in African communities.Non muslim africans practise FGM too.
Circumcision among muslim males is widely practised through the muslim world .How many muslims for example perform female circumcision as compared to male circumcision ? Take the indian subcontinent for example.

Could you provide authentic hadiths which support FGM ?

What is wrong with the OIC anyway ?
We may not agree with every policy decision of the OIC but it grew out of a desire of muslims around the world for closer interaction between them.One could argue that OIC is an ineffectual and toothless organization which needs to do much more.

doubtinggaurav said...

Although I am not very fond of labels, but yes, M.J Akbar is a moderate or has been so far, however I find his recent views disconcerting.

Frankly, I think he is making same mistake of trying too hard to etch a muslim identity in contemprary world, which moderate muslims like Sir Syyed and Mohammed Iqbal did and ended up supporting Pakistan.

His implicit assertion that Terrorism acts are due to western suppression and terrorists are, in fact, poor victims, is a distasteful case of justifying hideous deeds in order to save face of community.

Such intellectual dishonesty will do no good, either to Muslims or non muslims as this will just lead to a long slippery road of obfuscation and mortification.

History Lover,
In theory Islam does advocate equality, but only of Muslims, so I dont know where does that leave you in a multi-religious society.

Why only OIC, why not OCC or OBC or OSB or OEC or OAC?

I find this concept of Ummah or Caliphate quite disappointing.


At risk of giving unsolicited advice I will second Jaffna's opinion on your site :-)


history_lover said...

I fail to get why you see intellectual dishonesty in this.In my view the mainstream muslim position can be summed up by saying
- they have some legitimate grievances but in general thier methods are Haram (illegitimate).
Note I used the word SOME.
Refusal to admit that there are legitimate grievances is the issue.

For instance here is a typical traditional response written soon after Sept 11 :The author is an american convert to islam
Making the World Safe
for Terrorism
Nuh Ha Mim Keller - Sunday 30 September

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

By what one can gather from the press, the FBI and CIA have seemingly been unable to prove who precisely, if anyone, may have masterminded the attack earlier this month on the World Trade Center other than the immediate assailants,who are presumed to have been a number of young men from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and one from the United Arab Emirates. Whoever they were, the facts point to a number of inescapable conclusions. The planning of it argues for a method to the madness, coupled with at least normal intelligence and a technical education, while the psychological facts entail that such people do not destroy themselves unless they see some advantage for themselves in doing so, which entails that they believed in an afterlife, meaning that according to their own standards, they were in all probability “religious.” The question arises: “What sort of religion condones killing thousands of ordinary civilian people?” The answer is “No religion at all.”

As far as I know, there is no religion or system of morality that justifies deliberately killing or injuring someone unless (1) he is an aggressor seeking to take one’s life, against whom one may defend oneself; (2) he has been proven to be guilty of a capital crime, or (3) he is a combatant in war. Most ethical systems agree upon these three justifications for deliberately inflicting death or injury upon someone. The World Trade Center tragedy raises the question of what on earth may have made some contemporary people think that these principles may be set aside?

If there are altogether no moral reasons for this crime, there is perhaps a discoverable mentality behind it. We call it “terrorism,” in view of its typical motive, which is to strike terror into the hearts of those conceived to be guilty by committing atrocities against those of the innocent who resemble the guilty closely enough, whether in race, citizenship, or social class, for the terror not to be lost on the guilty. But its enormity as a crime, as I apprehend it, lies less in the motive of its perpetrators, which is bad enough, than in the fact that shedding innocent blood is wrong. All previous moralities and religions agree that one cannot kill the innocent, but only the guilty. One cannot, for example, kill a generic “American” for the actions of other Americans, or for the actions of his country’s army if he is not part of it, or for the foreign policy of his government. In general, moral law mandates that one may not kill a man for what another man has done.

How has this now come to be set aside in some minds? While I am not a specialist in the history of atrocities, it seems to me that this basic principle of morality was first violated, and on a grand scale—and with the tacit and the spoken support of the intelligentsia, press, and policy makers—in the Second World War, with the advent of “carpet-bombing.” Here, ineffective attempts at precision bombing of military targets and factories gave way first to incendiary bombing of particular German cities to burn them down, then to “area bombing” of as much urban acreage as possible. Bombing everything—soldiers and civilians, combatants and non-combatants, residential areas and strategic targets—would shorten the war; so the bombs rolled out, and eliminating civilians became itself a major strategic aim. In Cologne, in Hamburg, in Dresden: the numbers of the dead were unprecedented and horrendous. In Dresden, where there were no war industries at all, some 130,000 were killed. Perhaps the ultimate “area bombing” (there is little reason not to call it “terror bombing”) was the atomic bomb dropped on the old Japanese provincial city of Hiroshima, and later on Nagasaki. Men, women, babies, schoolgirls: the first instantaneous flash of atomic radiation burned their clothes off them and cooked the outside of their bodies, then the concussion blew it off so that it hung down in flapping strips seen by those who survived when they looked at each other. One can read the eyewitness accounts. We were showing them what would happen if we dropped one on Tokyo. They got the picture.

My point is that a mentality has been given birth in this century, and the attempts by its beneficiaries to draw some legitimacy for it from existing morality or religion, if understandable at a psychological level, have nothing to do with morality or religion. This kind of terrorism is going on today, indeed has been carried out by American presidents and their proxies in Nicaragua, in Sudan, in Lebanon, and in Iraq for the last twenty years, as described by Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and others whose books and articles about these events are many and well-documented, and blithely ignored by almost everyone in America.

The little bands of bomb makers and plane hijackers are not at bottom religious men, but desperate men. They are inspired less by religion than by hope that on a symbolic scale they can somehow emulate the “success” of America’s and Israel’s “punitive strikes,” and “preemptive attacks.” Civilians die all the time in the West Bank and in Iraq. Someone in Jordan told me of a relative from another country who needed a kidney and could not find a donor of suitable blood group from his extended family, so he went to Iraq and bought one for two thousand dollars. The donor did not have food to eat, and was willing to sell his kidney. People are starving there. Birth defects and cancer are burgeoning from all the chemicals and explosives that have that been dropped on the people. Bombs are dropped from time to time to show them who is boss. According to Chomsky we have by now succeeded in killing one million civilians in Iraq, one half of whom were small children. The United States continually vetoes the United Nations initiative to allow UN observers into Israel to see what is being done to Palestinians there. In 1998 Clinton destroyed one half of Sudan’s pharmaceuticals and the means of replenishing them in punitive bombing raids on that country and killed untold numbers of civilians. How many? We don’t know, because the United States prevented the UN inquiry. Eighty percent of the refugees of the world bear Muslim last names. Desperation grows among these throngs, as hope wanes for a balanced U.S. foreign policy, or even an abatement of U.S. bombing and violence against Muslim civilian populations. There is no hope for people who know from the example of Nicaragua, Sudan, Iraq, and Israel that any attempt of redress or appeal to the United Nations or World Court will be vetoed or defied by the attackers. People without hope do a lot of things.

Someone recently informed me that half the terrorist organizations officially listed on some or another “terrorist watch website,” were Muslim. Though Islamic law does not countenance terrorism or suicide of any sort, and I know these organizations represent an extreme splinter of an extreme splinter of Islam, I did not find the statistic particularly shocking. Rather, if in the last fifty years world governments like the United States and Britain have somehow convinced themselves that it is morally acceptable to kill, starve, and maim civilians of other countries in order to persuade their governments to do something, it would be surprising if this conviction did not somehow percolate down to the dispossessed, the hopeless, the aggrieved, and the powerless of every religion and ethnic group in the world. It looks as if it has.

We Americans are not bombing people, young and old, whose lives, when they survive, are brutally interrupted by the loss of an arm or a leg, or a father, or a son, or a mother, or a house that the family saved for years to build. We are too civilized for that. Rather, we bomb Iraq. We bomb Sudan. We bomb Southern Lebanon. We bomb “Palestinian positions.” We don’t cause the tens of thousands of birth defective and mentally retarded babies with the chemical mayhem and ten-year famine we are currently paying for in Iraq: We are “imposing sanctions.” We don’t kill actual human beings with all the explosives we are dumping on these countries. We are killing generic Iraqis, generic Sudanis, generic Palestinians. It sounds like we may now have to kill some generic Afghanis. And now the shock of all shocks, the devastation of all devastations: some crazy people this past month decided to kill a lot of generic Americans. What on earth made them think it was morally acceptable to kill people who hadn’t committed any crime, who were not combatants, and were not killed in self-defense?

The answer, I apprehend, is not to be found in Islam, or in any religion or morality, but in the fact that there are fashions in atrocities and in the rhetoric used to dress them up. Unfortunately these begin to look increasingly like our own fashions and sound increasingly like our own rhetoric, reheated and served up to us. The terrorists themselves, in their own minds, were doubtless not killing secretaries, janitors, and firemen. That would be too obscene. Rather, they were “attacking America.”

The attack has been condemned, as President Bush has noted, by “Muslim scholars and clerics” across the board, and indeed by all people of decency around the world. I have read Islamic law with scholars, and know that it does not condone either suicide or killing non-combatants. But what to do about the crime itself?

The solution being proposed seems to be a technological one. We will highlight these people on our screens, and press delete. If we cannot find the precise people, we will delete others like them, until everyone else gets the message. We’ve done it lots of times. The problem with this is that it is morally wrong, and will send a clear confirmation—if more is needed beyond the shoot-em-ups abroad of the last decades that show our more or less complete disdain for both non-white human life and international law—that there is no law between us and other nations besides the law of the jungle. People like these attackers, willing to kill themselves to devastate others, are not ordinary people. They are desperate people. What has made them so is not lunacy, or religion, but the perception that there is no effective legal recourse to stop crimes against the civilian peoples they identify with. Our own and our clients’ killing, mutilating, and starving civilians are termed “strikes,” “preemptive attacks,” “raiding the frontiers,” and “sanctions”—because we have a standing army, print our own currency, and have a press establishment and other trappings of modern statehood. Without them, our actions would be pure “terrorism.”

Two wrongs do not make a right. They only make two wrongs. I think the whole moral discourse has been derailed by our own rhetoric in recent decades. Terrorism must be repudiated by America not only by words but by actions, beginning with its own. As ‘Abd al-Hakim Winter asks, “Are the architects of policy sane in their certainty that America can enrage large numbers of people, but contain that rage forever through satellite technology and intrepid double agents?” I think we have to get back to basics and start acting as if we knew that killing civilians is wrong.

As it is, we seem to have convinced a lot of other people that it is right, among them some of the more extreme elements of the contemporary Wahhabi sect of Muslims, including the members of the Bin Laden network, whom the security agencies seem to be pointing their finger at for this crime. The Wahhabi sect, which has not been around for more than two and a half centuries, has never been part of traditional Sunni Islam, which rejects it and which it rejects. Orthodox Sunnis, who make up the vast majority of Muslims, are neither Wahhabis nor terrorists, for the traditional law they follow forbids killing civilian non-combatants to make any kind of point, political or otherwise. Those who have travelled through North Africa, Turkey, Egypt, or the Levant know what traditional Muslims are like in their own lands. Travellers find them decent, helpful, and hospitable people, and feel safer in Muslim lands than in many places, such as Central America, for example, or for that matter, Central Park.

On the other hand, there will always be publicists who hate Muslims, and who for ideological or religious reasons want others to do so. Where there is an ill-will, there is a way. A fifth of humanity are Muslims, and if to err is human, we may reasonably expect Muslims to err also, and it is certainly possible to stir up hatred by publicizing bad examples. But if experience is any indication, the only people convinced by media pieces about the inherent fanaticism of Muslims will be those who don’t know any. Muslims have nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to hide, and should simply tell people what their scholars and religious leaders have always said: first, that the Wahhabi sect has nothing to do with orthodox Islam, for its lack of tolerance is a perversion of traditional values; and second, that killing civilians is wrong and immoral.

And we Americans should take the necessary measures to get the ship of state back on a course that is credible, fair, and at bottom at least moral in our dealings with the other peoples of the world. For if our ideas of how to get along with other nations do not exceed the morality of action-thriller destruction movies, we may well get more action than we paid for.

Let Truth be Told said...

M J Akbar, as quoted by history_lover:

"The most effective use of suicide missions in what might be called irregular war has been made by the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, who are Hindus."

This does not seem to be correct. See here. Excerpts:

"American Conservative Magazine has just published an article saying that LTTE terrorism is motivated by Hinduism.

I find their conclusions to be rather off the mark, since Tamil identity is not religious but racial/linguistic. The fact is that there are Christian Tamil members of the LTTE.

The assertion is being made that wealthy Hindu Tamil families are the prime suppliers of LTTE.

I would argue that it is not religion, but AfroDravidian isolationism that drives LTTE fanaticism. There is a sense of racial nationalism at work. The LTTE is not fighting for all Hindus, but is rather fighting for the Tamil Race.

If you read LTTE propaganda, it doesn't really cite any religious references, but spends a lot of time extolling the superiority of Tamil racial heritage.
# posted by san : 7/09/2005 7:50 PM


In Sri Lanka, leaders on both sides are Christians. The law against Tamils that sparked the conflict came from a Christian named Solomon Bandarnaike. The flames were fanned by another Christian, Junius Jayawardane.

The only leader who tried for peace was not a Christian (Premadasa) and he was killed.

It requires the Abrahamic thought process of 'otherising' people to pass discriminatory laws. That is why you usually see the western ideas turning violent.

LTTE also has links to Marxist-Leninists (another offshoot of Abrahamic thinking).

Think over this: the leaders who have been killed on both sides of the conflict are non-Christians - Amrithalingam, Padmanabhan, "Kittu", Premadasa etc. OTOH, Christians like Anton Balasingham, Jayawardane survived the bloodiest days of conflict. That itself seems suspicious.

Right from the time the British left SL, it has been led by a Christian except for a brief interlude from the time Premadasa was the president until the Bandarnaike family grabbed power again (I'm lumping SOLOMON Bandarnaike's wife and daughter among the Christians).
# posted by arvind : 7/10/2005 12:23 PM"

sanatan said...

India has no choice but to get in, how and where and how much should be decided by India.

Newreports suggest that Al-Qaeda's is now beginning to target India. See here .

libertarian said...

Anonymous, referring to your statement of the President, tennis player, IT czar and more, I too am proud that we have such a diverse showcase of talent. However, disagree on the following points:
- America and the West will be spent fighting terrorism and China and India can pick up the pieces; anti-West reverie at best. The West is not about to be impoverished by this fight.
- the term "muslim extremism". I don't mean to sound PC here, but we do our muslims a dis-service. This is Arab-inspired, and Arab-funded terrorism - the same fools who look down on Indian muslims as wooly-headed softies.

DG, this is not a civilizational conflict. This is asymmetrical warfare between civilizations and some career terrorists on the constant lookout for strife to practise their profession. These nuts will garb their profession in whatever ideology suits their purpose. We need to crush them by choking their pipeline of men, money and arms - root-causes be damned.

doubtinggaurav said...


You assume that Osama is doing it for career,I think he is doing it because he is convinced that he is right.

Conviction in Ideals is a necessary condition for civilization.

Islam is primarily a Arab contruct,
It's power of centre has shifted from Arab to Turkey to Persia, but Quran and hadith are essentialy Arabic.
Muslims are truly "people of book"
like Christians or Jews
(I am not an expert on Islam so I may be wrong.)

libertarian said...

DG, conviction is necessary for leadership. Osama and co have certainly demonstrated leadership. I don't see how that equates to civilization of any sort.

There are < 200 million Arabs and 1.4 billion muslims. You do the math. The Arab world (excluding Egypt and Iraq) peaked really early - severely downhill from there. When they went back to swinging from trees, India and Persia (which is not Arab) were essentially where Islam survived and thrived (waiting for Jaffna to provide more details!). Too bad these psycho Arabs now have moolah they did not earn. My limited experience with them leads me to believe that most of them are still surprised they have opposable thumbs :-)

Anonymous said...


The Roman Empire collapsed because the Huns attacked them again and again and again. The British Empire collapsed because of its own weight and over reach. Moreover, they could no figure out how to deal with Mahatma Gandhi. The Soviet Union was outspent into
oblivion by the Americans.

It took only $500,000 to carry out the 9/11 attacks. The cheque for the costs is still being written by
the Americans. The Americans are paying for those attacks both in terms of dollars and an erosion of
constitutional guarantees. Read the Patriot act. Already, the United States has lost the vibrancy and confidence of the
1990's and the 1980's. It has become a paranoid nation that is afraid of its own shadow. It is
unlikely that Bin Laden and his gang are going to give up, like the Huns they will keep on ramming the yanks. They are obsessive.

Europe faces its own problem with the Muslim street. They have not yet come to terms with the murder of Theo van Gough and now they have to deal with the implications of Paris. Europeans have a failed
socio-economic model.

Under these circumstances India should just keep out of this war. India should localize the strife and offer a ferocious rejoinder. As a matter of international policy, however, it should stay away from the coalition of the willing.

There will come a time when the West will be exhausted by the modern day Hun. A weakened America
will still try to exert world leadership but India and China will be in a unique position to pick up the pieces and offer economic and moral leadership.

China with its repressive regime and undemocratic government cannot offer the world moral and intellectual leadership. A forward looking India with a model for integration of ethnic communities
has the potential of assuming the mantle of world leadership. Now will it??

Why don't you guys/gals post something on that now? What about Random thoughts 2. Keep up the great discussion.

nukh said...

it would be naive and quiet frankly a tad presumptuous to assume that the bin ladenists by their "obsessive" and repeated "ramming" can even make a dent in the american resolve to defeat their ilk.
america is not going to roll over and play dead any time soon. especially, if they come under attack at home.
hiroshima and nagasaki was not just very loud chest thumping for the sake of the soviets, they were also paybacks for pearl harbor.

and, while the european socio- economic model is stagnant, it can hardly be classified as failed or considered beyond redemption.

additionally, irrespective how much america and the "old europe" drift apart...when push comes to shove, i.e. west vs. islam, rest assured they [the west] will close ranks and take care of business.
so i highly doubt that there will be any pieces left for india to pick........


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