After London: Confronting Insanity With Sanity

Fortunately Scotland Yard and related agencies are fast closing in on those responsible for the 7/7 ghastly terrorist attacks. Punishing those responsible for the reprehensible crime should serve as a deterrent against future acts of terrorism. No cause, ideology or politics can justify the insanity which left over 60 innocent Londoners dead. The reprehensible crime of the bombers fits no parameters of rational and constructive struggle.

The causes of this insanity are however complex. They are rooted in recent collective history of many nations. The roots lie in the anti-Soviet covert war strategy of the eighties. Then the architects and executioners of this strategy took weapons, guerrilla training, the idiom ‘evict the evil infidel- the evil occupier’ and bagsful of greenbacks into hundreds of madrassas and even some mosques throughout Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan for the production of the ‘mujahideen.’ The master-minds in Washington-Rawalpindi ‘islamized’ the Afghan nationalist war to gain maximum political, financial and manpower support to fight the ‘evil’ Communists from Afghanistan and subsequently from Central Asia. For this the US-British-Saudi governments also facilitated the madrassa-military alliance in Pakistan.

The production of mujahideen spread throughout West Asia and North Africa. In the eighties it was for the anti-Soviet ‘Western-supported jihad’ and in the nineties primarily for the anti-Western al-Qaeda jihad. Some were also used in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

But this is no for justification today’s insanity. Nothing, not even the killing fields in Iraq after the U.S. invasion and occupation, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Moscow’s unjust policy towards the Chechnyans or an unresolved Kashmir problem, can be justification for the 7/7 insanity.

None of this justifies a qualified condemnation. That must be equivocal. It is indeed tragic that the best ‘guidance’ that many of these agonizing and motivated young men have turned to is what is the extension of the ‘Islamized jihad’ of the eighties. But that use of Islam doesn’t qualify these misguided and passionately committed people for any support or sympathy. After all if the devil quotes the scripture it doesn’t qualify him for priesthood. Similarly if some battle-hardened, anguished and victorious men transferred the logic of the internationally supported ‘Islamized guerilla’ war into a global strategy for fighting “the enemies of Islam,” they certainly do not qualify to become the leaders, the ideologues or even the foot soldiers of Islam. Hence Taliban was its earlier manifestation.

Now it’s the amorphous fragmented multinational battalion which incorrectly believes that use of terror is a legitimate way to salvage the world. It advances its political objectives of fighting the West, within the framework of religion. However irrespective of what their own understanding of their motive the concrete outcome of their action is in sharp contrast to the teachings.

It is incorrect to label them or their acts as Islamic. Yet most in policy and opinion-making community in the West and some in the Muslim world continue to do so. Perhaps prejudice, intellectual inertia and sensationalism partially explain this improper labeling. Britain’s Prince Charles has also publicly supported the Muslim leaders contention that the attacks were not linked to “true faith.” He rejected the notion of linking Islam with terrorism. "Some may think this cause is Islam. It is anything but. It is a perversion of traditional Islam," Prince Charles recently said.

Tony Blair has been quick to refute the clash of civilization theory. Instead he maintains “what we are confronting here is an evil ideology. It is not a clash of civilizations – all civilized people, Muslim or other, feel revulsion at it. But it is a global struggle and it is a battle of ideas, hearts and minds, both within Islam and outside it.

However the non-Muslim explanation about linking Islam and terrorism , even by the more objective writers, is that often the sympathy factor is apparent in the Muslim discourse on terrorism. They maintain that often from our opinion-making community even the swift condemnation of terrorism often appears qualified when the injustices against the Muslims is simultaneously recounted. But more significantly the internal censure of the Muslims is not forthcoming.

While these are issues that we the Muslims should be conscious of the media factor also plays an important role. The ‘right response’ from the Muslim community does not make an exciting media copy. Hence the minority the extreme view often gets disproportionate projection at the cost of ignoring the right responses.

Interestingly from the ‘Islamized guerilla war’ in Afghanistan, the Americans took the victory and the tributes, as were showered upon Ronald Reagan at his burial. He was praised for destroying the ‘evil empire.’ Only the progeny of the sacrificing foot soldiers actually destroying the evil empire is on a wider rampage. Their battle ideology and the idiom unchanged. Only the original Western mentor is now their target. The mentor invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

This insanity of 7/7 which has seriously undermined peoples’ security would also have a fall-out on the multi-culturalism of the British life. Despite the world-wide stresses of multi-culturalism in times of increasing cultural assertiveness, especially in the decades of the eighties and nineties, the British system has tried to consciously and creatively manage its own cultural mosaic. Significantly the studied response of the Blair government and of the British media to the London bombings has been marked by reason and restraint. Stemming the very initial reactive response

These steps literally within forty eight hours of the London bombings stopped in the tracks any vicious and wide-spread targeting of British Muslims. Questions and muted criticism is inevitable. Either physical or verbal.

Tony Blair is attempting a balancing act. Having said earlier that root causes of terrorism have to be dealt with more recently attacking such bombings as part of an “evil ideology” Blair insisted it was not a response to injustice was a "fanaticism" that must be confronted. He believed it would be a "misunderstanding of a catastrophic order" to link behavior change in extremists to behavior change in the developed world.

But all on the European continent do not agree with Blair. Christophe Chaboud, France’s new antiterrorism coordinator, stated in his July 11 interview with the Le Monde that "the war in Iraq has revived the logic of total conflict against the west."

Britain too is divided on this. On July 16 John McDonnell, Labour MP insisted that " for as long as Britain remains in occupation of Iraq the terrorist recruiters will have the argument they seek to attract more susceptible young recruits to the bomb team. Britain must withdraw now." He said it was "intellectually unsustainable" to say the war in Iraq had not motivated the bombers. Labour ex-minister Clare Short, who resigned over the Iraq war, also said recently that "We are implicit in the slaughter of large numbers of civilians in Iraq and supporting a Middle East policy that for the Palestinians creates this sense of double standards – that feeds anger." said she "had no doubt" the atrocities were linked to Iraq.

In tracking the movements of the suspects, the British security agencies have widened the network to Pakistan. Three of the four bombers, third generation British, were of Pakistani origin. The family of one of the bombers has already made a statement about the young bomber having been “brain-washed” during his month long stay at a madrassa in Pakistan. While Pakistan is fully cooperating with the British on the bombers’ investigation ultimately Pakistani officials maintain Britain needs to see the internal causes of alienation among Muslims in Britain.

Nevertheless in Pakistan, public space and public action has yet to be occupied decisively by the overwhelming majority that opposes the insanity of killing the innocent. the kind that London grievously suffered from, requires a more credible and effective State apparatus and genuine democratic politics plus a peaceful regional neighborhood. Pakistan is likely to remain at the center of the 7/7 investigations.

But investigations is only a minor event-related though aspect of a broader civilizational challenge that these attacks pose. Tony Blair’s conclusion is correct that "in the end it is by the power of argument, debate, true religious faith and true legitimate politics that we will defeat this threat. Legitimate politics is a must, nationally and internationally, to promote the cardinal principles of stable and rational collective human existence – objectively determined justice, compassion, and discipline.

And finally for those who believe these essential principles are impossible to achieve in our Hobbesian world, the bad news is that then there is little hope to undercut the evil of terrorism. Unfortunately terrorism has the wherewithal to continue to thrive in a twenty-first century Hobbesian world.