Time and again some major terrorist attack once again brings to fore the ticklish problem of terrorism which has been lingering on for decades but whose standing solution is never attempted with sincerity. Only (tilted, subjective, motivated and superficial) discussions prop up like the rainy season frogs whenever a fresh incident takes place and becomes a major news headline for a few days. Sometime back it was Uri, now it is Pulwama (talking in the Indian context). Time passes and all forget about it (except the unfortunate kinsmen of the victims) only to wake up with the occurrence of a new mishap. The govt. action in India to such things is always reactive and seldom proactive so as to prevent similar attacks and loss of lives in future. And that reactive action of those in power is also motivated by the intention to sway votes to own side in the next election.
Several years back, I happened to exchange relevant thoughts with a virtual friend – Aruna Thyagarajan. She had raised this issue taking a clue from the terrorism in Sri Lanka and sought my views regarding the terrorist activities linked to Islam involving Muslim youths. And we had a very good discussion (through internet) in this perspective. I have lost touch with herself for a pretty long time. Today (26th February) is her birthday. While remembering my long lost virtual friend on her birthday, I am presenting that discussion in the form of this blog which is nothing but a collection of thoughts of both of us.
Terrorism works largely because of the fear it creates in the minds of people. This fear is propagated by media which influences public opinion. And like it or not, this fear is largely associated with a certain religion (Islam) just because there are a lot of negative proponents of this religion incorrectly using their religion to spread hate. As a consequence, the world is beginning to turn against people who belong to this community that makes them even angrier and causes more recruitment in terrorist groups (labelled as the Islamic terrorist groups).
People like us would like to hear more from the moderate, educated voice of this group, Why aren’t they speaking up ? They don’t need to justify themselves at all as we all know that NO RELIGION PROPAGATES HATE. However there are a lot of ignorant people out there who believe what the media tells them and hate the community as a whole rather than seeing that terrorism actually has nothing to do with religion or God. The problem is that the rabid voice of this group use the media to propagate their message of hate and everyone hears THAT voice. The need of the hour is a voice from that very own group to counter that.
Let’s look at the example of Sri Lanka to illustrate what has killed terrorism there. It was shifting of public opinion that led to the elimination of the ‘TIGERS’. It is a fact that the Tamils are being oppressed there but what came out in the recent past was that the LTTE was NOT REALLY HELPING THE TAMILS either and was in it for its own gain (a clever media propaganda by the govt. there illustrated that). When it became clear, then the Tamil people themselves stopped supporting the terrorists. That’s what caused the destruction of the ‘TIGERS’. That is what has to happen with regard to world terrorism. The rug has to be pulled right from under the terrorist groups’ feet. They have to lose out on the support they are getting.
Attacking Afghanistan, blaming Pakistan, invading Iraq ! None of that is going to do any good.
Shiv Sena (alongwith its breakaway part MNS) practices a brand of terrorism and fundamentalism which makes us shudder why look outside our community. Our country is such a great example of how differences in language, culture and religion can co-exist, relatively peacefully under the purview of humanity.
Then is the moderate Muslim voice going to be heard ? A glimmer of hope was seen in the form of an outstanding movie coming out of Pakistan – Khuda Ke Liye (2007) which tackled the issue of fundamentalism beautifully as belonging to a certain sect of the ignorant and avaricious, NOT THE COMMUNITY AS A WHOLE. But that was just a drop in the ocean when compared to the late messages out in the open.
As for the detention centres and torture, that is never going to work. There are thousands waiting to take up arms to replace the one captured. Such things are only going to increase hostility.
In the new millennium, both the tsunami and the long standing racial tension had left a beautiful paradise like place called Sri Lanka in shambles. People were scared to make eye contact with each other. Both the Sri Lankan army and the terrorists were feared…nothing much separating one from the other with atrocities on both the sides. It’s really hard to separate the good from the bad at such times. Isn’t it ?
I have always had some very good Muslim friends wherever I have lived and I have told similar kind of things to them as this hatred issue is not recent and its origin can be traced to a moment much much prior to the fateful 9/11. Not only in the US or India, throughout the world, a bad opinion has developed about this religious community though the terrorists having this religious faith are just a handful only. I always tell my Muslim friends that as there is an Indian maxim – BADD ACHCHHA, BADNAAM BURA (Being actually bad is better than getting a bad name) whether or not the Muslims are bad, they definitely have an utterly bad image cutting across the borders and the communities. The general opinion about them is that they are negative and hostile towards the other communities or religious groups, they want to convert the whole world into an Islamic world (DAR-UL-ISLAM), they are ever ready to marry the girls of other communities in the name of communal harmony and cordial relationships through matrimonial tie-ups but they are seldom ready to give their own girls to the grooms of the other communities, they portray themselves as too sensitive to tolerate anything pointing negatively at their religious faith but never hesitant to portray the symbols of the other religions in bad taste as they have no regard for the other religions, they want to spread their religion by the might of the sword, they want several facilities for themselves wherever they are in minority (and that too without respecting the sentiments of the majority) whereas they are brutal, oppressive and humiliating towards the minorities wherever they are in majority themselves, they want to keep their females as slaves or in degrading conditions without extending the minimum human rights to them in the name of Sharia or their religious teachings and become too hostile whenever there is a reformative attempt in this direction, for them their religion is above everything – the constitution and the law, the human rights, the natural justice, the patriotism etc.
This image of them in the minds of other communities may not be true but these stereotypes are there and getting strengthened only with the passage of time. Why ? Because the fundamentalists and the dogmatic ones only become their mouthpiece and not the moderate, educated ones. Learned, level-headed and rational Muslim thinkers like Mr. A.G. Noorani, Mr. Muzaffar Hussain, Mr. Tanveer Jafri, Ms. Sadia Dehlvi etc. go unheard in their community and a majority of Muslims are not ready to even pass any comment upon their write-ups, leave aside accept them or admire them or support them.
The way the LTTE got almost finished in Sri Lanka as the Tamils themselves stopped supporting them, the same way Islamic terrorism can be finished or at least minimized if the right thinking, moderate and liberal Muslims raise their voice against the terrorists and their terror-activities. The silence of them leads to their own categorization with the terrorists. Like LTTE, the Sikh terrorism in Punjab also got eliminated in the same fashion as the common Sikhs understood that the terrorists were doing no good to them and they should be discarded and alienated. This sentiment is yet to be shown by the educated, liberal and right-thinking Muslim majority. Besides, these people have to stop looking for solution of their each and every problem or resolution of their each and every issue in the Sharia or the religious books. The law of the land, the constitution and the basic tenets of natural justice are to be given preference over religion and allied things. Liberalism is to be shown in practice and not just through lip service. Atrocities and degradation of the minorities in the Islamic countries is to be condemned by them. The way they want sympathy towards the plight of the innocent Muslims, the same way they have to show their sympathy towards the plight of the other groups in the hands of the Islamic terrorists (for example the plight of the Kashmiri Pundits in J&K who were made to flee from their own homes and live like refugees in their own country).
Terrorists are formed because of the misleading teachings given to the raw, immature and partially ignorant youths as well as the excesses of the authorities or the forces or the cops which victimize the innocents. The job of catching the criminals or the terrorists and then interrogating the caught ones should be done with utmost caution and special care should be taken to ensure that the innocents are not unduly harassed. But unfortunately, may it be the US or India or any other country, innocents become the scapegoats in the hands of the forces. Consequentially, either themselves or their kith and kin go on to seek revenge through the path of terrorism. This is how the police stations, the detention centres and the anti-terrorist cells act as terrorist-producing factories. Let’s recall the excellent movie – Maachis (1996) made by the legendary filmmaker Gulzar in this perspective.
As rightly asserted in film Kurbaan (2009), the undue sufferings of the innocent people including the womenfolk and the children in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq because of the US attacks have led to the development of a hostile mentality in the Muslims (even the highly educated Muslims) towards US.
My concluding opinion on this topic is that for bringing about something good, the first and the foremost pre-requisite is good and honest intention. Without that everything is reduced either to lip-service or beating around the bush or some kind of hypocrisy (speaking something else and doing something else). It can better be expressed in Hindi in the following words – NEEYAT BINA KUCHH NAHI HO SAKTA. ACHCHHE KAAM KE LIYE SABSE PEHLE ZAROORI HAI ACHCHHI NEEYAT.
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