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Terrorism: Facts versus Myths
12/12/2006
By Ram Puniyani

Introduction

The current times are full of insane acts of terror. All over the globe, and also in India, acts of violence by political groups seeking "justice" or "revenge" are dime a dozen. Not a day passes when one does not hear about the death of innocents in one more such act in one or the other corner of the globe. Many a time one can make the correlations, which tell us the cause of terror and the underlying group involved. The recent Mumbai blasts of 11 July 2006 took place in the first class compartments of the Western Railways. Prior to this, blasts in Mumbai took place in 2002, immediately in the aftermath of Gujarat violence. Earlier in Mumbai, serial blasts took place in March 1993 in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage of December 1992 and January 1993. On 8 August 2006, two blasts took place outside a Masjid and graveyard in Malegaon, Maharashtra, killing over 30 people.

 

The attacks on Afghanistan, and later on Iraq, were followed by acts of terror in Madrid and in London . All these countries, incidentally, were the ones which had been allies of US in its brutal invasion of Iraq. In India, various such acts have sometimes been related to Kashmir issue, while at other times with the overall attacks and intimidation of minorities. On 11 July 2006 itself, when Mumbai was rocked by the blasts in trains, there were five blasts in Kashmir. The next day one heard of blasts in Sri Lanka, forcing South Africa to withdraw from a trilateral cricket series. One keeps hearing of acts of violence in India's Northeast on a regular basis, where the ethnic issues have not yet been resolved. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), which unleashed terror in UK for decades, declared just a couple of months ago that it will no longer indulge in acts of terror.

 

It is not that the above-mentioned are the only terrorist groups which are wreaking havoc in the world. There are several States that are adding up to the problem of terrorism by getting some such acts stage-managed in order to defame terrorist outfits. Not to be ignored are incidents like raised about Chittsingpura massacre of Sikhs during Bill Clinton's visit to India, the Ansal Plaza episode, and the attack on our Parliament. Not too long ago, the UK claim that they have unearthed planned explosions in flights taking off from Heathrow to US.

 

The picture could not have been worse at any point of time. The impact of this phenomenon has been severe on common people, affecting their social life to a great extent. Security has been tightened on airports worldwide. Huge forces have been deployed at airports to check and cross-check people traveling. People have become used to being frisked and searched during the travels. Muslims have borne the biggest brunt of these searches. Just being Muslim is enough of a cause these days to be thoroughly probed and searched. In the wake of Mumbai blasts, wholesale arrests of Muslim youths has become a norm with the police. The excuse is that they must be harbouring terrorists, or they must be having sympathies with terrorists since they are Muslims. Social life is getting affected in an adverse manner. The liberal values are coming under the chopping block of security. The orthodoxy and right wing religio-political streams are coming to the fore in a very aggressive and assertive manner. To cap it all, some messages have been filtered down the social conduits propagating that Muslims and Islam are the fountainhead of violence and terror. Along with this, the sense of insecurity amongst average people has been artificially raised, while some political elements are harping on the terrorism and security themes in order to increase their political clout. The atmosphere is full of suspicion. To worsen the matters, there is a section of global and local media playing on this sentiment on purpose in order to widen the divide between different religious communities. There are sectarian groups, wearing different garbs, which are having a field day in sowing the seeds of hate and reaping its harvest.

 

There are some specific areas in the world that are more prone to violence and have come to the limelight due to the acts of terror. West Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon seem to be high voltage areas, with death stalking the streets and the gods of death having picnic on a regular basis. The source of information on these issues is also very vague. The information coming from state machineries is the major one. These "facts" cannot be ratified by independent sources. International citizens' initiatives cannot go to the extent of investigating it for different reasons, and citizens' tribunals, which have investigated   the war crimes against Iraq and Afghanistan, are practically unheard of. At the same time, mighty US propaganda machine rolls out its dossiers of fiction in full strength on a regular basis. In India, a large section of media follows the lead of Western media while another section is influenced by the communal propaganda of the RSS and its offshoots. The odd brave journalists and human rights activists, who do try to give the alternative vision and interpretation of what seems to be the obvious, do it at great risk to their lives and careers. Also, there are a few retired personnel who have been exposing the sources which give us a peep into the happening in the highest echelons. There is no dearth of books on the topic but there are just a few which do not toe the line of Big Sam, or the authorities at other places.

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Defining "terrorism" is not very simple. Various interpretations and definitions   of terrorism have come up in recent times. States have generally focused on talking of terrorism in terms of acts of violence and death of innocents at the hands of non-State actors. In popular parlance, in some regions and in some circles, such acts of terror are legitimized as acts of political campaign. LTTE, ULFA, IRA, and the Kashmiri militants, who have been labeled as "terrorists" in their respective countries, are regarded as "freedom fighters" amongst a section of people in the same areas. The case of Sardar Bhagat Singh is equally interesting. While he was dubbed as a "terrorist" by the British, he is looked up by Indians as one of the greatest revolutionaries and a freedom fighter. As such, "terrorism" may be understood "as an act of violence against unarmed civilians as a means of bargaining politically over specific demands or making a general statement" (Hensman, Terrorism, Imperialism and War, p. 29). Hensman adds very aptly, "It should be irrelevant whether the perpetrators are State parties or non-State parties, and other characteristics (like skin colour, ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, social origin or anything else) of the perpetrators or the victims should likewise be irrelevant." (Hensman, p.156). While such groups have wreaked havoc, even the elected governments have resorted to such violence. "Statist definitions (of terrorism) portray terrorism to cover sedition, conspiracy, killing, murder, arson, explosions and public disorder to undermine the State…, twist due process of and evidentiary norms against the individual and prescribe heavy punishment…political terrorism abjures the State's definition and seeks to define terrorism as political freedom struggle to support the claims of justice and self determination with no holds barred." (Dhavan, Times of India, August 23, 2006).  Accordingly, governments formulate harsh laws and try to go overboard in their response to the extent of punishing the innocents. In the process we see the "War on Terror," POTA, Armed Forces Acts, etc. Dhavan further adds, "A people's definition of terrorism draws from the experience of civilian populations. Post-World War II, terrorism against the people acquired a new dimension when America bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and later carpet bombed Vietnam with Napalm". The experience of Afghanistan and Iraq is no different, neither is that of Israel's attack on Gaza and Lebanon.

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Compared to the decades of 1960s to 1980s, the air is thick now with fear and intimidation. Values of humanism are being forced to take the backseat, while the powers that be are keener to bolster their powers by over-projecting the fear of terrorism. The global and local war on terror is a construct which is contradictory in terms. Terrorist outfits are not a legal entity, so how can one talk of a "war" with them. This talk defies all logic and imagination.

 

Myth: All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.

Fact: This lie is widely circulating in via SMS and also by word of mouth. This myth started floating after the 11 th Sept 2001 attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in the US.  Since then this myth has become so popularized that it has now  become part of social common sense. In India, the Kashmir militancy involving a section of youth is cited as an example of Muslim terrorism. To add to this, the incidents of Akshardham temple, Ansal Plaza, highjacking of Indian Airlines plane to Kandhar, attack on Parliament have been unusually blown up as in all these incidents either Muslims were involved, or in some cases it was projected that they were the culprits. The official reports on these incidents had serious holes, but since there can be no independent verification by citizens' committees, it is difficult to doubt or believe some of these stories. All said and done, there are cases where "Muslims" are involved, and consequently, organizations like Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e Muhammad have become household names. But, interestingly, there are many other organizations using violence but they are not much taken note of.

 

One such major organization is Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [pix], the majority of whose members are Hindus. One member of this group, Dhanu, strapped a bomb over her waist and killed our former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. Similarly, not very long ago, Khalistan movement was a major force resorting to terror in the state of Punjab. Not to be left out, there are Christian and Hindu militants who are active in India's Northeast. Worldwide, the Irish Republican Army militants belong to Christianity. Again, the ones who bombed Jerusalem's King David Hotel, then headquarter of the British government in Palestine, in July 1946, were Jews. In US, the Oklahoma bomber, namely Timothy McWeigh, was a Christian.

 

Wherever dissatisfaction with policies goes beyond a particular level, some people do resort to violence in order to achieve their supposed goal. As such, this phenomenon   is not related to any particular religion. The National Democratic Front of Bodoland, All Tripura Tiger Force, the Japanese Red Army, Lords Salvation Army, Spain's ETA, France's Corsican terrorists, Israel's Kach and Kahane Chai are some more examples of organizations scattered in different parts of world which resort to terror tactics for their political goals. None of the above-mentioned has anything to do with Islam.

 

During the last decade and a half, Islam has been projected to be violent. The media and many a state apparatus have on purpose "sold" this image of Islam. Muslims are no uniform community. The basic assumption which comes from this formulation is that their religion is the cause of terrorism. On the contrary, terrorism is a phenomenon which comes into being due to social, political and economic circumstances. Religion is used as a cover and justification for terrorist activities. The identity of terrorists is not always derived from their faith, and is seldom connected to religion. Khalistanis derived their identity from Sikhism, but their violence was political. The alleged "Muslim" terrorists have multiple identities: the ones in Palestine have Palestinian identity, in Kashmir it began as a defence of Kashmiriyat. The "Islamic" identity with this sort of terrorism came with Al Qaeda, which was set up by America 's CIA with the active help of the ISI of Pakistan, to fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan.

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Table

A War of Lies

Afghanistan 2001

A war that is supposed to feed the desperate people of Afghanistan will, in fact, help starve them. A war supposedly brought by Taliban in transience was actually provoked by our own government. A war that the majority of American people believe is about their grief, anger and desire for revenge, is really about cold-blooded calculations of a small elite seeking external power   …a war that is supposed to make us safer by increasing the likelihood of future terrorist attacks.

Rahul Mahajan and Robert Jensen, Outlook Oct. 15, 2001

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Myth: While terrorists coming from other religions have ethnic or other identity, those who are Muslims have essentially an "Islamic" identity.

 

Fact: This also changes from place to place. It is true that some of the terrorists are claiming an Islamic identity but that's not true in all cases. Khalistanis also used Sikh identity. Even with this large spectrum of Islamic identity, the ones trained by CIA wore this identity very prominently on their sleeves and tried to present themselves as if they are doing Jihad and killing kafirs. The textbooks for these "madrasas" were prepared in an American university [see box item at the end]

 

As such, they were indoctrinated in madrasas specially set up for this purpose by the CIA with ISI's help. These madrasas were set up under the Kissinger doctrine of "Asians should be made to fight Asians". The idea was formulated in the madrasas that the Communists are kafirs because they do not believe in Allah, that killing them is a jihad and that those dying in this jihad will go straight to Jannat where 72 virgins are waiting for them. This concoction of US-established madrasas had strong impact on the Muslim youth in some countries, who rushed to get training in these places with the readiness to lay down their lives for the US goal of occupying Afghanistan in the long run.

 

It become clear, then, that what is called as "Islamic" identity of terrorists, was used only in madrasas set up by CIA-ISI nexus, where gullible Afghanis and others were taught about jihad and kafir. The struggle which began from injustices heaped by Israel, had the Palestinian identity; the one in Kashmir had the flag of "Azadi" (independence) to begin with. Even here, religion has been the cloak, but for a few only.   

 

Here, there is a clever manipulation of the words like jihad and kafir in particular. As we know, the historical meanings of these Islamic terms were much different in the beginning. Also, there are many an interpretation of these words. Only during the last decade and a half, Islam has been projected to be violent. The media and many a state apparatus have, on purpose, "sold" the image of Islam as being somehow associated with terrorism. Muslims are no uniform community. And there are different interpretations of Islam. The media highlights any sensational violent act and ignores the pacifist ones. Comments of fanatics are projected prominently as the Islamic voice. The sober and moderate statements are either ignored, or find their place in some small corner of the media.

 

The misuse of the word jihad by fanatics adds to the problem. Any act of Muslim terrorists is supposed to be a jihad, as some of them try project it in that manner in order to enlist support. As such Holy War, Crusade, Dharma Yuddha are not an uncommon usage in different religions, as kings have launched their campaigns for expansion in the name of their religions, time and again, and Islam is no exception. It is claimed by some that Allah wants to spread Islam by the sword. Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, one of the liberal interpreters of Islam, states, "It is Jihad, which is one of the pillars of Islam, precisely because it does not necessarily mean war. Jihad…means utmost effort, not violence and it is obligatory on Muslims to make utmost efforts (in wisely manner) to spread the message of Allah so as to create a just and compassionate society. This is what is obligatory, not waging a war at all. Prophet himself has exemplified it on many occasions, especially at the time of Sulh-i-Hudaibiyah ( i.e., peace of Hudaibiyah and Fath-i-Mecca). (Engineer, Institute of Islamic Studies, Mumbai, Oct. 1998).

 

As for the radical Islamist groups, jihad is being used as a cynical ruse to whip up religious fervour for their cause. "Historically, jihad was used rhetorically by the imperialist powers to justify their worldly expansionist designs. In its original sense, jihad was more of an inner moral cleansing for the community. This was called Jihad-e-Akbar (The Great Jihad). But now, the whole notion of jihad is being used as an instrument for legitimizing militaristic, monarchic and dictatorial regimes. As for these radical Islamist groups, jihad is being used as a cynical ruse to whip up religious fervour for their cause." (Mushirul Hasan, Quoted in Puniyani Ram, Terrorism Imperialism and War, Build Publications, Mumbai, 2002, Page 128)

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Box

In 1979, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA and Pakistan's ISI (Inter Service Intelligence of the Pakistan Army) launched the largest covert operation in the history of CIA. Their purpose was to harness the energy of Afghan resistance to the Soviets, and expand it into a holy war, an Islamic Jihad, which would turn the Muslim countries within the Soviet zone of influence, against the communist regime and to eventually destabilize it. When it began, it was meant to be Soviet Union's Vietnam. It turned out to be much larger than that. Over the years, CIA funded and recruited 100,000 radical Mujahidin from 40 Islamic countries as soldiers for American proxy war (in Afghanistan).

(Arundhati Roy, The Algebra of Infinite Justice)

 

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Myth-Terrorist violence is due to religions, especially Islam!

Fact: It is true that some fanatical Muslims found on the fringe, use certain Medieval interpretations and usages as eternally-binding, and believe that kafirs should be slayed. But it is equally true that those who are hostile to Islam use this term to show the intolerance of Islam.

 

Most of the ideologies develop their positive and negative terminology. Christianity for example, has derogatory terms like pagan, non-believer; in Hinduism there are terms like maleccha, yavan etc. Islam coined the negative terms like kufr (disbelief), nifaq (hypocrisy), etc.  These terms are many a time, or rather most of the time, used against different sects within the same religion. They are a tool in the hands of vested interests for their material gains and for the increase of social power within a group. Many a Muslim ruler used the word kafir while fighting against non-Muslim kings, the same ones then struck compromises also with different kings. We are aware that Muslim kings were in alliance with Hindu kings and also had Hindu subjects in large numbers, whose religious and other needs were considered by them ( e.g., Babar's will to his son, Humayun). These worldly affairs, most of the time, have been given religious veneer for the benefit of the ruling groups. If interpreted narrowly, these can attribute intolerance to a particular religion.

 

Some theologians have spread the myth about Ummah, a homogenous World Muslim Community. The truth is that there is no single goal or unified vision in the Muslim world. Different sects of Islam have serious differences with each other. Taliban are, for example, condemned by a large section of Muslims. Ummah is one of the progressive ideas enunciated in Quran. In its original form, it struck at the roots of parochialism, tribalism and narrow nationalism. It was an effort to create a Muslim personality that would not bear the lineage of race, tribe, language, colour and other parochial denominations. But, in reality, in later centuries, this was designed as an exclusivist notion.

 

The concepts of Darul Islam (the land of Islam or peace) and Darul Harb (the land of the war or enemy) are again used to project the lack of patriotism of Muslims in countries where they are in minority. In the Qur'an, there is a distinction between "the land of the peace" and "the land of the enemy". But this distinction made sense at a time when the Muslim communities were trying to evolve a code, vis-à-vis the rest of the world which was mostly lawless. Today, in the plural diverse world, we have seen different Muslim countries battling against each other for material gains. Also in South Asia, Bangladesh split from its co-religionist Pakistan in 1971 due to cultural, linguistic and material reasons.

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Box

"Terrorism is a tactic, not a political or social force in and of itself. Anyone can use it, and the idea that you can wage a "war" against it is as dishonest as the idea behind "War on Drugs." The use of food as a political weapon, indiscriminate aerial bombardment, and arming of gangsterish groups of religious fanatics, all count as "terrorism" by any reasonable definition of the word, and United States has long employed all of them and more. This war is really about sordid material interests and power, and in defense of these interests the US is prepared to shift the label "terrorist" as it sees fit, to apply to all manner of dissident political movements, and not just marginal bands of fanatics like bin Laden's Al Qaeda. Conversely, it is willing to call its own terrorists as "freedom fighters" (the way Al Qaeda was labeled during the decade of 90s). Maybe some of them will get transformed into "terrorists" again in a few years. It's a sick game and charade, the government is manipulating the very real grief and anger of the people of the United States after September 11 atrocities to get us to fall for it again."

(Excerpts from a pamphlet by Anti War Committee of Students of Solidarity at University of Pittsburg)

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Myth: The recent terrorist attacks on World Trade Centre and the consequent US aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq are an indication of the truth behind the Clash of Civilizations thesis of Samuel Huntington.

 

Fact: "It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this New World will neither be primarily ideological nor primarily economic. The great divisions among Humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation-states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future." These gems are from Samuel Huntington, the philosopher of the new era representing the age when America's economic and political domination over the world is close to complete. It is an era where America, along with its minions, is calling the shots all over the globe. It is an era when the Non-Aligned Movement of yesteryears has been forgotten, and the possibility of a World Democratic Order seems an utopia. The injustices done to large sections of Muslims in the Middle East and Africa have been showing backlash. The militant opposition of the Palestinians to the repression and occupation by Israel was initially expressed by the PLO led by Yasser Arafat.

 

The other acts of omission and commission by US and other hegemonic powers have left a sense of injustice amongst large sections of Muslim masses all over the world. One is also aware that the chances of international grievance settlement channels practically do not exist, with the UN being reduced to a desk in the America's State Department and its Secretary General helplessly watching the might of imperialist powers attacking Iraq, and soliciting UN sanctions in support of the terrorism of these powers. The same man is watching from the sidelines America's aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq with the aggressor this time not even bothering to get its action "ratified" by the world body, the façade which it kept so far. And, this person was rewarded with Nobel Prize for Peace, for "keeping quiet" while the US went on rampage in country after country. In this phase what is the way for the people of the world who feel that injustice has been done to them? How should they protest? Which doors should they knock for grievance rectification?

 

This is aggressive terror aimed to dominate and control the World. This is the terrorism of the mighty out to enslave the weak. This state terrorism kills the innocent non-combatants like the ones in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, like the ones who died in the US aggression on Iraq in 1991, like the one's dying in the streets of Afghanistan and Iraq. The other terrorism is that of the ones who have been victims of the unjust policies of mighty nations, those whose ethnic aspirations have been suppressed, those who have been deprived of their home and hearth due to the greed of the World powers.

 

Today, the ideological excuse of "defending Freedoms in the World" is no more adequate to conceal the expansionist goals hiding behind this cover. The resistance of the weak has to be exaggerated and highlighted in such a scathing manner as to justify the Terror of the Mighty. And so we had the Clash of Civilizations thesis as the ideology of  imperialism in the times of oil hunger, ideology of the hegemonic powers to crush the resistance in places where they want direct and indirect control over the resources of the World. Thus, the "backward" Islamic civilization is clashing with the Modern West, the ideologues of imperialists today. Here, in a clever manoeuvre, for those having oil wells, their religious identity [Islamic] is highlighted, while for those who aspire to satisfy their oil hunger by buying it for peanuts, the geographical category [Western] is employed. The Muslims today, close to two-billion strong, are reduced to stereotype, clones of Osama bin Laden or members of Taliban. The diversity recognition amongst the target group is dangerous for the oppressors. So even in India, we see the Muslims being projected as a uniform community. It is easy for the dominant group to deal with the monolithic image of minority. More backward the projection of the image, the better it is. It helps in all the ways, including the times when violence and other suppressions have to be unleashed in pursuance with their politics of dominance.

 

With this view the Muslims, whether in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia or Bangladesh, are cast in a single mould. Now the next step becomes easy, since Muslims as a community can be projected to be opposed to "modernity". They are "terrorists," so there must be something in Islam itself which promotes violence and terrorism. As such, when the pogroms are unleashed against them in the form of communal violence, or aggression is launched against innocent Iraqis or Afghans, consent is easily manufactured for the aggressive acts of the superpowers. The political ratings of the one saying "you are either on our side or on their" (terrorists) soar to maddening heights and those bequeathed with social common sense clap with each missile hitting the homes for the old or shelter for the people or the hospital. Some applaud the "beauty," the precision with which the missiles do their job; others rejoice that "they" (Muslims) deserved this lesson. So, on overt level, Uncle Sam retreats back after endorsing the Clash of Civilizations, and in order to appear politically correct, the boss reverts to "Infinite Justice" as the ideological cover for bombing the hospitals and children and the old people's homes.

                                                                              

"White Man's Burden" thesis came up with the colonization, "Defending Freedom" came up while suppressing the rising nationalisms and now the "Clash of Civilization" is being touted when US is trying to control the taps of oil resources all over the world. There are many Islamic countries in and around these resources, who had to be rubbed the wrong way in order to control and extend the flow of oil towards fuel tanks of the powerful countries of the West. Keeping in mind this projection, which exploiters have generally kept for their own interests, some ideological cover has to be devised. If colonial masters are usurping the resources of colonies, it is White Man's Burden to civilize the uncivilized people of the colonies, if Imperialism is crushing the Nationalist sentiments to be able to continue its hegemony on the World, it is fight for the freedom of the World. Here, both these have been used as a cover for the proactive deeds of Imperialism. Now the "Clash" theory is propagated in order to explain away the blowback or the "reaction to the injustices" done to a section of the Arab world. One knows that governments of most of the Muslim nations are with the US in its efforts to control the Afghan territory through the new pro-US puppet. One also knows that the Muslim-dominated countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and many significant one's are with the US for its so-called "sacrifices to save the freedom" in the World.

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Box

"Terrorism as a phenomenon may never go away. But if it is to be contained, the first step is for America to acknowledge that it shares the planet with other nations, with other human beings who, even if they are not on TV, have love and grief and stories and songs and sorrows and for heavens sake, rights…

"The September 11 attacks were a monstrous calling card from a world horribly gone wrong. The message may have been written by Osama bin Laden (who knows?) and delivered by his couriers, but it could well have been signed by the ghosts of victims of America's old wars.

 

"The millions killed in Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, the 17,500 killed when Israel,   backed by the US, invaded Lebanon in 1982 (added, and in 2006) the 200,000 Iraqis killed in Operation Desert Storm, the thousands of Palestinians who have died fighting Israel's occupation of West Bank. And the millions who died in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvadore, the Dominican Republic, and Panama, at the hands of all the terrorists, dictators and genocidists who the American Government supported, trained, bankrolled and supplied with arms."

(Arundhati Roy, Algebra of Infinite Justice)

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Myth: The US led 'War on Terror' will rid the world of the problem of Terrorism, as it aims to eliminate the causes of terrorism!

Fact: "War on Terror" is a euphemism for the US imperialist aims to take political and military control of different strategic areas of the world, either for acquisition of oil wealth or for military goals. The terrorrist groups scattered here and there are no uniform entities which can be subjected to aggression and eliminated. Since they are scattered and are faceless, it is difficult to identify them and restrain them. In the process, what happens is that the US and its allies have been picking one after the other area and bombing them into the stone age. The civilian populations, the non-combatants are the biggest victims of this aggression. Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched on the pretext of "Weapons of Mass Destruction," and it failed miserably because there were no such WMDs in the first place. The UN observer recommendations were bypassed and a war was launched, which   met massive resistance from the people of Iraq. It is a war against Iraqi people and incidents like Abu Ghraib prison, where the prisoners were sexually assaulted, stripped naked and forced to make human pyramids, and day-and-night butchering on the Iraqi streets has been made the norm by the US army. This army, by now, is desperate and all the attempts by the US to outsource the war and to rope in soldiers from poorer nations has not met with any success as the US aim of making the sacrificial goats out of the poor countries' soldiers failed miserably. Even the US army is comprised mainly of the underprivileged sections of the US population, and even by aliens living in the US, and drafted on the promise of Green Cards.

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Box

List of countries which America has been at war with and bombed

since World War II

China 1945-46, 1950-53

Korea (1950-53)

Guatemala (1954, 1967-69)

Indonesia (1958)

Cuba (1959-60)

The Belgian Congo (1964)

Peru (1965)

Laos (1964-73)

Vietnam (1961-73)

Cambodia (1969-70)

Grenada (1983)

Libya  (1986)

El Salvador (1980s)

Nicaragua (1980s)

Panama (1989)

Iraq (1991-99)

Bosnia (1995)

Sudan (1998)

Yugoslvia (1999)

Afghanistan (2001)

Iraq (2003)

Iran, Syria and North Korea ("Axis of Evil"- on the list of countries to be attacked )

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The US, as a matter of fact, has been the major terrorist state in recent times, killing innocent civilians to satisfy its political and economic goals. The multinational corporations who dictate American policies suffer from an acute greed of profit, and the lives of human beings, especially from other races and areas outside the West, do not matter to them. The recent events of West Asia clearly exemplify the goals of imperialism in the region. To begin with, Saddam Husain was lured in August 1990 to attack Kuwait, which was pumping out oil at a massive speed and draining a disputed oil field. This would have affected the Iraqi oil reserves also. Due to intense economic pressures, Iraq planned to attack Kuwait. It informed the US administration which subtly provoked this attack. When asked by Saddam Husain during a meeting on 25 July 1990, what would be the American administration's reaction if Iraq occupied Kuwait, the US ambassador April Glasbie, told him that nothing will happen. Once Kuwait was taken over by Iraq as the 24 th province of Iraq, US immediately planned to attack Iraq to protect the sovereignty of the Emir of Kuwait. Saddam's offer of withdrawal were rejected and Bush Senior preferred a decisive victory instead. Iraq had to be bombed to pre-industrial age. The retreating Iraqi armies were trapped and massacred. Baghdad and Basra were bombed relentlessly. Thousands of civilians were killed. 150,000 Iraqis died during this invasion. Electrical sewage treatment system and water treatment plants were ravaged with the result that water borne diseases spread. Severe economic sanctions were enforced which further resulted in the loss of lives of Iraqis, especially children. The then US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was asked by a reporter that due to the sanctions imposed by US on Iraq over half a million children have died, and whether it was worth it. To this she replied in the affirmative saying that "we think the price is worth it."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

 

After the 11th September 2001 WTC attack, Osama bin Laden reportedly thanked Allah for the same. According to media reports, he spelt his motivation on 7 th Oct 2001 saying,

"What America is tasting now is something insignificant compared to what we have tasted for scores of years. Our nation (the Islamic World) has been tasting this humiliation and this degradation for more than 80 years. Its sons are killed, its blood is shed, its sanctuaries are attacked, and no one hears and no one heeds…

"Millions of innocent children are being killed as I speak. They are being killed in Iraq without committing any sins, and we don't hear condemnation or a fatwa (religious decree) from the rulers. In these days, Israeli tanks infest Palestine — in Jenin, Ramallah, Rafah, Beit Jala, and other places in the land of Islam — and we don't hear anyone raising his voice or moving a limb.

"When the sword comes down (on America), after 80 years, hypocrisy rears its ugly head. They deplore and they lament for those killers, who have abused the blood, honor and sanctuaries of Muslims. The least that can be said about those people is that they are debauched. They have followed injustice. They supported the butcher over the victim, the oppressor over the innocent child…

"When people at the ends of the earth, Japan, were killed by their hundreds of thousands, young and old, it was not considered a war crime, it is something that has justification. Millions of children in Iraq is something that has justification. But when they lose dozens of people in Nairobi and Dares Salam (capitals of Kenya and Tanzania, where U.S. embassies were bombed in 1998), Iraq was struck and Afghanistan was struck…

"To America, I say only a few words to it and its people. I swear by God, who has elevated the skies without pillars, neither America nor the people who live in it will dream of security before we live it in Palestine, and not before all the infidel armies leave the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him."

 

Interestingly, bin Laden's name does not appear on the official American list of wanted criminals responsible for the WTC attack. But on the pretext of catching hold of culprits of 9/11, without producing any evidence against Osama, "War on Terror" was launched by attacking Afghanistan. In this war, close to a million lives were lost. While Osama is safe and sound, thousands of innocent Afghans were butchered. In due course, US puppet Government has been installed in Kabul and US multinational are swooping there to make their killing. NATO forces have been involved in Afghanistan although its charter restricts its area of activity to Europe and North America.

 

The lack of any credible reason for attacking Afghanistan led many an observer to comment that, "…the war against Afghans was very much in line with the US' historical role in Afghanistan. In  the 1970s, the US hired seven different parties of fundamentalists called "Mujahidin". These were extremists hired by the CIA during the Cold War "to draw the Soviets into Afghan trap," as later revealed by former National Security Advisor, Zbignew Brezinsky. The CIA gave arms and ammunition to these "Mujahidin"…Using these weapons and sophisticated training in the art of terror, these men successfully drove out the Soviets, but also waged terrible war on their own people killing at least 45,000 people in Kabul alone.(Ninan Koshy, War on Terror, Left Word Delhi 2002 pp. 62)

 

As the invasion of Afghanistan began within few weeks of the WTC attack, the US claim that they did preparation for this in three weeks is to be taken with a pinch of salt. "Credible reports have appeared that the US was planning to take military action against Afghanistan to oust Taliban months before September 11." (Koshy, p. 63).

For the purpose of training Al Qaeda, US had spent over 80,000 million dollars and also provided 7,000 tons of armaments, including the sophisticated anti-aircraft Stringer missiles. It was in order to give a practical shape to Kissinger doctrine — "Asians should be made to fight Asians" — that Muslims youths were indoctrinated in madrasas founded by CIA funds on the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders; they were taught that "Communists," who have invaded Afghanistan, do not believe in Allah, so they are kafirs, and that waging a war against them will be jihad. They were made to believe that those getting killed in this jihad will go straight to jannat (Paradise) where all the pleasures, including 72 virgins, will be available for them. Most of the current myths about jihad, kafir and terrorists being bred in madrasas emanate from this massive operation launched by US secret service in cooperation with Pakistan's ISI. It is this effort which led to the emergence of the Al Qaeda, embracing mainly Arab youths who had come for Afghan jihad from Arab lands.

 

The US propaganda machine keeps dishing out different slogans to serve its foreign and hegemonic, economic and energy policies. The slogan touted during the Cold War era was the defence of "Freedom"; now it is "War on Terror". The US and other allied media following the trails of US, toe the same line.  

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War Crimes Tribunal: Afghanistan

International Tribunal: War Crimes against Afghanistan

(Excerpts)

17. Verdict:

I find the Defendant, George Walker Bush, President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of United States Armed Forces, guilty:

1. Under Article 2 of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan, and under International Criminal Law, for waging a war of aggression against Afghanistan and the Afghan people;

2.Under Article 3, Part I, clause (a), (b), (c),(d), (f),(g) and Article 3, Part II, clause (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (h), (i), (k), (l), (n), (o), (p), (q) of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan, under International Criminal Law and International Humanitarian Law, in respect of War Crimes committed against the people of Afghanistan by the use of weapons prohibited by the laws of warfare, causing death and destruction to the Afghan people; maiming men, women and children;

3. Under Article 4, clause (a), (b), (d ), (e), (f), (h) and (i ) of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal and International Humanitarian Law, for Crimes Against Humanity, committed against the people of Afghanistan, resulting in inhumane acts affecting large sections of the population caused by the military invasion, bombing, and lack of humanitarian relief;

4. Under Article 3, Part I, clause (a), (b), (c), (f), (g) and Article 3, Part II clause (f), (k), (p), and (q) of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan, under International Criminal Law and the Hague Convention and Geneva Convention (III ) of 1949 in respect of the torture and killings of Taliban, and other prisoners of war who had surrendered, and their torture and inhumane conditions of detention and deportation of innocent civilians;

In respect of the transport of prisoners in "sealed containers" and their death due to suffocation and filing of rifle shots at the Container for creating holes for ventilation with the prisoners inside; and for conditions at Sheberghan prison; the Defendant is entitled to benefit of doubt at this trial; however, the issues are left open for trial, before any other court /Tribunal; as the evidence before the Tribunal is not conclusive on the involvement of United States forces;

5. Under Article 3, Part I (c ) and ( g ); Article 3 Part 2 ( a), (b), (c), (d ) ( e) (h) ( i) ( l) and Article 4 (b), (l) of (n), ( p), (q) of the ICTA in respect of the serious humanitarian situation resulting from the refugee exodus in Afghanistan due to the bombing of civilian population and civilian infrastructure in a country already affected by serious famine resulting in mass exodus of people and death from bombing, hunger, displacement, disease; and absence of humanitarian relief.

(http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2004/Afghanistan-Criminal-Tribunal10mar04.htm )

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International Tribunal on War Crimes against Iraq

 

Statement of The Jury of Conscience

Istanbul, 27 June, 2005

27 Jun 2005
"The attack on Iraq is an attack on justice, on liberty, on our safety, on our future, on us all — With a Jury of Conscience from 10 different countries hearing the testimonies of 54 members of the Panel of Advocates who came from across the world, including Iraq, the United States and the United Kingdom, this global civil initiative came to an end with a press conference at the Hotel Armada where the Chair of the Jury of Conscience, Arundathi Roy, announced the Jury's conclusions.

The Jury defined this war as one of the most unjust in history:

The Bush and Blair administrations blatantly ignored the massive opposition to the war expressed by millions of people around the world. They embarked upon one of the most unjust, immoral, and cowardly wars in history. The Anglo-American occupation of Iraq of the last 27 months has led to the destruction and devastation of the Iraqi state and society. Law and order have broken down completely, resulting in a pervasive lack of human security; the physical infrastructure is in shambles; the health care delivery system is a mess; the education system has ceased to function; there is massive environmental and ecological devastation; and, the cultural and archeological heritage of the Iraqi people has been desecrated.

On the basis of the preceding findings and recalling the Charter of the United Nations and other legal documents, the Jury has established the following charges against the Governments of the US and the UK:

• Planning, preparing, and waging the supreme crime of a war of aggression in contravention of the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Principles.
• Targeting the civilian population of Iraq and civilian infrastructure
• Using disproportionate force and indiscriminate weapon systems
     Failing to safeguard the lives of civilians during military activities and during the occupation period thereafter
• Using deadly violence against peaceful protestors
• Imposing punishments without charge or trial, including collective punishment
• Subjecting Iraqi soldiers and civilians to torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment
• Actively creating conditions under which the status of Iraqi women has seriously been degraded

The Jury also provided a number of recommendations that include recognizing the right of the Iraqi people to resist the illegal occupation of their country and to develop independent institutions, and affirming that the right to resist the occupation is the right to wage a struggle for self-determination, freedom, and independence as derived from the Charter of the United Nations, we the Jury of Conscience declare our solidarity with the people of Iraq and the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the coalition forces from Iraq. (Excerpts)
(http://www.worldtribunal.org/main/?b=93)

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Box

Panic over Pacific Flights From London Airport

In the middle of August 2006, a great splash of news from London declared that a plot to blow several aircraft going to US has been unearthed and several arrests have been made. Following this, severe security mechanisms were installed at different airports. However, there are some doubts about the whole incident. The fact is that more than a week after the arrests, the police have not found any of the liquid explosives that would have blown up the aircraft, none of the 24 arrested had bought the air tickets, nor have the police found any sign that they had planned to buy them on lastminute.com. A week of investigation has mostly produced only a globally orchestrated allegation. The fact that stood out is the extent to which people are prepared to believe what some Muslims might get to; the suspicion itself stood as a fact…The evidence is being searched now; it wasn't in hand before the arrests were made." (Suri Sanjay, Outlook, 28 August 2006)

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Myth: Islam's teachings lead to violence. Islam is a violent religion. Islam spread through violence

Fact: This again is a concoction built carefully in various stages. The US propaganda machinery picked up Islam as the "New threat," after the collapse of the Communist Soviet Union, especially after the US stooge, Raza Shah Pehlavi was uprooted in a popular revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini. The US was clamouring to take control of the oil zone, which it had been planning since it helped plant the state of Israel in the middle of Arab states, near the oil rich zone ( Iraq, Gulf and Iran). Ever since, America has made it sure that in terms of military might, the tiny state of Israel is stronger than all its neighbouring Arab states. Israel was consistently used to beat Arab powers trying to lead an independent course.

After the very recent discovery of Islam as the new "enemy," the US propaganda machine started projecting every political event in the region in the colour of religion. Islam, in reality, stands for peace and it is the message of peace which Prophet Muhammad brought to the warring Arab tribes and people beyond. Its scriptural meaning has many a time been distorted by Muslim rulers who used it for their political purposes, and lately by the US propaganda machine for the effective demonization of Islam to use it as a pretext to attack country after country in the oil-rich zone, and to squeeze others into submission.

In the past, kings belonging to all religions have resorted to violence for their political goals using the name of their religion or posing as champions of their faith. Crusades, jihad and dharma yuddha were convenient covers for the expansion of kingdoms, involving a lot of violence and were sanctioned by the clergy of each faith. People, the downtrodden, were always on the path of peace, harmony and co-existence, despite being exploited by landlords and rulers. It is they who were more with the message of peace of saints of all religions. Today, as ever in history, violence is related to power. Like earlier, as kings used the language of religion for appropriating power, today also, a section of powerful countries, especially the imperialists and neo-colonialists, are using the garb of religion to achieve their political goals.

The spread of Islam was multifaceted, and took place mostly at the hands of selfless sufi saints. While kings clamoured for worldly authority and material and territorial gains, and used the sword to gain more power, sufi saints used humane approach to spread the spirit of religion based on peace, tolerance and co-existence. Even today, Islam is spreading in the West, including the US, more so amongst the African Americans and Latinos who detest the oppression by the dominant sections of US society.

In India, Islam spread mainly through the teachings of sufi saints. The untouchables of India, the shudras , were denied entry into temples, were oppressed by the dominant Hindu tradition of Brahmanism. In order to escape this tyranny, and to gain social equality, they embraced Islam. As Swami Vivekananda, in his Collected Works (vol. VIII, page 330) points out, "Why amongst the poor of India so many are Mohammedans? It is nonsense to say that they were converted by the sword. It was to gain liberty from Zamindars and Priests.."

Conversions were not the aim of kings (except Ashoka). Formation of the Indian Muslim community took place in various stages. To begin with, it started emerging along Malabar Coast in the south, where Arab traders used to come for trade since the seventh century AD. They had a religious influence, and many people through their interaction embraced Islam. An Arab army conquered Sindh early in the 8th century, but it had a marginal impact on the society. During 11th and 12th centuries, Turkish invasion brought in a larger influence of Islam into north India. Initially, this resulted in the emergence of a Muslim military aristocracy. But the spread of Islam through this channel was restricted in numbers. Another small trickle came from Hindu upper-classes, some of whom became Muslims either out of conviction, or out of hope of reward from the new rulers.

But the main conversions came from the poor low-caste "untouchables" who, despite being a formal part of Hindu society, were reeling under severe oppression and repression of the upper caste Brahmins and Brahmanism.

 

Myth:  Islam and Democracy are not compatible!

Fact: Most of the religions emerged during the phase of human society when there was prevalence either of tribal cults, feudal lordships and exploitation of the poor. With the advent of industrialization, the process of secularization (weakening of the grip of clergy on social affairs and development of relations of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity) started gaining ground. The nation-states, which emerged during this phase, had Christianity as the main religion and the secularization process had to confront the Church and bring in the new relations of society.

 

The countries where Islam was the major religion were mostly colonies at this stage of time (early twentieth century). And here the freedom struggle did introduce the process of secularization and democratisation. Unfortunately, these countries were also the one's where the oil was discovered. The First World War was fought over European nation-states' disagreement over sharing colonial loot. And the Second World War was fought for the division of markets amongst the imperialist countries.

With the discovery of oil in the Middle East, emergence of America as a superpower and a leading industrial nation, the dynamics of the freedom movements changed. The US began to thwart the democratization process in different colonies and opposed the freedom movements of many countries in the name of "Defense of Freedom." In many countries it had to lose face. In Vietnam, despite facing heavy odds, the Vietnam people held out and US had to retreat from its fake mission of "Saving Freedom," but in some countries it could succeed in the installation of puppet, feudal or the dictatorial regimes. In Chile, the democratically elected Salvador Allende regime was overthrown and Pinochet, a military dictator, was installed. In both these countries, the leaders of the government or revolution was Marxists. It is interesting to note here that, in some of the colonies, the freedom movement and industrialization process could not be undertaken by the industrialist class, and hence, the collective bureaucracy assumed the functions of the industrialist class.

 

The Second Word War also saw the formation of Israel in the heart of the Arab-Islamic nations, surrounding the oil resources. Here, ironically the democratization process was quelled or counter-revolutions were staged in order to push back the secularization and democratization processes.

 

1.   In Iran, the democratic government of Prime Minister Mossadegh was overthrown and Raza Shah Pehalavi was installed as the absolute monarch in 1953 under the watchful eyes of the CIA. Mossadegh was considering the nationalization of oil industry. Raza Shah acted as a puppet and permitted the plunder of his country's oil resources, brought in symbols of modernization while suppressing the social and democratic transformation of the Iranian society. The result was the widening gulf between the rich and the poor. He effectively stifled the democratic institutions in his own country as well as in the neighbourhood. The anger, frustration and helplessness of the people gave rise to a massive popular uprising against the Shah and installation of the clerical regime of Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini called America as the Great Satan. Iraq and Iran had a long stretching war following this, with open Western support. In the war, America and its Western and Arab allies supported Iraq and pumped in funds and ammunition to get the war going and to cripple Iran with a view to stop its revolutionary ideas from spreading across its borders. These forces also raised the Shia-Sunni issue to marginalize the Iranian influence in the Muslim World.

 

2.   The story of Afghanistan, currently facing death from American and NATO bombings, is very peculiar. In 1978, People's Democratic Party came to power and went in for democratic reforms on secular lines. The following year, this government   was overthrown by conservative elements. Soviet Russia rushed its army to bring the previous rule back to power in Afghanistan. America decided to promote the most fundamentalist sections of rebels, like Osama bin Laden and the fundamentalist outfit called Taliban, and provided them through and through with military and financial help to overthrow the Russian army. And that brought in the rule of Taliban, which was nurtured by US through the conduit of Pakistan. During the Afghan war, the US did practically everything to violate the unwritten and written rules of international behaviour.

 

3. In Iraq, on the pretext of restoring the freedom of Emir of Kuwait, which had been annexed by Saddam Husain into Iraq as its 23rd state in 1990, US launched a massive attack on Iraq with aim and purpose of restoring the feudal rule in Kuwait, through which the US is able to control the oil taps of Kuwait. In the ensuing aggression of US, nearly 200,000 people died and later 0.5 million succumbed to death due to the sanctions imposed on Iraq which stopped even the supply of medicines, baby food and other essential items.

 

4. Pakistan was the product of the British colonial policy of divide and rule. It quickly came under the grip of Military-Mulla complex. US backed the Pakistani ruler in all their internal repression of democracy. Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) broke away from Pakistan in 1971 as a result of Pakistani rulers' anti-people policies. Ever since, Pakistan has been struggling to restore democracy in some way.

 

5. In Malaysia and Indonesia, which are predominantly Islamic nations, there is a good effort to nurture democracy, despite its limitations.

 

It should be understood that the US and its Western allies want only subservient "democratic" governments in the rest of the world, especially in the Muslim World. The much touted "democracy" fails here if forces inimical to the US are elected to power as in Algeria (January 1991), and Palestine (January 2006), and on many occasions in Turkey. In Pakistan and Egypt, military dictatorships in the garb of "democratic" rule are fully supported by the US. The US support and largesse will be withdrawn the minute these countries changed their pro-Western policies.

 

In a nutshell, in the countries with Muslim majority populations, there have been efforts to bring in democracy. The imperialists have crushed most of these efforts in order to control the oil wealth and strategic locations of the region. Most of the Islamic nations are post-colonial states, caught up with local limitations and foreign pressures which hinder their march comfortably towards democracy. Despite these limitations, the ones away from the oil zone have been more successful in planting the seeds of democracy in their societies since they face less foreign, mainly American, pressure. Wherever the colonial hold and restrictions are there, the feudal relations and undemocratic systems are promoted and sustained by the imperialist countries. The imperialist countries promote the fundamentalist elements in the society, if these are ready to play according the Western rules of the game. So the imperialist countries first ensure that democratic transformation should not take place in these countries as it goes against their material interests (it is more difficult to control democratic governments which are accountable to their people and parliaments). In the second step, the imperialist countries blame that these countries do not have a "democratic" set up due to Islam. It serves a double purpose for them. They can launch the general anti-Islam tirade to sustain their control in these regions.

 

As we saw earlier, religions emerged in periods of time when democratic institutions did not exist. But religions do not hinder democracy. As an Islamic scholar, Asghar Ali Engineer said, "there is a concept of 'society' rather 'state' (in Islam). As per some interpretation of Islam, the basic task of the Muslim Ummah is to build a moral society based on good, and negation of evil. The unity of Muslims is possible only if they remain basically a religious community engaged in building a just society, which has no element of zulm (oppression and injustice), though there may be different ways of approaching the truth."

(Aman, April-May 1999). Kalshian ( Outlook, 15 October 2001) states that Islam is in no way opposed to individual freedoms. It, for one, doesn't recognize the priestly class and the individual is expected to follow what s/he thinks is the true path.

 

Myth: Amongst religions, Islam is the one which gives rise to fundamentalism. It is opposed to democracy and individual freedoms.

 

Fact: It is necessary to define the term "Fundamentalism" first. It is basically a Christian term which is used in two senses. The orthodox believers use it in the sense of going back to the Fundamentals of religion. Here the emphasis is on the original scripture of religion. The second meaning pertains to the use of religion for political goals of the dominant section of society. In this sense, selectively culled out parts of scriptures or practices, which are against human rights and equality of weaker sections, are implemented to suppress the libertarian aspirations of these sections. Here we are using the term in its second sense (political misuse of religion).

 

Fundamentalism comes up in different situations. Mostly it is a response of declining sections (feudal elements) in society, backed by the clergy to put brakes to the process of social transformations towards Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. This term was first used by the Protestant sect of Christianity in America, in the face of Industrialization process in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ten small booklets were published, which emphasized the basic values of Christianity. Most of these were against the vassal's and women's legal equality. These ideas withered away with further industrialization. From the late twentieth century, one is witnessing this phenomenon,   particularly in the Islamic countries, for reasons which are a bit different from those in the nineteenth-century America. Ayatollah Khomeini's regime was a fundamentalist one. It was the only available channel of rebellion as Raza Shah Pehlvi of Iran stifled the democratic mechanisms with strong Western support. In several Middle East countries, similar value systems came up by suppressing the rights of women and weaker sections of society. In most of the Islamic countries around the oil zone, the US encouraged the rule of Sheikhs and Mulla-backed regimes, as these were easy preys for satisfying the oil lust of US and its allies.

 

The status of clergy under fundamentalist regimes is very exalted. In our own neighboring Pakistan, these trends were there from the beginning as the feudal lords and Mullas dominated it. With Ziaul Haq's regime, it got institutionalized. At different times, different religions have been used as a cover for the political goals of sections of society. Islam too has been exploited in the same manner.

 

Lately, new terms have emerged. These convey fundamental politics while retaining the religious roots of terms like Hindutva and Islamism. These are not religions, but their names include components of religion in order to mislead the gullible into supporting this politics in the name of religion. These terms help in mobilizing the broad sections of society which get the impression that it is part of their religious striving and duty.

 

"Islamism began in 1920s. The 1980s saw a third generation come of age. Because of their militancy, they are mostly referred to as "jehadists", and they state in all clarity that for them jihad is not a matter of moral rearmament (as many Muslims wish jihad to be understood), but armed struggle, their favorite form of self-purification being 'martyrdom' (Khalid Duran), "The Globalization of Terrorism," Review, Fall, 2000). The concept of jihad as armed struggle began from 1927, with a book on Jihad, Al-jihad fil-Islam. Parts of this were translated into English (Muslim self statements in India and Pakistan, eds. Aziz Ahmad and G.E. von Grunebaum, Wiesbaden, Harassowitz, 1970). Just to reiterate as per the Qur'an, jihad means striving, expending power and effort, to fight evils and to spread the word of Allah to create a just and compassionate society.

 

The other definition of "Islamism" is spelt in Political Islam in the Indian Subcontinent (F. Grare, Manohar, 2001). This one goes on to state, "Islamism can, indeed, not be reduced to religious fervour or to extreme moral rigourism characteristic of the Taliban, or be reduced to the recourse to violence. It is defined, essentially, in its relationship to politics and hence to the state, by its efforts towards realization of a truly Muslim society."  

 

In Islamism, Shari'ah is the sole juridical basis of social relationships before which no   non-Islamic law can exist. Asghar Ali Engineer, a noted Islamic scholar, who has interpreted Islam in a liberal manner, points out, "The concept of jihad in Islam has been grossly misunderstood by Muslims and non-Muslims. It is thought that Islam encourages violence and force and that Allah wants to spread Islam with sword or at the point of gun. The acts of some Muslim extremists and terrorists provide proof for this violent image of Islam…Truth is quite otherwise" ( Islam and Modern Age, vol. I, 1998, Mumbai). Engineer further points out, "there is no question of force or violence in spreading Islam. This was popularized by the West after the crusades, which again had nothing to do with spread of religion. It was, in fact, the war of territorial conquest. As far as the spread of religion is concerned, Qur'an rules out violence completely through a number of pronouncements. It very forcefully states, la ikrah fi'al-din (there is no compulsion in religion (2:256)). Also, it makes it plain that one can invite to the path of Allah through "wisdom and good advice" (16:125). It is no less important that the Qur'an accepted the truth brought by Prophets before Muhammad. ( Ibid)

 

The Khalistani movement was also fundamentalist in nature. It remained only a movement of rebellion and did not achieve power to exercise its control on the weaker sections. Hindutva had come up in response to the rising secular movement of the Indian National Congress. It did not grow to threaten democracy in India. But, during the last two decades, it has assumed menacing proportions due to the rise in the number of middle classes (rich peasants, rich professionals, petty industrialists, etc.) who support it. It also derives its legitimacy from a particular version of Hinduism (Brahminical) and is repressive to women and Dalits.

 

This use of religion for retrograde politics, which is against the human rights of weaker sections of society, cuts across different religions. It is true that currently the major fundamentalist stream derives its legitimacy from Islam, but that is more because of peculiar circumstances and the role of imperialism and not because of any peculiarity of Islam as a religion.

 

Myth: RSS is actively fighting against Terrorism!

Fact: On the contrary, RSS Combine's certain wings are directly involved with acts of terror. On 6 April 2006, two Bajrang Dal activists were killed while making a bomb in the house of an RSS sympathizer in Nanded. The event was not much taken note of by the national media. Maharashtra's Anti Terror Squad, after investigating the event, confirmed that these activists were being trained in making bombs. On the site, a powerful IED, pipe bombs, fake Muslim dresses and fake beards, and a diary with tips for making bombs were found. All the functionaries of RSS affiliates went to offer condolences for the dead, and most of them visited other activists who were in hospital after the accident. The BJP MP of the area asked the police not to "harass the innocent" members of the Bajrang Dal. Despite the severity of the crime, bail was granted to the collaborators of the accused, because the police prosecutor told the court that he had no objection to bail being granted to the accused.

 

After this incident, police conducted several raids in nearby places and explosive material and other ammunition were also found during these raids, but it was claimed that these were seized from the "usual suspects", in other words from the "Islamic" terrorists.

 

On 1 June 2006, in an early morning encounter in Nagpur, the police claimed to have killed three dreaded terrorists of a fidayeen group who, according to the police version, were planning to attack the RSS head office in the city. In this encounter, no eye witnesses were found, and the police version was the only source of this information. The Police Commissioner claimed that the car of the terrorists had huge quantities of ammunition, but all the same, the police miraculously succeeded in decimating all the three terrorists without getting any serious injury. The next morning, police hogged the limelight for this act of bravery. It was claimed that police had discovered a diary from the car giving the details of the terrorists, that they were "Islamic" terrorists from Pakistan, and they were cremated in the Islamic manner. As usual the incident produced screaming headlines in most of the national media.

 

So far, in such incidents, the police version is blindly accepted by the media and the nation. No critical analysis and follow up is found necessary. Since all around the air of terror, perpetrated by "Islamic" terrorists, is heavy due to constant media barrage, one more such incident is received with some alarm, and the demonization of Muslims and Islam is taken one step higher, and the matter rests there. In this case, two of the RSS trained politicians, Gujarat Chief Minister, Modi, and MP Chief Minister, Chauhan, gave cash rewards to the police personnel who killed the terrorists, in another state. Not to be left behind, another RSS pracharak, a former chief of Bajrang Dal, announced a hefty cash reward to any civilian who kills the terrorists. Here all the legal niceties were swept aside and two chief ministers and one top BJP leader, as if reading from a prepared script, went on to maul the norms of Indian constitution, and talked of things which cannot stand the scrutiny of law of the land.

 

Smelling a rat, some civic action groups formed a citizen's inquiry committee to know the truth of the "attack" on the RSS headquarters ( http://www.pluralindia.com/articles.php?id=115). So far, not many citizens groups have investigated such acts of terror. The team had a retired judge of Maharashtra High Court as the chairperson, and many prominent social activists as members. The team did all within its means to piece together the available information from local media and people concerned, and concluded that the police version has too many holes to be trusted. The committee has demanded a probe by a competent authority from the Centre. Despite its frequent requests, police officials refused to talk to the inquiry committee, as if they had something to hide. On the contrary, the police cast aspersions on the motives and linkages of the team members. Police claims of the terrorists carrying 5.4 kilos of RDX and a sealed box of hand grenades, does not match with the meek surrender of the terrorists. Some of the local people, whom the committee met, said there was a firing in the air few days earlier in the same area where the incident took place. And, the firing on the day of the encounter sounded like a repeat of the earlier one. Had this act been rehearsed already?

 

One realizes that investigating such incidents by civil groups is very difficult. The police and authorities don't cooperate. On the contrary, they put up all kinds of roadblocks. In the Ansal Plaza case also, Kuldeep Nayar's petition to the National Human Rights Commission, doubting the police version, went unanswered. Interestingly, all such attacks hog the headlines for days while in the name of national security, eyes are closed to the glaring holes in the police version.

 

The Anti Terrorist Squad concluded that the activists who were involved in the Nanded blast belonged to the Bajrang Dal. Despite that, this organization continues to be a legal entity in a country, claiming to fight terrorism. Also RSS's affiliates and sister organizations have not been touched. Despite the alarming fact that they were being trained in bomb-making, the state government is sleeping over the issue.

 

Box

Is RSS a Terrorist Organization?

One does not know as to what criterion the US-based Terrorism Research Center, a US think tank on this issue, has used, but it has gone on to label RSS*, the patriarch of Hindutva organizations, BJP, VHP, Bajarang Dal, etc., as a terrorist outfits. RSS shares this category with other organizations defamed in different parts of the world as terrorists, like Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e Toiba, etc. RSS's own definition and understanding of terrorists has been summed up by RSS pracharak (propagator) and the current Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, as follows: "All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims!" How come a Muslim-baiter organization itself has been labeled as terrorist by an American watchdog?

It is important to concede here that terrorism emerges from ideology of groups with specific political goals. It is also important to realize that all those who manufacture this goal and ideology, which leads to violence, are terrorists. Rather, they are the real terrorists. And if the blame is to be apportioned, they
should be held more responsible before the finger is pointed to those who use sword, bullets or AK 47, or who pilot planes into WTC or the like.

No doubt RSS pracharaks will never go to pick up arms to kill anybody personally. Even in RSS shakhas training is given only for wielding lathis and batons. But, keeping with the times, RSS progeny Bajarang Dal and Durga Vahini have begun to impart training to their cadres in the use of firearms while the VHP is distributing knives, disguised as trishuls, in thousands. But in RSS shakhas these are not distributed. Apart from the lathi-wielding, the other part of the training is bauddhik (intellectual). This training is aimed at  spreading of hatred against minorities, and against secular and democratic values. The RSS indoctrinates them to believe that in this nation of Hindus, others like Muslims and Christians, are aliens and that Communists, Muslims and Christians are internal threats to the Hindu nation.

The venom of hate is tailor-made for each community. Muslims are equated to yavan, i.e., snakes. Prof Bipan Chandra narrates his experience in listening to the shakha training. While on a morning walk, he overheard the young boys attending the shakha being told that Muslims are like snakes and that it is easier to kill a young snake rather than the grown one. The message of this "intellectual" exercise is too clear. The inspiration and methods of hate are picked up from the Nazi Germany discourse. RSS ideologue, Golwalkar, articulated it,

German race pride has now become topic of the day. To keep up the purity of nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of Semitic races — the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by. (M.S. Golwalkar, We or Our Nationhood Defined, Nagpur 1938, p.27).

The RSS ideology's outcome was clearly manifested in Godse's murdering of Gandhi. Of course, RSS never owned the fact that Godse was trained by RSS, and that he was an RSS pracharak before he decided to join Hindu Mahasabha. His brother, Gopal Godse, maintained in different interviews that they (his brother Nathuram and he himself) had never left the RSS. Most of the inquiry commission reports on the communal violence (Justice Reddy, Vithayathil, Venugopal, Madon and others) have shown irrefutably that there has been a role of some organizations affiliated to, or floated by, a pracharak of RSS, which has played crucial role in the communal violence.

The strategy is very clear. RSS trains the "volunteers" who carry on the RSS work by joining or floating different organizations. The advantage of this strategy is that the blame of riots can never be placed at the door of the RSS. One recalls that after the defeat in 1937 elections, Muslim Leagues and Hindu Mahasabha stepped up their "Hate the other" campaigns, as they could not win the elections on the appeal of their religion. RSS also stepped up its "hate the other" campaign. These poisonous seeds of hatred were dormant for long and started bearing their poisonous fruits more visibly after the 1980s. This "hate the other" ideology passes through different conveyor belts and its final destination is where the gullible poor sections of our society take up arms, intoxicated by the opium of the hate ideology, which is laced in the language of religion and nationalism for desired effect.

The RSS and Muslim League, in pre-Partition times, were the expressions of the fears of feudal elements that their norms and values are under threat in the wake of modern education, industrialization and the triumph of the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as the major ideology of the struggling masses. The same fear, existential anxiety, of other middle classes has crystallized in the politics of RSS. The major cause of this fear is the coming up of Dalits and women demanding social and gender justice. Whatever   the deeper societal agenda, RSS methods and mechanisms of action do give rise to VHPs, Bajarang Dals and Durga Vahinis. It is probably this deep understanding of the dynamics of RSS functioning which must have prompted the American think tank to label the RSS as a terrorist organization.

The RSS training goes on twin tracks. One is the physical one, games and all that. The second is the bauddhik one. It is the latter which motivates its progeny to incite people to take up arms and kill the "other" — the "enemy" — in a ruthless fashion. The anatomy of riots, which manifests in violence, is very interesting and complex. It is for social scientists have to explain how the average Dalit, Adivasi, workers with empty stomachs and bleak future, are mobilized as the foot-soldiers of the RSS agenda. An RSS pracharak may be at the same time sitting and giving a quiet discourse on Hindu values, Hindu rashtra, while RSS ideology will grip a section of population to unleash violence, to kill innocents. It does achieve the political goal of the consolidation of sections of Hindus behind the RSS, and enables them to seize power or strengthen their   power. The definition of "terrorism", is,  thus, killing of innocents for power or political agenda. And that's precisely what RSS work achieves.

The only point of overt confusion sometimes can be that, unlike Osama, or the AK 47 wielding terrorist in some parts of the world, the RSS volunteer will appear to be the apostle of quietness. And this is the wiliest and cleverest part of RSS operation: to achieve its goal of getting the minorities beaten and killed without taking up the arms itself. The violence is leashed out by clever social and psychological manipulation. In that sense, AK 47 may miss the target but a mind poisoned and initiated by hate ideology, propagated by the RSS, will come out as violence some time or the other, here or there, as this outcome is just a question of time. Culture, the cloak of this organization, is the most subtly disguised cover for the terrorist goals of this organization. This terrorist outfit kills many birds with a single stone — the birds being minorities and weaker sections of society. But, of course, there will be much noise that the name of the RSS should be taken off from the list of this research center. In case of RSS, this outfits' culture is the terror for large sections of minorities and weaker sections of society in India.  

http://www.terrorism.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Countries&file=index&view=113

 

Epilogue 

Al Qaeda or Al Fayda - Roots of Global Terror

"These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America's founding fathers."

(Ronald Reagan while introducing the Mujahideen leaders to the media on the White House lawns. (1985)..

 

"Americans are asking: why do they hate us? They hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."

George W. Bush, in his speech in US Congress in the aftermath of 9/11 (2001).

 

These two statements within a short period of only 16 years reflect the so-called transition of "freedom fighters", of which the US administration was proud, to the same one's being called enemies of the US. When Tony Blair, in the aftermath of 7/7, uttered his feelings that our resolve to uphold our values is stronger than their resolve to break it, he was referring to the people with same ideology and politics whom Reagan praised to the sky and about whom G.W. Bush had a totally contrary view.

 

What has changed during only one and a half decades? Have "they" really changed? Or is it that the US needs and objectives have undergone a rapid transition during this short period? The reference to the ghastly acts of terrorism of 9/11 and 7/7 does send the shivers down one's spine. Not only the killings of innocent non-combatants in 9/11 and 7/7 is extremely heinous and cowardly, but also the aftermath of such actions is something one needs to mull over. The ongoing terrorism and "war on terror" are both affecting the societies in a painful manner. While on the one hand, killings of innocents is a matter of deep anguish, the post-terror polarization of communities on religious grounds and the demonization of Islam and Muslims are the consequences which have deeper impact on the lives of people the world over.

 

To begin with, the question is, who did it? Surprisingly, after 9/11, the investigation has not been very definitive. It was presumed that Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda outfit are the ones behind the tragic event. Afghanistan was invaded on the pretext of catching hold of Osama. Nearly 60,000 people were killed by the US attack against Afghanistan, but Bin Laden and his close associates could not be captured. Incidentally, it was Osama who was projected to be the primary culprit against whom the war is being waged. Despite this and the huge booty announced for his head, Osama Bin Laden's name does not appear on the list of the accused for the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Centre. But the US did "succeed" in installing a puppet regime in Afghanistan and also in taking control of the huge oil reserves around Afghanistan.

 

Iraq too was invaded on the ground that it stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) which were deemed as a great threat to US security. Iraq was also accused that it was harbouring Al Qaeda, which later turned out to be plain lie. Serious observers knew from the very beginning that there was no substance in the Saddam-Al Qaeda nexus due to the huge ideological differences between them. However, Iraq was invaded. Over six hundred thousand Iraqis have since been killed according to an American university estimate, thousands of US armed personnel too have been sacrificed in Iraq. (The Johns Hopkins University study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet (11 Oct, 2006), puts the Iraqi civilian deaths caused by Bush's invasion as high as 655,000 (see http://informationclearinghouse.info/article15266.htm , The number of U.S. Military personnel killed (officially acknowledged until 16 November 2006) in Iraq was 2863 Sexual torture of Abu Ghraib prison seems to be just a tip of the iceberg, which we will never come to know as many similar prisons are maintained by the US and its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and many other countries around the world including the notorious Guantanamo Bay which forever will remain a blot on America.

There are also doubts about the real culprits of 9/11 as conclusive evidence has not been produced by the US so far. Tony Blair did not lose even minutes to hint that "same" culprits are involved when London underground trains were targeted. Some reports pointed out that it is the act of Secret Organization Group of Al-Qaeda, which on its temporary website, claimed, "We continue to the warn the Governments of Denmark and Italy and all Crusader Governments, that they will be punished in the same way if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan."

 

Even in the aftermath of 9/11, there were serious doubts raised about the real perpetrator of the event, whether it was Al Qaeda or was it some other agency. Anyway, a pretext to attack Afghanistan could be cooked up with ease. Doubts have been raised after the Lodnon underground blasts that since there is a pressure on the UK Government to withdraw its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, this "terrorist" incident will ensure that British troops continue serving in Iraq. On the one hand, we have Al Qaeda and the like who, in the name of "Jihad," are causing havoc. These actions, in the name of jihad, are the worst enemies of Muslims as a community as these activities create hatred against the Muslim community, and the demonization process against Muslims and Islam gets a boost after every such event. Moreover, the targeting of average and innocent Muslims as terrorists and criminals get biggest justification from such acts. These actions are the ones which have laid the foundation of the ideology guiding many Western powers and also other countries.

 

The other factor is the policy of Western powers which have been steadfastly supporting Israel's violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, and its blatant vandalism in the neighbouring region.

The jihadi terrorism was consciously brought up and promoted not by any Muslim country. It was the handiwork of US, and its agency, the CIA, in its goal to contain the influence of Communism during the era of Cold War. During that period, many countries strived for nationalism to get rid of the clutches of colonial powers. Most such endeavours were opposed by Western powers, with the US in the lead. With the success of Communists coming to power in Afghanistan, the US administration started promoting the opponents of the Communist regime. Communists tried to bring in land reforms, curtail the opium cultivation, and this hurt the interests of the feudal and orthodox elements.

 

These opponents to the Afghan Communist regime, the elite, were the right wing Islamists. It was from this Muslim right wing that Al Qaeda was formed with the direct patronage of the U.S. which pumped in billions of dollars in cash and armaments, including Stringer missiles which were given to Al Qaeda by the CIA. Al Qaeda grouped together with the help of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia with active American blessings. With the defeat of the Communist forces, the US became more assertive and started interfering in the region with vengeance. The attack on Iraq in 1991 was the first manifestation of the same. The right wing Islamists felt the threat of US presence, and the rest is too fresh in our memories to be recounted. Anti-Islamism now came to substitute Anti-Communism as the "other" of imperialist powers. Lured by the oil wealth of the region, the US-UK axis has violated every possible international law and has removed all roadblocks to its pursuits for profit ( Fayda). This axis also attacked Afghanistan and Iraq, telling the world that this is the only way to make their countries safer for themselves.

 

Can such blatant violation of human and international norms make the world safer? And, pray tell me, which is the bigger curse of the World today: Al Qaeda or Al Fayda?

 

 

Bibliography

Ahmad, Ajiaz, On Communalism & Globalization: Offensives of the Far Right (Three Essays).

Ahmad, Aijaz, Iraq, Afghanistan & the Imperialism of Our Time , Delhi: Left Word Books, 2004.

Ali, Tariq, The Clash of Fundamentalism: Crusades, Jihads & Modernity (Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2002), Pp: 428

Armstrong, Karen, Islam: A Short History, Phoenix Press London :

Koshy, Ninan, WAR ON TERROR: Reordering the World, Leftward , p. 146, Delhi

Maley, William, Afghanistan & the Taliban: The Rebirth of Fundamentalism? (Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2001), Pp.253

Mamdani, Mahmood, Good Muslim Bad Muslim (Orient Longman, Hydrabad, 2003).                  

Puniyani, Ram, TERRORISM IMPERIALISM & WAR, Mumbai, BUILD, Mumbai, 2002), Pp. 227.

Prashad, Vijay, War against the Planet: The Fifth Afghan War, Imperialism, & Other Assorted Fundamentalisms (Delhi: Left Word Books, 2002), Pp. 110.

Price: Rs. 75.00

 

Imam, Zafar, Iraq-2003: The Return of Imperialism , (Delhi: Aakar Books, 2004), Pp. 112.

Said, Edward W. The End of the Peace Process: Oslo & After (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), Pp. 389.

 

Boxes

In Turkey, the Islamic Refah (Welfare) Party was banned in 1998, to deny it the chance to repeat its spectacular performance in the 1995 elections. In Algeria, the Islamic Salvation Front was proscribed in 1992, after it swept the first round of elections, sucking the country into a horrific vortex of violence.

 

Ironically, all these countries have secular regimes — as do Egypt, Libya, Iraq — and look askance at attempts of Islamists to capture the levers of power through election. This exacerbates existing tensions in the society. Be it the checkmating of Nasser in Egypt, opposing Nationalist upsurges in Algeria, Syria and Lebanon, down to bombing the pharma factory in Sudan.

 

Critics say the real motive of the argument that Islam and Democracy are incompatible is political. It serves as an alibi for the West's complicity with the worst of Islamic tyrannies (on the grounds that the West must respect their "cultural specificity"), and also justifies the suppression of their radical movements in the name of democracy. Thus, if there has to be dictatorship, at least let it be pro-West.

Rajesh Kalshian, Outlook, October 15th, 2001.

 

Islam did not introduce veiling or seclusion in Arabic countries. Long before the advent of Islam, veiling and seclusion appear to have existed in the Hellenistic-Byzantine era, and among the Sassanians of Persia. In ancient Mesopotamia, the veil of women was regarded as a sign of respectability and status. Decent married women wore the veil to differentiate themselves from women slaves and unchaste women. The latter were, in fact, forbidden to cover their heads.

(Behind The Veil, Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali, Asian Age, Nov 21., 2001

 

 

 "...Quran makes number of statements accepting plurality of religion. In one of the verses (5:48) it says, 'for every one of you we appointed a law and a way. And if Allah had pleased He would have made you a single people, but that he might try you in what He gave you. So vie one with another in virtuous deeds'. The Quran emphasizes three things in the above verse. One, that every Nation or people have a law and a way. The people follow this law and the way. While law refers to legal requirements, 'way' refers to spiritual path. The law and the way will naturally be conditioned by requirements of people though the universal principles may be common."

Asghar Ali Engineer, Islam And Other Religions, Institute of Islamic Studies. Vol. I, No. 4, April 1998).

 

 

References:

Asghar Ali. Engineer, Islam and Modern Age, Vol. I, 1998, Mumbai

Asghar Ali Engineer, Islam and the Concept of Jihad , Institute of Islamic Studies, Vol.1, Oct 1998

Asghar Ali Engineer, Concept of Islamic State, Aman, April-May 99

Dhavan, Rajeev, "Get the Guilty ", Times of India, August 23

Grare, F. Manohar, New Delhi , 2001.

Hasan, Mushirul, (Interview, www.tehelka.com).

Hensman,Rohini, Terrorism, Imperialism and War, Build Mumbai, 2002, P.29.

Khalid Duran, "The Globalization of Terrorism", In Review, Fall, 2000.

Imam Raghib Asfahani, Mufradat al-Qur'an, pp-916-17, Lahore, 1971.

Suri, Sanjay, "The Great Britain Bust", Outlook 28th  August 2006.

Puniyani, Ram, Communal Politics, Sage: Delhi 2002.

Puniyani, Ram, Terrorism, Imperialism and War, Build, Mumbai 2002

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THE ABC's OF JIHAD IN AFGHANISTAN

….the United States has delivered 4 million radical Islamist textbooks [to Afghanistan]. More are on the way.   In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.

The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system's core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books…

As Afghan schools reopen today, the United States is back in the business of providing schoolbooks. But now it is wrestling with the unintended consequences of its successful strategy of stirring Islamic fervor to fight Communism. What seemed like a good idea in the context of the Cold War, is being criticized by humanitarian workers as a crude tool that steeped a generation in violence.

Last month, a US foreign aid official said, workers launched a "scrubbing" operation in neighbouring Pakistan to purge from the books all references to rifles and killing…

The White House defends the religious content, saying that Islamic principles permeate Afghan culture and that the books "are fully in compliance with US law and policy." Legal experts, however, question whether the books violate a constitutional ban on using tax dollars to promote religion…

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush have repeatedly spotlighted the Afghan textbooks in recent weeks. Last Saturday, Bush announced during his weekly radio address that the 10 million US-supplied books being trucked to Afghan schools would teach "respect for human dignity, instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry."

The first lady stood alongside Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai on Jan. 29 to announce that AID would give the University of Nebraska at Omaha $6.5 million to provide textbooks and teacher training kits…

Published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtu, the textbooks were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and its Center for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent $51 million on the University's education programmes in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994…

"The pictures [in] the texts are horrendous to school students, but the texts are even much worse," said Ahmad Fahim Hakim, an Afghan educator who is a programme coordinator for Cooperation for Peace and Unity, a Pakistan-based nonprofit.   An aid worker in the region reviewed an unrevised 100-page book, and counted 43 pages containing violent images or passages.

The military content was included to "stimulate resistance against invasion," explained Yaquib Roshan of Nebraska's Afghanistan Center. "Even in January, the books were absolutely the same... pictures of bullets and Kalashnikovs and you name it." …

During the Taliban era, censors purged human images from the books. One page from the texts of that period shows a resistance fighter with a bandolier and a Kalashnikov slung from his shoulder. The soldier's head is missing.   Above the soldier is a verse from the Koran. Below is a Pashtu tribute to the mujaheddin, who are described as obedient to Allah. Such men will sacrifice their wealth and life itself to impose Islamic law on the government, the text says….

Earlier this year, the United States tapped into its $296 million aid package for rebuilding Afghanistan to reprint the old books… About 18 of the 200 titles the United States is republishing are primarily Islamic instructional books, which agency officials refer to as "civics" courses. Some books teach how to live according to the Koran, Brown said, and "how to be a good Muslim."

(Exerpted from By Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, Washington Post, 23 March 2002)

Further Reading

1. "Congressman: US Set Up Anti-Taliban to be Slaughtered". This is an account of how the US covertly supported the Taliban. This is available at:  

http://emperors-clothes.com/misc/rohr.htm

2. "Washington's Backing of Afghan Terrorists: Deliberate Policy" Article from Washington Post with introductory note from "Emperor's Clothes". Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/docs/anatomy.htm

3. "Taliban Camps US bombed in Afghanistan Were Built by NATO".

Documentation from the N.Y. Times. Combined U.S. and Saudi aid to Afghan-based terrorism totaled $6 billion or more. Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/docs/camps.htm

4. "CIA worked with Pakistan to create Taliban". From Times of India . Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/docs/pak.htm

5. "Osama bin Laden: Made in USA". Excerpt from article on US bombing of a pill factory in Sudan in August, 1998. Argues that bin Laden was, and still may be, a CIA asset. Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/madein.htm

6. Excerpts from News Reports: "Bin Laden in the Balkans" Evidence that bin Laden aided or is aiding the U.S.-sponsored forces in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/news/binl.htm

7. "The Creation Called Osama", by Shamsul Islam can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/creat.htm; http://emperors-clothes.com/news/abc.htm