In The News



by HUMRA QURAISHI May 13 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 7 mins, 21 secs

I’m writing this column in the backdrop of the film, The Kerala Story. It is not just controversial, it can polarise and divide, writes Humra Quraishi.

Who is a terrorist? Each time I see television, shots of the Middle East, of hundreds killed in explosions, children dying, fleeing families, buildings bombarded, entire settlements razed to the ground under the veil of search operations. I’ve been asking myself, “Who is  behind this mass scale destruction with such precision? Who is behind the displacement of hundreds and thousands? Who is the mastermind?

The disasters are brutal, much too painful to even express in words anymore. In reality, who is terrorizing whom? Though facts do exist to the ‘why’ and ‘how’, they are side-lined, and sabotaged before they can reach masses who are, instead, fed on the biased theories about terrorism. The political treachery of the rulers is, perhaps, more dangerous than the ploys of the vested interests of so-called foreign powers.

I am fortunate to have interviewed Noam Chomsky and with his characteristic bluntness he said to me that in his view about a terrorist is one “whose grievances are not granted an opportunity for expression. Though there’s no justification for someone to become a terrorist but that’s how it happens.”

Chomsky said, “The threat of terrorism is not the only abyss into which we peer…an even greater threat is posed by the expansion of the arms race. The term ‘arms race’ is inappropriate because the USA is, for now, competing alone. Its goal is to achieve ‘full spectrum dominance.’ These plans have been available in government documents for some years and the projects outlined are being  developed…The plans for militarization of space are disguised as ‘Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD). It is well understood that BMD, even if technically feasible, must rely on satellite communications and destroying satellites is far easier than shooting down missiles. This is one reason why the USA must seek ‘full spectrum dominance’, such overwhelming control of space that even the poor man’s weapons will not be available to an advisory…The goals of militarization of space extend far beyond. The US space command is explicit about this.”

Today, there’s a general tendency to de-link the violence in the Middle East and in the Arab countries from what is taking place in the subcontinent and across the world, but there’s a link. A definite link. There is, of course, the refugee crisis, an extended offshoot of the internal strife and civil war instigated by the Western powers. Also, the ISIS tags are heaped on just about any crime and criminal in the world!

Why is it that we aren’t speaking out, coming out with the fact that a person who terrorizes does not belong to any faith. He is a foot soldier. Used by political powers, agencies and the mafia. Presumably he does not follow any faith because no religion sanctions killings or destruction. During the course of an earlier  given interview with me, sociologist Professor Imtiaz Ahmad had stressed, “The term Islamic terrorists is a misnomer and should be avoided, as it is used by vested political interests in India to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims.” 

Professor Ahmad was emphatic that it’s a misconception that more Muslims are taking to violence: “No, It is not that more and more Muslims are turning into militants. Worldwide, there are many other forms of militancy and terrorism that are equally aggressive and widespread. In our own country we have had and continue to have militancy in Kashmir and in the North East, to name two persistent forms of militancy in recent years. Outside the country, within the South Asian region, we have had terrorism in Sri Lanka and Nepal. Further away there are also Muslim  militants who are fighting against regimes, which are wholly or largely Muslims. It is ironic that following September 11, the world seems to have forgotten that there are these other terrorists. Partly because the US led war has put the focus on Muslims and partly because Muslims are more widespread, the impression is gaining ground that more and more Muslims are turning terrorists. Actually more and more people in the entire world are turning into terrorists.” 

And, when the late scholar-activist, the late Asghar Ali Engineer, was addressing a meeting in New Delhi, he was asked for reasons why Muslims were turning to terrorist activities. This is what he had to say: “These acts of  terrorism are political and are not religious...It is important to analyse the reasons behind terrorist attacks. And, the fact is that there are extremist fringes in each community…There wasn’t that hue and cry when Tamil rebels indulged  in violence in Sri Lanka or when Irish rebels did the same in the UK!”

Why Islam, the religion, is linked to violence, he countered by giving one example after another to prove the contrary. Talking of the period of early Islam, he gave examples of when the Prophet had discouraged violence of any type and showed compassion even to his enemies, “So much so that when he had conquered Mecca, there wasn’t a drop of blood lost and he pardoned even those who had attacked him or his men. He had even pardoned a woman who had not just killed his uncle but even chewed his liver. There’s one instance after another of compassion. Violence is totally discouraged in Islam, except in cases of self-defence.”

Several years ago when Muslims in the Middle East reacted too fiercely to offensive cartoons, by attacking and burning of the Danish and Norwegian embassies, the Qatar based Shaikh Yusuf Alqarzadi, a highly respected religious leader, condemned the violent attacks. Exhorting Muslims to eschew extremism, he appealed to them to express their unhappiness over the offensive cartoons in a ‘decent‘ and ‘civilized’ manner: “I cannot condone destruction and arson because they are against basic human decency and against the teachings of Islam.”

Why don’t we look towards the ‘right’? Coming back to terror attacks, until recently, there was little focus on the Right-Wing indulging in terror. In 2011, 92 persons were killed in Oslo, by a 32-year-old Right-Wing man. And the facts that emerged from those killings in Oslo, were not only shocking but also telling of the extent to which Right-Wing terror was spreading. Another point is the manner in which the general public in Norway reacted to the tragedy, also the way the administrators and politicians dealt with the aftermath.

Their handling of the tragedy was mature. They mourned collectively, without hurling allegations at each other, without coming up with hate slogans. The top political brass of Norway didn’t run to television studios to make accusations. No, they waited for the killer’s name to emerge and to the relevant facts about him. There was considerable restraint. Also the alleged killer, Anders Breivik, was allowed to speak, talk aloud. Not just his confession but also the reasons for his involvement.

Compare this handling with what happens in India. The minute a blast or a terror attack takes place, politicians start making communally twisted comments and the propaganda scripted against the Muslims begins.

Until recently it was taboo to talk of Right-Wing terror! The hysteria would systematically fill the airwaves that nobody would dare question them. It’s only after the likes of Sadhvi Pragya were named as suspects, that a subtle change started taking place. And whatever the political critics of Mani Shankar Aiyar and Digvijaya Singh may say, they were loud and clear about serious consequences if the Musalman was hounded baselessly. They made it clear that the Right-Wing indulges in violence and hides its misdeeds behind the perception created about Islamic terror.

Today, I’m ending with the closing lines of ANINDITA BOSE’s verse titled, Peace Blooms In Silence, from Amity Peace Poems, published by Hawakal Publishers:

I wonder, what we shall do and/finally, what will happen to us/who are here on earth only to/see and not take part in the flow/of time…//Are we on the map of the  universe/or are we invisible beings, waiting/for some miracle to guide us to our/final destiny?//Some of us do not belong to this/world/we are the air, fire, water, and earth/itself/we are born to sacrifice ourselves/for the ecstasy of humanity.’

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.