Sunday, July 15, 2007

Are Muslims under siege?

By M. J Akbar (

Ed: A Muslim 'liberal' thinking aloud on the state of the nation...pertinent questions.
"Is the world under siege by Muslims or are Muslims under siege by the world? Now that the last hope of liberals, Indian Muslims, seem to have joined this world in Glasgow, or perhaps the world has reached their doorstep through Australia, the question has shifted yet further from an answer. Are we in that dark penumbra of history when the only response to a question is more questions?
Let me unburden myself of the one at the top of my mind. Which of the two is more self-defeating — the bruised breast of a self-flagellating Indian liberal who moans that all certainty has collapsed ever since Kafeel Ahmed drove a flaming Jeep Cherokee into Glasgow airport, or the crude fist of the zealot who gloats that you can put the Muslim anywhere but you cannot change his fundamental fanatic character?
On consideration, the first is the bigger problem if only because nothing better could be expected from the second. Both positions are based on the same fallacy. They lay the sins of a few upon the head of the community.
Must all Indian Muslims be punished with collective guilt because a Kafeel or a Shakeel, provoked by memories and images that could easily range from Babri to Basra, has chosen to vent his rage through unacceptable violence upon innocents? Do we blame Hinduism or Hindus for the malevolence of those who killed and terrorized Muslims in Gujarat five years ago? We do not, and must not. Is there any reason why Muslims converge so easily into a category?
A newspaper is life distilled into still life. If the siege we mentioned is global, then perhaps a good checkpoint is a global newspaper through which we might ponder the mysteries of cause and effect.
The top of the front page of the July 12 edition is a moving photograph of a woman, her head bowed beyond sight, her tears hidden in the cusp of an anguished hand, sobbing on the coffin of a lost son or husband, one of the over 8,000 Muslims massacred by Serbs in Srebrenica twelve years ago, during the ethnic cleansing that began on July 11, 1995. They have just identified a fresh lot of 465 victims.
Where is one of the principal leaders of this genocide, a mass murderer called Gen. Ratko Mladic. If you want to chat with him, down at the nearest cafe. If you are the European Union or America, then he becomes invisible. He cannot be found.
Below this picture is the story of Lal Masjid, a citadel of paranoia, xenophobia and terrorism masquerading as a mosque and madrasa. There are no Christians or Serbs in this battle in Pakistan, which has taken at least a hundred lives. This is a war between different attitudes to faith. And this is proof that terrorism is a fire that can also burn the hand of those who feed it.
To the left of this picture is a story about Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s top security official, a heavyweight in Angela Merkel’s Cabinet. He is demanding the detention of potential terrorists in Germany and the extermination (death, in simpler language) of their leaders outside Germany. Schauble, but naturally, will determine the definitions of “potential” and “leaders”. He will not send anyone to exterminate Gen. Ratko Mladic. He is on the lookout for Lebanese Muslims.
Turn the page. A suicide bomber kills 10, wounds 35 at a military camp in Algeria.
Turkey complains about American arms in the possession of Kurdish secessionists. In Britain, four young Muslims, in their 20s, who “very nearly” succeeded in another outrage on the London Tube two years ago, are sentenced to forty years’ imprisonment at the very minimum. What will Iraq be like when they emerge from jail in 2045? Which passions will remain unspent four decades later?
Is the world under siege? Are Muslims under siege? If you know the answer, go collect your Nobel Prize for Peace, or at least an invitation to a seminar in Europe. To me, six of one looks suspiciously like half a dozen of the other."

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