First Person | Burden of Guilt

The motive of terrorists is always political than religious

Ghazala WahabGhazala Wahab

Whether we like it or not, this murky business of terrorism has spawned a small industry of experts. Every day throws up a new expert on Jihad and Jihadi terrorism. Given the way, this war is going it seems that in a few years there will be a deluge of over-informed analysts. Certainly, there is such a thing as too much information. Considering that most of the information for such analyses is going to be second hand, my concern is what would these ‘rent-a-quotationers’ do to make their analysis different from others, except of course spawn tales of new conspiracies.

Since al Qaeda hasn’t had much time for India, considering how Mr Bush keeps it busy, the Indian experts have been writing warning pieces saying that India figures on al Qaeda radar and that we better wake up. Basing their arguments on some statements aired by Al Jazeera, they have been saying that Kashmiri terrorist outfits have close links with al Qaeda and they believe in the universal glory of Islam. Even in the Delhi blasts, a number of them saw al Qaeda’s mark.

However, this line of argument has two basic flaws. One, in the last decade or so, since al Qaeda has been active its declared adversary has been the United States. And it has not been because al Qaeda wants to create a larger Muslim world, but because it does not like the US policies in West Asia, including Saudi Arabia. Sure, civilised people don’t go about bombing people if they don’t like their policies, but that is precisely why they are called terrorists. If one were to see a pattern in al Qaeda attacks in the last decade, the targets have been US interests. Of course, ever since the US went into Iraq, al Qaeda also expanded its radar screen to include American allies, notably, Britain, Spain and Australia.

And two, even before al Qaeda came into being India has been fighting terrorism, not only in Kashmir but in other parts of the country as well. And not all terrorists in India have been or are Muslims with international affiliations. Certainly, organisations, such as Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba or Jaish-e-Mohammed, which are active in Kashmir in their various guises, have links with al Qaeda, given that their cadre trained together and are part of this global incorporation. But to say that because of that link, al Qaeda is recruiting people in the rest of India so that it fulfils its larger goal of liberating Indian Muslims is nonsensical. People who talk like this are caught in the time warp of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, which dreamt of a larger Muslim Ummah. Organisations like al Qaeda have as much of a political objective as religious. Just as the militant/terrorist organisations in Kashmir. After all, the boys who are bombing themselves and others in Kashmir are not doing that because they want glory of Islam, they are doing that because they want Kashmir to merge with Pakistan. It is easy to say that young people get swayed by an ideology, but to get killed for an ideology one needs a very strong reason and motivation, which Indian Muslims neither have nor desire.

Unfortunately, when armchair experts spin such analyses they only contribute to stereotypes. And because they are experts, a few political leaders take them seriously. What else can explain assertions in some official quarters that Indian foreign policy towards West Asia is driven by the fact that India has over 100 million Muslims? Or Ram Vilas Paswan campaigning in the Muslim dominated areas of Bihar with an Osama bin Laden lookalike? Why does an Indian politician think that Muslims would vote in the name of bin Laden? The truth is we need not fear bin Laden or al Qaeda, but people who perpetrate dangerous stereotypes.

The biggest fall-out of this stereotyping is that today the whole community carries a sense of collective guilt every time there is a terrorist attack. Given the present circumstances, though it is safe to assume that the perpetrators would be Muslims, there is no reason why all Muslims have to rush to condemn it in the strongest possible words, as if they feel the need to distance themselves from the act. Every time there is a terrorist attack, for instance the Delhi attack on the eve of Diwali and Id, a number of Muslim writers started giving explanations in various newspapers as to what the Quran says on Jihad and so on. One writer lamented the fact that not enough Muslims have come out to condemn the wanton terrorist attack, forcing a flurry of nervous statements from all and sundry. The question is why should they do that? Why should an average Muslim, whose biggest concern like anybody else is earning a decent living so that he or she can provide a good life to his or her family, feel guilty about the actions of some people? Why must they all carry this cross? For the sake of argument, this logic can be stretched to say that the entire Christian world should apologise for President Bush’s action, especially when like an evangelist he carries them out in the name of God.


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