Sunday, April 5, 2009

interesting reflections on mumbai attacks

As the only surviving gunman of the Mumbai attacks in November is about to go on trial, I've come across some interesting comments about the attacks on the website of novelist Gregory David Roberts ("Shantaram") who spent many years living in Mumbai. First of all he refuses to refer to the likely attackers as "terrorists", but calls them "jihadists" instead. He explains:
 I use the term Jihadists, rather than the purely Arabic term Jihadi, which is used in Arabic news media and in other Arab forums, because I think it is important that we – meaning all those who want Jihadist attacks to stop, as much as we want the injustices done to Muslims that provoke the attacks to stop – do not provide the attackers with intellectual or emotional support. By using their own term for themselves, we reinforce their sense of their own justice and power. By using the term “terrorist”, we reinforce our own sense of their power over us.
I find this a very compelling argument. Roberts says a major reason for what is called terrorism is that it has worked in many cases:
Many times, individuals and even nations – through their elected representatives – argue that Jihadists will not achieve their aims through these acts of violence. But this response comes from a failure to understand the Jihadists. The fact is, if one of their 3 main objectives is to avenge the injustices done to Muslims around the world, then they don’t expect to survive their attacks, and they don’t make claims or demands. The violence is an end in itself, because the violence done is an act of revenge. If we don’t acknowledge this, and respond to it rationally, we can never stop the mindset that inspires such attacks. Furthermore, if we don’t acknowledge the fact that sometimes, against the best wishes of people of good will, the terror attacks actually provoke the results intended by those who use terror, we’ll never develop a comprehensive, rational, and effective response that eventually stops the attacks. We have to acknowledge that sometimes terror works, because we allow it to work, through our responses.
Roberts argues that Jihadists are not as powerful and well-organized as it might seem to many, and get stronger because of repression and anti-Muslim policies. He has many reasonable things to say about Pakistan and democracy, but in his list of remedies also points out one important issue which is totally neglected in the public debate these days:
Almost all the money that pays for Jihadist attacks comes from Saudi Arabia. This is a historical reality. When the British government created the nation of Saudi Arabia, and created a royal family to rule it, The House of Saud, the Bedouin Wahabbists – who follow an extreme form of Islam, that underpins Jihadism – were recruited to support the weak royal family. In exchange for the support of the warrior Wahabbis, the Saudi royal family agreed to support the Wahabbist Jihad agenda across the world. Almost every Koran carried by a Jihadist is printed in Saudi Arabia, and almost every dollar in their pockets comes from Saudi Arabia. If we want the attacks to reduce, and finally to sop, we have to choke off this supply of money from Saudi Arabia (...)