LONDON BOMBINGS, VIOLENCE AND ISLAM

 

Asghar Ali Engineer

 

(Secular Perspective July 16-31, 2005)

 

Bombing in Central London in the morning of 7th July caused terrible loss of lives and injuries to several hundreds of people. Though stated by none it seems to be in retaliation for Blair Government’s participation along with the Bush Government in Afghan and Iraq war and havoc caused in these countries by the US-UK and allied forces. In these countries too large number of civilian lives were lost and thousands injured.

 

It is still not known definitely as to who exactly was responsible for these bombings but some obscure group not known before has claimed it. In Madrid, Spain also several hundred people were killed sometime ago and immediately after the train bombing in Madrid the Socialist Government of Spain announced withdrawal of forces from Iraq. In Iraq too, suicide bombings take place practically everyday and hundreds of innocent people are being killed since USA invaded Iraq.

 

In India too on several occasions some elements have resorted to suicide bombing or have carried out attacks latest being in Ayodhya on make shift Ram Mandir. All the extremists were killed in that operation. Most of these operations are carried out by well-educated youth. It has been pointed out even by many intelligence agencies that these youth are not product of madrasas as generally assumed. They are university graduates or trained modern professionals.

 

Why do they resort to such operations in which, more often than not, they loose their lives in the prime of their youth? Is it because of their religious fanaticism? Can such operations be explained as mere acts of religious fanaticism? I think not. No psychologist will agree with such oversimplified explanations. But unfortunately our media people and columnists fall easy prey to such oversimplifications.

 

It is in fact very complex phenomena and number of factors will have to be taken into account. Every human being reacts emotionally, including the most educated, to certain major events involving national and international proportions. Such reactions find different levels of expression from condemnation to moral indignation to violent acts of retaliation. Also, a sense of helplessness can result in acts of senseless retaliatory violence. When one cannot punish the real culprits one begins to strike at innocent people of that nation or community.

 

The US and UK forces are too mighty for these youth belonging to organisations like al-Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Tayyiba or similar other organisations to take on frontally. And throughout history we have several instances of hit and run tactics followed by those who cannot fight frontally with the forces they are pitted against. It is also to be borne in mind that modern weapons are highly destructive and can kill hundreds or thousands at a time. America dropped atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and killed more than 200,000 people at a time.

 

The terrorists also use highly destructive weapons manufactured by the west and smuggled or stealthily sold by the manufacturers. These terrorists use same weapons as the forces of US and UK though they certainly do not have access to re destructive weapons like clear missiles or much more destructive bombs causing death and destruction on much wider scale.

 

These youths acting as suicide bombers or planting car bombs etc. are not so much ‘fanatics as angry young men boiling with anger at these western countries destroying their countries and killing and raining death and destruction. In U.K. we see today that how British people are expressing their anger at Muslims of UK. by attacking their mosques and Gurdwaras (through mistaken identity) because some suspected Muslims planted bombs in Central London which resulted in loss of 53 innocent lives and many others injured. Do we call them ‘fanatics’? No. They are simply expressing their anger at loss of innocent lives. Just imagine how angry would they have been if U.K. had been attacked by Iraq or any other Muslim country and it had rained death and destruction on innocent civilians in addition to military targets.

 

This is not to justify the bombing in London or anywhere by terrorists. It is only to show that it is not mere religious fanaticism as often described in Western media but only anger at invasion of their countries by US and U.K. and stationing their forces there. It is, in other words more political than religious. Anyway it is not for spreading Islam that these young men are laying down their lives but to ensure independence of their countries.

 

I think the West particularly Bush and Blair better refrain from invading these counties if they really care for their democratic values to prevail as they so often declare from every platform. When London was bombed on 7th July Blair and Bush both again declared our values shall prevail and we will fight terrorism. These values must of course prevail but these will not prevail if they destroy others freedom.

 

Everyone knows that hatred begets hatred and violence begets violence. In modern world violence should have no place. Before anyone else West must learn this. In their greed for oil they do not hesitate in violating international law in invading these countries. UN had not sanctioned war against Iraq and US and UK attacked it and refused to wait for UN sanction. Such brazen violation of international law will only create chaos in the world. Even their excuse about weapons of mass destruction proved to be wrong. Then Bush and Blair started talking of ‘regime change’. Can one overthrow governments in other countries? Is it permitted by international law? Certainly not.

 

Once during discussion an American official told me if it is political and not religious issue why these terrorists invoke Islam. I told him why President Bush invokes freedom and democracy every time to justify his invasion on Afghanistan and Iraq? He had no answer. Of course when we do something wrong we always invoke some legitimating ideology be it religion or be it some political values like freedom and democracy.

 

This is only to explain things in proper perspective. I am strong opponent of violence per se, whatever the cause. In the distant past when there was no concept of freedom and democracy violence may have had some justification. It has none in our times. In modern world violence can be very very obnoxious. Science and technology has provided us with highly dangerous weapons. Now even frontal war cannot be restricted to combatants alone. There will always be more civilian casualties than those of the combatants.

 

For me violence will have no justification even in absence of such destructive weapons. Only love and peace can sustain humanity on this planet. Only greedy or angry people or those who believe in ideology of hate will resort to violence. And as violence begets violence we should not counter violence with violence. Buddha, Mahavir Jain, Christ, Prophet Muhammad and Mahatma Gandhi in our own times have shown it is only love, peace and compassion which can effectively counter hatred and violence.

 

In our globalised world all countries are multi-religious and multi-cultural. If few members of one community use violence against another community it can inflame situation and destroy the very spirit of multi-culturalism. This is precisely what has happened in U.K. and earlier in the US when on 9/11 New York towers were attacked. Thus it is very important for protecting multiculturalism to maintain inter-religious and inter-cultural peace.

 

The unfortunate bombing in Central London on 7th July has dealt a sever blow to multiculturalism in that country. London has very high proportion of religious and cultural minorities – almost 23 per cent and U.K. as a whole has 7 per cent. It was very encouraging that religious leaders of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism came together and denounced this senseless bombing and killing of innocent civilians. If religious leaders can come together and denounce senseless and inhuman violence, it can have some mollifying effect.

 

Though problem is not religions, as pointed out above, yet such an appeal acts as a balm and helps healing the wounds inflicted by such destructive violence. In modern times unfortunately political ideologies have brought more death and destruction as political leaders represent interests of greedy capitalists and in their hunt for profit they do not hesitate to use violence against other countries under one or the other pretext. It therefore, seems religions can become better resource for peace if religious leaders do not misuse them for their personal interests.

 

We need more Gandhis in the modern world to spread message of non-violence in politics. What is saddening is that even India experiences so much sectarian and communal violence, which happens to be land of Gandhi. Right wing politics of Sangh Parivar preach ideology of hate to realise their own ambitions of power.  In Pakistan the jihadis play in the hands of vested interests and right wing religious leaders to perpetrate violence in Pakistani society as well as in neighbouring India.

 

As I have pointed out in one of my articles earlier the world of Islam also needs a Gandhi to preach love and peace. In the past we had several sufi saints like Maulana Rumi to spread message of love and peace but in modern Islamic world of Islam has not produced a towering figure like Gandhi or Khan Ghaffar Khan to give soothing message of peace and love. It needs one very badly.