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
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
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
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?
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
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
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.