Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 17:41:21 -0700
From: “Bill Hofmann” (spam-protected)
Subject: FW: ZNet Commentary / Hoodbhoy / the view from Islamabad / Sept 17
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> BLACK TUESDAY: THE VIEW FROM ISLAMABAD
> by Pervez Hoodbhoy
> Samuel Huntington’s evil desire for a clash between civilizations may
> well come true after Tuesday’s terror attacks. The crack that divided
> Muslims everywhere from the rest of the world is no longer a crack. It
> is a gulf, that if not bridged, will surely destroy both.
> For much of the world, it was the indescribable savagery of seeing
> jet-loads of innocent human beings piloted into buildings filled with
> other innocent human beings. It was the sheer horror of watching people
> jump from the 80th floor of the collapsing World Trade Centre rather
> than be consumed by the inferno inside. Yes, it is true that many
> Muslims also saw it exactly this way, and felt the searing agony no less
> sharply. The heads of states of Muslim countries, Saddam Hussein
> excepted, condemned the attacks. Leaders of Muslim communities in the
> US, Canada, Britain, Europe, and Australia have made impassioned
> denunciations and pleaded for the need to distinguish between ordinary
> Muslims and extremists.
> But the pretence that reality goes no further must be abandoned because
> this merely obfuscates facts and slows down the search for solutions.
> One would like to dismiss televised images showing Palestinian
> expressions of joy as unrepresentative, reflective only of the crass
> political immaturity of a handful. But this may be wishful thinking.
> Similarly, Pakistan Television, operating under strict control of the
> government, is attempting to portray a nation united in condemnation of
> the attack. Here too, the truth lies elsewhere, as I learn from students
> at my university here in Islamabad, from conversations with people in
> the streets, and from the Urdu press. A friend tells me that crowds
> gathered around public TV sets at Islamabad airport had cheered as the
> WTC came crashing down. It makes one feel sick from inside.
> A bizarre new world awaits us, where old rules of social and political
> behavior have broken down and new ones are yet to defined. Catapulted
> into a situation of darkness and horror by the extraordinary force of
> events, as rational human beings we must urgently formulate a response
> that is moral, and not based upon considerations of power and
> practicality. This requires beginning with a clearly defined moral
> supposition – the fundamental equality of all human beings. It also
> requires that we must proceed according to a definite sequence of steps,
> the order of which is not interchangeable.
> Before all else, Black Tuesday’s mass murder must be condemned in the
> harshest possible terms without qualification or condition, without
> seeking causes or reasons that may even remotely be used to justify it,
> and without regard for the national identity of the victims or the
> perpetrators. The demented, suicidical, fury of the attackers led to
> heinous acts of indiscriminate and wholesale murder that have changed
> the world for the worse. A moral position must begin with unequivocal
> condemnation, the absence of which could eliminate even the language by
> which people can communicate.
> Analysis comes second, but it is just as essential. No “terrorist” gene
> is known to exist or is likely to be found. Therefore, surely the
> attackers, and their supporters, who were all presumably born normal,
> were afflicted by something that caused their metamorphosis from normal
> human beings capable of gentleness and affection into desperate,
> maddened, fiends with nothing but murder in their hearts and minds.
> What was that?
> Tragically, CNN and the US media have so far made little attempt to
> understand this affliction. The cost for this omission, if it is to stay
> this way, cannot be anything but terrible. What we have seen is probably
> the first of similar tragedies that may come to define the 21st century
> as the century of terror. There is much claptrap about “fighting
> terrorism” and billions are likely to be poured into surveillance,
> fortifications, and emergency plans, not to mention the ridiculous idea
> of missile defence systems. But, as a handful of suicide bombers armed
> with no more than knives and box-cutters have shown with such
> devastating effectiveness, all this means precisely nothing. Modern
> nations are far too vulnerable to be protected – a suitcase nuclear
> device could flatten not just a building or two, but all of Manhattan.
> Therefore, the simple logic of survival says that the chances of
> survival are best if one goes to the roots of terror.
> Only a fool can believe that the services of a suicidical terrorist can
> be purchased, or that they can be bred at will anywhere. Instead, their
> breeding grounds are in refugee camps and in other rubbish dumps of
> humanity, abandoned by civilization and left to rot. A global
> superpower, indifferent to their plight, and manifestly on the side of
> their tormentors, has bred boundless hatred for its policies. In supreme
> arrogance, indifferent to world opinion, the US openly sanctions daily
> dispossession and torture of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation
> forces. The deafening silence over the massacres in Qana, Sabra, and
> Shatila refugee camps, and the video-gamed slaughter by the Pentagon of
> 70,000 people in Iraq, has brought out the worst that humans are capable
> of. In the words of Robert Fisk, “those who claim to represent a
> crushed, humiliated population struck back with the wickedness and
> awesome cruelty of a doomed people”.
> It is stupid and cruel to derive satisfaction from such revenge, or from
> the indisputable fact that Osama and his kind are the blowback of the
> CIAs misadventures in Afghanistan. Instead, the real question is: where
> do we, the inhabitants of this planet, go from here? What is the lesson
> to be learnt from the still smouldering ruins of the World Trade Centre?
> If the lesson is that America needs to assert its military might, then
> the future will be as grim as can be. Indeed, Secretary Colin Powell,
> has promised “more than a single reprisal raid”. But against whom? And
> to what end? No one doubts that it is ridiculously easy for the US to
> unleash carnage. But the bodies of a few thousand dead Afghans will not
> bring peace, or reduce by one bit the chances of a still worse terrorist
> This not an argument for inaction: Osama and his gang, as well as other
> such gangs, if they can be found, must be brought to justice. But
> indiscriminate slaughter can do nothing except add fuel to existing
> hatreds. Today, the US is the victim but the carpet-bombing of
> Afghanistan will cause it to squander the huge swell of sympathy in its
> favour the world over. Instead, it will create nothing but revulsion and
> promote never-ending tit-for-tat killings.
> Ultimately, the security of the United States lies in its re-engaging
> with the people of the world, especially with those that it has
> grieviously harmed. As a great country, possessing an admirable
> constitution that protects the life and liberty of its citizens, it must
> extend its definition of humanity to cover all peoples of the world. It
> must respect international treaties such as those on greenhouse gases
> and biological weapons, stop trying to force a new Cold War by pushing
> through NMD, pay its UN dues, and cease the aggrandizement of wealth in
> the name of globalization.
> But it is not only the US that needs to learn new modes of behaviour.
> There are important lessons for Muslims too, particularly those living
> in the US, Canada, and Europe. Last year I heard the arch-conservative
> head of Pakistan’s Jamat-i-Islami, Qazi Husain Ahmad, begin his lecture
> before an American audience in Washington with high praise for a
> “pluralist society where I can wear the clothes I like, pray at a
> mosque, and preach my religion”. Certainly, such freedoms do not exist
> for religious minorities in Pakistan, or in most Muslim countries. One
> hopes that the misplaced anger against innocent Muslims dissipates soon
> and such freedoms are not curtailed significantly. Nevertheless, there
> is a serious question as to whether this pluralism can persist forever,
> and if it does not, whose responsibility it will be.
> The problem is that immigrant Muslim communities have, by and large,
> chosen isolation over integration. In the long run this is a
> fundamentally unhealthy situation because it creates suspicion and
> friction, and makes living together ever so much harder. It also raises
> serious ethical questions about drawing upon the resources of what is
> perceived to be another society, for which one has hostile feelings.
> This is not an argument for doing away with one’s Muslim identity. But,
> without closer interaction with the mainstream, pluralism will be
> threatened. Above all, survival of the community depends upon strongly
> emphasizing the difference between extremists and ordinary Muslims, and
> on purging from within jihadist elements committed to violence. Any
> member of the Muslim community who thinks that ordinary people in the US
> are fair game because of bad US government policies has no business
> being there.
> To echo George W. Bush, “let there be no mistake”. But here the mistake
> will be to let the heart rule the head in the aftermath of utter horror,
> to bomb a helpless Afghan people into an even earlier period of the
> Stone Age, or to take similar actions that originate from the spine.
> Instead, in deference to a billion years of patient evolution, we need
> to hand over charge to the cerebellum. Else, survival of this particular
> species is far from guaranteed.
> The author is professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University,