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Mumbai: militants strike again

One of the terrorist targets was the popular luxury Taj Mahal Palace hotel in the city centre - Photo: bbc.co.uk

One of the terrorist targets was the popular luxury Taj Mahal Palace hotel in the city centre - Photo: bbc.co.uk

India has had their 9/11. After throwing grenades into crowds at Mumbai’s packed railway station and opening fire into crowds with AK-47s, Islamic militants (tentatively named as the Deccan Mujahideen) seized the Oberoi Trident and Taj Mahal Hotels, taking hostages and setting the upper floors aflame.

Although I am usually resistant to the term, I can describe this as nothing other than terrorism: an attack for terror’s sake. Hostages were taken, and the demand in return was to “release all the Mujahideens” – imprisoned Jihadists. This was a demand that could never be agreed to – this was suicide. I find I have to call it terrorism. As always springs to mind, there’s that delightful epithet: ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. Do Islamic fundamentalists not view us as terrorists?

There is a clear distinction to be made here. Western troops don’t aim for the civilians, don’t throw grenades into public crowds, don’t try to kill the innocent, knowing that they are innocent. The 9/11 attacks didn’t target the army, but office workers. The 7/11 attacks didn’t fight armed men, but weary commuters. It doesn’t matter what the cause is: terrorism is in the act, not the motivation. One’s intentions could be noble, but if the method is by way of indiscriminate murder to further your ideology, that’s terrorism.

After seeing photos of the whole brutal affair however, I found it difficult to blame the Islamists pulling the triggers. These gunmen were young: barely men at all.

From the images I’ve seen, some could be no older than 16. Angry comments on articles online demanded the worst punishments for any and all captured extremists. But come now, do you really think this was their idea?

Is it really plausible that a group of sixteen-year-old boys armed themselves with semi-automatic weapons and planned to simultaneously assault ten different locations in India’s busiest city? I dread to think what nonsense must have filled the heads of these boys.

They must be, and certainly will be held accountable for their actions, but I can’t help but visualise some grotesque mullah dribbling stories of martyrdom and Jihad into these young and impressionable minds. What else could have motivated them to agree to a suicide mission if they did not believe they would not truly die, that there would be paradise awaiting them?

Perhaps Stephen Weinburg said it best: “With or without religion you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

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2 Comments

  1. “Is it really plausible that a group of sixteen-year-old boys armed themselves with semi-automatic weapons and planned to simultaneously assault ten different locations in India’s busiest city? I dread to think what nonsense must have filled the heads of these boys.
    …I can’t help but visualise some grotesque mullah dribbling stories of martyrdom and Jihad into these young and impressionable minds.”

    What about the problems America (and elsewhere) has with teenage boys arming themselves with semi automatic weapons and shooting down their classmates? That happens in the Land of the Free, where the ideology relies upon the concept of individual action and responsibility for the self. My point is that there are desperate and nihilistic people in every culture. Sometimes religion comes into play, but only by distortion of the original message. In America’s case it doesn’t even need religion to make its youth into mass murderers. Plain old alienation will do the trick.

    Your vision of a “grotesque mullah” who “dribbles” nonsense seems a touch inflammatory. It is baseless conjecture which does not seem constructive to the conflict between Western values and jihad extremism. Turning extremists into sinister hate figures is not especially productive, to my mind. Why not try to engage with the real causes of such hate and violence? If you have reason to believe that these mullahs are really grotesque and dribbling, could you elaborate?

    Reply

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