Thomas L. Friedman writing few days after 9/11 termed it a failure of imagination. [via Offstumped]
That 19 people would take over four civilian airliners and then steer three of them into buildings loaded with thousands of innocent people was, I confess, outside the boundary of my imagination. The World Trade Center is not the place where our intelligence agencies failed. It is the place where our imaginations failed. [The New York Times]
Something similar happened with us over the weekend. Who would have expected that in the wake of supposed heightened security and alertness after the Bangalore serial blasts that the very next day someone would actually attempt to carry out a more dreadful wave of blasts in Ahmedabad, killing 46 and injuring hundreds? Still worse who would have expected that these heartless demons to have saved the most powerful bombs to have gone off on that fateful day for the two nearest hospitals treating injured (from the other blasts), killing the injured & good samaritans who had come to aid the injured? The motive clearly was to kill as many as possible. Never in the annals of terror attacks in India, have there been attacks on successive days and nor have we seen bombing of Hospitals which treat the injured. This is the place where our imagination failed us.
It is time to expect the worst, the unexpected and the most perverse. These are the most evil, shrewd and the vilest demons driven by an equally fundamentalist ideology waiting to prey on innocent lives in order to achieve their evil objectives.
The Taboos on Imagination
Now this has happened we can acknowledge our failures and move on to ensure better precautionary measures. But what about closing your minds? What if it came across your mind that these demons could bomb the hospital, yet you chose to ignore it, you chose not to think about it, not to reason? In any other domain you could forgive yourself of this mistake, but when it is a matter of life and death of innocent children, and other civilians it is tantamount to sin. Yet many of us would do it every time there is a terror strike, even take a false sense of pride for upholding our so called secular heritage, not knowing, we could never forgive us of what we have done in some distant future.
Yes, I am talking about our desperate attempts to sound politically correct every time these terror attacks occur. Yes, I am talking about our futile and desperate attempts to convince ourselves and others with self-proclaimed axioms like “religion has nothing to do with terrorism”, “terrorists have no religion” and all such sooth saying to please whom? Worse still, I am talking about the taboos on our imagination.
The moment some one tries to find or hint a religious motivation for these acts of the demons, the person himself is demonized, vilified and termed racist and is accused of Islamopohbia, one of the most brilliant terms to have been concocted to stifle criticism of Islam in any form. I call it a brilliant term as it deceptively camouflages any criticism of Islam with a genuine concern of discrimination and hatred against muslims.
Mainstream media epitomizes this taboo, the private news channels which are hailed as refreshing change from the monotonous state run Doordarshan and a symbol of modern India, have also failed to shed light on this issue. The most the so called expert panels in their talk shows can agree upon as a cause for extremism is poverty, corruption, apathy of the government to the situation of the oppressed (by no means I claim this list as exhaustive due to my fallible memory and inability to watch every single talk show out there), never is religion seen as one.
I fail to understand what kind of poverty drove the Bangalore born Indian engineer Kafeel Ahmed to turn himself into a suicidal mission to attack the Glasgow International airport or what kind of poverty has driven the well educated engineers arrested for plotting terror and for being activists of the banned organizations of SIMI. I don’t for a moment believe, that the poverty isn’t a cause, we have the red terror brigade, which openly proclaims so. In a sense they are far better that they wage a war against the system they see as oppressive and not against innocent civilians. But on the other hand we have these Islamic terrorists who (claim to) vow by the name of allah & their prophet, quote the quran and the hadiths to justify their perverse acts and draw inspiration from them, yet we ignore their claims. We try to convince ourselves that their self-proclaimed motives are not really motivating them, we just prefer to call them terrorists, heartless demons, but rarely expound these obscure terms, rarely do we exert ourselves to find what has turned them into these heartless demons? How ingenious?
While the few of those in the mainstream media who raise this point are snubbed & cut short by politically correct zealots and faith heads (the channels themselves don’t like having these few, for the fear of backlash) as bigots and islamophobes. On the other hand one is free to state anything in the way of apologetics, even misinformation such as muslims can’t be terrorists because Islam means peace (which it is not, it means submission or surrender, even well informed muslims agree, also see here). A certain S M Murshid, who was an advisor to the governor of J&K wrote in the Times of India, that people have misunderstood Jihad and went to the extent of falsely claiming that the word Jihad in the quran can never be construed to be an exhortation to war. While we can find such opinions occasionally in the mainstream print and visual media, never have I found a single opinion expressing the contrary, as though not a single person worthwhile has such an opinion.
The defense is almost always that such arguments will further isolate minorities and push them towards extremism, with no regard for truth. If so, isn’t it an exhortation against any criticism with a threat similar to those of the terrorists? Is it the best free media in the worlds largest democracy has to offer? While the Govt. thinks it can lecture the hindus what their religious texts actually teach and go to the extent claiming that the religious texts have no historical basis. Our media and Government are somehow extremely shy of even considering that the terrorists are motivated by “Radical Islam“.
In this article I didn’t intend to show beyond any doubt that these terrorists are also motivated by the teachings of their religion rather, all I want to convey was there is strong case for it, which we are ignoring at our own peril. Whether one is right or wrong in having such an opinion should be decided by a rational discussion and not placing taboos on the thought process.
Sun Tzu, a 6 century BC Chinese General, military strategist, and author of The Art of War, famously wrote:
It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.
We neither know our enemies, neither do we know our own selves and how we are going to handle the threat. We will loose this “War on Terror” until we learn.
It is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained. Muslims aren’t our enemies; there are many patriotic and peaceful ones out there, who would have none of this. Our war is with political and extremist Islam that we can’t afford to lose. We need to create a consensus among ourselves, to shun radical Islam, this can’t be done without the muslim community disowning allegiance to Radical Islam.
In the course of this struggle, we may occasionally afford to be let down by our imagination, but never by the taboos on imagination.
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