By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
29 August 2015
• Sister of a slain Hizbul Mujahidin commander taking the forefront
By Khalid Fayaz Mir
• Punishment Should offer the chance of redemption, and allow criminals to repent and reform
By Irfan Husain
• Sexually abusing children in the name of sex education
By Hashim Bukhari
• Pakistani nuclear arsenal: Is third largest large enough?
By Pervez Hoodbhoy
• Obama’s legacy: Isis and other disasters
By Aijaz Zaka Syed
Sister of a slain Hizbul Mujahidin commander taking the forefront
By Khalid Fayaz Mir
August 29, 2015
Fatima Akhter (name changed), a middle aged woman, recalls the memories she had kept to herself until now. Sister of a slain Hizbul Mujahidin commander, she smoothed back her silver hair with one hand while holding the hem of her headscarf with the other. A calm and always smiling lady thus spoke of her adventures in the mid-nineties. Then, a young mother of three children: two girls and one boy, a schoolteacher by profession, Fatima recalls with a sigh and a prayer: jannat aesin timan.
Before her brother was martyred, she would act as a courier for the mujahideen. She used to spend half of her salary on raising her brother’s family and half on her own, apart from helping the needy people in their neighbourhood. Her husband, an electrical engineer by profession, would never stop her from so doing; in fact he would always stand by her. “He once saved three mujahideen after a snitch led Indian forces straight to the house where they were having lunch,” recalls Fatima. “He told the army-men that the mujahideen had gone to buy some stuff from a neighbouring shop, thus giving them enough time to escape. As a punishment, he was tortured for more than a week in an army camp at Khanabal, Islamabad.
All her brother’s companions would call her Fatima Didi (sister). The day when her brother was martyred, they approached her one by one and expressed their condolences while proclaiming, “We all lost a brother, but your other brothers are still alive.” Fatima knew what they meant. Everyone wanted to continue the relationship of trust that they had developed through the resistance movement. After his martyrdom, Fatima had to look after her brother’s family and her unmarried sister too. She managed all singlehandedly. Her husband would also help but only intermittently — he was accused of having links with the mujahideen and subsequently suspended from his job. She married off her sister and sent her brother’s children to the same school her own children went to.
After he was martyred, the Indian soldiers, in an act of vengeance, ransacked her brother’s house before reducing it to ashes. While Fatima was still mourning her brother and trying to build a makeshift shelter for his family, the mujahideen sent a little girl to fetch her. She followed the girl’s instructions without telling anyone. Among the mujahideen that had summoned her were Tariq; from Malakhnag, Nazir Shiree; successor of her brother in the area, Shabnam; a student and only son of his parents Muhammad Shafi Khan from Dabran. Like her brother’s house, everyone’s house had been razed to rubble. They asked Fatima to visit one Nazir Ahmad in Badasgoum. Photographer by profession and fearless fighter, Nazir Ahmad’s nom de guerre was Tiger.
Fatima took along her cousin and boarded a bus to Badasgoum. Released from jail a few days earlier, Tiger was at his shop. After exchanging greetings, Fatima told him that they had come to visit his mother, Faz-aap. Tiger immediately understood the reason for their visit. He escorted them to his house. His mother was in the compound roasting the crushed rice for preparing saett, a powder normally poured into salt tea. As soon as her mother saw Fatima, she put coals in the samovar and boiled green tea for them. A small and skinny lady, Faz-aap would talk briskly. After draining the cups, Fatima asked the old lady, who seemed more than 60 years old, whether Shiree Saeb was expecting them to bring him something. Faz-aap stood up and went inside her house. After a while, she returned with a big aluminum pot filled with crushed rice. She dug both hands inside and pulled out four hand-grenades. Fatima was stunned. She felt unqualified for the job of transporting weapons. However, seeing the old lady handle grenades so sedately, courage filled Fatima’s heart. She took the grenades and slipped them inside her baend or undershirt. Withstanding the scorching heat, Fatima, while leaving home, had put on a Pheran. They got up and took leave of Faz-aap, who in turn blessed them with infinite supplications.
While revealing her secret adventure, Fatima’s eyes fell upon her brother’s photograph hanging on the opposite wall. She let out a sigh followed by a resigned smile. She asked her elder daughter to bring her some cold water, drank the whole glass in one gulp and continued. Faz-aap had kissed Fatima and her cousin infinite times while accompanying them to the bus stop. Only when they boarded the bus did Faz-aap turn back. According to Fatima, the bus might have travelled less than three kilometers before the CRPF stopped it on the highway. They were frisking every single passenger, not sparing even children or women. “Quite normal those days,” as Fatima puts it.
After the bus came to a halt, a CRPF trooper came inside and ordered all of them to disembark with their identity cards in hand. Everyone including Fatima’s cousin came hurriedly out of the bus. Fatima, who had preferred to remain standing in the bus, in order to prevent any collision of the metal inside, which could have made others suspicious, sat down on a seat and started rubbing her right leg. A CRPF trooper came and spoke angrily, “Why didn’t you come down when everyone did?” “Sir, I am taken ill and my leg is paining,” replied Fatima with the other hand still inside her pheran –a loose outer garment. She had learned that there were no happy endings or clear-cut choices in war. “You can only imagine what I was going through.” He spoke again but this time not so angrily, “Do you carry any medicine?” Fatima slipped her rubbing hand quickly in her pheran pocket and withdrew a strip of kalpal, or tablets for curing headache. The trooper took it in his hand like an identity card. She said that she was missing her three children but her index finger was still clinging to one of the grenade pins. To her good luck and the trooper’s too, he had nodded in self-assurance and handed back the strip. OK.
Fatima thanked God for saving her that day with Zangpal, as she calls the medicine. After half an hour of parades and frisking, everyone boarded the bus and it drove off to Islamabad. Fatima and her cousin, who couldn’t believe the miracle, disembarked at Breenth. The same little girl who had come with a note in the morning was waiting with another note and a lollypop in her mouth. She went to the walnut orchard mentioned in the note and handed over the package. Back home, no one asked Fatima where she had been. Everyone including the children expressed their silent approval.
Fatima recalls every one of the mujahideen for whom she had carried out this mission. She said that when Shabnam joined the mujahideen he was of the same age her own son is now. She prayed for the former’s place in jannah (paradise) and the latter’s long and healthy life. She remembers every single conversation she has had with her brethren. On that grateful day, when she was narrating the bus incident to the mujahideen, Nazir Shiree had said to her, “If it were not for our hamsher (sisters), moss would have sprouted on our graves already.”
Khalid Fayaz Mir is a freelancer and graduate of the Aligarh Muslim University
Punishment Should offer the chance of redemption, and allow criminals to repent and reform
By Irfan Husain
August 29th, 2015
WHEN you chop off a man’s hand for theft, you condemn him to a lifetime of begging.
This is why civilised societies have moved away from such barbaric punishments. They try and ensure that their system of criminal justice makes it possible for criminals to reintegrate into society once they have completed their sentences. Punishment thus offers the chance of redemption, and allows criminals to repent and reform.
That’s the theory, anyway: all too often, extended incarceration hardens criminals, and many go on to offend again once they are released. But this approach at least holds out hope for lawbreakers, especially if they are young. And once a criminal has paid off his debt to society, he should be allowed to resume his life and his career.
The campaign against the cricketers smacks of hypocrisy.
This is as true for errant sportsmen as it is for robbers. However, retired cricketers like Ramiz Raja and Javed Miandad have made the case for the permanent exclusion of the tainted trio of Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Amir from all forms of cricket.
But this goes against the ICC’s five-year ban that has now been completed. The three have also served their time in jail. When so many killers and crooks escape scot-free, it appears vindictive to impose a lifetime ban on foolish young sportsmen.
One reason being given by their detractors is that the three ‘brought a bad name to the country’. By this measure, how many Pakistanis deserve to be in jail? Think of all the corrupt politicians, generals and bureaucrats; the tax-evading businessmen; and the mullahs preaching hatred and violence who have surely brought Pakistan into greater disrepute than any sportsman ever could.
To me, the campaign against the three cricketers smacks of hypocrisy and double standards. In fact, when Raja and Miandad were playing Test cricket, rumours of match-fixing — as against spot-fixing — were rife. While there has never been a shadow of wrongdoing on either of our ex-captains, they must have been aware of suspicious activities by some of their teammates.
So for them to assume this holier-than-thou attitude is puzzling. After all, they are well aware of the financial pressures on young kids who make it to the national side. And while Salman Butt is from a middle-class background, the other two come from relatively deprived families.
I am making no excuses for their actions. In fact, Butt and Asif deserved everything they got. The former, as captain, bears the greatest responsibility for leading the other two astray. Asif had been around for quite a while, and knew the ropes. He had also been involved in a brush with the law in the UAE when he was stopped at the airport with a banned substance.
But spare a thought and some sympathy for young Amir. Here was a teenager endowed with enormous talent, and a glittering career lay ahead. Cricket offered him an escape from the poverty he had been born into. So when he was ordered by his captain to bowl a couple of no-balls at predetermined moments, he was understandably reluctant to annoy his skipper by refusing.
And before we put on our holy masks, let us ask what we would have done in his place. Remember, he was not being told to throw the match, but just to bowl a couple of no-balls. On the scale of wrongdoing, this was not a major crime in the eyes of an immature teenager. Not wishing to risk his place in the Test side, he went along with the sting operation cooked up by Mazhar Majeed, the unscrupulous journalist who fooled the gullible Salman Butt.
And Amir confessed his guilt and showed genuine remorse, unlike the two senior players who pleaded their innocence in court. In a TV interview after his release from jail, Amir talked about his early struggle, as well as his remorse, never once seeking to find excuses for his action on the field that fateful day five years ago.
Speaking to the media recently, Amir expressed no urgent ambition to be selected to the national side. Instead, he spoke modestly about wishing to do well in domestic cricket. Hopefully, his return to the cricketing scene will not be marred by health issues.
And that’s the other thing we should keep in mind: a fast bowler’s career tends to be shorter than most other sportsmen because of the stresses and strains placed on his body. So the incentive to maximise his earnings during his playing career are higher than it would be for, say, a batsman. Again, this is intended more as an explanation than an excuse.
Finally, barring the three from pursuing their careers would effectively stop them from making a living doing the only thing they know: play cricket. How many of us have never made a decision in our youth we later regretted? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Sexually abusing children in the name of sex education
By Hashim Bukhari
August 28, 2015
Very often we find a wolf in sheep’s clothing; it can be a doctor who gives you the wrong diagnosis or treatment to con you out of money or it can be a preacher who radicalises innocent youth seeking spiritual education. All of us are always at the mercy of someone whose occupation puts them in a position where we are likely to trust them.
Recently, a 50-year-old tutor in Lahore was arrested for sexually assaulting his pupils, and videotaping the crimes. He confessed to victimising over 20 children over the past six years while working at several academies in Lahore. He said he did it to educate children regarding sex – definitely a pathetic attempt at coming up with a retrospective justification.
Such horrible news, with the Kasur child porn scandal fresh in mind, is sure to harm parents’ confidence in sex education. But because of the Kasur child porn scandal and this incident, it is about time we realise how important sex education and being vocal about sexual issues is for our society.
Sex education aims to help boys and girls understand their body structures so that they understand the cognitive and physical changes their bodies undergo as they mature. It allows them to understand sexual activity and helps reduce the risk of negative outcomes such as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It is a holistic education which teaches children about self-acceptance and the attitude and skills of interpersonal relationships, while at the same time helping them develop a sense of responsibility towards others.
With the recent Kasur horror, it becomes more important than ever to promote sex education as it not only helps students understand risky sexual behaviour so that they may identify it, but also focuses on reducing such behaviour in students. It teaches children how to deal with peer pressure, how to communicate, negotiate, and assert themselves in such matters so that they are not easily coerced into engaging in any inappropriate or unwanted sexual activity.
But the noblest campaigns need to be the best thought-out ones or else some wolf would infiltrate the herd in sheep’s clothing. We cannot allow the actions of a few men dampen all the efforts made towards creating awareness.
I mentioned in an earlier article that paedophilia is a sexual orientation. This means that not everyone would engage in sexual activity with a minor and those who do are likely to be repeating offenders as feeling attraction towards a minor is not a choice for them. We must understand that it is not mere moral corruption or depravity that drives the culprit to such acts, such behaviour is caused by complex psychological elements and front temporal dysfunctions in the brain, unfortunately determined by genetics.
There is no way any country can rid itself of paedophiles, so there needs to be a registrar for sex offenders. They need to be on the authorities’ radar and be legally required to disclose their history of sexual offences which would effectively reduce their likelihood of occupying a position where they can betray a child’s trust.
Acknowledging and understanding the problem of paedophilia would help the authorities educate educational institutes and workplaces about vetting processes to distinguish sexual delinquents. Educational institutes should be required to involve the authorities when there is a complaint, instead of simply firing the employee or trying to cover up the crime like the Convent School in Islamabad did when a peon sexually assaulted a student. Adding sex education to the curriculum would move educational institutes toward assuming responsibility for contributing to the establishment and development of such a system.
But in order for such a system to work, we would need to remove the shame element sufferers of sexual assault are stuck with. For this to work, the crimes need to be reported, so that the number of sexual assaults reported in Pakistan can accurately represent the severity of the problem, contrary to the current predicament where underreported sex crimes downplay how messed up the situation is. If as many sexual assaults are reported as are committed – this coupled with a society which is increasingly vocal about such issues – would move the state towards taking substantial steps.
Think about this. Families of the Kasur child porn ring’s victims paid millions of rupees to the criminal to keep their ordeal a secret. When they threatened to upload videos of their victims’ torment on the internet, people not only paid them but victims were manipulated into bringing them more victims. The Lahori offender did the same thing – he threatened to spread his victims’ videos and had his victims bring him more children.
If you think this is horrible, think about for how long they have been dodging the law and increasing the number of their victims, sometimes through existing victims, just because people are too ashamed to be vocal about this issue. All because we stigmatise sex and shame the victims of sexual assault.
The element of shame worsens the ordeal for the survivors. A major reason why we hide sex crimes is our fear that the victim’s prospect of finding a spouse would be harmed. That is true in an ignorant society, but sex education can help make the newer generations more vocal, understanding, considerate, and mature enough to accept and support victims of sex crimes.
Earlier this month, a teenager who was abducted and gang raped, committed suicide after the police not only refused to help him, but taunted him as well. Such behaviour is a crime itself and it is disturbing that the gravity of such crimes is incomprehensible for so many members of our society that even our police force consists of men with such views. It is easy to call such people ignorant and inconsiderate but the truth is that they too, in their childhood, were not educated to comprehend the gravity of such crimes, nor have they undergone any sensitivity training.
This is not a problem the government can tackle on its own – this issue requires widespread change in social attitudes across the spectrum. By openly engaging in discourse over this issue, we would increase introspection in society and let the authorities know that this issue is too big to be ignored. The more openly we can talk about it, the more incidents will come to light and we will know that it is not a few occurrences here and there, but a substantial national problem.
We need to collectively wage a jihad against this ill by education, open discourse, and de-stigmatisation. The best way to go about it is to educate the newer generations, as it is easy to raise them without stigmas than to remove pre-existing biases.
It’s 2015. We must get there and we can only do it together.
Hashim Bukhari is somewhat of a musician from Lahore with a deep interest in history, science, religion, and sociology. He is studying political science at UBC and trying to balance it with a law degree from University of London. He tweets as @hashNhisstories
Pakistani nuclear arsenal: Is third largest large enough?
By Pervez Hoodbhoy
August 29th, 2015
MANY Pakistanis are thrilled by the news originating from two think tanks in Washington. Although no real evidence has been presented, they claim that the Pakistani nuclear arsenal may become the world’s third largest over the next five to 10 years. The current number, estimated at around 120 Hiroshima-sized warheads, could increase to around 350. This would exceed numbers held by France (290), China (240), and UK (190).
Is the sky the limit? If not, what is the number that Pakistan “must have”? Seventy years ago, just one bomb had turned Hiroshima to rubble. Today, if Pakistan and India use even half their arsenals, the radioactive ash and smoke would destroy not just both countries but also cause a global catastrophe. Nevertheless, neither specifies a cap. The only figures I have ever seen are speculations published by a retired Pakistani air force officer.
His logic goes something like this: adequate deterrence requires two Indian cities to be hit with five nuclear bombs each. Assume 50pc probability of successfully penetrating enemy defences. Suppose also that 50pc of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are destroyed in an Indian pre-emptive first strike. Using rules of arithmetic that even a 10-year old knows, he puts the desired number at 40 bombs. Then, changing probabilities from 50pc to 90pc, he raises the cap to a staggering 1,000! For the reader: change two cities to three, and five bombs to six, and calculate the change. It’s huge!
Why this open-ended warhead and missile race between India and Pakistan?
The illogic stares you in the face. Arbitrary input parameters generate arbitrary outputs. And yet all this can be made to appear as the end product of a logical process. But deterrence is purely psychological and nobody has a clue about what is sufficient. Probabilities in a nuclear war environment cannot be properly estimated because the unknown massively outweighs the known. Garbage in, garbage out!
The Indian side is just as guilty of massive leaps of logic. The high priest of India’s nuclear policy in the 1990s, K. Subrahmanyam, vehemently asserted that nuclear arms racing was a Cold War concept totally alien to subcontinental thinking. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he, as well as his hawkish Pakistani counterparts, claimed that the nuclear philosophy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was the product of twisted Western minds. We, the people of South Asia, were supposedly wiser and would limit destruction only to “what was needed”.
Subrahmanyam and I had first clashed on the subject of India’s nuclear intentions at a meeting held at the University of Chicago in 1992, held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Enrico Fermi’s nuclear reactor. This was six years before India actually tested. We crossed swords off and on at various meetings for nearly 20 years.
The last time I met this guru of India’s nuclear votaries was just before he died of cancer. This was in Delhi at a meeting held in 2010 at IDSA (Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis) of which he had been director. I reminded him of his earlier belief that Pakistan could not develop nuclear weapons. Hadn’t he and his colleagues actually weakened India by producing a level playing field? And where was his theory of no racing? Perhaps because of his illness,
Subrahmanyam’s response was weak and unconvincing. But the real reason is that events have proved him wrong.
Like Pakistan, India also refuses to set an upper limit on its arsenal. But why have they gone into open-ended racing when both are saddled with enormous problems of resource scarcity and poverty? A large part of the answer has to do with the nature of modern industrial production.
Imagine setting up a factory that makes jam from peaches. You need to invest in expensive machinery, train management and engineering staff, and set up an acquisition process for raw materials. If you produced only one batch of jam, each jar would probably cost Rs1 million. But when in steady production, that cost could decrease to Rs100.
While the price reduction for warheads is not quite so dramatic, every additional one costs much less than the first one once the machinery, management, and personnel are in place. After routine procedures are established, the system goes on autopilot. The urge to keep production increases because the livelihood of tens of thousands now hinges upon this. There is, of course, a crucial difference. The public buys jam, but the consumer of warheads is the missile-making complex. The system feeds on its own output, and keeps expanding.
To keep everything going, nothing is better than a real threat. Failing that, one needs to be invented. Pakistan’s militarists got lucky in 2010 when India’s former army chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor, blurted out his infamous Operation Cold Start. Although it proved impossible to operationalise, Cold Start provided yet another reason for jacking up Pakistan’s numbers. Now tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) could be developed as a defensive measure. Although much is made of TNWs, in fact they are not very effective militarily — invading frontline combat units can be sufficiently well-hardened and dispersed so as to not make good nuclear targets.
India and Pakistan are seeing the emergence of a nuclear military-industrial complex that is distorting priorities. This term was first used by president Dwight D. Eisenhower in his speech of 1961. He hit the nail on the head when he declared that, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex”. But America’s mad rush towards militarisation became unstoppable. By 1967, the Cold War saw the US warhead count reach a peak of 31,255 — enough to destroy the world four and a half times over.
In the present climate of a tribal blood feud between two nuclear-armed neighbors, vision and judgement have been severely impaired. Since 1998 we have pretended to be two responsible nuclear states. But calling off talks and hurling accusations (as well as artillery shells) exposes this myth. Meanwhile, those who stand to gain more power and influence from nuclear expansion are multiplying in numbers. It is hard to imagine what can restore sanity.
Pervez Hoodbhoy teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.
Obama’s legacy: Isis and other disasters
By Aijaz Zaka Syed
August 29, 2015
Many western commentators have been raving about Barack Obama’s twin foreign policy triumphs in the last lap of his presidency. The best take came from Maureen Dowd of The New York Times.
Having trashed him in June as the “lame duck whose chickens have come home to roost” for his inaction in the face of mounting challenges including those on the Middle East front, Dowd now suggests that Obama may be alame duck, but his bolder side, the one that got him elected, is rising.
By striking the nuclear pact with Iran and the once unthinkable rapprochement with Cuba’s last commies, Obama may have succeeded in saving his legacy just in time.
While the normalisation of ties with Cuba after nearly six decades of hostilities was perhaps inevitable considering the irrepressible Fidel Castro is out of action, the import of what Obama has delivered on the Iran front in the face of resistance from Israel and genuine concerns of Arab allies is overwhelming to fathom.
With one stroke of his pen, he has changed the geopolitical contours and power equations in the region. The ayatollahs may still insist on principled opposition to the ‘Great Satan’ and pretend as if nothing has changed. But we all know the ground has shifted.
While Obama’s legion of fans may be forgiven for concluding that the last burst of brilliance of their hero, coupled with the success on healthcare and gay rights, would perpetuate his legacy, two of the biggest disappointments of the Obama presidency also happen to be on the foreign policy front.
Obama’s betrayal of the Palestinian people and dithering on the Syrian front may have cost thousands of precious lives and directly contributed to the outbreak of cancer called Isis or Daesh.
After those stirring words championing the Palestinians’ right to liberty and dignity and reaching out to the Muslim world, Obama dropped them like proverbial hot potatoes when confronted by the Israeli lobby.
His chicanery and inaction on Syria have destroyed one of the oldest and peaceful civilisations in the world with nearly half of the country’s population being uprooted. More than 200,000 lives have been lost.
Between August 2011, when Obama first called on Bashar al-Assad to leave, and August 2014 when the US forces finally ‘intervened’ in Syria to bomb the Isis targets, the Baathist regime in Damascus has killed, bombed and maimed hundreds of thousands of Syrians.
The blood of thousands of Syrians is not just on the hands of Assad and his thugs. World leaders are equally guilty. For while the US and its allies have publicly called for Assad to step aside, their actions have quietly and actually helped the regime dig in its feet.
As Omer Aziz put it in his Aljazeera piece, in true Arab nationalist form, Assad portrayed himself as the only man standing between the west and the terrorists. This image – or mirage – won over many western ‘realists’, turning reality on its head.
The west and its Israeli friends have never really wanted Assad’s fall, fearing the unimaginable spectre of an Islamist takeover of Damascus. Whether those fears are justified or not, can there be anything worse than the mindboggling mess that stares us all in the face right now?
While the Baathist cowards unleash daily hell on utterly defenceless civilians, trapped in the remains of their towns and cities, the Daesh devils has turned the territory under its tyranny into a ghoulish laboratory where daily experiments are conducted in inflicting maximum ignominy and cruelty in the name of Islam.
We are running out of epithets and words to define the increasingly sickening depravity and spine-chilling pornography of violence. Look at the obscene killing of Palmyra’s 82-year old retired Antiquities chief. Dr Khaled Al Assad had spent 50 years in the service and protection of Palmyra’s ancient Roman ruins, a Unesco World Heritage site.
He had refused to leave when the Isis swarms descended on Palmyra ignoring warnings from his friends and family. He was tortured for a month apparently for the location of the Roman city’s priceless artefacts before being beheaded. His headless corpse kept hanging from a lamppost in the town centre.
It is perhaps just as well that Dr Assad did not live to see the destruction of the 2,000-year old Roman temple at Palmyra within days of his killing. Something that even the Crusaders and Mongol hordes did not touch has been destroyed by the folks who claim to ‘liberate’ the Middle East and Muslim world.
Who are these crazed bigots then? Who is pulling their strings? I hate conspiracy theories. But it’s clear as daylight that whatever the factors that may have helped spawn Isis – the US invasion and destruction of Iraq and disbanding of Iraqi army and police, the rise and tyranny of Shia militias and their persecution of Sunnis, and above all, the failure to rein in Assad and his band of killers – Isis now appears to be completely controlled and manipulated by forces that have long plotted the destruction of Muslim lands.
Every action and atrocity inflicted by Isis in the past one year – from beheadings and mass killings to rapes and mindless destruction of priceless heritage as Palmyra – all in the name of Islam of course appears calculated and designed to evoke and arouse maximum horror and revulsion worldwide.
No wonder Muslims around the world, especially those in the west, find themselves increasingly unwelcome. Isis had to come along just when the world was getting ready to move on from the shock and awe of 9/11.
So Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi may not be a Zionist as many in the Arab world suspect but the fingerprints of Mossad and our other benefactors are all over this baby. Even old Middle East watchers like Robert Fisk are coming around to the idea.
In his latest piece, the veteran British journalist wonders: “Why does Isis never attack Israel – indeed, why does its hatred of Crusaders and Shias and Christians and sometimes Jews rarely if ever mention the very word “Israel”? (So) It’s not the violence in Isis videos and Dabiq (Isis magazine) we should be concentrating on. It’s what the Isis leadership don’t talk about, don’t condemn, don’t mention upon which we should cast our suspicious eye. If we failed after 9/11 – when the political reasons behind this crime against humanity would have necessitated an examination of US Middle East policy and our support for Israel and dictators – we’ve sometimes held our ground when it comes to ‘terror’.”
In these last few months in the White House, Obama may not have much time left to save the world. But he could at least ask his security and intelligence honchos some pertinent questions like whose baby Isis really is and how come all those US-made weapons have ended up in the hands of the terror army?
Why are young men and women, born and brought up in western lands, rushing to join Isis? Also, how do we solve a problem called Bashar al-Assad? What has kept him hanging on to power all this while and with whose support when his more powerful fellow travellers have all departed?
Obama may have chosen to do ‘nothing’ over Syria in order to avoid ‘another Iraq’, as he once put it. But if Syria is in total ruin today, it is also chiefly because of what the US visited on Iraq. America cannot run away now from its responsibility – before clearing the mess it has made of the region.
Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Middle East based columnist.