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Current Affairs ( 6 Dec 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Spectre ignores the greatest fear now: Terror in the name of Islam: New Age Islam’s Selection From Indian Press, 7 December 2015


New Age Islam Edit Bureau

Dec 07, 2015


Spectre ignores the greatest fear now: Terror in the name of Islam

By Manu Joseph

Delink terrorism from religion. How?

By Aakar Patel

The Fanatic Mainstream

By Abdul Khaliq



Spectre ignores the greatest fear now: Terror in the name of Islam

By Manu Joseph

 Dec 07, 2015

The evil that James Bond fights is always secular and that somehow means the Bond villains are usually Christian. As they are in the latest, Spectre, a film that wishes to terrify without offending anyone.

Spectre is a beautiful and ancient word that could once frighten the discerning, but in these times, in the age of visuals, when the most gruesome reality is available for viewing any time, ‘spectre’ just means something low-res with a British spelling. As an acronym from the Bond lore, it is even less terrifying, in fact a bit amusing as though it is a real job description in some Indian television news channels — Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.

Members of the Spectre syndicate sit around a long table and discuss business, which includes a woman saying something to this effect — “We’re doing well, we’re winning”.

At some point in the discussion a large man gouges out the eyes of a smaller man. (Such a lame scene compared to kissing, according Pahlaj Nihalani, that he has let kids watch it.) The boss of the syndicate sits in the shadows — he is in the shadows from every angle even though the room is lit. Spectre, like many recent Hollywood movies, tries to achieve darkness of plot through dim-lighting, while darkness is often an effect of stark truth, as evident in, say, Body of Lies.

Spectre looks silly because it tries to escape the fact that the greatest terror of our times is terror in the name of Islam. A superhero might be a farce but a superhero who is not fighting Islamic terror is a parody of the farce.

That was the wisdom George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road possessed. The arch villain of the story was a brutal chieftain who could delude his men with drugs and faith to kill themselves for a chrome afterlife. His suicide squads were insane men in modified SUVs who believed they were pursuing a moral goal, and they charged across a desert with nothing much to live for on Earth — they were the Islamic State (IS).

Fury Road does not devote much time to explain the history or the psychology of the desert kingdom because we know exactly what is going on — a handler who wishes to live well, women slaves who wish to escape, male suicide squads who wish to die, all entrapped in a delusion.

James Bond, on the other hand, is fighting a comic band of European men in fine suits, fantasy villains who are in the genre of zombies and Lord Voldemort. Villains who do not offend anyone.

It is not that there is no other serious criminal syndicate in the world other than religious terrorists; it is just that the hierarchy of brutality and villainy is now set in public perception. And what puts terrorists on top of the hierarchy is that they have a powerful reason to die, a reason that a mere criminal syndicate headed by an insane man with a trace of activist altruism does not possess. The closest that a Bond has ever come to terrorists is when Timothy Dalton forms an alliance with Afghan Mujahideen in a naïve age when the Mujahideen were not called terrorists but allies.

There is much that has changed about James Bond. He appears to respect women and the women he is entangled with are seldom helpless damsels. The new Bond is under pressure to accept that he is obsolete in the modern world and his only defence is that he is not a dinosaur but a tradition, hence of value.

But what has not changed about Bond are his villains. Reality today is as cinematic as cinema and the modern villains are known to all of us, or we deeply believe so. Bond’s denial does make him look obsolete.

Yet, there are good reasons why James Bond does not fight Islamic terror. The franchise prefers to be a parody of a farce than a grim reminder of reality. Deaths and hints of torture are as dark as the Bond series wishes to get. Islamic terror is, to borrow an expression from the film As Good As it Gets, “Just a little too much reality for a Friday night.”

Also, there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who are among the fans of Bond and the producers may not wish to annoy them. Regular Muslims are as repulsed by terrorists as any other human but they do not watch a film to be constantly reminded that their faith is a very compelling backdrop to portray realistic villains of the times.

Bond, like the rest of commercial cinema, is political because anything that takes money from hundreds of millions of people is political. Bond cannot afford to antagonise Muslims.

It would be pointless and self-defeating for the producers to use terrorism as the substance of villainy for just one film. If they are taking the gamble to make Bond more real and convincing they would have to consider terrorism across several editions. Islamic terrorism then would become the KGB of the new series.

It is unlikely that such a prospect would please anyone who hopes to make money from the series. And, apart from commercial considerations, there is the matter of drawing the attention of terrorists to the franchise. No one wants that.

Does this mean Bond is doomed? Was Spectre a portent of his approaching end? Can Bond survive as a mere comic relief in these very serious times?

These questions are relevant to the other superhero series, too. A superhero requires an arch villain, and in this age if he is not a religious terrorist he looks too lame.

For now, James Bond hopes to survive away from realism. That is why the only fact in Spectre is that the world is in the fear of an acronym. But Bond is afraid to spell it correctly. The real Spectre, we know, is spelt ‘IS’.

(Manu Joseph is a journalist and the author of the novel, The Illicit Happiness of Other People. you can fallower him on Twitter: @manujosephsan. The views expressed are personal)


Delink terrorism from religion. How?

By Aakar Patel

Dec 06, 2015

It is not easy for us to see Hindu and Sikh terrorists as terrorists. Even when they are convicted, even when they use the same tactics of suicide bombing, and even when their actions kill innocent people along with their targets.

Speaking in Malaysia last month, the Prime Minister said two things on terrorism. First, that it should be delinked from religion. Second, that it was the biggest threat the world faced. But is it?

The total number of Indians killed in acts of Islamist terror (outside of Kashmir) has been 21 this year. Last year it was four. The year before that it was 25. The year before that it was one.

Five lakh Indian children, under the age of five, die of malnutrition every year. India’s problem is that half of its population is poor, by any honest measure, and half is illiterate. Is terrorism a bigger threat than climate change? The Prime Minister himself accepts that the floods in Chennai are because of global warming. More than 280 people have died in these floods. So terrorism seems to me to be exaggerated as a problem. It is a pressing issue in those countries of the West which have already sorted out the issues of poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy in great measure.

For them, terrorism is a sensational interruption to a life that is otherwise lived in comfort, unlike for the majority of Indians.

This piece is not about that, however. It is about that first claim made by the Prime Minister: that terrorism should be delinked from religion. So how can it be delinked?

Here are some facts.If you are a Tamil-speaking Hindu convicted of terrorism, for murdering our Prime Minister, you are not hanged.

Three men, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, were sentenced to die for assassinating Rajiv Gandhi and 14 others in a suicide bombing in 1991. Last year it was decided that they would not be hanged, and the Tamil Nadu government has been active in trying to get them freed.

If you are Punjabi-speaking Sikh sentenced to die for assassinating a chief minister, you are not hanged. Balwant Singh Rajoana, who murdered Punjab chief minister Beant Singh and 17 others in a suicide bombing, has not been hanged. This is even though Rajoana has demanded that he be killed and has even donated his organs.

Another Punjabi-speaking Sikh, Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, has not been hanged for a 1993 assassination attempt on a Congress leader. A Sindhi and Gujarati-speaking Hindu who has been convicted of murdering 97 Gujaratis does not even have to spend time in jail. Maya Kodnani regularly gets bail and spends time outside prison despite being a convict.

If you are a Gujarati-speaking Muslim accused of terrorism, you are hanged, as Yakub Memon’s family discovered. There were some who said he should not be hanged, but these were people who are opposed to capital punishment and they would oppose all hangings, including those of the people listed above. Memon got no support from Gujaratis.

If you are a Kashmiri-speaking Muslim accused of terrorism, you are hanged, as Afzal Guru’s family discovered. It would be pointed out that in Guru’s case the evidence may have been flawed, but this did not stop us from killing him.

There was enormous political pressure from the Tamil Nadu and Punjab Assemblies to save the terrorists from their state. In Gujarat, of course, Ms Kodnani was a minister of the government so not only was she seen with sympathy, her boss the chief minister (who is today the Prime Minister) has not said a word even to condemn her actions against fellow Gujaratis.

None of what I am saying here is new and everything is out in the open and on the public record.

My question is, to go back to what we were discussing earlier: is it honest and valid to claim that we should delink terrorism from religion? And if a leader want to do this, what should his first steps be?

I would say it is difficult for anyone to do this, especially in our part of the world. As we have seen, it is not easy for us to see Hindu and Sikh terrorists as terrorists. Even when they are convicted, even when they use the same tactics of suicide bombing, and even when their actions kill innocent people along with their targets.

Guru was convicted of supporting the attack on India’s Parliament. The Supreme Court said that “the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded” to Guru.

Till we can think up similar justifications for hanging non-Muslims, I do not think we can delink terrorism from religion in our minds.

Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist


The Fanatic Mainstream

By Abdul Khaliq |

December 7, 2015 12:09 am

Our founding fathers, conscious that our pursuit of being a strong, united and civilised country hinged on caring for one another, had underlined fraternity as one of the cherished values in the Preamble to the Constitution. I grew up at a time when we were still celebrating our social solidarity and common humanity premised on the doctrine that every human being has the right to justice, equality, security and dignity. “Unity in diversity” was the shibboleth by which we defined our rich heritage. Sadly, our resolve to be a just, humane society has crumbled under the weight of the fault lines of bigotry, bias, violence and dehumanisation. In the last three decades, every pillar of our democracy has been systematically undermined.

The happenings of the last two months are a revealing snapshot of our spiritual bankruptcy and intolerance. In today’s India, Sangeet Som and Azam Khan hold greater sway than Mahatma Gandhi. Their deviant, hate-soaked ranting is not an aberration but symptomatic of fanaticism going mainstream. We have become indifferent to questions of right and wrong as everything has been reduced to a point of view.

A truism is defined as a statement so self-evident that it’s hardly worth mentioning. So inured to injustice have we become that we missed the irony in our erudite vice president’s recent plea to ensure the right to life, irrespective of religion. Such an appeal would be platitudinous in a truly egalitarian society, but it’s a timely exhortation in our context. We delude ourselves with the consoling thought that most of us believe in tolerance and peaceful coexistence. But that is cold comfort when one considers that rumours of the sighting of the carcass of a pig or cow are sufficient for hundreds to spring from nowhere to kill and burn. In frightening Taliban-style, anything that smacks of blasphemy can invite death. Ask the rationalists.

Our country is the hotbed of a million mutinies. Schismatic tensions, widening inequalities, ethnic bigotry and the monochromatic interpretation of our cultural diversity are tearing us apart. There are myriad combat zones revolving around xenophobia (Bangladeshis), racism (ask our brothers in the Northeast), gender discrimination, casteism, affirmative action, regionalism — all of which have diminished our claims to being a humane society. Our collective failure to transcend narrow parochial thinking and reach out to the “Other” is at the heart of the corrosive violence, exclusion and injustice. Our inability to embrace cosmopolitanism is the root cause for the pervasive communal virus that poses the greatest threat to our future and, if unaddressed, is bound to do us all in. What makes it particularly potent is the perception that it now comes armed with authority and legitimacy.

To heal and redeem us, we need a messiah. But what we have are cynical politicians who have exacerbated social tensions. A non-political friend gave me a fascinating insight on how a totally discredited political class is actually inimical to the causes it espouses. He watched a heated TV debate on the threat to freedom of expression. So long as writers and social commentators held forth they were winning the argument, but the moment Kapil Sibal weighed in on their behalf, their carefully deliberated criticism seemed to lose its sting and get transmuted to mere partisan objections by pseudo-secularists. Given his former political affiliations, even the president’s iterated sermons on tolerance were viewed with suspicion. Is it any surprise that the ordinary Muslim squirms at the chest-thumping machismo and competitive bigotry of the Owaisis and Azam Khans?

Instead of the clichéd binary of pseudo-secularism versus pseudo-nationalism, we need a new grammar that judges all actions against the template of humanism. The meaningful Hindustani term “insaaniyat” should be the animating principle informing all social discourse. For such a transformation, we need to revive and sustain the post-December 16 gangrape revolutionary spirit. A just and equal society cannot be built unless the main stakeholders — the silent majority — again step forward. Only then can democracy rediscover its egalitarian essence.


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