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Terrorism comes to Londonistan

Last updated on: August 11, 2005 00:54 IST

The 7/7 terrorist bombings in Britain have been analysed to death. Odd. Britain is a minor, has-been power, and its capital is called 'Londonistan' for its tenderness towards Islamists, as in the New York Times report 'For a decade, London thrived as a busy crossroads of terror.'

So why is everyone so exercised about the London bombs? Plenty of Islamic terror incidents elsewhere do not get the same blanket coverage. Yes, it is regrettable that there has been loss of British lives, but it is hard to feel solidarity for them unlike the widespread feeling of 'Today I am a New Yorker' after America's loss of innocence on 9/11.

UK blasts: The Iraq factor

This is partly because Britain has made it a policy to cozy up to Muslims. For instance, during their rule in India, they deliberately encouraged Muslim obduracy and obscurantism as a part of divide-and-rule. During Partition, they cavalierly gave away the Hindu-and-Sikh-majority city of Lahore to Pakistan. When a British captain handed over Gilgit to Pakistan, they should have court-martialed him for violating British treaty obligations, but did not.

The British calculated that being nice to Muslims and mean to Hindus did not carry any penalty, and they were probably right in this. They reckoned that being friendly with oil-rich Arabs and having some nominal say in the affairs of Pakistan were more important than helping India, which they realised would soon eclipse them. I have noticed for years the BBC's and The Economist's antipathy towards India: and this reflects establishment bias.

In an incident pregnant with black humour, the BBC, which is not supposed to call any terrorists 'terrorists', slipped up and called the London terrorists 'terrorists'. Why, was the stiff upper lip trembling a wee bit? When reader George wrote to the BBC after being alerted by SABHA's report they reversed themselves. The mask had slipped, albeit momentarily.

Muslim violence and terrorism in India have never bothered the British. The Maraad massacre and the Godhra incineration and the ethnic cleansing in Jammu and Kashmir were either ignored or rationalised by them. The recent incident in Jammu, when five Hindus were beheaded and a Hindu woman was hacked to death with an axe, did not excite their alleged sense of 'fair play'. Then should Indians weep for them when they are victimised? Poetic justice, as Indira Gandhi found out: He who rides the fundamentalist tiger is skating on thin ice, to mix metaphors wildly.

Britain got into Islamist-appeasement mode with their multi-culturalism. A major aspect of this has been bending over backwards to accommodate the demands -- even unreasonable ones -- of Muslim Britons. It has been blindingly obvious even to a casual observer that this was going to be counterproductive and that British Pakistanis were not assimilating (I wrote about this even before 9/11 in a column).

The war against radical Islam

In the years hence, there have been plenty of reports of a wilful apartheid: Some Pakistani-Britons ghettoising themselves in 'no-police' zones, preying on teenaged white schoolgirls, beating white youngsters to death, engaging in running street battles, etc. Clearly, they are disaffected, and have chosen to be so. No amount of additional sops and concessions will help. Each concession is seen as an admission of weakness. Just ask the Islamist extremists in India: they have been given sop after sop, and they, like Oliver Twist, simply ask for more, and despise the system ever more after each giveaway.

Besides, the British do know a thing or two about terror. In fact, the entire Christian West knows a thing or two about terror as a weapon. When Christians gained political power during Constantine's rule, they went about terrorising the followers of the old religions. They tore down most of the ancient temples, forcibly converted a lot of people, and exhibited intolerance of the highest degree. A Christian king named Theodosius and his cleric, ironically named Theophilus, burned the great library at Alexandria.

Much later, the British, in the aftermath of the 1857 War of Independence in India, used state-sponsored terrorism (including shooting people from cannons and elephants crushing them) against both civilian and military populations: no Geneva Convention there. The Jallianwallah Bagh massacre -- 1,650 bullets, 1,579 casualties in an unarmed crowd with women and children -- this was an exercise in State terrorism.

The British used incendiary materials to firebomb Dresden and other German cities to terrorise the civilian population during World War II. The Americans firebombed Tokyo, knowing fully well that the wooden houses would burn like tinder. Their atomic bombing of Hiroshima, exactly sixty years ago (see my old column 'Hiroshima, Mon Amour') terrified the Japanese. The follow-up atomic bombing of Nagasaki, with Japan prone and ready to surrender, was certainly intended to induce terror in the civilian population, whatever the mealy-mouthed rationalisation for Hiroshima. The Stern gang, Jewish terrorists, wreaked havoc in the trans-Jordan area before the formation of Israel.

Thus the West has been known to use terrorism as an arm of policy. Therefore it is a little disingenuous of the West to be shocked at Islamist terrorism. Not that I am justifying the latter, but it is fair to consider their assertions of root cause. Do Islamists have legitimate grievances about the 500,000 Iraqi children who died due to onerous sanctions? Do they have legitimate grievances about the troubles of Palestinians? Does the Ummah, the supposed Islamist brotherhood worldwide, speak with one voice?

It is hard to say. They may have some justifiable grievances, but so do others who do not indulge in random, large-scale terrorism. And they are also guilty of dissimulation. For several reasons. One is that they simply deny Islam-sanctioned violence against non-Muslims, for instance what happens daily in Bangladesh and Pakistan. The second is extensive Muslim-upon-Muslim violence, as in the Iran-Iraq war, in the continuing practice of slavery in some Arab kingdoms (let us note that the principal capturers of black slaves were always Arabs, who would then wholesale them to whites), and in continuing brutality towards blacks, for instance in the Sudan.

Pakistan is a bad word in Britain

The third reason is that Islamists themselves have done nothing whatsoever for Palestinians, other than trying to fight Israel to the last Palestinian. Oil-rich and education-poor Arab kingdoms could easily have absorbed the comparatively well-educated Palestinians, but they chose not to do so. Instead of providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, the Islamists use their travails as a lightning-rod to paint a picture of Islam besieged.

This suggests that the pan-Islamist movement may be a political activity intended to expand the borders of Islam, rather than a religious or humane movement. This suspicion is strengthened by the thunderous silence among Islamists about the atrocities visited upon their own in China. Isn't it odd, and telling -- in the sense of Sherlock Holmes' 'curious incident of the dog in the night-time' -- that despite Uighur Muslims being severely oppressed in Xinjiang, there have been no incidents of major terrorist violence in China?

Note, for instance, that every year for the last few years, China has regularly executed more people than the rest of the world put together! And a large fraction of those thus subject to judicial murder are Uighur Muslims and Tibetans. But not a peep has been heard out of the Muslim world. This implies that there is an understanding between the Islamists -- to be specific, the ISI of Pakistan -- and the Chinese.

The ISI, incidentally, comes closest to a Central Command for Islamist terrorism worldwide, as can be seen by their fingerprints on every terrorist action anywhere, as well as their ability to turn the spigot on and off on demand, as seen with China. The Saudis supply the funds and the ISI the brains.

The Chinese have formed a Sino-Islamic axis: they give the ISI goodies such as nuclear weapons and missiles; in return the ISI keeps a lid on the Uighurs. Strange bed-fellows, considering that Islamists usually string up 'godless Communists' from the nearest lamp-post and use their corpses for target practice, as was done to the luckless Najibullah when the triumphant Taliban-ISI entered Kabul.

Part II: Britons woke up on 7/7

Rajeev Srinivasan