Monday, 1 December 2008

Read Hitchens and Mehta on Mumbai, avoid Dalrymple

Must-reads on Mumbai:

This column which, with its revelation that hostages were tortured before being shot, confirms the sheer inhumanity of the terrorists, and with its indication that Jews were singled out for particularly horrific treatment, is further evidence that the attackers weren't responding to some local 'grievance' but were motivated by an all-too-familiar transnational ideology of which antisemitism is a consistent feature.

Christopher Hitchens on what the terrorists thought they were attacking:

What's at stake is the whole concept of a cosmopolitan city open to its own citizens and to the world - a city on the model of Sarajevo or London or Beirut or Manhattan. There is, of course, a reason they attract the ire and loathing of the religious fanatics. To the pure and godly, the very existence of such places is a profanity.

Along similar lines, Suketu Mehta (author of Maximum City, a paeon to Mumbai) celebrating his home city, which he loves for all the reasons that the fundamentalists hate it:

Why do they go after Mumbai? There's something  about this island-state that appalls religious extremists, Hindus and Muslims alike. Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness.

Best avoided:

This inevitable and predictable attempt to pin the blame on anybody (America, Britain, India, even Israel) but the perpetrators, by the always reliable William Dalrymple, devastatingly deconstructed by Eamonn McDonagh.

More must-reads:

This from David Aaronovitch, wondering why, if the terrorists were motivated by local, communal grievances, they went out of their way to target 'the small headquarters of a small outreach sect of a small religion, which far from being a big symbol of anything, you would almost certainly need a detailed map and inside knowledge even to find'.

As he says, the treatment of the hostages at Nariman House gives the lie to root cause 'explanetics'. And Aaronovitch wonders if it's coincidental that the area that gave birth to some of the Mumbai murderers (the south Punjab) has one of the highest levels of acid attacks on women anywhere in the world. The terrorists, he concludes, represent 'a political-religious movement of men espousing violent self-righteousness, impossible purity and hatred of human complexity. No wonder the target was cosmopolitan Mumbai, with its foreigners, minorities, its maddening mix of people and moralities, all of them diluting the one, true, narrow way.'

And although I don't agree with its author's conservative and anti-secularist politics, this piece by Dennis Prager, on the centrality of antisemitism to the Islamist mindset, is also required reading:

Why would a terrorist group of Islamists from Pakistan whose primary goal is to have Pakistan gain control of the third of Kashmir that belongs to India and therefore aimed to destabilize India's major city devote so much of its efforts - 20 per cent of its force of 10 gunmen whose stated goal was to kill 5,000 - to killing a rabbi and any Jews with him?

The question echoes one from World War II: Why did Hitler devote so much time, money, and manpower in order to murder every Jewish man, woman, and child in every country the Nazis occupied? [...]

From the perspective of political scientists, historians, and contemporary journalists, the answer to these questions is not rational. But the non-rationality of an answer is not synonymous with its non-validity

For the Islamists, as for the Nazis, the destruction of the Jews - and since 1948, the Jewish state - is central to their worldview.

If anyone has a better explanation for why Pakistani terrorists, preoccupied with destabilizing India, would expend so much effort at finding the one Jewish center in a country that is essentially devoid of Jews, I would like to hear it.


Anonymous said...

From Dalrymple:
"Three weeks ago, in the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar, I met a young surgeon named Dr Iqbal Saleem. Iqbal described to me how on 11 August this year, Indian security forces entered the hospital where he was fighting to save the lives of unarmed civilian protesters who had been shot earlier that day by the Indian army. The operating theatre had been tear-gassed and the wards riddled with bullets, creating panic and injuring several of the nurses. Iqbal had trained at the Apollo hospital in Delhi and said he harboured no hatred against Hindus or Indians. But the incident had profoundly disgusted him and the unrepentant actions of the security forces, combined with the indifference of the Indian media, had convinced him that Kashmir needed its independence."

Do you have a view on this?

Martin said...

Yes, but I'm not sure it's relevant to the matter in hand. The behaviour of the Indian security forces in this incident sounds appalling, but I don't know enough about the Kashmir situation to determine whether the fault is all on one side, or shared, never mind whether the campaign for independence is justified. But surely the point is, however just the case for Kashmiri rights, and however oppressive the Indian treatment of Kashmiris, nothing justifies the 'response' of the Mumbai murderers. Nor is citing this kind of grievance, however real, enough to explain the callousness, self-righteousness and sheer racism of the terrorists. For that, you need to understand something of the twisted political-religious ideology that drove them.