For a young man of my age, whose life, higher education and career was effectively shaped in the last decade…the attack on the upmarket shopping mall in Kenya brings back a home truth.
I was eighteen, when the Twin towers were struck down. My journalism freelancing after my first MA, included the Kolkata riots of 2007 over controversial anti-Islam Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen, and the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, where one of the attacked places were the Nariman Point Jewish Chhabbad House. In the years between, there were London, Madrid, Bali bombings, the Beslan school siege and Moscow theatre siege, and the ever escalating Middle East violence.
The ongoing Westgate attack in Nairobi is influenced heavily by Mumbai 2008. The Modus Operandi is excruciatingly similar. Here also, the intention was to cause mayhem, and negotiation and hostage taking is a ruse to confuse security forces. To inflict maximum civilian casualty and damage is the primary goal, socio-economic and political arguments are secondary. Here also, the “infidels and foreigners” were specifically targeted. A live, televised, live-twitted urban warfare…as is the norm since Beslan school siege is still continuing…with Al Shabab, the offshoot of Al Qaeda tweeting their “victory” and the justification for the attacks.
And here also, we are yet to see a condemnation from the left, anti-war activists, academics and intelligentsia.
There are two major arguments or strands of arguments, which are trying to justify this carnage.
1. It’s Socio-economic and Political
Not really. The live tweets by Al Shabab says otherwise. Also, this attack…is allegedly planned and spearheaded by the “White Widow” Samantha Lewthwaite, herself a convert from England, the motherland of modern democracy, and from a well-off socio-economic condition. Also, the sheer scale and frame of the attacks, world wide, in different societies and places and perpetrated by men/women from different strata of society, doesn’t point to the fact that this is a socio-economic phenomena…but that this is a completely fanatical religious case, with maybe some territorial and political overtones. Also, with the increasing number of Western converts from David Headley, to Al-Amreeki to White Widow, proves that this problem is also not limited to any particular race.
2. There are alternative ways of conflict resolution than war and application of force
Generally an academic argument, by Professors like Dr. Richard Jackson, who argue that this is due to the fact that no one tried to reason with terrorists and only with negotiation can these problem be solved. This argument falls flat as one can only negotiate, reason, and argue logically with someone who is interested in listening and arguing back to you…and not fundamentalists. Infact quoting from this analysis makes the point simpler.
“History,” wrote Osama bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam, “does not write its lines except with blood”. “Glory does not build its lofty edifice except with skulls; honour and respect cannot be established except on a foundation of cripples and corpses. Empires, distinguished peoples, states and societies cannot be established except with examples. Indeed those who think that they can change reality, or change societies, without blood, sacrifices and invalids, without pure, innocent souls, then they do not understand the essence of this Din.”
One can only reason nonviolence with those who are willing to listen. Otherwise it is mass suicide. Force is evil, but necessary in dealing with fundamentalists, regardless of religion.
Unfortunately the war-weary, economically weakened and increasingly isolationist West, and a senile and craven United Nations means that there will be no concerted effort in the near foreseeable future to fight this menace and defend ideas of freedom and democracy. And no matter, how much one might think of getting over and moving on from the decade of “War on terror”…terrorism never left us.