Mumbai tragedy unleashes Muslim bashing

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While panic, fear and alarm are natural outcomes during terror attacks of the type India experienced in Mumbai recently, it amazes me that many armchair critics, usually paraded as “terror experts”, also experience paralysis of thought resulting in wild speculation.

The article by Paul Moorcraft “Joining the dots of blood in Pakistan’s badlands” [Business Day, November 28] is a perfect specimen of this. It not only indulges in irresponsible guessing, it also seeks to spread paranoia. And against whom is his mistrust directed towards? You don’t have to guess: Muslims and Islam!

Totally devoid of any substantial context and dispensing with the need to provide factual evidence, Moorcraft, in his own words does admit that his “speculation may be wrong”. This admission is spliced into his final paragraph after having devoted his entire text to conjecture and finger pointing.

Moorcraft’s illusory piece is replete with imaginary villains which stereotype Muslims as the “other”. He says for instance that “they” are “targeting Indian self-esteem and morale” and that the attacks by the “usual suspects” are “calculated to drive away tourists, investors and, this week, touring cricket teams.”

The wise professor Moorcraft, who is the director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis in London, has spoken. Typically arrogant, insolent and intensely provocative! Not only does he profess to know “who” the perpetrators were, he also claims to know “why” these attacks occurred. He goes on to assert that the assault was “strategically planned to show that India’s governing coalition is weak and is failing to control terrorism.”

His defective and partial analysis ignores a raging debate within India about the role of the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP. Somini Sengupta of the International Herald Tribune revealed a number of interesting details, which point to the probability of inter-Hindu rivalry over control of India. One is that at midmorning on Friday [28 November], as Indian troops were combing through the devastated Oberoi Hotel, an unexpected guest appeared on the sidewalk: Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist from the opposition BJP, whom Sengupta describes as “arguably India’s most incendiary politician”.

The other damning snippet is that on the same day, front-page advertisements appeared in several newspapers in Delhi showing blood splattered against a black background and the slogan “Brutal Terror Strikes at Will” in bold capital letters. The ads, according to Sengupta, signed off with a simple message: “Fight Terror. Vote BJP.”

The third and perhaps most significant in the context of Mumbai’s tragedy is that Manmohan Singh’s government had hit back at the BJP with evidence that its supporters had been implicated in terrorist attacks. Indeed, as Sengupta points out, the head of the police anti-terrorism unit, Hemant Karkare, killed in the Mumbai strikes, had been in the midst of a high-profile investigation of a suspected Hindu terrorist cell.

It is futile for Moorcraft to influence public opinion against “likely culprits” caricatured as “Mujahideen” when the reality is that India’s tense domestic politics is fuelled by factors flowing from an alliance between Israel and the BJP. It is not surprising therefore to read the views of another prominent Indian commentator Amaresh Misra who believes that Mossad is directly implicated in the Mumbai attack. He argues that “snapping all relations with Israel” will pay India’s debt of gratitude to the bravery of Karkare.

Moorcraft type Islamophobic reports on Mumbai’s tragic events are unfortunately rampant and rife. News agencies such as Reuters, AFP, Sapa and others have displayed gross insensitivities towards Muslim consumers by irresponsibly transmitting speculative reports wherein an abundance of space is provided to anti-Muslim bashers exploiting the inhumanity of a highly co-ordinated and sophisticated attack.

Despite bearing the hallmarks of military precision and the unexplained failure by Indian intelligence to intercept the operation, it is astonishing that South African media would allow the proliferation of stereotypical reports.

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