Volume - 8 : Issue - 1

Published : Jan. - Mar. 2009

Group : Issues


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By Baldev Matlani

Terrorism is a criminal act that impacts beyond its immediate victim. The strategy of terrorism is to commit acts of violence with the intent of inflicting maximum possible damage, destruction and death among its victims. It also aims to draw the attention of the local populace, the government and the world to its cause. The terrorists plan their attack to gain maximum publicity, choosing targets that symbolize what they oppose. The effectiveness of the terrorist act lies not in the act itself, but in the public or government's reaction to the act. For example, the serial explosions carried out on the Mumbai's Western Railway on July 11, 2005, were meant to cause maximum damage to the affluent Gujarati populace of Mumbai, which mostly resides on the western side of the city of Mumbai, works in South Mumbai and travels in First Class compartments of the suburban Western Railway. The recent devastating attack by the suicide squad of cadres of Lashkar-e-Tayaba on un-armed innocent civilians of the city of Mumbai, in which the attackers specifically segregated the British & U.S. nationals and killed them, was to register their hatred, not only for the Hindu population of Mumbai but also U.S., British & Israeli guests. The target of the perpetrators of this heinous crime was not the innocents they killed but more than six billion people of the world, who felt creeping fear passing through their spines, watching the live telecast of the gory episode, continuously for sixty hours. Likewise, the Black September organization that killed 11 Israelis during the Munich Olympics of 1972, had used the high visibility of the Olympic Games to publicize its views regarding the plight of the Palestinian refugees. In October, 1983, the Middle Eastern Terrorists had bombed the Marine Battalion Landing Team's headquarters at Beirut International Airport. Their immediate victims were the 241 U.S. Military personnel, who were killed and over 100 others who were wounded. But their true targets were the American people and the U.S. Congress. This one act of violence influenced the United States decision to withdraw the marines from Beirut and was therefore considered a terrorist victory.

The United States' Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals, that are generally political, religious or ideological.” Within this definition there are three key-elements, viz. violence, fear and intimidation. Each element produces terror in its victim. The FBI describes terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against person or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The U.S. Departments of States defines terrorism, to be pre-meditated, politically motivated, violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

A clinical psychologist, who has interacted with a number of terrorists professionally, says: “Potential recruits feel shame, humiliation and glory as they are slowly indoctrinated into the terrorists' cause. A potential recruit is first made to feel shame. He is fed with lines like “It is a matter of disgrace for you to be living like this. You are not doing anything to change your pitiable condition.” The next step is giving him a sense of self-worth by feeding him lines, such as “You don't know, who you are and what you can really achieve.” Terrorists are highly detached from their body and are insulated from the outside world. As a result, they see human beings as objectives. Terrorists suffer no guilt even after killing women and children. They can easily put a gun to a person's head, look him in the eye and kill. Unlike other criminals, terrorists are eulogized as heroes back home and are therefore not considered a threat to society. The support from family and community is crucial to their survival. They also score high on grandiose remarks and are prone to making statements, such as “I am equal to one thousand infidels.” They are very organized, highly disciplined and mentally very stable.

Terrorists seek 'martyrdom', waging their so-called holy jihad to ensure a blissful after life. The stress on martyrdom is deliberate, as Islam prohibits suicide, Fidayeen are not crazy. They are highly motivated and indoctrinated, with their handlers or minders using them as weapons of war to break the will of opponents as well as to garner support for their religious or ethnic cause, as huge media coverage is guaranteed. Unlike individual suicide bombers of the LTTE, Hamas, Hizbullah and the like, Fidayeen almost operate in groups in their frontal assault strikes. A Fidayeen attack is generally much more dangerous than other terror attacks, as individuals who are mentally prepared to die, are more likely to succeed in achieving their objective.

Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist of 26/11 Mumbai carnage, has told that the terrorists who carried out the Mumbai attacks were shown video footage of Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi and VHP's Pravin Togadia, lambasting Muslims and speaking against Jihad and Pakistan as motivational tools. The terrorists were also shown video footage of Gujarat riots and so-called atrocities on Muslims in India to rouse religious indignation. He further said that he had received vigorous training and had been primed for Fidayeen attacks. He and the others were subjected to severe beatings to develop resistance to any kind of interrogation.

There is a fine article in the April 2005 issue of 'Current Trends' in Islamic Ideology by the journalist & diplomat, Hussain Haqqani, who is now Pakistan's Ambassador to U.S. He says, “Lashkar-e-Tayaba is a jehadi group of Wahabi persuation, backed by Saudi money and protected by Pakistani Intelligence Services.”

Mr. Thomas L. Friedman, a correspondent of 'New York Times' has written in an article, which was re-published in 'The Times of India' dated Dec. 4, 2008:

“On February 6, 2006, three Pakistanis died in Peshawar and Lahore during violent street protest against Danish cartoons that had satirized the Prophet Mohammad… Keeping Mumbai carnage of 26/11 in mind; suppose we presume that if ten young Indians from a splinter wing of the BJP traveled by boat to Pakistan, shot up two hotels in Karachi and the Karachi city railway station, killed at least 173 people, and then, for good measure, murdered the Imam and his wife at a Saudi financed mosque, while they were cradling their two year old son, purely because they were Muslims; where would we be today? The entire Muslim world would be aflame and in the streets. When Pakistanis and other Muslims are willing to take to the streets, even suffer death, to protest an insulting cartoon published in Denmark; is it fair to ask: Who in the Muslim world, who in Pakistan, is ready to take to the streets to protest the mass murders of real people, not cartoon characters, right next door in Mumbai?”

Terrorism has been described variously as both, a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression and an in-excusable abomination. Obviously, a lot depends on whose point of view, it is being represented. A clear example of this being the double standard shown by the Govt. of Pakistan, for last sixty years. If an act of terrorism is committed against the government or people of India or Indian Kashmir, they term it as 'Fight for Freedom' but the moment the same people commit the same sort of act against the Pakistan Army or the establishment, to register their opposition against the collaboration of the Govt. of Pakistan with the Western countries in their War Against Terror, it is termed as 'terrorism'.

The second most important term of this paper is 'Sindhyat'. We have to understand it in its true perspective and realize how it can work as an antidote to terrorism. 'Sindhyat' means special features, qualities, behaviour and peculiar life-style of Sindhis, which make them distinct and different from others. Sindhis' customs & beliefs, faith and traditions, way of thinking and behaviour are quite different from other communities. We shall elaborate and emphasize the tradition of tolerance and observation of a peculiar type of religion by Sindhis, be they Hindus or Muslims. Someone has described 'Sindhyat' as “a virtue to advance love, affection and unity, not only amongst the Sindhi community but among world communities at large. It is to cherish the memories and teachings of great Sindhi personalities, philosophers and reformers of the past. It is to help each other in times of need/grief and inculcate the virtues of love and unity for humanity.

The word 'Sindhu' was originally applied to the mighty river Indus, originating from the Mansarovar Lake in Tibet and passing through vast areas of Indian Kashmir, Punjab and ultimately joining the Arabian Sea at the Southern-end of the province of Sindh. Later on, the area and region along this river was known by the same name, i.e. 'Sindhu', which became 'Sindh', long long ago. The inhabitants of this region are known as 'Sindhis'. With the passage of time, the people of Sindh developed a separate and distinct way of living, popularly known as 'Sindhyat'. It provides a complete and comprehensive code of life for Sindhis, which embraces several factors, such as language, dress, food, festivals (social & religious ceremonies), fine arts, poetry, music, dance, painting, sculpture & architecture, folklore, culture and land or territory. Sindhyat regulates the life-style of the Sindhi nation, living on the left and right banks of the Indus river, since time immemorial, right from the Khirthar mountainous area of Khipro town and from Kashmore to Karachi irrespective of caste, creed and colour. Here in Sindh, it is Sindhyat, which is full of flavour and fragrance of humanity, embodied with scientific and progressive (not traditional) mystical way of life. To serve humanity is the life, blood, soul and spirit of Sindhyat. The Sindhi life-style emphasizes that a Sindhi should not live only for his own sake but for others as well. In broader terms, we can say that the canvas of Sindhyat does not confine to Sindhi territories, but it also touches the heights of universal fraternity.

While describing the virtues of a Sindhi, it is appropriately said that a Sindhi is by nature quite and inoffensive. He is a religious minded, humanitarian, hospitable, accommodating and prefers human values to economic values. His attitude to life is determined by geographical, economical and moral set-up, making him an assertive individual, who is also philosophic, strong, forebearing, tolerant, patriotic and peace loving. Hospitality is the other main trait of Sindhi community. A visit by a guest is considered a good omen. A major aspect of Sindhyat is respect for women. There are special days, when daughters of the community, called 'Niyani' are worshipped. The Sindhi proverb 'Sau Brahmin Hik Niyani' equals a daughter to hundred Brahmins. Unlike in other communities, a Sindhi girl is not allowed to touch her mother, father or brother's feet.

If we go through history, we find various instances of warrior nations invading other nations and establishing their empire. Darius, Alexander, Asoka, Jenghiz Khan, Moghuls, Japanese and last but not the least the Europeans conquering different countries of the world. In comparison, there is not a single instance of Sindhi aggression. Even Sindhi literature does not boast of war-hysteria. Sindhis have always professed love and compassion, not just for Sindhis, but also for the whole of mankind. Their unique prophet of love equally venerated by Hindus and Muslims, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai has said:
“Saeenm! Sadaeen Kareen,     Mathe Sindh Sukar
Dost! Mitha Dildar,  Aalam Sabh Aabad Kareen!”
(My Lord! Ever Bestow your kindness on Sindh…
My dear friend make the whole world happy)

Such is the Sindhi nation. It may be noted that excavations of Mohen-jo-Daro have revealed exquisite pottery, jewellery, architecture, sculpture, and even finest cotton cloth, which date back 5000 years, but not a single article of aggression; like daggers, swords, lances or bow and arrows was found; proving beyond any doubt that Sindhis were non-aggressive and peace-loving, even thousands of years back; a trait they have preserved un-blemished till date.                                                   

Terrorism is a compulsive disorder, a scourge of the world. It may take birth in a sense of neglect, denial of basic human rights or disrespect for human dignity etc. A terrorist takes a parochial view of the target nation and he wants to destroy and inflict death on anyone whom he considers his enemy. A significant part of terrorists' training is to brain-wash and make him believe that whatever acts of terrorism he is perpetrating are in the best interest of his community and that at the end of the day, he is going to be admitted to paradise. To counter this we should strive to clear this misunderstanding and make him realize the heinousness of his acts and its resultant futility, as terrorism may yield some immediate results but in the end, it proves itself to be counter productive. Just look at Afghanistan, Arab countries and Pakistan. All those countries, which shun terrorism, have prospered. Even Saudi Arabia, which is the biggest financier of terrorism doesn't indulge in it directly. The countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Egypt are prospering because they never encourage any sort of terrorism.

One can learn from the life of Sindhis, they had to endure every indignity at the hands of aliens-Muslims, Afghans, Iranians, Moghuls or even Britishers, but they never hit back, rather they absorbed everyone into their fold and propagated the message of love. The world over, Sindhis had never tried to attack anyone or even harboured hegemonistic ambitions.

Only Sindhyat, being the embodiment of Sufism, can cure the world of the scourge of terrorism. That true religion of Sindhis is Sufism is extensively corroborated by various writers. Mr. A. W. Hughes, the author of 'Gazetteer of the Province of Sindh' page 93 had observed :

“The two faiths (major faiths of Sindh, i.e. Hinduism and Islam) are found mixed up in an unusual way in Sindh; the Hindu will often become the Murid (disciple) of a Muslim, and vice-versa. So, too the same Pirs or Saints buried in different parts of Sindh are not only respected by individuals of both religions but the Hindus will all have one name for each and the Mohammadans another.Thus, the Hindus venerate the river-god under the name of Zindah Pir, while Muslims call him Khwaja Khizr. In the same way, Uderolal becomes Sheikh Tahir; Lalu Jasraj is converted into Mangho Pir; Raja Bhartari is called Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. Of course, the Hindus claim these worthies, most probably with more justice than the Mussalmans, who have merely altered the name for their own purposes…”

Whatever terrorist activities we are witnessing, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and even in India are the result of practice of extremist form of Islam, called 'Salafi' or 'Wahabi', propagated by Saudi Arabia or Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband  of India. By and large, Sindhi Muslims do not subscribe to this form of Islam. They see one God prevalent everywhere which is worshipped by the proponents of all the religions, be they Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians.           

Violence can never stop the spread of violence. An ointment of Sindhyat comprising tolerance, love and respect for all and sundry can be the answer to terrorism and heal the wounds of terrorism. 

(Paper presented at the International Seminar organized by NCPSL and University of Mumbai at Mumbai on 22nd  Jan 2009).