This is a “lazy” post – essentially a compilation of excerpts from articles related to radical Islam, “Islamism” and “Jihadism”. They make for worrying reading. Comments and thoughts welcome (emphasis mine, throughout).
First, excerpts from Radical Islam: An Introductory Primer by Barry Rubin (emphas.
…A young American named Ramy Zamzam, arrested in Pakistan for trying to fight alongside the Taliban, responded in an interview with the Associated Press: “We are not terrorists. We are jihadists, and jihad is not terrorism.”
What he says is well worth bearing in mind in order to understand the great conflict of our era. First and foremost, Jihadism or radical Islamism is far more than mere terrorism. It is a revolutionary movement in every sense of the word. It seeks to overthrow existing regimes and replace them with governments that will transform society into a nightmarishly repressive system.
And so one might put it this way: Revolutionary Islamism is the main strategic problem in the world today. Terrorism is the main tactical problem.
What is Islamism?
Radical Islamism is the doctrine that each Muslim majority country-politics, economy, society-should be ruled by a totalitarian dictatorship guided by the given movement’s definition of proper Islam. What Marxism was to Communism, and fascism to Nazism, Jihadism is to Islamism.
In some cases, Islamists have a wider ambition to transform the entire world, starting with Europe. While this may seem ridiculous to most Westerners, it does not seem so to the Islamists who hold that view.
Only a minority of Muslims is Islamist but that sector has grown sharply over the last twenty years and seems to be on the increase still. Muslims are also among the greatest opponents of political Islamism, and often its victims.
…The fact that radical Islamism relates to a religion, Islam, is very important (see below) but should not blind observers to the fact that this is basically a political movement and not — at least in the modern Western sense — a theological one.
Of course, Islamism is rooted in Islam but a strong opposition to Islamism…is in no way an expression of bigotry against a religion. Similarly, the idea that opposition to Islamism is in some way “racist” is absurd since no “race” is involved. Just as opponents of Communism (capitalist, imperialist) and fascism (Jews, Bolsheviks) could be discredited by calling them names, the same is done with those who oppose Islamism.
…To argue that Islamism is the inevitable or “correct” interpretation of Islam is as silly as it is to argue that it is some external, heretical ideology which has “hijacked” Islam.
…To summarize in one sentence: we should be absolutely honest in showing how the most sacred texts of Islam appear to validate revolutionary Islamists but we should understand that a struggle is going on among Muslims in which different interpretations are contending. While Islamism is not the only possible interpretation of Islam, its approach is certainly shaped and justified by basic Islamic texts. Unless Muslims and especially qualified clerics reinterpret these tenets, Islamism will continue to have a strong advantage in competing with conservative traditional Islam while liberal reformism will remain a tiny, powerless viewpoint.
…As for terrorism, that is a strategy and tactic which appeals to these movements for very specific reasons. These include the following points. While the Islamists claim they are only conducting a “defensive jihad” — since there is no caliph, offensive jihad isn’t supposed to happen — they are actually conducting offensive revolution.
The article was first published in January 2010. Read it in full here.
Next, excerpts from a startling article, titled Londonistan by Christian Caryl.
…the case of the Underwear Bomber has dramatized the extent to which Britain remains a launching pad for jihad. (Nigerian Nobel Prize laureate Wole Soyinka prefers the term “cesspit” to describe London’s function as an Islamist breeding ground.)
Just in case the Brits hadn’t figured that out, the usual anonymous U.S. State Department official was happy to do it for them. Last month, an (US State Department) official told the Daily Telegraph that their country “has the greatest concentration of active al Qaeda supporters [in the West],
The same article cited a fresh and ominous finding from the director of MI5. He estimated his service was aware of some 2,000 “radicalized Muslims” who might be involved in terrorist plots. That figure, of course, doesn’t include the population of plotters who have escaped MI5 scrutiny, like Abdulmutallab.
…So why is this particular front in the war on terrorism proving such a challenge? Haras Rafiq, a British Muslim who founded a think tank to combat Islamic extremism, worries that a big share of the blame goes to his own government. For decades, he says, Britain tolerated plotting by domestic Islamic radicals as long as they targeted other countries, often ones in the Middle East.
…In the 1990s, policymakers desperate to address the concerns of the nation’s Muslims decided to foster the creation of Islamic umbrella groups. They also unwittingly fostered radical ones.
…Last fall, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, a watchdog group, published a report assailing the “insufficient monitoring” of government funds disbursed to community organizations through a program to combat Islamist extremism. The report found that Britain had granted more than $60,000 to the Cordoba Foundation — which, for instance, reportedly once hosted Anwar al-Awlaki, whose radical preaching inspired Abdulmutallab and Maj. Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter.
Then, there’s the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella organization of more than 500 British Islamic groups that received $1.35 million in government funds. Among the MCB’s more notorious members is Daud Abdullah, its deputy secretary general, who last spring signed the “Istanbul Declaration.” The document essentially declares war on any country that supports Israel (known in the declaration as the “Zionist Entity”) and thus seems to legitimize jihadist attacks on British troops. Since then, the MCB has issued a string of press releases expressing support for the British armed forces and stressing the patriotism of British Muslims. It has not, however, disavowed Abdullah.
…You might well argue that both of these issues are so fundamental to our notions of democracy, freedom and decency that nobody should be afforded credit for supporting them. But this is to ignore (as the government does consistently, pretending not to notice) the enormous, profound ideological differences between Islam and the west.
Read in full here.
There is more. Below, excerpts from Tavleen Singh‘s article on why we must not tolerate radical Islam:
As a huge fan of Barack Obama and a dedicated enemy of radical Islam it worried me to hear the American President talk of ‘moderate’ Taliban. I found myself wondering how they would be graded. Would those who burned girls’ schools but did not participate in the global jihad be considered moderate? What about those who believe in stoning women to death and marrying nine-year-old girls but not in suicide bombing—would they be considered moderate? By this measure the men who blew the Bamian Buddhas to smithereens would be considered mere pranksters trying to amuse Allah with a spectacular display of idol smashing.
After the American President made his comment about moderate Taliban he got a response from the Taliban themselves. There is no such thing as moderate Taliban, a Taliban spokesman retorted angrily, unless the President meant the lazy old Muslims who sit idly at home instead of joining the jihad against Jews, Hindus and Americans.
…Radical Islam is an ugly, dangerous ideology. There is nothing in it that would help solve the world’s problems or lighten its shadows. Its fundamental principle is that everything we need to know about life, laws and faith is revealed in the Koran and that we must abide by the interpretation given us by semi-literate, fanatical mullahs. If not we will be punished horribly by bearded mujahideen. Radical Islamists believe they have the right to impose their diktat well beyond faith to politics, culture and every aspect of life. This is where the problem begins.
For us in India it is an especially serious problem. Not only do we have more Muslims than almost any other country but we are also the ultimate idol-worshipping country, bursting at the seams with heathens who indulge happily in such pagan festivals as Holi.
…The religions of India are in their essence atheistic and the opposite in almost every way to the theistic religions that came to us from the neighbourhood in which Islam was revealed to the Prophet. For centuries we have lived peacefully with Islam because of our fundamental belief that everyone has a right to their own faith. But, with the visible radicalisation of Muslims across India under the malevolent influence of radical Islamists, tensions between the communities have grown in recent years.
…Even by the standards of radical Islam the Taliban are unspeakable monsters as can be seen from a casual examination of what they did when they ruled Afghanistan and what they are now doing to Swat and Bajaur. In Swat more than 200 girls’ schools have been burned in recent months, schoolgirls have been attacked for daring to go to school, journalists have been beheaded for telling the truth and Sufi Mohammad has given interviews saying that democracy is an infidel idea. To accept any of these things as acceptable because Islam has a different set of values to ours would amount to tolerating intolerance.
Read it in full here
There is a silver lining though..From Sadanand Dhume’s “India’s Groupthink on Islam” here is the final excerpt:
If you’re looking for a defining image from the fifth Jaipur Literature Festival, which ended Monday…none was as arresting as the unannounced (for security reasons) appearance of the controversial Dutch-Somali writer and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Speaking to a packed hall, with her burly bodyguard unobtrusively off-stage, Ms. Hirsi Ali spoke about Islam—and its problems with individualism, women’s rights and sexuality—with a frankness unfamiliar to most Indians. She described the faith she was born into as “a dangerous, totalitarian ideology masquerading as a religion.” She argued against the moral relativism that has prevented Western intellectuals from scrutinizing Islam as they do Christianity and Judaism. She asked why it seemed impossible to have a sober discussion about the Koran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad without riling Muslim sentiment...
…But her very presence in Jaipur speaks of the ways in which India, home to 150 million Muslims, is slowly starting to grapple with the faith.
...The Indian debate about Islam has remained frozen in a time warp. The mainstream intellectuals who dominate the country’s editorial pages and television channels tend to trace the Muslim world’s problems almost exclusively to the alleged misdeeds of Israel and the United States. The Hindu right doesn’t make this mistake, but its tendency to group all Muslims together, its inability to distinguish between Islam as a religion and Islamism as an ideology, and its championing of causes important to the most orthodox Hindu believers shades into bigotry and religious chauvinism.
In Jaipur, Ms. Hirsi Ali challenged the assumptions of both groups. She was flatly unapologetic about her views on Islamic theology, but at the same time she urged the audience to think of Muslims as “individuals who are capable of changing their mind.”
…Jaipur marked a small step toward the slow but inexorable knitting of India into the mainstream of global discourse on a sensitive subject. A clutch of books by Indian authors that take a critical look at Islam and Islamism are also contributing to this trend. It’s easier to start using a cell phone than to change a mindset, but over time Indian audiences are likely to begin demanding the same sophistication from their intellectuals that they do from their phone service providers.
Read it in full here.
Comments and thoughts welcome, as always. Pl remember: No personal abuse, no sweeping generalisations.
Image Courtesy: BBC
Start this weekend with excerpts from Kashmir: Propagation of Islam and the Terror of the Sufis” by M A Khan (emphasis mine):
How did Islam come to Kashmir?
“It came through the peaceful missionary preaching of the Sufis,” comes the answer.
Sufis have been universally credited with the peaceful propagation of Islam around the world. An Islamic legend tells us that there was a king in Kashmir, at an unknown point in time, who had no religion. One day, he wished to adopt a religion. Both Muslims and Hindus came to convince him. Their contradictory views left him rather confused, and resolved that, “‘he would embrace the religion of the first man he would meet in the street after coming out of his house the next morning” [Baharistan-i-Shahi (an anonymously 17th-century Persian book on the history of Kashmir, translated by Prof. K. N. Pundit), Chapter 2]. And it was a dervish [Sufi master], whom he encountered first the next morning, and there he became a Muslim, and Kashmir became Islamic.
…This impression, that was peacefully propagated in Kashmir and around the world by the Sufis, is universally entertained by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars and historians alike.
This paradigm is being successfully and exclusively propagated despite the fact that available historical records give an opposite picture.
It is hard to know when Islamic rule was established in Kashmir. Muhammad bin Qasim was in the preparation for an invasion of Kashmir in 715. Thereafter, Kashmir suffered a number of Islamic invasions; Sultan Mahmud, the master barbarian (although idolized by Muslims), had also led a failed expedition there. Caliph al-Mansur (r. 755–74) had sent an expedition under Hasham bin Amru for waging holy war against Hindu territories. Amongst many places, between Kandahar and Kashmir, he conquered, he “subdued Kashmir and took many prisoners and slave” [Elliot & Dawson, History of India as Told by Its Historians (it contains experts from Islamic chronicles), Vol. I, p. 122–23,203]. In 1033, Sultan Mahmud’s not-so-illustrious son, Sultan Masud I, made up for his illustrious father’s failure by launching “an attack on the fort of Sursuti in Kashmir. The entire garrison was put to the sword, except the women and children, who were carried away as slaves.”
While it is hard to establish which of these invasions established Islamic rule in Kashmir, the Sufis, Islam’s alleged prophets of peace, however had a prominent role in its Islamization, but it was a barbaric one.
About conversion of the masses to Islam in Kashmir, we get an idea of it around 1371 or 1381 CE, when Sayyid Ali Hamdani, a famous Sufi saint, arrived in Kashmir. The first thing he did was to build his khanqah [lodge or ashram] on the site of “a small temple which was demolished…” [Baharistan, p. 36]. Before his coming to Kashmir, the reigning Sultan Qutbud-Din paid little attention to enforcing Islamic laws. In the tolerant local culture, Muslims at all levels of the society—including the Sultan, the Qadis [Qazi]—had all tolerantly and comfortably submerged themselves in the Hindu culture and customs of Kashmir [ibid, p. 37].
But Sufi saint Sayyid Hamdani was horrified by the un-Islamic practices of Kashmiri Muslims, and forbade this laxity and tried to revive orthodoxy. The reigning Sultan Qutbud-Din tried to adopt Islamic orthodoxy in his personal life, but “failed to propagate Islam in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of Amir Sayyid Ali Hamdani” [ibid]. As a result, the Sufi saint left Kashmir because of his reluctance to live in a land dominated by the idolatrous culture, customs and creed.
Later on, his son Amir Sayyid Muhammad, another great Sufi saint, came to Kashmir during the reign of the famous idol-breaker, Sultan Sikander. Sikander was not such a barbarian until the arrival of holy Sufi saint Sayyid Muhammad, who prodded the Sultan into enforcing the Islamic code in his domain. Unlike Sultan Qutbud-Din, Sikander agreed to the Sufi saint’s instruction. Sikander and Sayyid Muhammad, thus, formed an alliance to wipe out all signs of idolatry and its professors from Kashmir.
According to Muhammad Farishtah (d. 1614) [History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, Vol. IV, 1997 imprint, p. 268], a historian of Delhi Sultan, Sikandar issued an order:
…proscribing the residence of any other than Mahomedans in Kashmeer; and he required that no man should wear the mark on his forehead… Lastly, he insisted on all golden and silver images being broken and melted down, and the metal coined into money. Many of the bramins [Brahmins], rather than abandon their religion or their country, poisoned themselves; some emigrated from their native homes, while a few escaped the evil of banishment by becoming Mahomedans. After the emigration of the bramins, Sikundur [Sikandar] ordered all the temples in Kashmeer to be thrown down… Having broken all the images in Kashmeer, he acquired the title of the Iconoclast, Destroyer of Idols.
According to another 17th-century Persian chronicle, HM Chadurah’s Tarikh-i-Kashmir, Sikandar “was constantly busy in annihilating the infidels and destroyed most of the temples…” [trans. Razia Bano, Delhi, 1991, p. 55].
This, to learned Farishtah, this was Sultan Sikandar’s greatest achievement. And to whom goes the credit?
Find it out from the proud author of Baharistan-i-Shahi, who writes: “…the credit of wiping out the vestiges of infidelity and heresy from the mirror of the conscience of the dwellers of these lands,” goes to Sufi saint Sayyid Muhammad [p. 37].
Succeeding the Iconoclast, his son Ameer Khan (aka Ally Shah) continued the butchery of the remaining Hindus of Kashmir, as adds Farishtah, he “persecuted the few Brahmins who still remained firm in their religion; and by putting all to death, who refused to embrace Mahomedism. He drove those who still lingered in Kashmeer entirely out of that kingdom” [ibid, p. 269].
…terror befell upon the non-Muslims of Kashmir again in the reigns of Malik Raina and Kaji Chak, who converted the Hindus to Islam by the sword, again instigated by another Sufi saint, Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad Iraqi, the greatest Sufi saint to arrive in Kashmir.
Iraqi arrived in Kashmir after Malik Musa Raina became the administrator of Kashmir (1501). He formed alliance with Malik Raina, and with his patronage and authority, says Baharistan-i-Shahi [p. 93–94]:
Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad undertook wholesale destruction of all those idol-houses as well as total ruination of the very foundation of infidelity and disbelief. On the site of every idol-house he destroyed, he ordered the construction of a mosque for offering prayers after the Islamic manner.
And “on the instance of Shamsud-Din Iraqi, Musa Raina had issued orders that everyday 1,500 to 2,000 infidels be brought to the doorstep of Mir Shamsud-Din by his followers. They would remove their sacred thread (zunnar), administer Kelima [Muslim profession of faith] to them, circumcise them and make them eat beef”; and, thus, “twenty-four thousand Hindu families were converted to Iraqi’s faith by force and compulsion (qahran wa jabran)” [ibid, p. 105–06].
(subsequently)… many of those, forcibly converted to Islam by Malik Raina, later reverted to ‘polytheism’ [Hinduism]. Muslims spread a rumor that these apostates “had placed a copy of the holy Quran under their haunches to make a seat to sit upon.” Upon hearing this, the enraged Sufi saint protested to Kaji Chak, saying [ibid, p. 117]:
“This community of idolaters has, after embracing and submitting to the Islamic faith, now gone back to defiance and apostasy. If you find yourself unable to inflict punishment upon them in accordance with the provisions of Sharia [which is death for apostasy] and take disciplinary action against them, it will become necessary and incumbent upon me to proceed on a self-imposed exile.”
Note that Iraqi’s complaint does not mention the alleged disrespect of the Quran, but simply emphasize the Hindus’ abandonment of Islam after accepting it—i.e. their apostasy, punishment for which is death in Islam. In order to pacify the enraged Sufi saint, Malik Kaji Chak “decided upon carrying out wholesale massacre of the infidels,” says Baharistan-i-Shahi, which was scheduled to be carried out on the holy festival day of Ahsura [Muharram, 1518 CE; Iraqi was Shiite], and,
…about seven to eight hundred infidels were put to death. Those killed were the leading personalities of the community of infidels at that time. [p. 117]
Thereupon, “the entire community of infidels and polytheists in Kashmir was coerced into conversion to Islam at the point of the sword. This is one of the major achievements of Malik Kaji Chak,” adds the proud author of Baharistan-i-Shahi [p. 117].
This horrifying action, of course, was ordered by the great Sufi saint.
…Kashmir is flaunted by Muslims as the best example of peaceful penetration of Islam in India – thanks to peaceful Sufis, of course. And this is the story of the most peaceful Sufis that came to India from the Muslim world.
Next, excerpts from an Op-Ed by Khadim Hussain titled, “Construction of a jihadi mindset” (Hat Tip: Mohib Ahmad; emphasis mine) :
The fact that a sizeable number of those recruited by religious militant organisations for conducting terror attacks in Pakistan are between 14 to 19 years and are products of both the religious and public education systems in the country should be reason enough to revamp these educational systems.
…The ideological paradigm of the jihadist network in Pakistan is, however, clear enough: it justifies the formation, regimentation and militarisation of non-state groups that are bent upon eradicating the socio-cultural, political, economic and state capital of Fata, the NWFP, Punjab and other parts of Pakistan. The jihadist network in Pakistan feeds on the jihadi mindset that is nurtured by the elementary, secondary and higher public education system and madressahs in Pakistan.
The jihadi mindset, like other extremist belief systems, feeds on a rigid, inflexible, isolationist and myopic worldview.
…Over the past several decades, the majority of young men and women in Pakistan have been heavily influenced by the curricula, teaching methods, and learning environment to adopt a one-dimensional approach to reality. This denies them creative space within the pedagogical system. It also increases the probability of their becoming jihadi recruits.
A cursory look at the curricula of social sciences, history, Islamic studies and other subjects followed by elementary and secondary schools shows an emphasis on what is perceived as the Muslim ummah through the manipulation of historical reality, glorification of Muslim monarchs, hatred of other beliefs and the perpetuation of jihadist ideology.
Instead of presenting young minds with a broad-based civilisational perspective, the curricula in public elementary and secondary schools instills an isolationist identity focusing on the demonisation of the leadership of other nations, the construction of a peculiar historical context and the denunciation of religious, linguistic, cultural, social and political diversity.
…This kind of content alienates the young minds from humane values that are the result of a long civilisational evolution. It denies young minds the skill to evaluate a process critically. Hence, the judgmental approach of our educated middle class…and the heavy dependence on conspiracy theories, should not surprise us.
…The learning environment of the majority of elementary and secondary public schools across Pakistan depicts a culture in which a predilection for adopting shortcuts to ‘achievements’ is effectively nurtured. (This attitude is especially exhibited in the shape of plagiarism that we find among the university students of Pakistan.)
…Segregation and discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion and socio-economic class define the attitude and conduct of the faculty and management of schools across the length and breadth of Pakistan. Activities that nurture innovation among students have yet to find a place in the learning culture. Art, music and dance never find room in our public education system.
…Even the walls of the schools and classrooms are decorated with verses and poetry that glorify war, superiority over other nations and religions etc.
P.S. Re. Jihadi mindset and the curricula in Pakistan, readers may also like to read my comments dt 18th Oct ’08 and 27th Mar ’09 on this post: http://satyameva-jayate.org/2008/07/09/india-pakistan-tehelka-summit/
Next, excerpts from Minaret message to Muslims in Europe by Iman Kurdi (Hat Tip: Sanjay; emphasis mine):
The Swiss people have voted: They do not want minarets in their landscape. The first reaction from the European establishment was condemnation and indignation, and then slowly, other voices are coming to the fore. The reality is that the Swiss have simply told the truth: If you call a referendum and ask people whether they want places of worship of other religions in their neighborhood, the majority is likely to say no.
Except that it is not places of worship per se that the Swiss have banned, and on this they are right. A minaret is not strictly necessary in a Muslim place of worship; a mosque without a minaret is still a mosque. ..If the Swiss had banned the construction of mosques or of Muslim prayer rooms, then that would be an infringement of the rights of Muslims to practice their faith, but that is not the case.
The Swiss have taken a hard knock. To read some of the papers you could easily believe that Switzerland is a land of racists who are fervently anti-Muslim. This is not entirely fair to the Swiss.
For a start, I would wager that if you undertook the same referendum in say France or the Netherlands, you would get the same result. That’s the problem with referendums: They’re democratic.
…And let’s not be hypocrites. If you held a referendum in a Muslim country asking whether the construction of new church steeples should be permitted, you are also likely to get an overwhelming no. So let us not brand this a Swiss phenomenon and let us also remember that it is not the majority of the Swiss population that supported the ban but the majority of those who voted, which if you do the maths comes to 30 percent of the population.
…What is more interesting is why the question was asked in the first place. There are up to 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland representing roughly five percent of the Swiss population.
The early arrivals were mainly from Turkey whilst the recent surge in Muslim migrants has come from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia who now make up the bulk of Swiss Muslims. In other words, Swiss Muslims blend fairly well with the rest of the population. And yet the campaign against the construction of minarets depicted that beloved symbol of the anti-Muslims, that seriously scary figure: The woman in a burqa.
The French are considering a law to ban the wearing of the burqa in France and yet only a tiny minority of French Muslim women wear it. The Swiss have voted an amendment to change their constitution to ban the building of minarets and yet there are only a total of four minarets in the country.
This leads to at least two conclusions. First, it is the visibility of Islam that is at issue. A woman wearing a burqa stands out. She is immediately recognizable as Muslim. Similarly a minaret puts a Muslim stamp on the landscape. It states that in this land Muslims exist side by side with the Christian majority, that they are now part of the country’s cultural identity.
Partly this is a legacy of secularism. There is distaste not so much for Islam as for the idea of religion being visible and public.
Essentially the message sent by Swiss voters and now repeated across Europe is one that could be summed up by a French proverb: “To live well, live hidden”. In other words, you can practice your religion, but only privately and discreetly. Moreover, there is the idea that Muslims who choose to live in a European country should adopt the ways of the land. The onus is on them to adopt the local culture and the fear is that the opposite will happen.
Second, the fear is not of the moderate Muslims who have been living peacefully in Switzerland — or France, or Britain, or Germany — but of the influence of the extremists and the potential for, let us call them Westernized Muslims, to turn into the burqa-wearing missile-wielding terrorists of the Swiss posters.
There is undoubtedly a growing paranoia against Muslims and Islam as a religion. There are aspects of Islam or of the way it is practiced in certain countries that are unpalatable to Western thinking. If you listen carefully, the message you hear is not that Muslims are not welcome, but that a perceived movement toward a more radical form of Islam is ringing alarm bells.
P.S. Re. the French proverb, Nicolas Sarkozy said something very similar (in response to the Minaret ban):
Christians, Jews, Muslims, all believers regardless of their faith, must refrain from ostentation and provocation and … practise their religion in humble discretion.
And finally, excerpts from Terrorism That’s Personal by Nicholas D. Kristof (See note re. the URL below; emphasis mine):
Terrorism in this part of the world usually means bombs exploding or hotels burning, as the latest horrific scenes from Mumbai attest. Yet alongside the brutal public terrorism that fills the television screens, there is an equally cruel form of terrorism that gets almost no attention and thrives as a result: flinging acid on a woman’s face to leave her hideously deformed.
Here in Pakistan, I’ve been investigating such acid attacks, which are commonly used to terrorize and subjugate women and girls in a swath of Asia from Afghanistan through Cambodia (men are almost never attacked with acid). Because women usually don’t matter in this part of the world, their attackers are rarely prosecuted and acid sales are usually not controlled. It’s a kind of terrorism that becomes accepted as part of the background noise in the region. …
Bangladesh has imposed controls on acid sales to curb such attacks, but otherwise it is fairly easy in Asia to walk into a shop and buy sulfuric or hydrochloric acid suitable for destroying a human face. Acid attacks and wife burnings are common in parts of Asia because the victims are the most voiceless in these societies: They are poor and female. The first step is simply for the world to take note, to give voice to these women.
…Since 1994, Ms Bukhari (a Pakistani activist who founded the “Progressive Women’s Association” to help such women) has documented 7,800 cases of women who were deliberately burned, scalded or subjected to acid attacks, just in the Islamabad area. In only 2 percent of those cases was anyone convicted.
…The most haunting part of my visit with Ms. Azar, aside from seeing her face, was a remark by her 12-year-old son, Ahsan Shah, who lovingly leads her around everywhere. He told me that in one house where they stayed for a time after the attack, a man upstairs used to beat his wife every day and taunt her, saying: “You see the woman downstairs who was burned by her husband? I’ll burn you just the same way.”
Commenting on Kristof’s article (above), Jim Verhulst asks:
The geopolitical question is already hard enough: Should the United States commit more troops to Afghanistan and for what specific purpose? As American policymakers mull the options, here is a frame of reference that puts the tough choices in even starker relief: Are acid attacks a sign of just how little the United States can do to solve intractable problems there — therefore, we should pull out? Or having declared war on terrorism, must the United States stay out of moral duty, to try to protect women such as these — and the schoolgirls whom the Taliban in Afghanistan sprayed with acid simply for going to class — who have suffered a very personal terrorist attack?
…and points readers to two essays that come to differing conclusions.
Important Note re. the two website links:
PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THE PHOTOGRAPHS ACCOMPANYING THE TWO ARTICLES LINKED BELOW (re. acid attacks) ARE GRAPHIC, GRUESOME AND HORRIFYING.
THEY ARE – IN MY OPINION – COMPLETELY UNSUITABLE FOR ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 18 AND ARE LIKELY TO BE SERIOUSLY DISTURBING FOR MOST PEOPLE.
IN ALL LIKELIHOOD, THEY ARE ALSO UNSUITABLE FOR VIEWING AT A WORKPLACE.
URL for Nicholas D. Kristof’s article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/opinion/30kristof.html?_r=2
URL for Jim Verhulst’s article: http://blogs.tampabay.com/photo/2009/11/terrorism-thats-personal.html
Have a safe weekend.
Past weekend readings are here.