By Arab News
By Aijaz Zaka Syed
Terror struck Mumbai at 6:50 p.m. on Wednesday. Within an hour Ram, a regular follower of my ramblings, posted this message on my Facebook page: “Terrorists have caused mayhem in Mumbai. Can you write against it in the same manner you castigated (sic) Malegaon and Samjhauta blasts? Why you are not uttering a single word when bomb blasts happened against Hindus? Empty rhetoric is not enough sir! Please write specifically against Muslim terrorism that has caused maximum damage in India.”
I read Ram’s message on my BlackBerry even as I watched the horror unfold in Mumbai on television. The feisty Barkha Dutt of NDTV was already on air doing what she does best — grilling politicians and officials on the events of the day.
Her persistent quizzing of eyewitnesses to the serial blasts on Wednesday in her now familiar, I-am-right-there-with-you manner reminded me of another time and another tragedy — the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. Barkha earned herself many a plaudit for her reportage of the 26/11, and justifiably so.
She was clearly hoping to repeat the performance. And she wasn’t alone. It was Mumbai mayhem all over again and the media was out to sink in its teeth in the biggest news story of the day after weeks of endless droning on about corruption and Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet expansion.
I felt sick in the pit of my stomach as I watched the chaos on TV with those fleeting images of bodies lying around and half naked, bloodied victims crying out in pain. Were they Hindus or Muslims? Who knows? Who cares? They all looked the same. Their pain was the same. And as I watched the number of casualties slowly rise, I prayed silently: God, please, please… let it not be another 26/11! Let it not be another outrage in our name! Please, not in our name again!
My fears were unwarranted though. The media — and friends like Ram — had already concluded that this was a crime by “Muslim terrorists” from across the border or their ready army of recruits within India.
Within minutes of the blasts, a somber NDTV reporter was telling the presenters in Delhi that Indian Mujahedin and Lashkar-e-Toiba were likely behind the attacks. Who had concluded that — and how? How could you determine the guilt for something like this just when victims were being rushed to hospitals?
Even as my numbed mind half registered these fleeting facts, I grieved for Mumbai and its never-say-die people who are punished again and again for making this amazing city, which embraces everyone’s dreams, their home.
And my eyes kept returning to the accusing message on my phone. I reached out to key in a swift reply, as I often tend to do, but checked myself. Someone inside me suggested I shouldn’t dignify such accusations with response. But Ram isn’t like any other reader. I’ve known him now for some years. He doesn’t just dutifully follow my rants but often writes back, clearly hoping to reform my corrupt self. And I respect his candid feedback and disagreement.
This is why it hurts to see that even reasonable people like him thought this way. God knows we Muslims are no saints. We have our share of warts and all. But is it fair to put us in the dock every time something like this happens in Mumbai — or elsewhere in India? We are not the only sinners around.
Why no questions — or even a Hamletian doubt — are raised about the possible involvement of Abhinav Bharat and RSS men whose fingerprints have been discovered in the recent terror attacks across India, from Hyderabad’s historic Mecca Masjid to the popular Sufi shrine in Ajmer to cross-border Samjhauta Express.
Only last month, the National Intelligence Agency had announced the charge sheeting of top RSS apparatchik Swami Aseemanand and four of his associates in all these cases. Yet no theories were forthcoming from television pundits on the possibility of Hindu groups executing these strikes to avenge those arrests.
And God knows — and my regular readers would agree — that even as I often tend to talk about the concerns and grievances of Muslims, I have been one of the fiercest critics of my own kind. From confronting rising extremism within Muslim societies to the corruption and ineptitude of “Muslim leaders” and our tendency to forever live in the past, I have covered it all — often ending up angering my fellow believers and ruffling the powers that be.
And yes, I have also written ad nauseam, for what it’s worth, condemning terrorist violence attributed to Muslims in the strongest terms possible. From my scathing piece following the 7/7 London bombings (Not in Our Name, No!) to numerous others protesting the attacks targeting religious minorities and innocent Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
Just Google and see; it only takes seconds to check it out. Indeed, why go that far. Just check out the article protesting the terror strikes on Mumbai three years ago. Titled “No time to hide for Muslims,” it offered a much needed reality check for Pakistan and said what needed to be said about the dangerous lunacy of characters like Hafez Saeed of Lashkar.
Understandably, the article, reproduced by Germany’s Der Spiegel and Hindustan Times, upset many of my close friends from across the border who are conscious of the mess they have made of Jinnah’s Pakistan but wouldn’t like it rubbed in by people like us. And it’s not just this humble hack but eminent Islamic scholars and intellectuals, including those from the revered Al-Azhar University, have described violence targeting innocents as a grave sin against Islam and humanity. Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, went to the extent of saying that extremists and suicide bombers will all “burn in hell.”
So please spare us these sanctimonious lectures telling us to “condemn Muslim terrorism.” And why should a community of 200 million — indeed the whole Islamic world — stand up and hang its head in shame every time a bomb goes off somewhere? What does it mean? This mindset doesn’t just reveal a predictable ignorance of our reality but also betrays a condescending attitude toward Muslims that permeates the whole of Indian media and intellectual establishment.
Every time something awful happens somewhere, the first thing police do is round up young Muslims from the neighborhood. This charade has gone on for so long that you have Muslim intellectuals and talking heads forever rushing to television studios to condemn whatever they are supposed to condemn.
It’s this mindset that makes Muslims strangers in their own country despite having lived in this land for a thousand years. How long are we supposed to carry the cross of the partition and creation of Pakistan? Why should we prove our loyalty to the country time and time again? Why no one ever questions the loyalty of those who butchered over 2,000 people in Gujarat nine years ago?
We love India and are loyal to this great land as much as the next Indian. Nobody has any right to lecture us on patriotism. We are no longer prepared to stand out there and take this nonsense every time someone runs amok.
Terror knows no faith and terrorists believe in no religion. Whether we’re Muslims, Hindus or Christians, we are all its victims. Indeed, if it’s any consolation, more Muslims have been killed, and continue to be killed daily in scores, by those so-called Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. We only end up advancing the terrorists’ agenda when we target a faith or community for the actions of some black sheep.
— Aijaz Zaka Syed is a widely published commentator. Write him at [email protected]