Islam and the West: Who is the Terrorist?
By Late Khuram Murad
It was not Jerusalem, Baghdad, Sarajevo, Grozny or Charar-e-Sharif. It was Oklahoma city, situated at the heart of the USA. A powerful car-bomb of thousands of pounds exploded on 19 April in the centre of the city. It shook buildings as far away as 30 miles and reduced 91- story huge complex housing government offices to rubbles. The pile up of charred bodies (137 could be retrieved, and more than 60 burnt to ashes), the scattered limbs of children, their bleeding bodies and heart rending cries presented a ravishing scene and it seemed as if a scene from formerly mentioned cities had been repeated there.
"I had seen all this happening in Sarajevo but could not even imagine of witnessing all this here in America", said one eye witness. The fact, however, is that calamities of even hundreds of Oklahomas put together can not equal the atrocities being committed since long in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Grozny all of which is witnessed silently (and perhaps with satisfaction) by America and Europe.
According to the weekly Newsweek, "the misunderstanding that we are safe at least at our home, has been buried forever under the debris of this sabotaged building in the heart of America". Even without the tragedy of Oklahoma, there was little room for such a wishful thinking in America whose citizens exchange heavy fire in their infightings that result in the killing of 22 thousand innocent civilians annually, where a zealot starts indiscriminate shooting all of a sudden and kills dozens of people without any reason, where government is unable to check this wide-spread use of fire arms. Yet, at the same time it plays policeman of the world whose energies and activities are aimed at efforts to deprive Muslim countries from not only of nuclear weapons but also of all conventional arms.
Delusion of the West
The Americans as well as the Europeans, since long, have made themselves to believe that they are so civilized and protectors of human rights that it is simply impossible to commit any terrorist activities. Only ‘outsiders’ do it. It is clear which ‘outsiders’ they mean. This kind of thinking has taken such a complete control of them that when the news of the Oklahoma went around, the common American immediately suspected Muslims to be behind this act of terrorism. Why? Obviously because their leaders and media have made them into believing that no one else than those ‘born in the Middle East’, Arabs and Islamic fundamentalists, could commit such acts. Those who hold responsible positions started issuing ‘decrees’ over TV, Radio and in the press. Though without any evidence, they talked about "beards" and "black hair" of the accused. An innocent Muslim, an Arab-American, was subsequently arrested at London airport and extradited to USA.
As a result there was an outrage against Muslims and hatred against them assumed new proportions. Muslim faced threats at mosques and at places of residence. Their friends turned away. There were slanderous outbursts along roadsides branding them as ‘child killers’. All this did not fall under the category of terrorism as is described by America. The outcome was, however, the one which only terrorism could produce. All Muslims, Americans as well as immigrants, remained in a state of harassment till the arrest of the ‘real’ culprit. Who was it? A purely white and a native American, formerly a soldier who had taken part in operations in Iraq and had killed hundreds of Iraqis even though they had surrendered.
This act of terrorism turned out to be a result neither of a fiery speech of any ‘Sheikh Abdur Rahman’, nor of the planning of any ‘Yusuf Ramzi’. Nor was it an act of some individual, a brown man from Middle East, a fundamentalist. It was not even a protest or reaction of an oppressed against continued imposition of cruel and dictatorial regimes in the Muslim world, establishment of a Jewish state, Israel, at the heart of the Muslim land, displacement of Palestinians, burning and burying alive of thousands of troops in Iraq, shooting down of the Iranian plane, sabotaging the democratic revolution in Algeria or preventing Muslim societies from adopting Islamic way of life. It was not due to poverty or economic retardation, either. It was not instigated by Iran which calls USA "the biggest Satan" and whom USA has declared the most terrorist state of the world. It was also not done on the behest of any of the other four Muslim countries _ Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Syria _ about whom USA annually completes the formality of declaring terrorist states.
It was also clear that the culprit was neither alone nor he suffered from mental disorders. They were not a few but hundreds of thousands of people, associated in a network in 30 states, organized and armed to the tooth and nail. They were educated and were not illiterate; civilized and white, not black or brown. They were using computers and internet and publishing booklets since long to propagate their ideas and techniques of bomb-making and terrorism. These people called their government ‘big Satan’ and regarded it as the foremost enemy of their rights and freedom. They declared it ‘beast like’ because of its tyranny and oppression. And a government which is bent upon rounding up ‘Yusuf Ramzis’ around the world and their extradition to America is either oblivious of these people or ignoring them.
This is the story of what the US claims to be the biggest terrorist act on its soil. However, it can be termed as the biggest act of terrorism only when we do not open the chapters of history since the arrival of Columbus till the tragedy in Oklahoma which relate stories of oppression, subjugation: racial exploitation of the Red-Indians, their ethnic ‘cleansing’, and their expulsion to ‘protected areas’; burning alive of the blacks by racist organizations like Kuklux Klan. The Oklahoma tragedy, however, made one thing quite clear that though it is in the forefront of the campaign to declare Muslims and their countries as terrorists, the US itself is harboring a large number of terrorists on its own soil.
Once the identity of culprits was established, the misconception that only Muslims carry out such acts of terrorism should have been buried in Oklahoma. Propaganda against Muslims and Islam should have been stopped and those responsible for such vicious campaign should have begged apology from Muslims all over the world in general and the Muslims in America in particular. But this did not happen, nor is it going to happen. Continuous pumping into the balloon of ‘Islamic terrorism’ is a political necessity. The government and the media will, therefore, continue to follow the beaten path.
What would have been the situation if the culprits were Muslims? How the West would react if Muslims are found responsible for an Oklahoma-like incident in future? Even the imagination of this is dreadful. Such be the case, the hell would be let loose on Muslims as had been let loose to Sikhs in India after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, or is being meted out to Muslims in India and in Bosnia, or had been done with the Jews in Europe, or is being done in Rwanda.
These dreadful possibilities are not imaginary. If the mood of the American society suddenly turned against Muslims after the Oklahoma tragedy, there is nothing strange in it. There was nothing strange either when mood of the West was bitter for Muslims during the Gulf war (as has been analysed by weekly Time) _ though nearly all Muslim rulers sided with the US for crushing a Muslim country. This all is because the picture of the Muslims, for political reasons, has been so painted in the West that a feeling of hatred and fear has become a part of their collective psyche.
That is why, Washington Post’s Columnist Stephen Rosefield had the audacity to say "yes, Muslims were hastily held responsible. This is despicable and dangerous. Yes, I admit that the first thought that came to my mind was also that it was an act of Muslims. But our such a reaction is not the outcome of any ignoble prejudices. This is not an issue of the picture of Islam. It is based on facts [i.e. fault lies with the Muslims]. Muslims indulge in acts of terrorism, consider it as legitimate and Muslim governments back terrorist activities. We cannot close our eyes in the name of friendship and fairplay. Though it is now known that the Americans too can be terrorists, [what is different with us is that]our government is against them." [In subdued words, he admits] "yes, our government should desist from acts of unlawful killings abroad which are termed as acts of terrorism and which damage our moral reputation." (daily The News, April 30, 1995)
The Western Dualism
The big question is: What is the reality? While adamantly raising this question about Jesus Christ, Roman ruler Pontess Pilot had ordered his crucification. Perhaps today’s successors of the Roman rulers have decided to crucify Muslims and Islam after holding them responsible for terrorism.
It is difficult to define terrorism and what constitutes it. This ambiguity is being exploited by the powerful countries. A lot of hue and cry was raised about ambiguity in the blasphemy law and the German Chancellor chose to himself raise the issue during his meetings with the Pakistani rulers. It is worth noting that though nobody has so far been punished under this law, a full-blown campaign against the law is on. Terrorism is really a strange crime for which not only the individuals but the whole nations and followers of a religion are being targeted and victimised; deceitful and fraudulent methods are employed to hijack and arrest the accused (which itself is terrorism), and on the other hand there is no definition for it under any law. Neither is it a crime under any international law nor any punishment is prescribed for it (Shukre, 1991). According to the author of the most authentic book on this subject, the definition of terrorism is not only ambiguous but is non-existent, rather impossible (Lacguer, 1977, p 5). If there is any definition, it is highly controversial because this is not a legal but a political issue. The politically motivated definition is aimed at condemning the accused more than defining the crime itself so that despicable actions against the opponents could be justified and the demands of the biased view and political interests are fulfilled (Rubenstein, 1977).
This self-centred approach teaches that terrorism which serves own interest should be regarded as legitimate while the one which does not serve this purpose is illegitimate and heinous crime. Today’s liberation fighter is tomorrow’s terrorist and today’s terrorist is tomorrow’s Prime Minister [e.g. Afghan Mujahideen, Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurian, Kenyan President Jomo Kenyata]. If the terrorists are from amongst own ranks, their acts and motives would be viewed with sympathy and efforts are undertaken for the way out and solution. The crime would be considered as of an individual and the community would not be held responsible for it. This would be the attitude when the terrorists are, for instance, Americans. However, when terrorism goes against own interests or the terrorists are political or civilizational adversaries, they would be declared formidable terrorists, liable to severe punishment. Their culture, their religion and whole of their country all would become culprits. This view is adopted when terrorists are found to be from amongst the Muslims.
To achieve their objectives, the powerful countries openly carry out military, economic or political actions against whomever they want and whenever, wherever they like. They target whole of the countries, as America did to Iraq, Panama and Haiti. They drop as many bombs they like, as Israel does in Lebanon and shelled at PLO headquarters in Tunis and Iraqi nuclear installations. American heavy bombardment on a small Cambodian territory outclassed the bombardment during the Second World War, US also bombed at the residential areas of Tripoli and Ben Ghazi and the residence of Col. Qaddafi. Using their agents in foreign lands, these countries topple governments, as CIA did to Dr. Musadiq’s government in Iran. They can organize homicidal attacks on the heads of states and leaders and get them killed, as they did to Chile’s elected Prime Minister, Alliande, Cuban President Castro, Libyan President Qaddafi, Iranian Speaker Behishti and Prime Minister Ba-Hunar, Lebanon’s Sheikh Fazlullah, Saudi King Faisal and General Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan. They can force whole of the country, including its women and children, to suffer from protracted hunger and disease, as they are doing in Iraq.
Since the authority of defining terrorism also lies with these powerful countries, they not only manage to keep their actions out of the definition of terrorism despite their being acts of overt state terrorism, they consider them to have been taken in the name of justice and fair-play and for the welfare of the humanity. On the other hand, acts of hijacking, occasional bomb blasts and killings done by the oppressed, who have no other means to register their protest and draw world’s attention to atrocities perpetrated upon them, are zealously projected as the worst forms of terrorism and all efforts are made to rally world support in favour of such a biased propaganda. Therefore, large scale massacre and arson by hundred of thousands of Indian forces in Kashmir, by Russian army in Chechnya, by Israeli forces in Beirut are considered normal and legitimate. Terrorists are Kashmiris, Palestinians, Chechens, and Pakistan if it wants to support the oppressed Kashmiris in their right cause of attaining the right promised to them by the world community.
Muslims Face Discrimination and Cruelty in the West
If the purpose is to find out reality, instead of being captives to illusion, then it is necessary to ascertain as to which extent the lives and properties, religion and places of worship of Muslims living in these very Western countries are safe.
The use of force against and desecration of places of worship and graveyards should be declared as worst form of terrorism. There have been countless incidents of attacks on the mosques and graveyards and throwing of pork in Britain, Germany and other countries of Europe. But here again, the US tops them all. In Yoba town, 150 miles away from San Francisco in California, a beautiful mosque was built in a period of three years at a cost of one million dollars. It took two whole years in obtaining mere permission for its construction. Soon after its completion, inflammable chemicals were sprayed on it on September 01, 1994, and the whole mosque was burnt and reduced to ashes overnight. America fervently propagates incidents of terrorism in other countries and also exerts pressure for condemning such incidents, its Press, TV and Radio, however, did not even bother to report this gruesome incident of arson. It were the Muslims themselves who raised and activated over the issue and the world knew about this tragedy. Neither Governor Peter Wilson nor any other government functionary uttered a single word about this heinous crime. When an inter-state parliamentary delegation of Muslims met with five officials of Foreign Affairs, they simply refused to take notice of the incident. Instead, they complained about the excesses of ‘Muslim extremists’ in Muslim countries. [Had a church been torched in Pakistan or some other Muslim country, then ...]. Earlier, when a Jew terrorist massacred innocent Muslims at al-Khalil mosque in Jerusalem, the response was equally apathetic.
Islam values human life more than the place of worship. Leave aside the series of attacks on Muslim in their homes and on roadside in Britain, Germany, France and Belgium, has any Muslim ‘terrorist’ ever been involved in acts like drowning and putting houses to torch and burning of people alive therein? On the other hand, Muslims living in the countries which campaign against terrorism continue to be the targets of such brutal and heinous crimes. And the media gets absolved of its duty by reporting such acts as incidents of ‘racism’, not terrorism. The victim is shown as a Turk, a Moroccan, not a Muslim.
On May 29, 1993, terrorists torched a Muslim house in Solingen, Germany. Two women and two girls were burnt alive, one jumped out of the window but succumbed to her injuries. This family was settled in Germany for the last 20 years. This was not the first incident of this kind (nor would it be the last!). In November, 1992, fire bombs were thrown at two Muslim houses in Molln, a city near Hamburg. A woman and two girls were burnt alive in their beds and nine persons, though with serious burns, survived. On May 01, 1995, at a rally of presidential candidate Li Pan in Paris, three ‘skinheads’ killed a Moroccan Muslim, Ibrahim, by throwing him into the River Sen and then themselves melted away in the crowd [Had a Christian house been burnt in Pakistan, then...].
What did German Chancellor Kohl do when three Muslim women and five girls were burnt alive? He refused to attend the funeral of the victims of arson in Solingen, nor did he go to their house. In fact he has never visited a Muslim house which has been a victim of such attacks. He does not even like to condemn such acts of violence.
When two Americans were killed in Karachi, America cried hoarse. FBI landed at Karachi and though without proof weekly Time did not feel shy in putting a caption "Islamic terrorism claims two lives." On the other hand, the European governments have failed to protect the Turkish diplomats and centres from Armenian and Kurd terrorism. During two days in June and November 1993, Kurdistan Workers Party carried out 75 terrorist activities a day against the Turks. Armenians too have been involved in similar activities. But both the media and the government have no grudge against or hatred for them, perhaps on the plea that Armenians and Kurds are oppressed. The question is: are Palestinians, Kashmiris and Algerians not oppressed?
Framework for Co-existence and Co-operation
We are not hesitant in admitting that some Muslims were involved, and are involved, in activities which are contrary to the acknowledged and sacrosanct principles of the security of life and property of innocent people, and some of these activities might have been carried out with the abetting of governments. These Muslims are certainly oppressed, weak and wronged, some have been driven out of their own countries and, therefore, are homeless for about half a century, their youths are being killed, women molest and houses burnt. Some are under the subjugation of such rulers who depend on foreign support for the prolongation of their rule, who are guilty of perpetrating oppression as well as plundering the national wealth for their own luxury and for the pleasure of their Western masters. According to the Western philosophy of crime and punishment, all crimes of such people deserve to be declared as legitimate acts. On the other hand we have no hesitation in saying that in the light of Islamic teachings their activities are anti-Islamic and they should refrain from indulging in them. These activities do not serve Islamic cause.
Human life is so precious according to Islam that "murdering an innocent person is just like the massacre of the whole of humanity" (Surah al-Ma’idah). A Muslim is the one who protects others’ life, property and honor through his deeds and speech (Sahih al-Bukhari). This applies equally to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Even if a polytheist (mushrik) asks for protection during Wartime, he has to be provided protection and led to his own place. (Surah al-Tauba). Killing of someone who is asking for peace and reconciliation, is forbidden. Setting a prisoner free is desirable. There is no room for beating him while tied up. Excesses against women, children, the old, the handicapped and the sick and burning of the crops and the factories is not allowed even during the times of war.
We also do not believe in the argument that "your committing a crime sanctions our committing it". Though the activities of Muslims which the West considers as acts of terrorism are, in fact, nothing as compared with similar activities of the West itself, we, however, do not think such a comparison would be of much use here.
We just want to ask the US and the Western rulers, intellectuals and the media to stop the dangerous game of fanning hatred against Islam and the Muslim. The fire they are igniting may even wrap them. They have slyly branded Islam as fundamentalism (which is, in fact, a Christian term) and fundamentalism as terrorism (in other words, a triangle: Islam-Fundamentalism-Terrorism). This slyness, however, is not going to do any good either to themselves or to the world at large. Incidents of poisonous nerve gas in Japanese trains, bomb blasts in World Trade Centre and Oklahoma should suffice to show the extent to which the oppressed and the dedicated to a cause can go. They may not necessarily be Muslims, however.
It is they who try to convince the world that Islam and Muslims are a real threat. In the policy paper of the state department (October, 1985), Robert Oakley writes: indigenous terrorism too is a serious problem. The FBI and the law enforcing agencies would not let it grow out of control [Oklahoma tragedy has exposed how capable they are!]. Real threat of large scale terrorism is, however, from abroad, especially from ‘Moslem’. Out of 52 documentaries telecast by ABC Nightline in 40 months during 1985_1988, 48 were focused on the Middle East. But when Newsweek reviews the incidents during seven days before the Oklahoma tragedy, it show Muslims’ involvement in only three of the total 13 cases.
As a result of fanning such hatred, the confrontation between West and Islam is getting worse and the hatred for America is spreading among Muslims. Now, this hatred is no more restricted only to the fundamentalists, it has encircled the most liberal and secular intellectuals, journalists and leaders.
Is this a good omen? Is this what America wants?
Muslims can establish good relations with the West on the basis of mutual respect and tolerance. For this, the foremost priority of Muslims is that they have the right to lead their lives in accordance with Islamic teachings. If it is accepted, then well and good. Otherwise, Muslims will not hesitate even in laying down lives in the struggle for having this right. The Muslims living in the West would certainly be well-wishers of their countries and respect the laws in vogue there. Muslims’ second priority would be to get rid of their despotic rulers who are Western agents and dance to the tune of their masters. They would regain their right to use their wealth and resources according to their own free will. They would follow their own model for development. This does not mean that they would necessarily work against Western interests. In today’s world, economic and scientific progress is possible only through co-operation, but the West would have to end its policy of exploitation.
In this framework, if the West does not insist on keeping the Muslims under their political and economic domination the Islamic movements, the fundamentalists and ordinary Muslims can prove good friends of America and the West. They are not ‘sworn enemies’ of America.
We fear if America and the West insisted on their policy of enmity and hatred for Islam and the Muslims, they will achieve nothing except regrets. Mr. Robert Macknamara, the architect of the Vietnam War during Kennedy-Johnson regimes, has recently published his ‘confession of guilt’. After paying the price of 60,000 American and 3,300,000 Vietnamese lives and billions of dollars, he says: alas! our action was a mistake, a big mistake... the reason was that we were totally ignorant of the history, culture and the politics of those people. Lest some other Macknamara has to say the same after paying even more dearly, when opportunities are lost.
We wish America and the West realize their mistaken policies and restructure and revive their relationship with the Muslim World.
Translation and adaptation of the editorial of Tarjuman Ul Quran June1995 by Late Khuram Murad.
The Secretary General
Mansura, Multan Road, Lahore, Pakistan.
Ph: 92-42-7844605-9 Fax: 92-42-5419504