Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Mumbai Attacks

Today, we pass our condolences to those who have lost loved ones to the tragic conflict in Mumbai, and the wider concerns of religious-political violence in southern Asia.

Busy Wikipedian

The best way that I have found for me to understand current events is for me to dig in to Wikipedia article review and authoring.

Today, I took the time to update two articles:

Deccan Mujahideen
Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)

This required reading well over a dozen articles on the topic to get the overall context, general background and specific details. I also took time to view video over the Internet regarding the conflict. I thought a good few were key to understanding the issue.

Call for Peaceful Investigation

The Global Understanding Institute calls for a peaceful, sober, just, non-inflammatory response to the attacks. To allow police and intelligence organizations to investigate these crimes, to identify, capture and prosecute those who supported the perpetrators.

The Global Understanding movement began in February 2006 when Karl John raised the question about the desire or need for deadly violence to protect one’s religious identity in the wake of the September 2005 Danish Mohammed cartoons. For decades, if not centuries, to this very day, religious-political suicide-homicide has continued to flare up and boil over around the globe. Yet in the post-millennial era, Islamic terrorism gets the bulk of attention. In this case, for good reason.

For all the focus on prevention and foreign affairs, for all the joint task forces, the politicians, military and intelligence officers, and billions invested, such acts continue. The scale and scope of Islamist non-state actors committing atrocities grows, polymorphs and continues nearly unabated. This statement does not condemn the heroic works of millions around the world seeking to keep society peaceful and safe, yet it is to call into question the millions who support such acts of violence. Specifically to call them to give up such means of violent force to find more peaceful and just methods to achieve their ends.

Comparative Means to Achieve Social Justice

Social justice, if that is what the Islamist militants truly wish, can be achieved through different means.

Compare the acts of a dozen or two militants in Mumbai, and the carnage they inflicted, to the simultaneous world event: “Operation Hiroshima,” the peaceful seizure of Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). The PAD offered stranded tourists food and water. There is a sense of conviviality and community. Their symbol is not the AK-47. It is a noisy plastic hand clapper.

Whether the airport seizure will end peacefully or in tragedy similar to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is yet to be seen. Yet they seem to be far closer to achieving the justice they desire through these means than if they had attacked their political enemies.

It is true PAD and pro-government groups have clashed in the past, with brandished batons and swords. There were injuries and even a death in September. Yet so far since, the peace has been mostly upheld. Such violence did not achieve what the PAD desired, so the airport seizure was seen as a more direct action to bring domestic and international attention to their cause — without explicitly needing to hurt anyone. However, the police were driven off. The protestors even let the air out of the police vehicle tires. It would be remarkable if they could, through practically collegiate pranks, achieve through mostly peaceful means what no amount of suicide bombers and terrorism elsewhere has been able to affect: the direct change of government for social justice.

It is important for us to distinguish popular social protest and mainly peaceful means of conflict resolution versus outright racist and sectarian violence by small radical groups. It is vital for us to continually and sincerely offer possibilities for social transformation short of suicide-homicide, lest those who are prone to such methods feel as if they are the best and only choices to achieve their ends.

However, if the ends of the organization are themselves radically violent and non-egalitarian — if the ends of an organization are, in effect, forced conversion or genocide — then we must stand up for defense of pluralistic societies, the protection of the peace, and the rights of minorities.

To do so, we will need a great deal of understanding, wisdom, and knowledge to deal with these complex, historic crises and conflicts. Which ironically is what the attackers in Mumbai were striking at: Chabad.

Chabad - Understanding, Wisdom and Knowledge

“They hate the prospect of peace among these nations and the possibility of progress.”
– Prof. Mel Konner,
It the terrorists achieve anything they did not wish to intend, perhaps it might be drawing more attention to the Jewish movement which they targeted.

Of course, such attention is not at the top of most headlines. It is not until one gets further down in the CNN site, far below the footage of gunshots and explosions, and report after report of the popular hotel, that one finds out more about the Chabad Jewish Center in Mumbai.

If one is further curious, one can learn more about the 250-year old Chabad-Lubavitch movement at, and the article of Prof. Mel Konner: Mumbai Terror Targets Jews Too, But Will Fail.

According to the movement’s own site, the name “Chabad” is an acronym from three Hebrew words:

• Chachmah - Wisdom
• Binah - Comprehension
• Da'at - Knowledge

The philosophical movement seeks to teach “understanding and recognition of the Creator, the role and purpose of Creation, and the importance and unique mission of each Creature. This philosophy guides a person to refine and govern his or her every act and feeling through wisdom, comprehension and knowledge.”

One would hope any Islamic Imam, any Christian priest or pastor, any Hindu guru, indeed, any ethical spiritual teacher or philosopher would likewise approve of such aims. If one would leave out the Creator from the statement, even an atheist could say this paradigm is worthy of serious study and deep reflection.

While the specific interpretation of these tenets will be done within Chabad according to Jewish traditions, and there can be significant differences between religions, is it truly the intent of Islam to destroy any such religious activity? Does the Creator truly wish his Creations to destroy each other debating and warring over the nature of the divine and the proper conduct of right living?

One would likely doubt the slaughter of random civilians and children to be the Creator’s intent. Though sadly, this is the intent of fierce and terrifying maladaptive humans acting in the name of their Creator.

Perhaps, again, this incident may have the unexpected outcome of more people turning to interafaith dialog, and more tolerence bred through the peaceful, reasonable and reflective contemplation of the purpose of Creation and the role of us mortal human Creatures. Such a proposition is one which the Global Understanding Movement supports.

What of Mumbai?

In regards to etymology, it is also crucial to understand the name Mumbai has deep meaning. The city itself is named after the Marathi mother goddess (Mumbadevi). Thus, attacking this city is mythopoetically the attack of zealots of the patriarchal Islamic Allah striking at directly at the holy home of the Hindu matriarch.

If the situation were inverted — roughly equivalent to an attack on Mecca or Medina by members of another religion — one could imagine the outrage and global reaction to such a deed. Yet Islamic ire is indeed part of the reason for these attacks. The nearest equivalent in India is the seething outrage ever since the razing of the Babri Mosque in 1992. 150,000 Hindus nationalists stormed the mosque and tore it down.

The Liberhan Commission, the investigatory body to look into the causes for the incident, delivered no conclusive report to the Indian government to date. Sixteen years. That would be equivalent to the 9/11 Commission not delivering its report to the U.S. Congress or the world from 2001 through 2017.

Thus, there are already Pakistani sources pointing out the hypocrisy of the Indian position. For it is clear that India has serious issues to deal with on religious and civil rights, given the Saffronization of much of India. Clearly there are rights abuses of various internal sects, including other religions and minorities by Indian government civil and military officials as well as religious and civic leaders.

Beyond this there are the corruptions, the failures, the inefficiency and disgrace of the judicial commissions system in India.

Yet does violence necessitate violence to raise awareness of injustices and iniquities? Is this how Islamic leaders wish to have their faith perceived? Engendering fear and loathing around the world?

Somehow, the Hindu worshippers of the mother goddess of India and the patriarchal followers of Allah must come to some mutual peace, or all of their followers will be at severe risk of mutual extermination. Both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons.

While the foot soldiers on the ground hot-headedly slaughter civilians and egg the populaces towards retributive justice, their leaders must keep cool heads before casualties are not just measured in hundreds, but thousands if not millions or tens of millions. A new Indian-Pakistani crisis could be devastating, and lead to a wider Asian regional war.

For now, we must look to Mumbai to see how the people of the city, and the wider nation of India, process their losses and strategize for future security. If they respond nationalistically and harshly, we could see a great deal more bloodshed. If they respond rationally and coolly, we may still see some profound and severe ramifications for international relations. Yet the odds of containing and minimizing the violence may be increased, re-establishing the rule of law and respect for civil society.

The Global Understanding Institute calls for peaceful, lawful reactions and to meanwhile seek a true and lasting justice during this time of great international tragedy.

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