“Mindless,” “Muslims”

Those two M’s recur, on this blog and elsewhere, in the heated discussions around the tragic, provocatove events that have unfolded this past week. I am reminded of this point Martha Nussbaum wrote after Obama won:

His phrase “the scourge of terrorism” is virtually Bushian in its suggestion that terrorism is a single thing (presumably Muslim) and that many nations suffer from that single thing. (Note that it is not even true that most world terrorism is caused by Muslims. Our University of Chicago colleague Robert Pape’s careful quantitative study of terrorism worldwide concludes that the Tamil Tigers, a secular political organization, are the bloodiest in the world. Moreover, Pape argues convincingly that even when religion is used as a screen for terror, the real motives are most often political, having to do with local conflicts.) [3 Quarks Daily]

More from Wikipedia:

Pape’s Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (2005) controverts many widely held beliefs about suicide terrorism. Based on an analysis of every known case of suicide terrorism from 1980 to 2005 (315 attacks as part of 18 campaigns), he concludes that there is “little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world’s religions… . Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland” (p. 4). “The taproot of suicide terrorism is nationalism,” he argues; it is “an extreme strategy for national liberation” (pp. 79-80). Pape’s work examines groups as diverse as the Basque ETA to the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers. Pape also notably provides further evidence to a growing body of literature that finds that the majority of suicide terrorists do not come from impoverished or uneducated background, but rather have middle class origins and a significant level of education. [Link]

Now, that part I have emphasised, doesn’t it make sense when you read columns about how this attack in Mumbai is to be seen in the context of what has been happening in Pakistan?

A Pakistani journalist writes what these events could do to Pakistan’s Taliban policy, and perhaps that is what the perpetrators wanted to achieve:

There is now the possibility that Pakistan will undergo another about-turn and rethink its support of the “war in terror”; until the end of 2001, it supported the Taliban administration in Afghanistan. It could now back off from its restive tribal areas, leaving the Taliban a free hand to consolidate their Afghan insurgency. [Asia Times Online]

So if this is about geo-politics, about Bush and Afhanistan and ISI and Taliban and Al Qaeda and Musharraf and Kiyani and Zardari and surgical strikes and collateral damage… why blame the Indian Muslim?

The Islamophobia that is becoming more and more blatant after this attack is the sort of thing that misses the woods for the trees, that seeks easy targets and easy enemies, helps exacerbate the spiral of violence and counter-violence Aditya Nigam warned against here.

Take, for example, this sms I got:

A guy goes in 2 an adult store and asks for an inflatable doll. The guy behind the counter says male or female? He says female. Store guy asks black or white? Guy replies white. Store guy asks Christian or Muslim? Guy asks, what the fuck does religion have to do with an inflatable doll? Store guy replies, the Muslim one blows itself up!

My reply:

If all Muslims don’t blow themselves up, why do all Muslim dolls in that store? Did that shop have Tamil Eelam dolls too? And Hindu dolls that were not Islamophobic? And Bajrang Dal dolls that blew up the buyer if he were Muslim. Questions worth asking.

Reply that I got:

Stop that partner :)

I stop. But your Islamophobia is not going to stop terrorism.

These words of Gautam Bhan should be inscribed in gold:

Let us look at arms trades, transnational networks of terror, but at actions and actors, not people, nations and communities; through active investigation based on real evidence, not discursive battles that target identities, faiths and belief systems. [Spot on!]

By the way, Peter Griffin has an excellent set of links to read.

7 thoughts on ““Mindless,” “Muslims””

  1. wow!
    the sms contained so many things… the sexual objectification of women, the preference for white and a ‘warning’ that the muslim doll would blow itself up….Aren’t these the content of all the jokes that crack people up? somehow they never make me laugh….can’t we ever crack jokes that do not create power structures and do not demonise people?


  2. I am flooded with mails and smss’like this everyday.
    But when I do respond with questions it’s always a íts just a joke yaar’etc. But when does a joke stop being a joke ? The people who forward these jokes to a large email group presuming there are muslims in it and then discuss business plans with the same muslims, don’t they see a connection, do they think about how the average ‘modern’, ”educated” , ”liberal” muslim perceieves these jokes?


  3. Think we should not enhage ourselves too much in these ‘power structures’. let’s not forget, that jokes are simply ment to be laughed at ! and forgotten in the air of ridicule !!!


  4. …but abhinav, you are already engaging in that power structure by recognising and maintaining that power structure..


  5. These “others” are the very people that form my society. Though I agree that making fun of anybody is wrong and uncalled for.
    As a part of the social construct, we also need these fissures (jokes) to release our angst against one another, which if uncheked has the tendancy to turn volatile.


  6. yea without these “Others” how can I define myself as “superior” and “meritorious”, na?
    but when it comes to “us” or “me” even jokes become “anti-national”, “anti-development” and what not..
    just want to say that jokes are not just jokes!!
    and the politics of Othering creates the power structure within whch we play around wiht these jokes.
    if u carefully look u can see BLOOD on the edges of all these jokes! let us not forget it!


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