Thursday, December 11, 2008

Muslims: Guilty unless proven innocent?

I am writing this post in response to the scores of columns, editorials and op-eds which appeared in dailies across Pakistan regarding the recent attacks in Mumbai. While there were very few which tried to analyze the events and go beyond the Indian account of things, most of our writers were quick to pass judgments on supposed Pakistani involvement and sentence the perpetrators of those attacks. Frankly, while reading through all those articles, I too started feeling as if this is a closed chapter and the only thing left was to handcuff Pakistan, accept responsibility and hand out punishments to those Pakistanis who were involved and/or instigated the attacks. Externally, it was logical for countries to discuss whether the punishment should be in form of a fully fledged war or a surgical strike on Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. In all this jingoistic mantra spelled out by the Indian media and embraced by their Pakistani counterparts, it was difficult to hold on for a second and think about the correctness and fairness of this hastily executed media trial where once again Islam was the scapegoat. But the absence of objectivity that was critically required by the media, during such emotive and politically sensitive events, didn’t allow me to go with the flow. I asked myself simple questions which I would like to share with you, but before that let me state a few facts.

All what we know about Pakistan’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks stems from either Indian media or Indian officials. No objective evidence has been brought to daylight and neither will this happen, least in the name of National Security. Pakistan and India are arch-enemies and have already fought 3 wars against each other. India has a history of inciting anti-Muslim feelings, Babri Mosque, Gujrat carnage and the Samjhota bombing are just a few to mention. Similarly, India has also a history of prematurely blaming Pakistan when attacked internally, only to be proven wrong afterwards. The recent bombing of the Malegon and Samjhota express are proof for this. It is also noteworthy that Hindu extremists, those responsible for the Babri mosque demolition, Gujrat carnage and involved in the Malegon and Samjhota express bombing, form India’s main stream political party, which was in power before the current regime and as its election year, it can’t be ruled out that they are behind the recent events. Indian army’s serving Colonel is one of the prime suspects in the Malegon bombing case with known ties with Hindu extremist groups. Also, three of the very first and most mysterious casualties of the Mumbai attacks were three police officers, Hemant Karkare, DIG Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar, who were investigating the serving Colonel’s involvement in the Malegon bombing. To cut a long story short, the whole event is surrounded by lots of mysteries and open questions.

Having all this in mind, let me now come to the questions which I asked myself and I think every responsible Pakistani journalist should ask himself as well, before attempting to write on this issue.

1. Allah (swt) says in the Quran, "O you who believe! If a fasiq (liar – evil person) brings you a news, verify it, lest you harm some people in ignorance and afterward repent of what you did” [TMQ 49:6]. Shouldn’t we have dealt more skeptically and carefully with the information coming from the mouths of the mushrikeen, not just fasiqeen?

2. As both countries are arch-enemies, how can the evidence provided by one be accepted by the other without verifying it objectively? I recall reading that in the time of Ali (ra) as the Khalifah of the Muslims, he had seen a Jew steal his saddle. Ali (ra) upon catching that person took him to the court and narrated the account to the Judge (Qadhi), who rejected this as credible evidence because it was coming from the plaintiff i.e. Ali (ra)!

3. It is widely known and accepted from numerous declassified reports and former agent’s accounts that intelligence agencies launch ‘false flag’ operations in order to achieve strategic objectives, even killing their own people. Therefore, why is it that mainstream Pakistani media didn’t even bother to consider this as one explanation of the attacks, let alone a plausible one given the predictions in India that the rightwing forces will take advantage of the Mumbai tragedy in the forthcoming election. Interestingly, some Western analysts, like Wayne Madsen, a Washington DC-based investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist, have pointed this out in context of a false flag operation, but almost none in our mainstream media did.

4. It is well known that all the evidence brought forward against Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 (and against Iraq for possessing WMD) would not have been sufficient to indict even a thief in US courts. Same is the case with the Mumbai attacks, why is it then that we are readily accepting the Indian version of the story?

5. Even if the individuals who carried out the attacks were Muslims, this does not exonerate Indian and other intelligence agencies entirely. We have to realize that many militant groups are easy to infiltrate and motivate as they rely heavily on money – other forces can direct them for specific actions. This is what can be one explanation of 9/11 in America, where there is credible evidence that the US allowed that to happen in order to project US foreign policy. Even many non-Muslim thinkers and websites have highlighted this issue, with associated evidences. It is well known that a group to whom George Bush belongs to, called PNAC (Project for the New American Century), had been lobbying Clinton to invade Iraq since 1998 and they said on their website that America needs a catastrophic event like Pearl Harbour to project American foreign policy.

6. Whilst there is thick cloud of suspicion over the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, there seems to be clear sky as to who has benefited and who will suffer from the attacks, but this too has not been the focus of our writers. If one was to consider the impact of those attacks, they can be summarized as
a. More pressure on Pakistan from the US and the International community and opportunity to repeat their notorious command to ‘do more’.
b. More pressure on the Muslims of India and an excuse to suppress their rights further and leave them even more helpless in case of another Gujrat like carnage in the face of rising Hindu extremism.
c. More pressure on Muslims residing in UK - though the UK link was dismissed at an early point, nonetheless it can be used as further 'proof' to squeeze the Muslim community - already dealing with 7/7 and a host of legislation targeting them – through more draconian legislation curtailing their legitimate rights of practicing Islam and self-expression.

7. Last but not least, there is no justification for blaming Islam - which is well known for its stance on innocent civilians - as a result of the actions of a few individuals. If one would just keep in mind what the Quran and Sunnah say about the sanctity of an innocent person’s life, it would be impossible to equate Islam with terror, something which has become commonplace today. Why don’t our columnists turn the tables and blame the non-implementation of Islam - in which the colonialists, both former and current surely have a big role to play - for such unfortunate events?

It seems that the age old principle of ‘innocent unless proven guilty’ has been reversed since 9/11 when it comes to Muslims. At least Muslims writers should not follow this inhumane, immoral and unethical practice of demonizing fellow brethren and Islam.

A. Baseer Qazi

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