Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

Restraint is called for in the wake of the attack on Mumbai

THE tragedy in India, unleashes a multitude of emotions; it is vital in these terrifying times to channel them wisely.

Reading about world events anymore is, at the minimum, an exercise in disbelieving double takes. And so it was in Mumbai, India. That 10 men in a dinghy could step off the beach and unleash such destruction over such an extended period is still unfathomable.

That is the denial stage in the five stages of grief identified by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. The anger stage, however, is by far the most destructive. The Indian media went into Bollywood-like overdrive, reporting ties between the attackers and Pakistan, and Pakistan's media went on the defensive, though after a point the response got mushed. Watching satellite television again became an exercise in serious confusion.

Warmongering began by the public and the media of both India and Pakistan. Calls were made in India to declare Pakistan a terrorist state and to do surgical strikes on terrorist camps. Indignant responses included that "no one dare threaten Pakistan" and playing nationalistic war songs. And in the midst of all this supposedly was a hoax call from Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari threatening that if action was not taken against the alleged terrorists immediately, India would attack Pakistan. For 24 hours it appears that world leaders lived in trepidation and intervention by the United States and Great Britain was sought to avert an Indian attack.

In the same anger phase came furious letters to the editor and conversations about the alleged silence of Muslims. Jeffery Weiss of the Dallas Morning News wrote on his religion blog that "The question comes up every time there's an attack by terrorists who say they're acting in the name of Islam. 'If all the other Muslims are so peaceful, why don't they condemn these attacks?' As I've pointed out before: They do. But it doesn't generally get much play."

Mr. Weiss goes on in this blog, titled "So why don't other Muslims condemn the terrorists," to mention the organizations that immediately condemned the Mumbai tragedy: "CAIR [the Council on American-Islamic Relations], two networks of Indian-American Muslims, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a lesser-known Muslim set, and an interfaith group that includes Muslim members. I'm sure that there are more such that didn't land in my box." And truly there are.

No, they say, Muslims must do more. Media blitz? Been there. Full-page ads? Done that. The Islamic Council of North America began an educational drive in Chicago with simple sound bites on billboards, buses, leaflets, and brochures. Another organization in New York passed out educational leaflets in the subway. The response of some to that was their own billboard - "Sharia Law coming to America" - and worry and dread of a "Muslim invasion."

So clearly Muslims either are too silent or now we're proselytizing. We can't win for losing.

Bargaining and depression are the other stages of grief and on a personal and human scale, whether the bombing is of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad or the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, the tears are the same. The what-ifs are ever-present.

Ms. Kubler-Ross claimed that until one crossed over to the stage of acceptance, one vacillated randomly between the first four stages and the graduation to the point of acceptance varied from person to person.

Extrapolating the ripple effect, it is vital that as responsible members of the world community we, as those fortunate ones not physically affected by these terrible tragedies, act responsibly and maturely. Gwynne Dyer, a brilliant British columnist, puts it well: Terrorists are like common criminals, mercenaries if you will, and should be treated as such.

Conjecture and history put the culprits as coming from Pakistan. And yet India has all of 20 active insurgencies within its borders with a very angry ultra-right-wing Hindu party the RSS. That Hemant Karkare, the anti-terrorist squad chief who was investigating the workings of certain right-wing Hindu parties, was killed during the Mumbai attack, and his family refused to accept monetary help from the right-wing state government, is worthy of notice.

The key issue is evidence. And if evidence is provided that the heinous crimes were committed by the citizens of whichever country, full legal recourse and punishment must apply. President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani of Pakistan have promised to do so. Until then we must, difficult as it is, hold our horses.

There was a time when events half a world away were remote. With globalization and the Internet revolution, the opinion of all citizens of the world becomes important.

We must apply restraint and wisdom, for our anger in impassioned letters to the editor can gain enough momentum to combine with fury abroad and trigger war between neighbors that, sadly, have an acrimonious history and are nuclear powers.

Dr. Mahjabeen Islam is a physician, freelance columnist, and chairman of the media committee of the Toledo Muslim Forum. Her e-mail address is mahjabeenislam@sbcglobal.net

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