The ‘chicken or egg’ syndrome!

Friendly Fire

Khalid Saleem

ONE of the most worrisome developments in recent history is the fact that the Muslim World is in a sorry state of sixes and sevens. Not that the Muslim states were in an ideal situation prior to what has come to be known as the war on terror. But one derived comfort from the fact that people were not at each others’ throats and there was at least a semblance of normalcy where the common man could lead a relatively peaceful existence. It is a tragedy that even that façade of normalcy has been torn asunder.
Let us beginning at the beginning i.e. the classical question: which came first; the chicken or the egg? This is the classical conundrum that has been bandied around for as long as one can remember, and that not just by philosophers. The world, as we have come to accept it, finds itself in the midst of one such situation in the present epoch. In what can roughly be called the ‘chicken or egg’ syndrome, the intelligentsia of the world are being called upon to pronounce upon what came first: ‘State Terror’ or ‘The Terrorist’.
Now, a word about the state of the world. The Indian gurus, who can be credited with having coined such devastating phrases as “nuclear non-proliferation”, “cross-border terrorism” and the like, have their own axe to grind and more about that some other time. For the time being, suffice it to state that India’s formidable state disinformation apparatus has managed to convince the so-called developed world that its 700.000 strong security force in Indian-Held-Kashmir is there purely as a bulwark against “cross-border terrorism”. And the Western minds appear to have swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker.
Further, the recent change of regime in the world’s sole superpower has given rise to several misgivings. ‘Sages’ the world over are all in a fix trying to figure out what the impending four years of the Trump administration imply for the future of the globe. Some of the pronouncements and edicts of the new President have sent shivers down the backs of an already jittery humanity – and one is not referring to the developing world alone.
One would have thought that the powers-that-be would take time off to take a good, hard look at the whole sordid affair (War against Terror et al). Not just a dispassionate look, but also one denuded of preconceived notions. To start with, there is the imperative need to agree on a definition of ‘terrorism’. It would also be necessary to put a finger on what terrorism implies and, more importantly, what are the circumstances that give birth to it. Nearer home, it has become our problem too. Every time a terrorist act is reported, one cannot help noticing that the brunt is borne by innocent victims. But, then, isn’t this what terrorism is all about? The objective of the terrorist is to spread panic and terror. So it would be in the fitness of things to first identify the root cause.
Why was not time taken off for serious reflection, for instance, before the fateful plunge was taken to unleash the War on Terror? The advisability of unleashing a cruel war on Afghanistan, post nine/eleven, and subsequently on Iraq, is open to debate. Western leaders are prone to express shock and anguish at the loss of innocent lives in terrorist attacks. Should they not also spare a thought for the thousands of innocent men, women and children (be they children of a lesser god!) who were obliterated by their military juggernaut? And should one not look askance at the innocents killed in drone attacks? The mere fact that the latter were euphemistically dismissed as “collateral damage” does little to lessen the shame of it all.
It would perhaps be asking too much of the powers that be to delve into the reasons that drive people to terrorism. Nevertheless, some sanity must enter into the proceedings. For one thing, unnecessarily provocative reactions would need to be tempered a bit. Condemning an outrage, per se, is understandable, but qualifying it with such loaded phrases as “this is an attack on Christian civilisation” or “We will not allow Islamic fascists to destroy our way of life” is neither rational nor, indeed, accurate.
Why start with the assumption that all terrorists have something to do with the Islamic faith? There have been Jewish and Christian terrorists in the not too distant past, but their religious denominations were never played up. Why, then, make a notable exception in the case of followers of Islam? Most terrorist attacks are not against a particular religious denomination or even a “way of life”. They are mainly in the nature of desperate acts by such entities as are driven to the wall and who see no other way to register their protest.
The fact that most, if not all, perpetrators of these outrages are young people should convey a message. There has to be a cogent reason why young people are so alienated that they are obliged to resort to desperate measures to register their protest. Is it because they feel left out in a World Order that is so horribly biased against the underdog? Or, is it in reaction to actions of powerful forces that continue to ride roughshod over the legitimate aspirations of the common man? Or, then again, is it a manifestation of the perennial struggle between the haves and the have-nots?
Having laid the aforesaid on the table, so to say, one would be the last to deny that the reader is well within his or her rights to pose the challenge to one to propose a way out of the impasse. So here goes. How about enlisting the help of the world’s elders? There are several Nobel Prize laureates who are on the loose end, so to speak. With possible exceptions, most of them are brilliant and outstanding persons. Could the United Nations not consider setting up a Panel of Elders drawn from amongst the Nobel Prize laureates to study this problem in depth and come up with viable options? If it comes to that, members of the panel could even serve as a bridge between the powers-that-be and potential terrorists so as to pre-empt the worst-case scenario. Or, is one talking out of turn?
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.