Is it or is it not?

January 18, 2015

A question not just for Pakistan but for the whole world

Is it or is it not?

Dear All,

Are we at war or are we not? That is the question.
And it’s a question not just for Pakistan but for the whole world. The western world (i.e. Europe and the US mostly) claims to be fighting terrorism and ‘barbarism’ yet there is only outrage here when westerners are targeted. Compare the media coverage of the Charlie Ebdo attack by Islamic militants in Paris to that of a massacre in Nigeria by Islamic militants and you will notice a disturbingly different approach.

It is almost surreal the manner in which the developed world carries on with the semblance of normality when a part of the world is being ravaged by deadly Ebola, and when the Middle East is being torn apart by a bloody and brutal conflict that has pretty much polarised the world opinion. The ruthless group known (rather unfortunately) as the ‘Islamic State’ continues to overrun areas in Iraq, and to execute, enslave and terrorise. Yet somehow it is attracting Muslims and converts from all over the world to its ‘cause’.

Teenagers including females from European countries have flocked to join this medieval fighting force from Britain, from Germany, from France. But the way the western countries are dealing with the issue seems curiously casual. We read accounts of radicalised Muslim teenagers who run away and we hear the debate on how these individuals should be dealt with, should they choose to return. Every so often we hear a debate on why individuals from certain immigrant communities feel alienated from the mainstream and what can be done about this…and blah blah blah while ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and other likeminded types continue to kill and terrorise.

How did it come to this? People are slaughtered so we march and rally and light candles to express our outrage? So then we bicker about the rights and wrongs of satire and the limits of freedom of expression? And, all the while the bloodshed continues.

Still, oddly, we continue to define the rise of these militants as a ‘Muslim’ rather than a cult phenomenon. Which is strange because there seems to be classic cult pattern at work here: recruiting and controlling people who are vulnerable; breaking them down and taking them over, making them a part of something which seems like a cause and something which seems to give purpose to their life -- and death. The profiles of the Paris attackers are a case in point: immigrants, downtrodden, abandoned or estranged from families…. These are easy recruits for cults.

What a mess! But look also at the duplicity of world leaders: as Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch points out: ISIS and its various militant counterparts all take their cue from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where punishments like public beheadings are the norm. Saudi Arabia is a fully accredited member of the international community so it totally escapes condemnation for both its decades of funding religious militant groups and its dismal Human Rights Situation.

On January 9, a Saudi blogger was flogged in public. He received 50 lashes -- the first instalment of his sentence of 1000 lashes and 10 years imprisonment. Over the coming four and a half months, he will be flogged every Friday till the lashing sentence is completed. The 31 year old blogger, Raif Badawi, committed the great crime of creating the website "Free Saudi Liberals" and he was arrested in 2012 on a charge of ‘insulting Islam’.

Surely more international outrage on this is needed?

So it may not look like war but it is war. A media war, and a war of hearts, minds and dollars. Every so often the backlash from this war hits the western capitals but for some reason it is still mostly treated as a remote conflict rather than a ticking bomb on one’s doorstep …and it is war in which children are suicide bombers and executioners. Surely we cannot pretend to be immune?

Best wishes

Is it or is it not?