Saturday, November 29, 2008

Civilization Clashes With Barbarism


The siege at the Taj is over and the gruesome task of figuring out the identities of the piles of dead bodies scattered throughout the hotel is being attended to. The initial estimates of 80 dead is now double that-- and rising. The one captured terrorist, a 21 year old Pakistani, Ajmal Amir Kasab, was a laborer with a 4th grade education. In coming days we'll hear about which madrassah had taught him about jihad.

The Somali Muslims who have made piracy their country's #1 foreign currency earner this year don't wrap their bloodthirsty savageness in pious religionist statements. They're honest enough to admit they're just... pirates.

Call Saudi King Abdullah a pirate and make sure you're not inside The Kingdom. He told the Kuwaiti paper Al-Seyassah that the price of oil is way too low.
"We believe the fair price for oil is $75 a barrel," he said, without elaborating on how this would be achieved. Whereas crude stood at about $147 a barrel in mid-July, it now hovers about $90 lower. On Friday, the U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery was trading at about $54 per barrel.

The king was echoed by Qatar's Oil Minister Abdullah Bin Hamad al-Attiya, who told the Arab news channel Al-Arabiya just before the opening of the meeting of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries Saturday that prices needed to rise to guarantee investment into the oil sector.

"The price between 70 to 80 (dollars a barrel) is the one encouraging in investment and developing new or current oil fields. It falls below 70, the investment would freeze, which will lead to a crisis in supply in the future."

Bad timing. The world has been watching Muslim religionist fanatics-- fueled with the same kind of hatred that fuels homophobic Mormons in the West and fundamentalist snake-handlers in the South-- indiscriminately throwing hand grenades and firing machine guns into crowds of random people (some, no doubt, their co-religionists). I know India enough to tell you that even if this catastrophe doesn't propel the far right Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, to power, it will certainly lead to communal violence. An Op-Ed in yesterday's Washington Post by Dileep Padgaonkar, a former editor of the Times of India, explains how the Mumbai massacre is a threat to "India's secular and democratic polity." He warns that the timing of the attacks, on the eve of provincial elections-- Delhi, sometimes called "the Caliphate," is voting today-- will sharpen the differences between the secular Congress Party and the neo-fascist BJP.
After terrorist attacks in the past, the BJP has denounced the Congress party as being soft on terrorism in an effort to mobilize India's substantial Muslim vote in its favor. The Congress, in turn, attacks the BJP and its affiliates for bashing Muslims in order to consolidate its core Hindu vote. Indians have a peculiar word to describe this state of affairs-- communalism, meaning a determined bid to exploit religious sentiments for electoral gain.

The effect of this competitive demagoguery has been disastrous on many counts. Terrorism suspects have been picked up at random and denied legal rights. Allegations of torture by police are routine. Questions have been raised about the "encounters" between police and terrorism suspects. Suspects have been held for years as their court cases have dragged on. Convictions have been few and far between.

Commissions set up to investigate particularly gory incidents of religious violence have taken their time to produce reports. Few are opened for public debate. The recommendations in these reports have been routinely ignored or else implemented in a highly selective manner. Muslims convicted in some cases have been punished while Hindus have been let off lightly or not punished at all.

As a consequence, India's Muslims have begun to lose faith in the Indian state, its institutions and its instruments. This has led to the radicalization of Muslim youths. Religious extremism has pushed them onto the path of violence. Increasing evidence suggests that some have joined the ranks of the international jihadist movement with close links to terrorist groups in neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh. Here in India, these groups are widely believed to collude with those countries' intelligence agencies.

Whether it's hate-infused, self-righteous Mormons or Muslims or Hindus or Christians or Jews, there really is no place for religionist fanatics in a civilized community. These primitive, barbaric belief systems are something that will have to be dealt with if mankind is going to survive as a species. It's long past time we stop coddling and even honoring these dangerous fanatics among us. Their path will only bring on repression and regression to their own barbarism. Religionist fanatics should be treated as the mentally deranged and sick people that they are-- and should be treated, compassionately, for their illness. In Nigeria over 10,000 people have been killed in religionist outbursts so far this decade-- and this week will probably bring it beyond 11,000. Wouldn't they be better off going back to worshipping trees and rocks? Wouldn't we all?

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