Monday, September 25, 2006

We, the meek Indians (September 25, 2006)

By Swapan Dasgupta

What our grandfathers used to call the “Munich spirit” — a euphemism for pretending that evil can be managed by accommodation, for the sake of peace — is on the verge of being substituted by the Havana haze. In his infinite wisdom, the Prime Minister has deemed that Pakistan's truancy can’t be viewed as age-old hatred blending with an evil doctrine; the inner violence of a tormentor must be itself viewed with all the sympathy befitting the deviant who fell on his head as a baby.

The triumph of victimhood over common sense has been a feature of the West ever since the Sixties’ generation injected bleeding-heart sociology into the policy-making apparatus of the state. Venerable institutions like the British monarchy, the Church of England, the New York Times, the Ivy League colleges and the BBC have abandoned traditional values for a new moral code which is incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, good and evil.
So steep has been the fall, even the once-infallible Pope has been coerced into issuing a quasi-apology for guardedly suggesting that Islam should examine why its mosques are becoming the recruiting grounds of terror.

Significantly, the missiles hurled at the Vatican haven't come exclusively from the minaret-dominated bazaars of the Orient; almost every Muslim stone has been matched by a volley of abuse from ‘intellectuals’ who have seen commercial flights and commuter trains in their own countries bombed by fanatical mujahedeen.

“It was part of Hitler’s weird genius”, Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in his memoirs, “to be able to persuade a lost bourgeoisie... that he intended them no ill will. Stalin performed a similar feat with a lost intelligentsia.” He could just as well be writing about those troubled souls who imagine the roots of the Malegaon bombings lie in civic inadequacies and the collapse of textile manufacturing.

Perhaps this is a caricature but perhaps it is not. In his caustic commemoration of the fifth anniversary of 9/11 — The Age of Horrorism — novelist Martin Amis imagines a conversation between John Walker Lindh, ‘the famously obtuse’ American convert to jihad and Osama bin Laden at the Tarnak Farms in Afghanistan.

“Now would be a good time to strike, John would tell Osama, because the West is enfeebled, not just by sex and alcohol, but also by 30 years of multicultural relativism. They'll think suicide bombing is just an exotic foible, like shame-and-honour killings, and female circumcision. Besides, its religious, and they are always slow to question anything that calls itself that… And you'll be amazed by how long the word Islamophobia, as an unanswerable indictment, will cover Islamism too. It'll take them years to come up with the word they want—and Islamismphobia clearly isn't any good…Strike now. Their ideology will make them reluctant to see what it is they confront. And it will make them slow learners.”

What the American jihadi may have told Osama is too close to the bone. The Islamists have little patience or respect for those who talk kindly but gratuitously about Muslim ‘alienation’ and about the need to be hard on terror and caring towards its breeding grounds.

George W Bush may be the spitting reincarnation of John Wayne—”a man who's got to do what a man's got to do”—but there is much to be learnt from his administration. In his memoirs, which he shamelessly advertised on the White House lawns, Musharraf recalled that after 9/11, the pugnacious Richard Armitage called up ISI chief General Mahmood and informed him that unless Pakistan cooperated, America would bomb it back to the stone age. Clarifying matters, Armitage said that he said nothing about bombing Pakistan, but he did confront Mahmood with a simple choice: “You are either with us or against us.” When the General tried to explain the complexities of Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan, Armitage cut him short: “History begins from today.”

To Musharraf, Armitage seemed very ‘rude’. What he hasn’t said is that the muscular American was also very effective. Within 24 hours Pakistan accepted every one of the non-negotiable and difficult conditions set by the US for joining the war on terror!

“Blessed are the meek”, we have been told, “for they shall inherit the earth.” Yet, there is a fine line between meekness and weakness. The government’s failure to drive home the distinction may lead a slippery General into believing India has lost its nerve.

(Published in DNA, Mumbai, September 25, 2006)

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