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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hijacking the cause

I am still disturbed by an article by Professor Saree Makdisi titled “Is their bombing worse than ours?” The article expresses equal outrage at the bombings and the “unthinking reactions in the United States and Britain to those disgusting attacks.”

Here are excerpts:

The usual self-congratulatory contrast between ''our'' civilization and ''their'' barbarism has set the stage for a cycle of moralistic inquiries into the motivations of suicide bombers and the supposed duty of ''good'' Muslims to restrain ''bad'' ones.

Suicide bombing is merely a tactic used by those who lack other means of delivering explosives. What happened in London occurs every time a U.S. or British warplane unloads its bombs on an Iraqi village.

American and British media have devoted hours to wondering what would drive a seemingly normal young Muslim to destroy himself and others. No one asked what would cause a seemingly normal young Christian or Jew to strap himself into a warplane and drop bombs on a village, knowing full well his bombs will kill civilians (and, of course, soldiers).

Because ''our'' way of killing is dressed up in smart uniforms and shiny weapons and cloaked in the language of grand causes, we place it on a different moral plane than ''theirs.''

Peaceful protest, persuasion, demonstration, negotiation or remonstration haven't made a dent in the single-minded U.S. and British policy. If all legitimate forms of dissent go unheeded, illegitimate forms will be turned to instead. Some people will resort to violence, which does not produce the desired result but may give vent to the inhumanity with which they have been treated for so long. Paine was right: People who are treated brutally will finally turn into brutes.

And because I don’t want to quote him out of context, Professor Makdisi did write that this is a war “between one form of zealotry and another, one form of ignorance and another, one form of barbarism and another. More of the same will not yield solutions.”

I agree that we all need to think and act as human beings, not unthinking brutes as he put it. I also agree that Muslims should not be put on the defensive, because the majority of us have nothing to do with these fanatics, nor did we ever fund/help create them. I also know and agree that British and American planes and policies have killed and maimed many.

But what disturbs about this article is how it implies that the terrorists are victims or dissenters turned into suicide bombers.

Those Pakistanis and Somalis, those so called Arab Afghanis, Saudis and Jordanians (etc), some of whom are not old enough to have lived the injustice they claim to fight, nor really know what it’s like to live under the brutal Israeli occupation and watch your years get eaten by wars and proxy conflicts – those people who have declared a jihad in the name of the oppressed majority (which they kill too) have nothing to do with us and should not be considered part of the reaction to an injustice that is not theirs to claim!

I am not impressed when Bin Laden cites the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as motivation for the September 11 attacks. Bin Laden is not how many of us want to get back at our oppressors. Their method is not ours, neither is their ideology. Nobody made Osama our king, caliph or spokesman.

So no, suicide bombings committed by those fanatics is not an illegitimate form practiced by those who have exhausted other peaceful forms of protest. Because we, who actually took to the street and worked hard over the years to convince and persuade, are not to be equated with those who don’t even speak our language or share our history. They have hijacked our cause, and the damage might be irreversible.

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