Last week ended in the horrible bloodshed of innocent people in two separate and faraway parts of the world, Nairobi and Peshawar, the blood of innocent children, women and men was spilled for none of their fault. However, in both the carnages, the perpetrators came from organizations linked to Talibaan and Al-Qaeda. They claim to represent true Islam and avenge the wrongs done to Muslims by the West and its allies. Peshawar in Pakistan is a historic city where stands one of the oldest churches in the (Indian) sub-continent, All Saints Anglican Church. This historic Church built in 1883 inside the Kohati Gate within the walled city of Peshawar is part of the Parish of the Church of Pakistan . It is an impressive and architecturally unique place of worship with minarets and a dome that bears a striking synthesis of Saracenic architecture; a combination of Mughal & British designs. This historic Church draws large number of worshippers and tourists on every Sunday when prayer is held. On September 22, 2013 when hundreds of worshippers were coming out of the Church two suicide bombers exploded bombs strapped to their bodies. The explosions instantly killed around 80 worshippers and onlookers including 37 women & 7 children and more than 150 people were wounded, most of them critically. It may raise the death toll to more than 100. The group, Jandullah (Soldiers of God), a terrorist group once financed by Pakistan Army and linked to Pakistani Taliban admitted that it carried out the bombing. Ahmad Marwat, the Jundullah spokesman said that his organization “carried out the suicide bombings at Peshawar church,” and “will continue to strike foreigners and non-Muslims until drone attacks stop.” According to press reports large number of friends and relatives of victims gathered outside the Church and denounced the Pakistan government for not being able to control terrorist activities in the country. Protests were held in all major cities of Pakistan in which thousands participated. At Nairobi, capital of Kenya and the largest city in the country was targetted by another terrorist group Al-Shabab (the Youth) based in Somalia and linked to Al-Qaeda again. A group of well-armed terrorists entered a popular upscale shopping mall on Saturday (September 21, 2013) afternoon throwing grenades and firing automatic weapons. Till Sunday, more than 70 innocent visitors to the mall had been killed and around 200 people had been injured. It is believed that a large number of visitors to the mall were under the captivity of the armed bandits so number of casualties is bound to rise. Shockingly, at the time of attack a programme focussed on children was being held and the death toll of children is feared to be very high. The victims were not only Kenyans. French, Dutch, South African, Indian, Australian, British and Canadian visitors also lost lives. Shedding of blood of innocent children, male and females continued through Monday. Prominent Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor who was attending a literary festival in Nairobi and visiting the mall too became victim of this terrorist attack and died on the spot. His poetry represented African voice against western imperialism, its stooges in Africa and militarism. He symbolized fight against apartheid. According to press reports Al-Shabab defended this gruesome carnage holding that it was carried out the attack in response to Kenyan military operations against Muslims in Somalia. British Prime Minister David Cameron called it “an absolutely sickening and despicable attack of appalling brutality”. US President Barack Obama was quick to call Kenyan President Kenyatta to express condolences and promised “US support for Kenya’s efforts to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice”. These gestures are welcome but we need to ask them: Is not it a fact that West created Talibaan and helped Al-Qaeda to grow in face of rising secular challenge to the Western exploitation and hegemony in areas populated by Muslims in 1970s. The Jihadi Islam was created and nurtured by the Western intelligence agencies to counter socialist and nationalist movements in ‘Islamic world’. [i] If predecessors of David Cameron & Barack Obama had not created these monsters and helped them to grow world could be a better place today. The Western hypocrisy continues even today. Alex Lantier writing on World Socialist Web Site on September 23, 2013 said, “The horror of the Westgate attack underscores the criminal character of the support offered by the United States government and its allies to Al Qaeda-linked opposition militias in Syria. These forces have carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks in that country, according to US officials, killing large numbers of innocent civilians”. However, despite this de-humanised and questionable parentage, the criminals of Jandullah and Al-Shabab cannot be absolved of their diabolical crimes against humanity. These gangs of criminals defend their acts arguing that they are fighting to ‘Save Islam/Muslims’ from Christian/non-Muslim adversaries. Their grouse is that in the name of fighting terrorism the West is targeting all Muslims and see what these self-appointed guardians of Islam are doing. They are killing and maiming innocent people who have nothing to do with rulers of any creed or hue. Thus there is no difference between these two. They want to kill non-Muslims. It’s idiotic to think that bombs and bullets are programmed to first verify from the victims his/her religion before striking. They forget that on this earth almost everywhere people professing different religions stay and work together. Both at Peshawar and Nairobi they have put to death number of Muslims. And how do they justify killing of a renowned atheist poet in Nairobi? He did not believe in Christian God or any other God. The fact is that they choose soft targets; the common people. By such acts these terrorists do not weaken the West but help the latter to behave in a more draconian manner. These terrorist swear by the name of Allah, the God. We are told that Allah loves children but these soldiers of Allah have no remorse in killing children. These terrorists believe that fight is between Muslims & others. What about persons like Noam Chomsky (and millions others like him) who have spent life time in opposing West’s criminal designs. And what about Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey etc. who have worked for generations as foot-soldiers of the West? The fight against Western Imperialism requires unity of all suffering people. By indulging in mindless theocratic violence these Jihadi terrorists are only further dividing the people. They are the best friends of the West. For Jihaadi terrorists, it is difficult to comprehend that human civilization did not start with the advent of Islam. It developed through millions of years. There were conflicts but synthesis was the rule and Islam too developed as synthesis of many cultures and religions. Also, no religion can claim that its followers make a monolithic whole. Islam versus others or any similar call by any religion is a hoax propagated by all kinds of Fascists. May God give such elements some common sense to understand complexity of human society! This spate of theocratic violence against common people once again reminds us of prophetic words of Dr John Joseph, Bishop of Faisalabad (Jhang) in Pakistan. He shot himself to death on May 6, 1998, while leading a protest march against Blasphemy Laws in the Sahiwal (Montgomery) town of Pakistan. Six days before he sacrificed his life at the altar of bigotry being indulged in the name of Islam in Pakistan, Bishop John Joseph wrote an open letter to his friends world over. In his letter, the Bishop underlined the fact that religious bigotry is created and nourished by the rulers but once it is able to settle down it turns into a monster capable of consuming the creators. But the heaviest price is paid by common people. He warned that we should not believe that blood-thirsty cult of religious violence will go away by itself or rulers who created and fanned it would like to see its end. He pleaded that “each one of us has to get involved and play our role”. We have not learnt any lesson from Dr. John Joseph’s martyrdom. Unfortunately, we the commoners have become mere spectators. If we wish to challenge the theocratic violence we need to become activists to unmask the criminals who spill blood in the name of religion.
Shamsul Islam is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Satyawati College, University of Delhi. [email protected]