The massacre of nearly 200 civilians by a ten-man terrorist group in Mumbai, India revealed a frightening new world. First of all, the terrorists’ attack was thoroughly planned and efficiently executed, with help from elements within Pakistan’s security and intelligence services. Their tactics are replicable in every country with a substantial Muslim presence.
Second, the attack on the Chabad House revealed that every Jewish institution in the world is a potential target. The cost of guarding those institutions would be prohibitively expensive and likely ineffective, given the attackers would inevitably be better armed, better trained, and enjoy the element of surprise. Iran is believed to have sleeper terror cells all over the globe, and they will target Jewish institutions. Indeed, they already have in the 1994 bombing of the Argentinian Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, which claimed 85 lives.
Perhaps most frightening of all, the response to Mumbai showed that the West is still not prepared to acknowledge the threat of radical Islam. And it is pretty hard to confront a threat that one dare not call by name. As the news of the attack broke, Western media pretended that the religious identity of terrorists remained a mystery. U.S. media outlets even speculated that perhaps the attackers were a radical Hindu group. Yet one would have to think back a long way to a terror attack not perpetrated by Muslims.
Once the religious identity of the terrorists could no longer be denied, the media stole a page from British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s playbook. She has gone beyond Orwell in ordering terror committed by Moslems to be described as anti-Islamic terror because it places Islam in a bad light. (Even President George Bush has long since dropped Islamofascism from his lexicon.)
Western media reporting from Mumbai consistently downplayed both the ideological and Islamic nature of the attack. One Australian paper described “teenage gunmen run amok” as the source of the carnage, as if Mumbai were a particularly vicious rerun of Columbine High School and the terrorists had no clearly defined goals in mind. British TV Channel 4 was even more egregious in its description of the perpetrators as having shown a “wanton disregard for race or creed.” Just the opposite was the case. The terrorists had a number of clearly identified target groups – Indians, American, British, and Jews. Hostages who identified themselves as Muslims were spared.
Former Congressman and current Princeton professor James Leach described the attack as one of barbarians against the norms of civilized society. But that formulation obscures that this was the attack by a particular civilization against another. Far from lacking goals, a brief Internet search turned up a full blown ideological platform for the Muslim jihadist group to which the terrorists belonged, as William Kristol pointed out.
Discussion of the attackers’ grievances – India’s presence in Kashmir, anti-Muslim violence by Hindus, American military intervention in Muslim lands, and, naturally, Israeli settlements – proved another tactic for diminishing the threat posed. In the manner of a visitor at a shiva house, who insists on knowing every detail of the deceased’s last five minutes, in an effort to assure himself that he will not meet a similar fate, the media’s focus on local grievances relegated the attack to events in faraway, exotic lands.
But discussion of local grievances misses the point entirely. Millions of Muslims live in a perpetually aggrieved state. Only among Muslims do such grievances predispose them to suicide bombings and terrorism; only among Muslims do perceived slights – the Danish cartoons, a toy pig, beauty contests – provoke murderous rampages involving hundreds of thousands of protesters.
Nor can that mindset of grievance be assuaged. Its source lies in Islam’s failure — at least so far – to conquer the world and impose Sharia (Islamic law). That is the jihadists’ goal, as they do not hesitate to proclaim, and all the localized conflicts are but subsets of the larger one.
Everywhere Muslims “suffer the humiliation of being visibly behind the West in so many ways,” writes Thomas Sowell, despite their vast oil wealth. The source of their humiliation is real, but for that Muslims have only themselves to blame.
Not only are Muslims unique in their sense of perpetual offense at their inferiority vis-a-vis the West. But the choice of terrorism as a tactic also has deep roots in Islamic thought. Andrew G. Bostom, in the American Thinker, quotes a 1979 Islamic military treatise, by a Pakistani general, in which the author describes “terror struck into the hearts of the enemies as not only a means but an end in itself. Once a condition of terror enters into the opponent’s heart, hardly anything is left to be achieved.” “The test of utmost preparation [for total war] lies in our capability to instill terror into the hearts of our enemies,” he writes.
Hand-wringing about Islamophobia has proven a valuable tactic in diverting attention from the threat from radical Islam. No sooner had the identity of the terrorists been confirmed than University of Chicago law professor Martha Nussbaum rushed into print in the Los Angeles Times lamenting not the carnage but the possible backlash against Muslims around the globe that might result from discussion of Muslims’ unfortunate propensity for terrorism.
The U.N. Human Rights Commission is poised to pass resolutions making statements offensive to Islam and Muslims – a notoriously thin-skinned group – human rights crimes. And guess who will determine what constitutes offensive. Such rules are not only an affront to freedom of speech and the press; they are barriers to clarity of analysis. Self-censorship by the Western media may, in any event, render unnecessary the efforts of various human rights commissions to stifle freedom of thought.
The media’s downplaying of the Jewish victims resulted, in part, from its desire to preserve its favorite narrative of Muslims as perpetual victims — the misunderstood, dehumanized Other of Western civilization. The shooting in cold blood of a pregnant mother and her husband, whose only sin was being Jewish and offering succor to strangers in one of the world’s most fetid slums, doesn’t jive with the view of Muslims as more sinned against than sinning. So it must be suppressed.
The BBC referred to Chabad House as an office building and refused to show footage from the scene. And The New York Times wondered whether the terrorists had accidentally stumbled onto Chabad House, a considerably less likely feat in a city of 15 million people than finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. Any doubts on that score, unfortunately, were put to rest by the reports of Indian medical examiners that the Jewish victims were singled out for brutal torture and the surviving terrorist’s confession that Chabad House was on the list of targets from day one.
Once, there was at least one nation in the world that could be counted to cut through such post-modern narratives and political correctness and defend itself. Now, alas, that nation has the distinction of being the only one in the world whose citizens are rocketed daily without response.
This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on 26 December 2008.