Letter in Florida Times Union, Dec 9, 2008
Terrorism is not new to India.
Muslims, Hindus, Marxists, Sikhs, Tamils, among others. have all been perpetrators, just as Indians of all religious and ethnic backgrounds have been its victims.
The latest attacks in Mumbai claimed the lives of 174 people and injured nearly 320. According to one Indian newspaper, nearly 40 Muslims were among the dead, accounting for nearly 23 percent of the casualties.
Back in the United States, pundits are describing the terrorists as “Islamic,” even though there is nothing Islamic about terrorism.
Muslims worldwide, including in America, condemned all such acts of terror, and Indian Muslim groups have gone a step further.
Islamic clerics in India described the Mumbai carnage as an attack on the nation and reiterated that Islam forbids the killing of innocent people and is against any form of terrorism.
“We are deeply aggrieved by the loss of human lives and especially by the brutal killing of Jews,” they said. In a show of respect for the dead, they have asked Muslims to wear a black ribbon on Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice), a day when Muslims commemorate Abraham’s steadfast faith in God.
A leading Indian Islamic seminary is asking Muslims to avoid the traditional sacrificing of cows on Eid al-Adha, in a show of respect for the religious beliefs of Hindus, who view the cow as sacred. Mumbai’s Muslim Council has refused burial rites for the killed terrorists.
Indian officials are insisting that the terrorists came from Pakistan and were perhaps aided by Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a terrorist organization with past links to Pakistan’s intelligence services. Even if the alleged official Pakistani links turn out to be false, Pakistan needs to demonstrate a greater commitment to curbing militancy.
India, on the other hand, must avoid any provocative moves that heighten tensions with Pakistan or unleash any backlash against its Muslim minority.
The fact that nuclear-armed Pakistan is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy and is itself the victim of terrorism, underscores the need for deft diplomacy to defuse this volatile situation.
In an increasingly globalized world, where some of our biggest challenges require common solutions, religious diversity within India and with Pakistan can be a source of strength.
But to achieve this, leaders of all faith groups will have to work hard to promote inter-faith understanding and politicians will have to eschew the divisive politics of religion baiting.
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