WASHINGTON DC, July 11, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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A fireman lays flowers on a London street to mourn the dead

Saner Voices in UK say Military Means Cannot End Mindless Terrorism

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

LONDON, July 11: It used to be my firm belief that even those who consider violence as the sole means to their ends, would never be unkind to the great city of London and its people who in centuries have developed a vibrant spirit of tolerance and co-existence.

It is that unqualified commitment to Voltaire's universal concept that one might disagree with whatever your beliefs are but one would defend with one's life your right to free expression.

In most difficult times in history London's unprecedented level of tolerance has never surrendered to imposed or self-imposed restrictions. It has served as a haven and a sanctuary for dissenters who are either hunted or wanted by their own governments.

London streets, lanes and by-lanes punctuated by colored heritage plaques remind of the foreign rebellious souls that sought refuge here, to preach and practice freely their political, nay all other beliefs. Hunted and wanted in their own countries, they blossomed in London's free air and gave shape and substance to their ideas that changed the course of history, opened floodgates for revolutions and made liberty and freedom a household phenomenon.

Karl Marx undisputedly one of the greatest philosophers of all times whose vision changed the world, found London's rich soil to provide healthy food to his thoughts that changed the complexion of human society.

Pakistanis are happily proud to see a blue plaque on a building in London's Kensington/Olympia area. It says Pakistan's Founder Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah lived there when he was doing his bar from Lincoln's Inn. In Swiss Cottage area, on Kings Road you come across a flat that has a plaque stating that the place had been an abode for Dr Ambedkar, the man who gave India its secular constitution. Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of Latin America and last of the French Bourbon King Charles lived here in exile.

Each London street has a story of its own to tell and each one of them offer to, whether you are Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Communists or Socialists, landmarks that make one proud of the fact that indelible imprints of our great men are being protected and preserved in London, a city that has come to be our own in so many ways.

Being an oasis of freedom in a vast world that is being torn by conflict ignited by leaders fighting a life-long battle with ignorance and obscurantist forces opposed to them following 9/11, I had believed that London would remain beyond the pale of the terrorist violence. Can there be a better example of greatness than the fact that despite intelligence reports many of the Muslim religious extremists spitting venom from the pulpit, have not only been allowed to live here, they have been given social security sustenance and when the government tried to extradite some of them, British courts did not allow that to happen. Likes of Bakris and Hamzas continue to be running sores in the British society.

The July 7 series of bomb blasts have floundered all hopes. It made me hopeless and weary, my tears have stopped flowing and each beat in the heart brings more pain. Although Prime Minister Tony Blair in his first reaction, blamed the Islamists followed by his Home Secretary's reiteration of the accusation that the blasts had the stamp of the Al-Qaeda, until the time of writing this piece (early Sunday) Metropolitan police had refused to blame any one including that European Jihad, faction of Al-Qaeda that has claimed responsibility.

While we are proud and beholden to London's Emergency Services for pulling off a rescue miracle, Metropolitan Police and the British intelligence apparatus have been acting very responsibly. They want to be sure of their facts before they point their finger at their suspects. They perhaps have learnt a bitter lesson from the sexed up dossiers on Iraq-based on lies that had led Tony Blair to be a key player along with President Bush in justifying the baseless war on Iraq to destroy its stockpile of the weapons of mass destruction that never existed.

They very fact that Blair and Bush plunged the world into the mother of all wars in the new millennium has given a fatal blow to all the higher pristine human values of freedom and tolerance that the British society had nourished and nurtured over the centuries.

Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is one of the rarest British forthright politicians. He had shown courage by resigning when Blair joined Bush in the illegal war. In the new world order where evil is justified on the ground of expediency, Robin Cook as the British Foreign Secretary, had taken pains to run an ethical foreign policy.

Had Tony Blair listened to saner voices such as Robin's, the course of history would not have become so bloody as it seems to be getting with each passing day with the countless number of deaths of innocent people. I tend to believe veteran statesman Tony Benn rather than Blair. According to Tony Benn who put it straight in BBC's Hard (July 7 evening) that be it be London bombings, killing of 3000 innocent people in New York's Twin Towers or killing of 100,000 innocent civilian Iraqis or 38 deaths in London, it is an ongoing political battle for the control of Middle East and he declared it categorically it is a political and not a religious conflict.

Robin Cook in his column in the Guardian (July 8) has carried Tony Benn's point further home. "The immediate response to such human tragedy must be empathy with the pain of those injured and the grief of those bereaved. Across London today there are relatives whose pain may be more acute because they never had the chance to offer or hear last words of affection." But perhaps the loss is hardest to bear because it is so difficult to answer the question why it should have happened. What purpose is there to yesterday's senseless murders? Who could possibly imagine that they have a cause that might profit from such pointless carnage?

"At the time of writing, no group has surfaced even to explain why they launched the assault. Sometime over the next few days we may be offered a web site entry or a video message attempting to justify the impossible, but there is no language that can supply a rational basis for such arbitrary slaughter. The explanation, when it is offered, is likely to rely not on reason but on the declaration of an obsessive fundamentalist identity that leaves no room for pity for victims who do not share that identity.

Robin Cook fully conscious of the fall-out effects of the London bombings on the communities, especially the Muslims in Britain, has reminded Prime Minister that "no doubt the bombers attacked our values as a society, in the next few days we should remember that among those values are tolerance and mutual respect for those from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Only the day before (July 6), London was celebrating its coup in winning the Olympic Games, partly through demonstrating to the world the success of our multicultural credentials."

Indeed, nothing would have pleased more those who planted the bombs than for the atrocity to breed suspicion and hostility to minorities in the harmonious multi-ethnic British society. Robin's point needs to be adopted as a global belief that "defeating the terrorists also means defeating their poisonous belief that peoples of different faiths and ethnic origins cannot coexist." At the time of writing this, reports had started filtering in from some areas of rising tensions and threats to Muslims from those misguided and racist elements who would jump to their guns for nothing.

A forthright Robin has warned the British nation not to be misled by propaganda by the vested interests: "We will be subjected to a spate of articles analyzing the threat of militant Islam. Ironically they will fall in the same week that we recall the tenth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, when the powerful nations of Europe failed to protect 8,000 Muslims from being annihilated in the worst terrorist act in Europe of the past generation.

"Osama bin Laden is no more a true representative of Islam than General Mladic, who commanded the Serbian forces, could be held up as an example of Christianity. After all, it is written in the Quran that we were made into different peoples not that we might despise each other, but that we might understand each other."

Robin has minced no words in dilating on the real identity of Osama Bin Laden. He says: "He was a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organization would turn its attention to the west."

Robin is also critical of Western response to terrorism. "So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail. The more the west emphasizes confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation. Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support, funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim world than on what divides us."

One would agree with Mr Cook that the G-8 Forum be used to initiate "a dialogue with Muslim countries, as none of them is included in the core membership. Nor do any of them make up the outer circle of select emerging economies, such as China, Brazil and India, which are also invited to Gleneagles. We are not going to address the sense of marginalization among Muslim countries if we do not make more of an effort to be inclusive of them in the architecture of global governance."

In conclusion I would refer to Robert Fisk's column in London's Independent (July 8). It has lot of food for thought for the world leaders who claim to hold their values of freedom and democracy dear. So writes Fisk: "It was clear Britain would be a target ever since British Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to join President Bush's "war on terror" and his invasion of Iraq. We had, as they say, been warned. The G-8 summit was obviously chosen, well in advance, as Attack Day." Fisk reminds the world of Osama's warning: "If you bomb our cities, we will bomb yours."

Fisk adds further: "They are not trying to destroy what we hold dear. They are trying to get public opinion to force Blair to withdraw from Iraq, out of his alliance with the United States, out of his adherence to Bush's policies in the Middle East. The Spanish paid the price for their support for Bush -- and Spain's subsequent retreat from Iraq proved that the Madrid bombings achieved their objectives -- while the Australians were made to suffer in Bali."

No doubt, Fisk says, London bombings were "barbaric"' -- but, asks he: "What were the civilian deaths of the Anglo American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the children torn apart by cluster bombs, the innocent Iraqis gunned down at American military checkpoints. When they die, it is "collateral damage"; when "we" die it is "barbaric terrorism."

This difference has to end to revive those values that cherish life as the ultimate gift of God that demand equal respect, dignity, both in life and death, for all. Time is no doubt running out, the portable nuclear bomb has yet to pass into the hands of those who can professionally plan and precision-execute blasts in London's transport system or knock the Twin Towers off the face of the earth.

Those who sit on piles of nuclear weapons and are drunk with power better get down to seeking words of wisdom from likes of Robin Cook who are opposed to ill-conceived beliefs that terrorism is a war that can be won by military means. It is much more than that. It is a battle between haves and have-nots. Have-nots need to be provided a reasonable and attractive stake in life on earth so that they are not lured into becoming human bombs on the promise of a life of 'milk-n-honey' and bliss hereafter.

The writer is a former Pakistan High Commissioner to UK who now lives in London

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