Monday, August 18, 2014

Unequal conflict By Tabish Khair - The Hindu

Letter to The Editor, The Hindu
RE: Tabish Khair's article: Unequal Conflict

The writer, Tabish Khair, makes out as if the worldwide protest against Israeli war crimes in Gaza, is a direct or indirect favor to Muslims, that should be paid for by them.

This is the essence of the ‘paid news’ syndrome.

Those that were protesting against Jews, Zionists and Israel, for the wanton aerial attacks on schools, hospitals killing a greater percentage of children, if writer’s logic is accepted, would appear to have their own angle in joining the protest. As writer makes out that the protests were not over the inhuman tragedy per se, but had ended up with a distinct pro-Muslim favor that probably all of these with their separate agenda now feel, should try and at least make something out of this favor to Muslims. The reciprocal favor that the writer has mentioned in his last sentence; about Muslims joining the protest marches, is something only Left liberals are good at. Muslims are laggard in that field of action and that will make it impossible for Muslims to now build up protesting crowds to flood streets of towns and cities all over the world, or at least within Muslim world. Marxists have a long tradition of organizing street protests. Muslims in Muslim countries if they try to build up street protest routine, they will certainly face live bullets, just like they did in the second Arab Spring gatherings in Egypt. Even in India, there are incidents, when unless the ruling class covertly wishes to use Muslim street crowds for their own limited agenda, from time to time, Muslim crowds spontaneously gathering on the streets is certain to face bullets. It is unfortunate that Left liberals now demanding their pound of flesh, over an entirely human issue, have inadvertently exposed their own inhumanity and opportunism.

Ghulam Muhammed,Mumbai

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Unequal conflict

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This is just as much a religious war for much of the ‘secular’ West as it is for the various versions of Islamists, says TABISH KHAIR.

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

I know that there have been many protests in the West, but humanity-conscious western nations have largely put up with daily news of children being killed by Israeli bombs in the current Gaza crisis — though ‘war’ is not the right word for such an unequal conflict — with remarkable stoicism. Why?

The answer is Islamism, though not in the sense in which the Israeli right employs Hamas’s stupid pinpricking-Goliath-missiles as an excuse for bombing civilians in Gaza. Yet, it is true that the blame for the deaths of children in Gaza has to be shared, almost equally, by Israel and Islamists.

If it was not for Islamists (I am not thinking of just the most draconian versions, such as ISIS or Boko Haram), the controlled, cumulative genocide perpetuated by Israeli security forces in Gaza would have been impossible. The world would have been far more outraged.

But the world is not really outraged because most non-Muslims are constantly confronted with the threat of Islamism, as are most ‘moderate Muslims’. Some of it is partly prejudice, true, but its core is very real: Islamists, and Islamic states, are premised on the superiority of the Islamic faith. These are organisations — and (some) states — that privilege Islam over other religions, treating their minorities as second-class citizens.

Bina Shah, the Pakistani author who has staunchly supported the Palestinian cause, was correct in highlighting her sadness that Pakistanis are far less likely to protest against attacks on Pakistani minorities than they are to protest against attacks on Gaza.
As someone born and brought up in a Muslim family, I cannot avoid feeling that there is an element of bad faith on the part of many religious Muslims who expect the ‘world’ to protest against the persecution of Muslim peoples, including Palestinians, but stay largely silent when minorities are implicitly or explicitly discriminated against by Muslims, usually in some Muslim state.

If I can feel this, surely the vast majority of non-Muslims must sense this even more strongly! Just as most Muslims can feel the ‘irrationality’ of justifying the ‘creation’ of Israel by referring to the Old Testament and a particular God’s purported wishes (though even that God did not ‘give’ Israel to just ‘Jews’).

You simply cannot have an ideology of active preference for your own beliefs against those of others, and expect others to be seriously provoked by the violation of your rights. Most Muslims, even religious ones who might not have such an active ideology, suffer from the rise of Islamism in this sense.

The matter is complicated by the fact that a kind of exclusive religiosity — a perversion of the humane element in all religions — exists not only among Islamists and Zionists. A contorted version of it exists in secular circles too, sometimes (especially so perhaps these days) in militantly ‘new’ atheistic ones. The vast majority of Europeans and Americans fall into two camps: those who silently support Israel, and those who feel for Palestinians but are not willing to do anything about it.

The thousands that come out to protest for Palestinians in New York or Paris represent a minority. In places like India, again, the majority either support Israel, sometimes for obviously genocidal reasons, or sympathise with Palestinians but lack the conviction to come out openly against Israel.

In a deeply psychological way, the Israel-Palestine conflict is just as much a religious war for much of the ‘secular’ West as it is for the various versions of Islamists. After all, secularism in Western nation-states has been largely built on the dominance of one religious-cultural complex.

The admirable separation of state and religion, to the extent it exists, is based on the almost total association of one religion (a version of Christianity) with the national ethos, even to the extent that famously ‘secular’ countries like Denmark have ‘state churches.’

In short, religion might or might not lurk in state corridors of power in the West (at least Europe), but it does lurk in the murkier and more confusing labyrinths of the Western psyche: there is a ‘natural’ reluctance to Muslims taking over the ‘Holy Lands’, which most secular Europeans and Americans are unwilling to face, and an ‘instinctive’ feeling of trust in Israelis who look so similar that their beaches fill up with sun-tanners the moment sirens stop blowing, as was attested by numerous photos this time.

Add to this the triumphalist rhetoric of Islamists, and it is no wonder — though deeply troubling — that much of the world makes only polite noises of unease when faced with news of the killing of children in Gaza.

Until more Muslims learn to protest actively for the rest of the world, much of the world will hesitate in protesting for them.

Tabish Khair is an Indian novelist and academic who teaches
in Denmark.

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