Losing the War on Terror

I once lived about a mile from the Taj hotel in Mumbai, Indai. I worked for an engineering firm and … Continued

I once lived about a mile from the Taj hotel in Mumbai, Indai. I worked for an engineering firm and freelanced as a copywriter for advertising agencies in Mumbai. Every time I got a new gig, I would celebrate by going to the Taj for a buffet or a breakfast. For a 23-year-old, it was a thrill to be able to afford the atmosphere of the Taj.

To me it was a place where aspirations found their destination. In those days, my wife-to-be was also a management trainee at the Taj. For both of us the Taj embodied the memories of youthful excitement and hopeful beginnings. Now those memories have forever been clouded by the madness that raged last week. We pray for those who have lost family members and wish the city back to its glamorous best.

The horrible carnage in Mumbai is sending depressing messages about the realities of the present age of terror.

The first message is from the terrorists – “we have no moral conscience; in our pursuit of what we think is justice we will not balk from any form of evil that one can imagine”. The horror of this message is compounded by the daring and the spectacular fashion in which the operation was carried out. The terrorists are determined, brazen, motivated — and they were in middle school when 9/11 happened!

The second reality is a verdict on the complete and utter failure of the wars on terror that the U.S. and its allies have been waging since 2001. If this is what the terrorists are capable of after being incessantly hounded by the world’s major powers, then we should be preparing for a bleak future indeed.

The wars on terror that are being waged in South Asia have caused too many innocent deaths. The “targeted strikes” have killed hundreds of civilians in South Asia in the past few months. Many people are being tortured by law enforcement agencies. People have lost families, homes and businesses in riots by murderous gangs often protected by the government. And governments continue to avoid addressing root causes such as Palestine and Kashmir. Increasingly abuse of Islam, its values, its history and its symbols is being used as a weapon in the war on terror and this too continues to win more recruits for the extremists. All the above in conjunction with religious extremism contribute to more egregious forms of terror.

This is a wakeup call. There must be a significant rethinking in how we confront the challenge of terrorism. Current strategies have generally failed, but there have been a few successes. The Saudis for example, have succeeded in reducing terror inside Saudi Arabia through dialogue and re-education of youth. In Iraq the U.S. won over the Iraqis – the so called sons of Iraq — who had joined Al Qaeda through dialogue and political and monetary incentives. Why can’t the same creative approach be brought to South Asia?

In India even those who combat hate are often consumed by hate. Pragmatism evaporates when hatred reigns. But the U.S. and NATO can try an alternative to their current failed approach.

The final question this carnage poses is to all Indians – Muslims and Hindus alike. What kind of India do they want? India is on the verge of a historical breakthrough. At its current rate of growth it will soon be a developed nation and a major world power. But in order to sustain the growth it needs internal stability. Without internal stability it will become a land of contradictions, always on the verge but never really there.

India will need to improve its ability to deal with terrorist threats. Intelligence gathering and operational performance are not on par with the threats it faces. It must also work to restore the faith of Indian Muslims in the state so that they work with it rather than against it. If another riot in which thousands of Muslims are slaughtered, as they were in Mumbai in 1992-93 and in Gujarat 2002, is allowed by the government then needless to say there will be more alienation and more radicalization of Indian Muslims and the problems will only grow.

Finally, India must find the way to work with Pakistan without resorting to another war that will only make matters worse. Rejecting outright President-Elect Obama’s recent offer to send President Clinton as a mediator to resolve the Kashmir conflict is not a commitment to peace. India is eager for U.S. support and intervention in every other matter, why not in the case of Kashmir?

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware and Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

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  • CCNL

    And what are the foundations of these terrorist activities?? The flaws and errors in the major contemporary religions!!!!! A synopsis of these flaws and errors (For those eyes that have not seen):1. Abraham founder/father of three major religions was either the embellishment of the lives of three different men or aRealization that the Jews are not god’s chosen people. 2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a mamzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). Analyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, On Faith panelists) via the NT and related documents have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus’ sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects. The 30% of the NT that is “authentic Jesus” like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus’ case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics. For added “pizzazz”, Catholic/Christian theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the “pew people” to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the “filicider”. Current crises:Pedophiliac priests, atonement theology and original sin!!!!3. Luther, Calvin, Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley et al, founders of Christian-based religions, also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of “pretty wingie thingie” visits and “prophecies” for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immaculate conceptions).Current crises: Adulterous preachers, “propheteering/ profiteering” evangelicals and atonement theology.

  • halozcel1

    First of all,we should do *correct analysis*.Islam/submission came,peace and harmony have been marred.Yes.If we try to link *islamic terror* in Mumbai/Bombay with Gujerat 2002,it is fifth class apology.Jewish Center has been also terrorized,what is it ?Five time braimwashing(although the book says three times) and Idleness will bring Terror and islamic terror will continue in everywhere on Earth.Dear On Faith readers,

  • bgreen2224

    If you think Mumbai is a wake up call how about Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nicols and the US’ own, non-prosecuted terrorists, the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood and the like?

  • MichaelEPiston

    In what way does this horrible incident show that the “West” is “losing the War on Terror”? It now evident that this attack was launched by a Pakistani group in retaliation against India’s suppression of the insurgency in Kashmir. The Kashimiri insurgency long pre-dated the start of the “War on Terror” with the 1996 Al-Qaeda declaration of war on the U.S. In fact, South Asians have been killing each other in far greater numbers than these ever since 1948. One may as well say that recent Hindu mass killings of Indian Christians was a defeat in the War on Terror.

  • ShalomFreedman

    1) It is simple- minded to expect a total defeat of all terrorist forces in the world. There have been many successes but the struggle is a long one.

  • DarylAtamanyk

    We’re not loosing the war: as the terrorists reveal more fully the evil that forms their core being, the vast majority of us who are “the good” cement ourselves together to form an impregnable wall of opposition. That is why, in the long run, evil is always defeated by the good: it is also how civilization progresses. Yours sincerely, Daryl Atamanyk

  • hnensey

    As an American Muslim with dual Indian Nationality, first and foremost I offer my heartfelt condolences. We are all victims. President Bush sends out Unmanned drones to kill them in their villages and they send Manned Mujahedeen to kill Westerners in any city then can. Nobody wins. WE all lose. A lot of us agree that 1) education 2) dialogue and 3) just and equitable solutions to problems like Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Kashmir are the right way forward. Americans and the world are looking at Obama and Mrs Clinton for leadership. They will not be able to do it alone. Good people must step out and be a part of the effort to move the policy from confrontation to more permanent solutions.

  • thornview848

    The blame game is not going to solve the problems of Islamic terrorism. I visited Srinagar in Kashmir in 1975. It was peaceful, beautiful and a extraordinarily friendly place. Then came the insurgency in 1980’s. With the creation of LET by Pakistan’s notorious ISI, hell broke loose in Kashmir. How does one fight or control such insurgency? The Indian force reacted and overreacted. And that was the purpose of a successful insurgency. People blame the government, and often rightfully so, for all the killings and torture and the insurgents and LETs benefit from it. Anyone who grew up in India or Pakistan knows how inept the police force is. They are absolutely incapable of dealing with insurgencies headed by organizations such as LET and ISI. So thousands of young Kashmiris now side with the insurgents and the tragedy keeps on unfolding. Blaming Kashmir and Palestine is the biggest cop-out. Stop the institutions that teach nothing but hatred. Stop funding and harboring terrorist organizations as LET. If we keep on looking back in history, we will always find justification to hate and kill. Do we want to follow that path? Unfortunately that is what this commentary is all about

  • manwhosawtomorrow

    I have yet to see one Muslim author writing about this incident about holding some non-Muslim entity at least partially responsible.If this violence is to be as justified fallout of war on terror, then can we say war on terror was justified fallout of 9/11?It’s funny. If a Muslim commits terrorist acts, then something else, like war on terror, provoked them. But if an aggression comes from West/Israel/India/Fundamentalist Hindus, then it’s because they are evil and have flawed character.It OK to blame USA for deaths caused by USA soldiers. But it’s funny that the Iraqi deaths caused by Islamic suicide bombers are blamed on USA. It’s as if when US forces invaded, the Islamic bombers were left with no choice other than to go and blow up children.Muslim intellectual = No introspection whatsoever.

  • quadibloc

    It is entirely proper to say that violence against peaceful ordinary people who are Muslims will not help the war on terror, and Muslims have been innocent victims of communal violence in India of late.It is when you speak of abuse of the history and symbols of Islam, however, that I wish to carefully and respectfully express some disagreement on a sensitive topic. In India, where the majority is Hindu, there continue to be problems where the rights of the Muslim minority are not respected. Few societies are blameless in this area; the industrialized countries of the West have mistreated their own minority groups.But of late they have recently made great strides in overcoming this.Shari’a, also known as Islamic Law, is held by some to be a tenet of the Islamic faith itself, and appears to call for a less-than-equal status for members of other faiths. Calling attention to that is not a weapon in the War on Terror used by governments, but it is not surprising that private individuals would wonder if this doesn’t help to encourage the mentality behind terrorist acts.In the career of Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic faith, and believed by its adherents to be the Prophet of God, there are two occasions where he led attacks on groups of Jewish people, killing the men, and taking the women and sellng them into slavery – and taking one of the women as a wife for himself.This is not conduct which is compatible with respect. Anyone who seeks to extort respect for one who would do such things, and who would engage in violence when it is not forthcoming, is fully deserving of the consequences of any attempt he might make at violence. That they may regard our attitude as provocative is their problem, and not ours.We will not show disrespect towards any woman who was a victim of sexual assault by giving undeserved respect to any of her assailants.

  • WellDone1

    Thanks to God that you are here in USA .Now we will have to face at least one short.

  • Keviv

    Dr Khan, I’m a Hindu and always find myself defending the positions of dialog, education, tolerance and understanding among my friends on the heels of each such carnage. The one argument that always stumps me is “Where is the vast moderate Muslim majority?”. I believe there is one out there, but it is never heard from in public discourse, taking charge of the discussion, issuing an absolutely unequivocal condemnation of such acts without offering the standard counterpoint of “the Indian government or majority have mistreated the minorities…”?Where is the introspection; the raging intra-Muslim discourse on the dire need to evolve the religion beyond the literal 5th century black-and-white edicts; the steely commitment to wrest control from a few that are besmirching a religion that once led the world in science and the arts; the realization that Imam Bukhari and his priestly ilk cannot continue to issue faux fatwas about which party to vote for; the belief that “we need to take responsibility for our own condition”?The acts of the perpetrators of the Gujarat carnage are unpardonable. The fact that Modi won with that much blood on his hands clearly points to a xenophobic streak in the majority population. But where is the voice of the moderate silent Muslim majority that can work with the moderate majority to cure India and its government of its apathetic attitude towards all its minorities?

  • NikosRetsos

    In its effort to grow as fast as possible and become a superpower, India is blind to everything else. India is a country of many contradictions.The Mumbai terrorist attack proved two things. a)India must allow a public referendum on the fateThose who may claim that doing that will be tantamount of giving in to terrorism are those that may share the shortsightedness and naive bravado of George Bush. Good leaders at some point put their egos aside and give in to history – not to terrorism. It will be a fallacy for any government to use the media establishments, slap the word “terrorist” to their opponents, kill as many as they wish with impunity, and then expect naively to live in peace. Controlling the media headlines, but burying one’s head in the sand of history, will never resolve any social, cultural, religious, or nationalist issue. Military power

  • DoTheRightThing

    Israel and Kashmir are NOT reasons for Islamist terrorism, though they may be used as excuses by Muslim apologists for Islamist terror attacks. Bin Ladin never mentioned Israel until sometime after 9/11, and, to my knowledge, has yet to mention Kashmir. The war on terror has been successful in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as many other places. But, due to the nebulosity of the Islamist foe (hiding in civilian populations), the reluctance of many NATO countries to “get involved”, and the U.S. effort to minimize the militarization of its own society, a conclusive victory of the non-Islamist societies in this world-wide struggle will take decades more of focused effort.

  • justillthen


  • marcedward1

    ds193870 writeshuh? Libya blew up a bunch of US soldiers in Europe. The US bombed Libya. Libya knocks down a plane over Scottland. Eventually Bush makes nice with the Libyans, and Quadaffy gets away with mass murder. That was weakness.

  • Quijote1939

    The pointless discussion just goes on and on. Nobody seems to understand: ALL religion is irrelevant, and utterly inappropriate for the present world.Islam, in particular, is the epitomy of evil: it curses its adherents with systemic backwardness and condemns the thinking world to endless irritating conflict with its impediment to world peace.

  • kurtniece

    My sense is that religious extremism is the basis of so much of the violence that troubles this world:“The fear mongers were gone. Those who had abused their faith to hammer others, to wage war, to profit, to support and to further prejudice were all gone, and in their wake a peace descended on the earth…” kurtniece.com

  • ard1

    One of the considerations no doubt was to limit the options available in Afghanistan to the incoming Obama administration.

  • marcedward1

    Quijote1939 writesThat seems like an odd thing to say. How is Islam any more evil than Christianity or Judism?

  • observer12

    CCNL:Thank you for the data you provide on the WOT. You’ll note that below I post links on reports of violence against Jews worldwide, by Christians and Muslims, these attacks targeting children, adults, old folks, simply for being Jewish.Try as I might I can find no corresponding data showing attacks by Jews on Christians and Muslims worldwid. Indeed, I can’t find anything anywhere on any website. Given your expertise in this sort of thing, kindly provide a comparative or contrastive analysis of same: Christian, Muslim, et al attacks on Jews vs. Jewish attacks on Christians, Muslims.Thank you in advance.

  • CCNL

    Marc asks: “How is Islam any more evil than Christianity or Judaism?” It is all about each religion’s operating manuals. Islam follows the dictates (e.g. warmongering, global domination by Islam, death to all infidels) found in the Worst Book Ever Written, the koran. Many Jews have finally declared most of the OT to be fiction. Those that have not follow the dictates (e.g. Jews are god’s chosen people) of the Second Worst Book Ever Written, the OT. Many Christians unfortunately also still follow much of what is in the mythical OT. The basics of the NT (e.g.the Beatitudes) are great guideline/rules for human interaction. The embellishments and myths (e.g. physical resurrection, the Last Supper, Messiah, Christmas) have however given a sense of superiority to Christians which continues to cause significant friction amongst religions. Bottom line: All these books need significant and official “Crossanization” to elimiate the hate and significant stupidity in them.

  • observer12

    CCNL:Is this a joke?Jewish terrorism vs. non-Jews:This concerns the war for independence and pre-independence in the twentieth century. The targets were local and far from randon. Jews, for example, objected to AngloChristians hanging them in the street, firing on boatloads of refugees and killing them. I’m not posting all the genocidal worldwide acts of Christendom since Constantine. I’m asking, politely for a a comparative/contrastive analysis of the last few years’ atrocities of Muslim and Christian violence worldwide against Jews vs. Jewish violence against Muslims and Christians for which you may use the links I provided as a baseline.

  • baskar_guha

    Pakistan sadly has devolved into a country where religion and violence are served as often as “chai” to quench their national thirst for identity and justice. The rational Pakistan, a distinct and dwindling minority, has no place in such a setting. This is bad news for its neighbors and the rest of the world.

  • CCNL

    Observer, Observer, Observer,Not much else out there with respect to contemporary Jewish terrorism vs non-Muslims outside of Israel/Palestine. Considering demographics, that is what one would expect. e.g.Israel’s population stands at 7,337,000 vs.Christianity: 2.1 billionIslam: 1.5 billionSecular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billionHinduism: 900 millionChinese traditional religion: 394 millionBuddhism: 376 millionprimal-indigenous: 300 millionAfrican Traditional & Diasporic: 100 millionSikhism: 23 millionJuche: 19 millionSpiritism: 15 millionJudaism: 14 millionBaha’i: 7 millionJainism: 4.2 millionShinto: 4 millionCao Dai: 4 millionZoroastrianism: 2.6 millionTenrikyo: 2 millionNeo-Paganism: 1 millionUnitarian-Universalism: 800 thousandRastafarianism: 600 thousand

  • dobermantmacleod

    To prevent terrorist attacks like Mumbai is impossible. The guns are readily available, minimal cost to train the men, plenty of minds that hate to volunteer, and 4000 miles of Indian coast to infiltrate. On the other hand, if the state tries to prevent even low tech attacks like Mumbai, it loses the war on terrorism by being overly repressive. The biggest job of India’s political class is not to overreact to the Mumbai attack, because then the terrorists have succeeded. As far as liberalizing the Afghanistan/Pakistan hardline Muslims-that is a generational task that will probably be derailed by the destabilization of climate change. 200 dead is nothing compared to what is about to happen to agriculture due to increased heatwaves.

  • dobermantmacleod

    I suggest you develop a sense of perspective:”Few seem to realise that the present IPCC models predict almost unanimously that by 2040 the average summer in Europe will be as hot as the summer of 2003 when over 30,000 died from heat. By then we may cool ourselves with air conditioning and learn to live in a climate no worse than that of Baghdad now. But without extensive irrigation the plants will die and both farming and natural ecosystems will be replaced by scrub and desert. What will there be to eat? The same dire changes will affect the rest of the world and I can envisage Americans migrating into Canada and the Chinese into Siberia but there may be little food for any of them.” –Dr James Lovelock’s lecture to the Royal Society, 29 Oct. ’07″The alternative (to geoengineering) is the acceptance of a massive natural cull of humanity and a return to an Earth that freely regulates itself but in the hot state.” –Dr James Lovelock, August 2008

  • Melkor

    Yes there are Muslim grievances in India (and elsewhere), but there are also hindu, christian, sikh and buddhist grievances. The buddhists did not strap bombs to themselves to avenge the destruction of their heritage in bamiyan. Today it is kashmir, tomorrow it will be something else. Assuming that one hands over these territories to terrorists in the name of addressing the “root causes”, will they just stop their mindless hatred and go back home for tea? I don’t think so. Kashmir started out as a problem between two countries, not between religions. And unless these Islamic terrorists terrorists stop brainwashing kids in pakistan and elsewhere, nothing is going to stop whether or not the kashmir problem is solved.

  • marcedward1

    Yo Observer

  • CCNL

    Observer,Terror activities against and by Jews and other religious sects are not new. (e.g. the atrocities of Jericho vividly described in the OT).Demographics play a major role as do the myths of the NT that blames the Jews for the crucifixion of the over-hyped simple preacher man named Jesus. A good dose of “Crossanization” of all religions will fix a lot of this. Are you ready to “Crossanize” orthodox Judaism??

  • akhajawall

    ” For the triumph of evil it is necessary that concerned people, parties and politicians around the world do nothing “COL. A.M. Khajawall[Ret] MD., ABFM., ABDA.