Making sense of Mumbai

Today’s post is inspired in part by the SAJA-coordinated lecture series “Understanding the Mumbai Attacks”, moderated by Rome Hartman, with Mira Kamdar, Mr. Rushdie, and one of this 3rdworldimagineer’s favorite journalists, Mr. Suketu Mehta.

The lecture was notable for many things, but what struck me most was the blatant emotionalism that charged the speakers and audience members alike. Never before in my career have I seen such a large, multi-culti crowd in such an eclectic and intellectual city react with such enthusiasm to a display of open hostility towards a sovereign nation, with the well noted exception of Israel.

If this is anything of an indication, then  India, my friends, is the new Israel. Not that the hostility at the Asia Society tonight was focused on either country. No, that passion was reserved for its neighbor to the north, the much maligned Pakistan.

“All the roads of terrorism lead back to Pakistan,” said Nobel Laureate Salman Rushdie, to thunderous applause. It was Rushdie who made the allusions to Israel and the Palestinian territories, saying of the terrorists that: “I do not believe that their project has anything to do with justice. If the Kashmir problem were resolved tomorrow, if the Israel Palestinian conflict were to reach an everlasting peace, do we believe that al Qaeda would disband?”

It’s a tone that marks, for me, a stark departure from the days before November 26th, 2008.

It’s my imagineery duty to remind you, dear reader, that posturing between two nuclear-armed nations does nothing to advance the cause of peace, but it is also my duty to reiterate an important theme from tonight’s lecture: the terrorists demands for ‘justice’ in exchange for peace or not a good faith exchange. Firstly because terrorism’s aim is never justice, only power, and secondly because the twisted and narrow view of justice taken by a group of coked-up 20-somethings toting AK’s is hardly the one the global community should embrace, let alone find themselves taken hostage by.

As Mehta pointed out, ” The Muslims of Bombay have come out in large numbers and demonstrated their love for this city.”

In fact, the men who perpetrated the Mumbai attacks have been identified not as Indian Muslims or even Kashmiris, but as Punjabi Muslims from Pakistan. What do they know of the suffering of Kashmir, against which they claimed to fight (by murdering and torturing “soft targets” in a city hundreds of miles to the south?)

It’s worth remembering that there are as many injustices perpetrated against Muslims in India as those living in the Occupied Territories (equally many, one might say, as are perpetrated against the Tamil minorities of northern Sri Lanka), and that, as citizens of the world it is incumbent upon us to fight against those injustices. It is equally if not more important to remember that the international community, not violent extremists, should determine the color and shape and texture of justice.

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Filed under 3rd World Imagineering, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, MUMBAI

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