Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Suicide Bombing in Pakistan

The Danish Embassy was attacked yesterday by a suicide bomber, killing eight and wounding twenty-four according to initial reports. There has not been a statement of responsiblity yet, but it is a relatively safe bet that the Embassy was targeted due to the decision by Danish newspapers to reprint offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

The sad thing, beyond the loss of life, is the logic that has led some people to perpetrate acts like this: "Some Westerners say that Islam is a backward and violent religion and have assaulted the character of our Prophet. In retaliation for this vile behavior of saying that we have a violent religion, I will blow up the Danish Embassy, myself, and a host of innocent bystanders, many of whom may be Muslim." Of course, this is a sick and twisted minority that in no way represents the vast community of Muslims and their interpretation of Islam. Yet, when such things happen, i.e. these senseless acts of violence, people do not pour into the streets in condemnation in the way that they condemned the original cartoons, or the movie "Fitna," or the teacher in Sudan who named a teddy bear "Mohammed." The Muslim community (the Ummah) must realize that the people who are doing the most damage to their religion are not the crack-pot Westerners like Geert Wilders, but the extremist Muslims who provide these critics with so much fuel. If there were no suicide bombers like the one in Pakistan, there would be much less criticism of Islam in the West. I know that the religion and how people choose to interpret it and use it politically are two very different things, but Muslims must rise up to defend their religion against the people within their community who corrupt it and tarnish its image as vocally, if not more vocally than they defend the religion against outside critics.

In my travels, I have talked to a large number of people from a variety of countries and backgrounds. Most have been kind and helpful. Many have engaged me in conversation about their religion, regional politics, and my country's foreign policy. All too often, when I have attempted to face this criticism by finding a middle ground where we can admit that both sides have faults and can do much, much more to improve relations, this middle ground is refused. One of my Arab Muslim friends told me that, even from within the community, when he advocates coming to this middle ground and condemning evils in the the Arab and Islamic world as vocally as the evils found in the West, he has often been shouted down and labeled as a traitor.

The rhetorical extremes taken by clerics and editorial commentators, the hate-filled and scholarship-light books and articles available, the spitting-angry demonstrations, and the violence that a minority perpetrate in the name of Islam are all far more damaging to the Ummah than any Western cartoon, or movie, or book could ever be. Why doesn't the Ummah condemn these things inside their community as loudly they do the silly outside influences that really do them no harm? Why do people play into the hands of critics by providing them with more hatred, vitriol, and violence?


Undercover Dragon said...

Its sad, but Islam is full of such Catch 22s. The scope for interpretation is severly constrained. Blasphemy is to be met with violence.

The statement that 'Islam is a religion of peace' only applies once everyone is a Muslim or gives total respect to the Islamic view of the Prophet and teachings.

As it stands there can never be an acceptance of freedom of speach, the right to cease to be a Muslim, the right to be homosexual.

Leo Americanus said...

I agree to an extent. My opinion is that virtually all religions are capable of supporting similar levels of barbarosity. Witness the Crusades or the Inquisition. Actually, some of Christianity's most barbarous acts were amongst its own followers. Then again, Christianity has sustained some of the most peaceful people in the world. To me, it is not what religious books actually say, it is how they are interpreted.

The Quran is interpreted as the directly revealed word of God, but this does not remove any of the ambiguity that lets people use one verse to support peace and another verse to support beheadings. So no matter what the words are or how they were delivered, it all comes down to how people interpret them.

Unfortunately, a sense of victimization, a sense of siege, and a sense of group loyalty (what Ibn Khaldun called asabiyah) has allowed a minority of the most hate-filled, backward, and ignorant people to hijack a religion and the world's view of that religion without a fight.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure its about people not willing to find a middle ground. I think its about a middle ground that is continuously shifting.

Take the example of Obama's claim to support Jeriusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. Its contrary to US policy since 1948 and it has spread widespread distrust of Obama throughout the muslim world.

How is obama's offer of support any different from the claims for an undivided Palestine by the Iranians?

Middle ground should be exactly that. middle ground for both. Not a continously shifting middle ground based on lies and half-truths.

I wont even begin to talk about the comments of the republican 'war hero.'

Leo Americanus said...

Welcome to my turf. I won't delete your comments like you deleted mine on your blog, because I can handle criticism of my own and I can argue back logically.

First, I agree that Obama's recent comments on Jeruslam were quite a departure from what is internationally seen as the way ahead to build a two-state solution.

Second, are you justifying wanton violence because of this "shifting middle ground"? If so, then you are part of the problem and you are discrediting Islam. In any case, the middle ground I am speaking of is the middle ground where we can debate our differences in the political arena rather than through violence. I understand that the asymmetry in international power makes this virtually impossible at times, but Palestine would have a much stronger negotiating position if the clans were not at each others' throats and the political elites stopped maneuvering for personal gain and started uniting to create a single front. The lack of unity of the Arab world is what allowed Israel to continue gaining ground since 1948. And back to the topic that I was talking about in my original post, the middle ground is about not blowing yourself and a bunch of other innocent Muslims up to get back at the Danes. I don't think any Danes were even hurt, although I might be wrong.

Third, as usual, due to your victimized outlook on life, you are pointing the finger elsewhere.

Finally, I will not defend John McCain's politics, with which I do not agree, but I will defend his character. I will make a very generalizing guess, but I'd be willing to bet that you spent much if not all of your life in the comfort of the UK where you were free to criticize everyone else at will. I doubt you know much about war or war heroes. While John McCain's foreign policy proposals are something that I freely admit are quite open to brutal criticism, your 'war hero' in quotes is a childish jab and reflects poorly on you. Even if you have had the misfortune of spending much time in a war zone, I highly doubt that you have had your limits tested in the way that John McCain has. So, in order to be a productive member of society, quit making childish jabs and criticize his ideas logically rather than making quite off-base personal assaults. Incidentally, John McCain would never call himself a war hero.

This insulting by quotes business is quite common in Arabic, only the Arabic version of "so-called" is used instead of quotes. Its rampant use in some academic literature is pathetic. Either explain why you do not believe the title is warranted or let it stand.

I hope you keep coming back and you can post your ideas and criticisms here freely, but expect pointed replies.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for taking the time to reply.

I'll be honest and say that I havent deleted your reply but its still in 'moderation' because I didnt want to delete it and nor do I want to publish it because its a repeat of your earlier comments and I didnt want to bore my readers (thats not what my original post was about).

Lets be clear I'd not justify suicide bombings at all and I dont believe there is any justification fo it whatsoever religiously or morally. I find it offensive that you suggest such a thing.

Its important to understand those afghans who were born around the time of the russian invasion and has seen violence all his/her life, then that is the vocabulary he/she has learnt to live with as a survival mechanism or of political discourse. Would you accept that? The answer to peace lies in development programmes and stability through just solutions and enocuraging good governance whatever the political will of the people and not in the encouragement of mercenarification (if there is such a word).

About denmark: The Danes had no involvement as colonial powers in any real sense and are amongst the peaceful people. Not that I should hav to say it but I do have familial connections to Denamrk so I'd appreciate less presumptions about who and what I'm about. what little you know about me is insufficient to base any jugements on my character or religious persuassion. So to insinuate that I value muslim life more than non-muslim life is insulting... you're putting words in my mouth.

If I was a betting man I'd say
you work in some capacity as a mercenary or at the very least a military consultant. Naturally, this creates a certain bias in your outlook on US foreign policy, and international relations which clearly shows.

I'm not a fan of military aggression at any level, so just as I dont agree with suicide bombers I dont agree with John Mccain being called a war hero - a bomber who was captured after flying his 23rd indiscriminate bombing raid over vietnam (i.e. the indiscriminate killing of men, women, children). The same narratives to create the war hero persona of McCain were recreated in the recent iraq war no doubt to rally fledgling support at home....remember Private Jessica Lynch 'story'???? Hope thats sufficient explanation for why I think he's a war criminal as opposed to a war hero. The hero tag is an insult to every person killed by his bombing raids.

Wether or not he calls himself a hero doesnt detract from the fact that its been a key part of his political branding strategy because lets face it, his opponents within or outside his party nor the media initiated this brand, but his own political communication advisors. Its been a successful strategy too so all credit to his team. I'm sure they could work wonders for Ariel Sharon's or Mussolini's image too [I wont say Hitler because that might offend you :-)].

I note you did not condemn Obama's comments so I'll assume you support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, which just proves my point about the ever shifting middle-ground.

Pointed replies are welcome as long as you desist from your annoying habit of making sweeping assumptions about me and my putting words in my mouth.

if you want me to reply to that message you sent just ping me an email at Navcity@hotmail.com

Best wishes,


p.s. I sense alot of pent up frustration and tenseness. Book yourself in for a message at the Chedi. The masseusse there called Kimi (if she's still there) works wonders ;)

Leo Americanus said...

I did not say that you justified suicide bombings, I asked if you did. You replied to my post, not by condemning suicide bombings, but by talking about a shifting middle ground and Obama's policy statements. I was confused as to whether this was a justification or just an attempt to shift the conversation, or blame, away from the issue of suicide bombing and toward the policies of the West. In either case, I wish you would have stepped up to condemn the bombing in your first post.
I also made no insinuations about your view of Muslim versus non-Muslim life.

I accept that Afghans have known a great deal of violence, but I also submit that the hate-filled rhetoric readily available across the region does little to steer people away from political violence. Your suggestions would certainly help to improve the situation there, as would a denunciation of the sort of ignorant rhetoric that incites this violence.

With regard to Obama's statement, I was quite disappointed. I hope that this was just a cynical attempt to garner votes and that he'll be more pragmatic once in office. This can be the case in the American electoral system. Personally, I believe that either the two states should share a divided Jerusalem as their capital or neither should have it. I would like to see Jerusalem as an "international city of peace" but the question of who would police and administer it is a hand grenade no one wants to be left holding. In the end though, you need to realize that the cacaphony of rockets, bombs, and yelling that comes out of the Arab world on this and other issues is all that Israel and her supporters need to keep the issue tabled. All interest groups need to do to convince the public that the Arabs are extremist nuts and not worthy of Western concern is to trot out the ubiquitous media clips about the "Zionist-Crusader- fill in the blank" conspiracies, the "sons of pigs and monkeys," and the obliteration of the Israeli state. Go to http://www.memri.org to see the sorts of ammunition that the regional media gives people who want to ensure that the Arabs are never taken seriously on this issue. While many in the West are concerned about the plight of the Palestinians, these voices will never reach a critical mass until the vitriol from the Arab world is toned down. It doesn't matter whether this is morally correct or not, it is the case.

With regard to McCain, again I find your remarks troubling. I will admit that a suicide bomber and a air-delivered bomb have the same end effect when they hit flesh. Beyond that, I would characterize war as a form of societally-sanctioned, official violent murderous crime. Yet, unless you consider every soldier in every war a "war criminal," I cannot accept your characterization of McCain. War criminal, as a legal term, connotes much more heinous acts than even the destruction caused by bombs, suicide or other.

With regard to McCain's image, his status as a distinguished veteran was known well before the presidential campaign. Unlike the case of John Kerry, there was no need for his media relations people to fabricate his image. Your conflation of McCain, Mussolini, and Sharon is quite a stretch to say the least. The difference between polemical rhetoric and logical argumentation is in maintaining fidelity to facts and the proper relationship between the examples you use.

Finally, yes I am tense and frustrated by too many conversations where I smile and nod and listen while someone tells me about the Jewish conspiracies, the evil American designs on oil, etc, etc that are keeping the Arab world down. Too many times, I've heard how "Osama Bin Laden, he's not such a bad guy. Yanni, you need to break a few eggs to make an omelet. He's a good Muslim, yanni" although his followers and their plans have led to far more Muslim deaths than Western deaths.

I'm frustrated because there are a lot of great people who are stuck in bad situations in the Arab world, but the political elites, media mouthpieces, exiles, academics, etc. are too often selling them short. Instead of cleaning up their own house while demanding better treatment in the world, they sit around, deflect all criticism, and blame everyone else. There are brave voices out there, but they have yet to catch on, for a number of reasons. So next time, instead of answering a post about suicide bombing with a deflection about Obama, take some time to think about what could be done closer to the source first, before expanding your argument outward toward what the rest of the world is doing to create such problems. And let me tell you, there are plenty of problems with the rest of the world as it interacts with the region, but Obama's statement, McCain's war records, and Danish cartoons are quite tangential.

Anonymous said...

Even allies arent safe it appears.this doesnt win the US much support:


Leo Americanus said...

So, what does an American airstrike, even an errant one, have to do with a suicide bombing against the Danish Embassy in Pakistan? I'll answer for you.

There is a narrative that has been built over the course of years, started by a collection of inept leaders in the Middle East who chose to defend their incapacity by blaming their all of their shortcomings on others' sinister conspiracies. This narrative was ideal because conspiracy is virtually impossible to refute. This narrative of victimization by conspiracy pervaded the region, moving from government propaganda to public discourse.

Due to this, even the most educated of people can often resort to deflection or conspiracy in order to avoid coming to a more balanced appraisal of the situation.

In this light, the logic is clear. Suicide bombing of Danish Embassy in Pakistan? Its the Americans' fault, or at least we should focus on the Americans rather than the true roots of the problem. Angry rhetoric, hate filled sermons? Presidental candidates' empty campaign policiies.

With regard to the news story you posted, it is tragic that this incident happened. It must be noted, however, that Taliban militants commonly sit across the border in Pakistan lobbing rockets and other weapons across into Afghanistan. Since US and ISAF forces cannot cross into Pakistan on the ground, they are reduced to defending themselves with air and artillery strikes, which can lead to the sad result here.

I find it truly sad that you have the venue to air your thoughts, condemn the bombing referenced, suggest concrete ways in which relations could be improved (both in the Muslim world and the West), or at least comment on or rebutt my comments about the need for the Muslim world to stand against the hijacking of their religion by ignorant hate-mongers, but you choose to post child-like sniping of this sort instead.

Anonymous said...

it wasnt a comment on this post or suicide bombings or conspiracies, its simply a link I thought you'd be interest to see.

You have a habit of joining up dots that dont exist. I sure hope you dont work in military intelligence.

If you'd actually, asked I would have furnished you with my logic because your interpretation (as always) is totally off the mark, and it shows your prejudices clearer than anything I have ever stood for.

So here goes:

an innocewnt life is worth the same anywhere.so had Pakistani military personnel killed US forces in a similar way with weapons supposedly capable of surgical accuracy, it would have been seen as an act of war by the US (which is why we would never have a USS Libery incident by the Paks).

This hubris is contrary to the arabic concept of muruwa (which I'm sure you're familiar with) that muslims, whether they conciously or not carry with them.

Its not the first time it has happened nor will it be the last.A co-ordinated operation with the Pakistani army is out of the question. Why? Turkey was advised against attacking the Kurds in Iraq. Remind me who by?

Its this patronising attitude to other nations ("Do as we say and not as we do", right) and hubris that the ancient Greeks were most fearful of.

Happy days (I'm sure you know the arabic translation and its meaning).


Leo Americanus said...

You must be getting angry. Your English is failing you in this post. Amongst other things, I do not understand what you mean by "it shows your prejudices clearer than anything I have ever stood for."

With regard to filling in the dots, you just left another bread crumb when you write "an innocent life is worth the same anywhere" but then breeze on into the Americans accidentally striking a Pakistani military post (or hitting a military post right next to a bunch of Taliban launching rockets). First, had the Pakistani troops been fired on by Taliban across the border in Afghanistan and U.S. troops been killed by Pakistani self-defense fire, there would be an uproar, but the incident would be investigated and if there was no indication of a deliberate attack on the U.S. troops, it most certainly would not be seen as an act of war.

More to the point of our back and forth, you once again have deflected the issue back to the U.S., rather than more fully outlining your position with regard to the suicide bombing and the other issues raised in the original post. You seem to be incapable of bringing yourself to address the point at hand and keep coming back to your comfort area of criticising the U.S. even when the topic is a bombing of the Danish Embassy, so you are filling in the dots for everyone to see.

And, by the way, the last time I read the news, the Turks were striking the Kurds in northern Iraq. So what is your point there?

And finally, what is your point with regard to hubris and muruwa? All Muslims walk around filled with virtuous concepts while the rest of us are creatures of hubris? Keep digging your rhetorical hole.