Monday, August 14, 2006

An answer to that 'what is it...?'

Two things in the last week gave me part of the answer to some questions I've been asking myself lately.

One, thanks to Josephus, was this extract from an article by Robert Pape who is the author of the forthcoming book, Dying to Win: Why Suicide Terrorists Do It.

"Researching my book, which covered all 462 suicide bombings around the globe, I had colleagues scour Lebanese sources to collect martyr videos, pictures and testimonials and biographies of the Hizbollah bombers. Of the 41, we identified the names, birth places and other personal data for 38. We were shocked to find that only eight were Islamic fundamentalists; 27 were from leftist political groups such as the Lebanese Communist Party and the Arab Socialist Union; three were Christians, including a female secondary school teacher with a college degree. All were born in Lebanon.

"What these suicide attackers - and their heirs today - shared was not a religious or political ideology but simply a commitment to resisting a foreign occupation."

(Pape, 'What we still don't understand about Hizbollah,' The Observer, August 6, 2006)

The second was an AFP picture accompanying this article, which I cannot find online, so let me describe it for you.

The picture was that of a man's hands sifting through the rubble. To one side is the downy head of a newborn baby, resting on the forearm of the mother, who is still buried beneath the post-bombing rubble. Take away the rubble and the picture would be beautiful. If only, you could take away all that rubble.

When I first saw that picture, I closed the newspaper, folded it and put it away on the shelf where the raddi is stored. It seemed urgent not to look at it, to forget it as quickly as possible.
Three days later, after reading that mail about Pape's research, I went back to look for that picture and cut it out.

Because, while it is important to forget some wrongs, it is imperative to remember the consequences.


Redcell said...

Although I haven't read Pape's paper, I wonder whether he was limited by his geographical choices. Surely, Mid East still has a lot of Leftist residue from the Cold War Era. Can the same be said about Lashkar or any South Asian outfit? Surely, religion must play a paramount role in their actions.

annie said...

redcell: I'm not sure religion by itself plays a paramount role in any organised armed combat. it is, at best, an excuse. if economic/political gains are to had at the price of religion, almost all religious groups are willing to change sides and tweak their ideologies a little. but as excuses go, it is a powerful one because it allows so little room for escape or change.

angry fix said...

Thge issue of militant groups transcending religion brings to mind the support of the liberals in Iran for the Ayatollah at the beginnning of the revolution against the Shah. A momentary over-riding of ideological differences to resist a comon enemy.

And if Islam is a common factor in the violence, I do think it's because Islam is a common factor at the lower rung of the socio-economic ladder in all these cases. If one looks at the Mumbai blasts, are we to conclude that they were targetted at Hindus alone? Shekhar Gupta draws a similarly mystifying conclusion here: that the blasts were targetted at upper caste Gujjus. How?)
Moreover, let us also not forget that the militant faction of the Indian freedom movement mostly used Hindu deities. Must one conclude it was a Hindu movement, therefore?

barbarindian said...

Wonder what they were doing here:
Four Hizbul militants arrested in Punjab
Did we ever occupy any Muslim territory? The history books I read in my time said the reverse (*). Although Shri Arjun Singhji is fixing all that:
NCERT text books

The reason you can't find the pictures may be related to this:
Photo doctoring by Reuters

(*) This really brings up another interesting idea to my mind. I am sure you don't wanna go there Annie dear.

barbarindian said...


Since you are interested in this topic, you might want to check out Daniel Pipes' article and website:

He is a noted scholar who specializes on the middle-east.

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