The horror of Mumbai

Nearly 150 innocent people dead as of last count.  And who knows how bad this imagined strike against the US and the UK by the other side in the War on Terror will make things for Muslims in India (who already have a lot to deal with).  What an outrage and a tragedy. God rest their souls and bring these twisted mockeries of "mujahideen" to justice quickly.

While everything about this is horrifically wrong and I realize that the kind of people involved in such vile organizations aren't known for their IQ, but why in the world target a Jewish community center in the middle of India?  (So much for the Quranic principle of protecting houses of worship.) At the same time, these monsters are no doubt preaching about US bombings of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

You have to wonder whose side these sick people really are on. Just as 9/11 was a incalculable boon to previously marginal Islamophobe kooks in US political life,these savage attacks will surely be a political godsend to the already ascendant forces of Hindutva,  and a heavy blow to the cause of peace with Pakistan (which is so desperately needed).

What revolting, savage cowards. And hypocrites–they might as well cut out the middle men and start gunning down India's Muslims, themselves.


I didn't think it could, but it's gotten worse. According to this report, the center's rabbi and his wife are among the dead. Subhanallah. My condolences to their family and community.

Late Friday, Rabbi Zalman Schmotkin, a spokesman for the Chabad
Lubavitch movement, said that Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his
wife, Rivka, were among the dead.

The couple's toddler son, Moshe Holtzberg, was smuggled out of the center by an employee, and is now with his grandparents.

May Allah have mercy on them. If a Muslim who dies in fire is a shaheed, what of this horror, being killed in a place where–in the Quran's own words–Allah's name is remembered?

  • TM Lutas

    When non-muslims ask where are the forthright denunciations of islamic terror, what they are looking for are statements like the above. I hope it circulates widely and has influence.
    Thank you.

  • Svend

    Thanks, TM.
    For whatever it’s worth, I think there are a lot of such denunciations out there and have been for a long time, but the mainstream just doesn’t pay attention or remember.
    And those people in Mumbai were anything but “mujahideen”. Jihad is to defend the weak and stand up for justice.

  • TM Lutas

    If getting through to the mainstream is that serious a problem for muslims, it’s not been handled right. Ignoring the honest, the serious, and promoting the lunatics are a much bigger defamation than a bunch of editorial cartoonists and it isn’t a discrete event, but a continuing pattern.
    Where is the index to measure the behavior and the ‘razzies’ to ‘honor’ those most biased to give them an appropriate badge of shame? Really, you’ve had years to organize this and it’s not the sort of thing that a nice catholic boy like me should be doing. It’s not my patch.
    The MSM’s claim to objectivity is a big part of their individual brand appeals. To get awards based on pro-radical bias towards an enemy in time of war with that enemy, do you people even understand how dangerous that is to their business model? Do you understand how much more it would hurt coming from muslims rather than political enemies on the right?
    Nobody can do this sort of thing for you. What’s taking you guys so long?

  • jpe

    TM Lutas, the blogger isn’t all of the moderate islamic world. It’s surreal that you’d excoriate him for failing to be.
    That said, well-written, poignant blog post.

  • svend

    Thanks for the comment, TM. I don’t think this kind of pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps rhetoric is realistic or fair. It takes immigrant communities generations to develop the kind of institutions and strategic civic engagement patterns you’re talking about.
    I welcome such strategies and think they can play a positive role, but one must also be realistic: The MSM’s not going to notice or give a hoot about such criticisms, unless 1) they are coming from comparably influential media (which is why, for all its faults, al-Jazeera is exciting–it is challenging the MSM old boys club) or 2) they are accompanied by a threat of a boycott by a sizable segment of the market (which ain’t easy when *all* the big players are doing it).
    Having said that, I think you raise a very important point and I do not dismiss it. Our best weapon in this fight is ultimately our pocketbook, and ratings and awards and razies would be very useful to encourage the community to support those who deserve our money.
    As I’ve said (see links below), Muslims have been condemning terror forever–long before 9/11, too–but it gets filtered out because it doesn’t fit people’s stereotypes, because the statements involve thinking and don’t fit onto a bumper sticker, and because skewed standards of people who have a vested interest in demonizing Muslims are taken for granted by a poorly informed media.

  • TM Lutas

    You’re exactly right that it takes generations to turn an immigrant community around. It’s taking generations for my own community (the cause of our own deformation is communism and the intensive intelligence operations of the communists abroad to destroy immigrant organizations). I feel your pain. I also know the temptation to sit it all out and let somebody else do what you could have done. The result too often is that improvements that could have been made, simple aren’t.
    I think you do not quite grasp your own power. Ad buyers are not looking for controversy. “Purveyor of the most anti-muslim bigotry 2009″ award recipients are going to have to cough up bigger discounts to attract ads. That affects the bottom line and your lines of communication are all the ad sellers *of the other networks* who will gleefully pass this on to exactly the right hands because it serves their commercial purposes.
    Moderate does not have to mean boring. Have some fun with it. I suggest a pig trophy. If that’s offensive, perhaps a dog.

  • Chechenbai

    Salaam Svend,
    To start with, may I add my voice to your heart-felt and eloquent condemnation of the atrocities inflicted upon the people of Mumbai.
    I also wanted to add that I’ve followed your blog on and off for quite a few years and have always enjoyed your writing.
    I’d like to cut-n-paste some thoughts here that I posted on Haroon Moghul’s blog. The navel-gazing that I shall be referring to, is a comment at what I perceive to be a rather common and unfortunate condition within the umma (and I don’t at all consider you to be afflicted with this). It’s just that in the last few days and in a variety of online Muslim forums, I’ve come across quite a few of my brothers and sisters displaying symptoms of serious denial tinged with what-aboutery (and very occasionally outright conspiracy theory kookiness), with regards to the events in Mumbai and terrorism in general.
    Again, as a precursor, I feel that I have to say that I’m not a neo-con Muslim, totally condemn state terrorism, Guantanamo Bay, suspension of habeus corpus, the oppression of civilians in Palestine, Kashmir etc. As it goes, I used to be closely involved with the separatist Chechen cause.
    However, we, as in the Ummatic we, have a very serious problem on our hands. One may navel-gaze, rather in the fashion of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment (a book that I can never stop recommending highly enough to anyone), that when a statesman kills en masse this is lauded or at least tacitly accepted by much of humankind as a part and parcel of the ‘art’ of statesmanship, yet when the ‘little’ or anonymous man kills only once or in far smaller volume, he is branded a common murderer. Yet this paradox fails to absolve Raskolnikov of intense and soul-destroying guilt, mercilessly shredding away his sanity, at his cold and calculated murder of a wicked old money lender and her sister. Our friend Rodion Romanovich decided to murder with the common and greater good in the eye of his mind. What were the wages of his ghastly labour? He felt only two options and both were a product of his moral debasement: either final self-immolation or a life of total alienation from all mankind, utterly devoid of love and empathy.
    How did our hero redeem his soul? He confessed his crime. He didn’t truly repent of his crime at the time of his confession and sentencing to a Siberian penal colony. That came later. The first step was to confess. We, the Umma, are Raskolnikov and we need to truly walk the path of genuine confession and sincere repentance.
    One could object to this Dostoevskyian analogy, decry it as the paradigm of an Orthodox Christian and his peculiar prejudices. I beg to differ. Repentance is simply the acknowledgment of a sinful act and revulsion at its commissioning. What difference does it truly make if the man who urges repentance is an Orthodox Slavophil? Did not the Christians drink something from the stream of Allah’s wisdom? Of course, one could add that according to the Quran one does not bear the sin of another. This is quite right in specific, individual cases subject to jurisprudence. It is also right with regards to children. Yet does the Quran not speak of Allah’s collective punishment of transgressor nations? Does the Quran not speak of Allah bringing forth a new Umma should we fail in our duty before Him?
    I’ve always felt that Al Shaykh Al Akbar of Literature (for me at least), Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, should be read by anyone seeking an understanding of the contemporary Islamic world, be they a young angry Muslim, CIA/MI6 intelligence officer or just a confused ordinary citizen of the Western world (or India). The raging social and political debates (plus terrorist bombs) of late nineteenth century Russia echo loudly today.

  • Chechenbai

    I suppose underneath all the verbiage that I’ve unleashed upon your comments box, what I’m basically saying is the sin that we need to confess is that there is something intrinsic to certain readings of Islam that leads to the sort of qital that we see in Mumbai and other places.
    To be specific, it seems that something within the Salafi (particularly the Qutbian variant) and Deobandi paradigms can lead a believer (with the right indoctrination and indoctrinator) to cold bloody murder.
    To slightly paraphrase Abdal Hakim Murad, not all terrorists are Salafis/Deobandis but practically all terrorists/egregious murderers seem to be Salafi/Deobandi inspired in some way.
    Certainly from my personal experience on the ground in Chechnya, those in the resistance with Salafi leanings had no trouble with the concept civilian ‘collateral’ damage. Never would the more Sufi-inclined, or simply non-ideolgical (in a religious sense) members, ever support the targetting of civilians. This included slain, former President Aslan Maskhadov and the field commders directly loyal to him

  • svend

    Salaams, Chechenbai
    Thanks very much for the “verbiage”, which was profound and thought-provoking. It’s pleasing and humbling to know that I have such intelligent readers out there.
    I certainly agree that certain,shall we say, “ideological” strains of contemporary Islamist thought lend themselves far more easily to violence (not to mention all around intellectual and spiritual paralysis), and I consider Radical Salafism (as opposed to traditional [sic] Salafism/Wahhabism) foremost among them.
    But one must also be careful not to neglect real-world, socio-political factors, either, in favor of explanations based on ideological determinism. Obviously, the truly radicalized ideologies are inherently and irremediably dangerous, but Salafis aren’t the only ones today who subscribe to a worldview that in the right circumstances lends itself handily to violence and intolerance (just look at the nuts who supported the abortion bomber Eric Rudolph because he was, in their abortion-obsessed minds, doing “God’s work”).
    As much as I believe these mindsets need to be defeated, I think it’s a mistake to view them as root causes in most cases. Certainly they feed off and exacerbate these problems in complex ways, but I don’t think they ultimately create them. The world is full of comparable ignorance, obscurantism, and intolerance without such conflicts springing up everywhere so I think it’s more complicated than that (not that I’m assuming you believe this).
    When the world allows conflicts to rage and bodies to pile up it tempts fate. India has very serious problems with its Muslim population and has done a lot of nasty things in Kashmir (and Punjab for that matter), but has gotten away largely scot-free.
    Likewise with Russia and the Chechens. To think that this kind of brutal violence and oppression can be abetted by the international community for so long without harmful consequences for Russia, Europe and the rest of the world is simply asinine.
    I ultimately think violence and injustice beget violence (often by equally nasty people from the other side–violence is usually not answered by saints) and always has. It’s just that in a globablized world, those repercussions can be far more lethal.
    It’s a bit like abortion. There are very different views of this issue, but if we all really care about life we should be able to at least agree to make a serious effort to combat the social problems that put mothers is a position where they have to make such a terrible choice.
    As for Sufis and ideology, I agree that a background (even if its only cultural) in Sufism makes the extreme animosities and the absolute confidence in one’s own opinion necessary to embark on such a grisly project much harder to instill in people.
    I don’t think SUfis are by definition immune to this virus, but they tend to be well innoculated. I’ve certainly encountered seriously hard-line and by any standard “ideological” Sufis, but they were the exception to the rule.

  • Wahaj

    Akram see my comments on your Nov. 17 note.
    Your readers and your note on Mumbai massacre’is indeed worth noting. I am at a loss to say anything as whenever and wherever there is bombing I go
    Oh NO not again.
    I dont think you can point foingers at any sect like salaf ot wahhab or deoband etc. There is no teaching in Islam of killing innocents, period.

  • Anas

    I’m grateful for the post and the discussion. Thought this was relevant:
    “Over the years, I have noticed a pattern like this: When some terrorist group claiming roots in Islam commits a mass murder, Muslim organizations denounce those actions. The “mainstream” US media ignore such denunciations. Then some people denounce the Muslim world for the absence of condemnations against terrorism, and grow new fury against Islam.
    “In the hope of forestalling this sequence, I am sending (below) some quotations and citations of Muslim responses to the Mumbai murders.
    “Some thoughts of my own: There is a great danger that the government of India will respond with some sort of attack on Pakistan, inflaming incredibly dangerous conflict between two nuclear powers. Instead, a sane, responsible, and worthy Indian response would be to invite a full reevaluation of the Kashmir question with UN participation in seeking a decent solution responsive to the desires of the people of Kashmir, plus a serious effort at cooperation with the Pakistani government (which must itself respond with the same commitment) to find and punish as criminals the murderers of Mumbai.
    “As for the US and the West generally, there must be an effort to make available major reinvestment funds, especially through microloans and other means of grass-roots empowerment, to repair the social and physical infrastructure of the frontier territories of Pakistan and Afghanistan. For that is where rage against the West is rising because of US & NATO attacks that devastate local civilian communities.
    “The horror and anger we feel in this crisis can be turned toward more violence — or toward healing.
    Shalom, Arthur”
    …that’s from Rabbi Arthur Waskow (

  • Ted Paul

    I remember how quickly the Muslin community organized demonstrations about the “offensive” Danish cartoons. Your perception in the world would be greatly enhanced by equally outraged demonstrations about the murders in Mumbai.
    Jews have nothing to do with the dispute between Pakistan and India. Targeting their clergy for torture and murder shows how essential Jew hatred is to these thugs who act in your name.
    Now is the time for Muslims to take to the streets and say enough! Now is the time for Muslim clergy to say that those who slaughter in Allah’s name are doomed to hell and that their families should be shunned.
    Enough already of your community’s tacit support through silence of mass murder.
    These thugs say Israel is not a legitimate country. Please explain how Pakistan is legitimate.
    Enough wanton murder. Where are the large demonstrations?

  • svend

    People are more complicated than that, Ted, and you can’t reduce these issues to slogans that fit on your bumper sticker.
    Why aren’t Americans demonstrating over world hunger, a crisis that kills far more and which could be solved were there political will on the part of the North? Or for freeing Tibet from Chinese occupation? For that matter, where were the mass demonstrations on the streets against Jim Crow in the South before the Civil Rights era?
    Because they support(ed) these awful things “tacitly”? I doubt it. I think people don’t take to the streets because 1) in most cases they’re not directly affected, 2) they’re too busy worrying about their own problems, 3) they’re not well informed about the gravity of the situation thanks to a derelict MSM, and 4) they are confused bundles of contradictions like most human beings.
    There is no justification for those attacks, but that doesn’t mean that picking a fight with all Muslims with polarizing with-us-or-against-us rhetoric or ignoring real problems that add fuel to the fire will help the situation.
    As for Israel’s legitimacy, did the US affirm the USSR’s legitimacy during the Cold War? Does Israel’s affirm the legitimacy of the Palestinian state (shoot, until recently, Israeli leaders routinely denied there even was a Palestinian people)? Does the US affirm Iran’s legitimacy? Why do you expect nations that are locked in cold wars to affirm each other’s existence? It’s downright idiotic, frankly.
    But all too common. Arabs and Muslims are supposed to talk nice about a country that they, rightly or wrongly, perceive as killing and oppressing their people.
    You want Israel’s existence to be affirmed? Try working for peace (as opposed to surrender on Israel’s terms, what is often passed off as “peace” in Washington), then there might be a chance of that happening. Until then, the hate will flow freely in both ways (though we don’t really get too worked up when Arabs are the hated).

  • svend

    Incidentally, Ted, Muslims were absolutely justified in protesting the Danish government’s irresponsible (and bizarre) handling of those cartoons, which was unquestionably a calculated gesture on the part of a center-right government that was trying score points with xenophobic far right parties.
    The instances of violence (which were actually not very widespread) were wrong and stupid, but they for the most part occurred in places that already had insecurity and political repression. (Why are people so shocked shocked shocked that a demonstration might turn ugly in a place as repressive as Syria?!?)
    I don’t believe in censorship, but to assume those cartoons were just an innocent, apolitical exercise in free speech shows complete naivete and ignorance of the Danish political scene, which had already been wracked by nasty xenophobia long before those cartoons popped up.
    The cartoons are ultimately trivial, but Muslims were right to see it as a political attack. Those were the latest shot in a culture war in Europe over multiculturalism, and Denmark has seen some of the nastiest anti-Muslim prejudice (to the extent that a German newspaper in the early 1990s compared Denmark immigration policy to Austrian Neo-Nazi ideology).
    Finally, those cartoons were published (and distributed worldwide–I remember getting an email seeing them online) months earlier without incident. What made this a clash of civilizations was the way the Danish government sent the message that it supported them. They picked a fight and got more than they bargained for.

  • TM Lutas

    Were the larger muslim community to reign in its wingnuts with the same success that the pro-life community has neutered its own Eric Rudolfs, I would be quite satisfied. I suspect most non-muslims would be. The FBI tracks incidents of violence against abortion clinics. It has done so for years and the information is public. If you graph it, the slope is negative both for number of incidents and their severity. These days, what mostly gets reported is crazy gluing locks (though I admit it’s been about 9 months since I last checked the stats). Reigning in extremists isn’t a fight that’s ever really over but I would not be too quick to compare the salafist bombers with the anti-abortion christian bombers. The response patterns are different and pretty much work against the islamic response.

  • svend

    Thanks. That’s a good point, but it does not address what I’m trying to get at (perhaps unclearly). I’m talking about the potential for certain values and cultural tropes to–in the “right” circumstances–metastisize from being merely ugly and socially unacceptable to dangerous and subversive. I’m less far interested in Rudolph himself than the “normal” people who took him in and rooted for him in the mountains despite his obvious insanity and extremism. I don’t think that it was simply because they opposed abortion–these were people who were disaffected in a variety of ways and who–however implausibly–saw his actions a blow against forces (Washington, liberals, …) they feel threaten their way of life.
    I think violence and extremism are rarely if ever only driven by ideas or ideology. You need a particular mix of circumstances for that.
    Popular support for anything–whether a movement or a politician–is always a complex mix of factors. That applies as much to Muslims as everybody else.
    And, as I said, Muslims aren’t the only people with harmful ideologies on the loose.