July 9, 2005Foreign AffairsSecurity

The London lessons

Yes, terrorism has to be tackled by its root causes.

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

A few weeks ago, Britain granted political asylum to Dr Shazia Khaled, a victim of rape and state-organised harassment by the Pakistani government. For Dr Shazia, like many others fleeing the oppression of authoritarian rule in the countries of their birth, Britain, and countries like it, offer not just a beacon of hope for a less stifling life — they often represent the only way to stay alive.

And it is exactly this openness that terrorists exploited on July 7th, 2005. The same openness allows citizens in democracies to freely oppose their government’s policies.

While detractors of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s foreign policy — specifically his support for the Iraq war —have been quick to point out that it was Britain that had asked for it, they ignore a simple fact. The terrorists attacked and killed scores of ordinary Londoners, many of whom, given the unpopularity of the Iraq war, may have actually opposed their government’s foreign policy. It is inconceivable that the terrorists who set-off the bombs were ignorant of this. Yet they had no qualms in killing many who would have sympathised with their cause, if only they had bothered to state them in a less murderous way.

What this means is that the other claim by apologists of Islamic terrorism — that solving the questions of Palestine and now Iraq, the grievances of the Arab world — does not hold much water. Palestinian or Iraqi terrorists had little to do with September 11 or Madrid: there is (to date) little evidence of their involvement in the London attacks either. Without doubt, it is necessary to put the issue of Palestine to rest — but it does not follow that doing so will end international terrorism. The real danger, on the contrary, comes from their counterparts from places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who find themselves motivated to act on behalf of their oppressed brethren.

American pressure after 9/11 compelled the Saudi and Pakistani regimes to renounce and clamp down on their support for international terrorism. But as Musharraf’s constant references to Palestine, Kashmir and Iraq as root causes’ of terrorism suggest, their duplicitous leaders continue to nurture the motivation that keeps the fires of Mordor burning. To defeat international terrorists, it is necessary to first call their bluff. The second Bush administration started off on the right note when it announced its plans to bring democracy to the Middle East. It must not only ensure the success of the new Iraqi project, but at the same time show the resolve to follow through in the rest of the region. The global jihadi threat will continue till the day the Salman Rushdies and Shazia Khaleds of the world will not need to seek safe havens thousands of miles away from home.

It is also necessary to tackle political correctness at home, which, in its overstretched form, has neither been able to deter terrorists nor remove inter-religious suspicions. Dr Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, was at the G-8 summit at Gleneagles when London was attacked. In his statement of support to the British people, he reminded them that India too has been a long time victim of terrorism. While that unarguably correct, it is also true that successive Indian governments have yet to learn this last lesson.

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