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Mumbai, Muslims & Libertarian Su

December 2nd, 2008 by Madeleine

Like most people, Matt and I are pretty horrified at what is going on in Mumbai. We have wanted to write something on it but just now I found this piece by Susan the Libertarian, oft heard quoted on Newstalk ZB.

Whilst I would not describe the abuse Sus experienced as “feudal nonsense” (chivalry came out of the feudal period) the rest of the article is pretty much what I think.

Extract from Mumbai, Muslims & Me:

It could be the latest Frederick Forsyth.

  • Meticulous planning that took more than a year
  • Detailed reconnaissance training
  • Remote mountain camps in Kashmir
  • Marine commando techniques
  • Covert acquisition of ships
  • Hijacking fishing boats
  • Stockpiling weapons while holed up in the Taj Mahal hotel, itself.

But it’s not the latest Forsyth, more’s the pity. It’s not fiction. It’s commentary from the London Telegraph via yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, reportedly from the sole captured Mumbai terrorist, Ajmal Amir Kasab, aged 21. “We wanted to kill 5000,” the newspaper quotes him as saying. Kasab and his cohorts fell a bit short of the mark, getting 172 as of yesterday; 172 innocent people including children, who this time last week were alive and well and planning for long and fruitful lives.


An end-of-year prize-giving ceremony was held at a secondary school in Sydney last Thursday evening. While the Principal was addressing the large turnout, there was a disturbance in the audience. It quickly became obvious that there was a problem that didn’t look like resolving itself in a hurry. Within seconds the horrified audience watched two students – sisters – gasp with horror and turn white with shock as they were bundled out of the auditorium by weeping family and friends.


News travels quickly and bad news the fastest of all. It transpired that the girls had just been informed that their father, in Mumbai on business, had been formally identified as one of the murdered.


Q: Do you think Kasab feels any sorrow – the tiniest bit – for having been party to deliberately taking the life of an innocent businessman from the other side of the Indian Ocean? Of depriving an innocent family of their much-loved dad? Well, do you?


Unless I have to be elsewhere, I routinely talk to my sister in Sydney every Friday night. We usually yak for ages, catching up with what each other’s been doing and swapping family news. We especially relish reliving old family stories guaranteed to bore all senseless, including the participants. We discuss politics, films, books and important stuff like facts about the Bay City Rollers whom we both loved with a passion 30+ years ago. (I’m not joking. You don’t joke about real love — and that’s what it was, so there). It’s the sort of female phone call that men (most men … like 99 out of 100) just don’t get.


There was none of that last Friday. It was a sombre call and very brief. You just can’t scream with laughter over abject nonsense when your sister’s colleague is barricaded in the bathroom of his Oberoi hotel room in Mumbai and has been for two days. That the SAS has told him to push a mattress between the door and whatever heavy furniture he can drag over, as a makeshift shock absorber in the event of an explosion. That he’s had little or no food. That he doesn’t know what the hell’s going on for most of the time. That his cellphone’s almost out of battery and the power’s off. That while his Australian passport may (or not) offer some ‘protection,’ his religion, should it be discovered, is another story. You see, my sister’s colleague is Jewish.


After I hung up, I thought about the first Muslims I ever came across. It was in London’s Paddington where I lived in a grungy place just around the corner from the famous old station. Like Kasab, I was 21. Funds were tight, and I used to walk miles to avoid tube fares. Walking down to Oxford Street involved navigating Edgeware Road, which I always dreaded, thanks to its inhabitants who seemed to consist solely of young Muslim males. These guys never seemed to do anything, except loll about the footpaths mouthing obscenities at passing women. I’ve never been good at taking crap from anybody, least of all sexist pigs, and I was determined to stop them.


My efforts were in vain. The obscenities became so bad, so quickly, that I sought drastic action. I bought a Walkman, which I had vowed and declared I would never do (being anti-social, you see). I could then cheerfully walk past them all and not hear a thing. I can truthfully say that I detested those individuals, each and every one of them. I would have been delighted to change my mind had I met one – just one – who didn’t look upon me as nothing more than a piece of meat, but I never did. And what really disgusted me was that this feudal nonsense was occurring in one of the world’s leading western capitals.


Earlier last Friday, Paul Holmes chatted with Mike Hosking and Wendyl Nissen. When he opened the segment by deriding the terror in Mumbai, Wendyl immediately jumped in to remind us all that “not all Muslims are terrorists” and “most Muslims are lovely people,” blah blah.


I wonder if Wendyl would have been so quick to be so tempered had she personally known somebody trapped and terrified in the Trident-Oberoi right at that moment? Or if her children had received the horrific news of their father’s murder the night before?


Memo to the Wendyls of this world: Most of us know that all Muslims aren’t terrorists, thanks. Most of us aren’t altogether stupid. But the cold, hard truth is that while not all Muslims are terrorists – all terrorists right now would appear to be Muslim.


It’s been a long time since I walked down the Edgeware Road. I wonder if the next generation of young western women are being hassled by the next generation of young Muslim males. Something tells me it’d be a safe bet.

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5 responses so far ↓

  • I know this isn’t exactly your sentiment (although you do endorse the general thrust of the piece) but this really is facile:

    “But the cold, hard truth is that while not all Muslims are terrorists – all terrorists right now would appear to be Muslim.”

    Given that the standard definition of `terrorist’ is:

    “Any one who attempts to further his views by a system of coercive intimidation” (OED)

    it would appear that not all terrorists right now would appear to be Muslims at all. Some of them are also Westerners in Muslim nations.

    Blanket statements like that given by Susan the Libertarian are not helpful and we should be careful to make sure we do not endorse them.

  • Hi Horansome good to hear from you again.

    It seems to me that “the standard definition of terrorism you put forward is flawed. You define terrorism as

    “Any one who attempts to further his views by a system of coercive intimidation” now according to this definition all governments no matter how benign would be terrorists.

    This is far to broad, it seems to me that *any* legal system of any country, even one that respects human rights is a “system of coercive intimidation”. When governments pass laws against rape murder etc they back these up with threats of coercive sanctions and one function of doing so is to intimidate people into not committing these crimes. Hence the standard definition would mean that passing laws against rape, murder etc constitutes terrorism, and that seems to me absurd.

    Now I agree, that *if* you define terrorism is a way that almost every government action is terrorist regardless by its nature one can show that western governments are terrorists, but that’s hardly an informative claim. If I defined terrorism as “a Muslim” I could just as easily show that all Muslims were terrorists, both tactics simply involve a linguistic sleight of hand.

    I would define terrorism a bit more narrowly, it would involve the deliberate targeting of non-combatants and civilians, for example and would probably also involve a purpose of some sort such as striking fear and terror into the civilian population so as to put pressure on the government of the nation in question to comply with ones demands. On this definition I think the allies actions in bombing Dresden and Hiroshima were probably terrorist attacks. However it’s not obvious that children killed by US attacks on Taliban soldier (combatants) who have unlawfully housed and hidden themselves in civilian population constitutes terrorism.

    To show western governments were terrorist you would have to show that they have a policy of deliberately targeting non combatant populations for this purpose and its not obvious they do, it is however un-controversial to note that many groups that do are Islamic groups, and their rationale is theological based on a particular interpretation of Islamic ethics.

  • “To show western governments were terrorist you would have to show that they have a policy of deliberately targeting non combatant populations for this purpose and its not obvious they do[.]”

    Two things:

    One. See: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb4345/is_/ai_n29359193

    Two: You end up making the same mistake I might have made, of conflating Governments with potential terrorist organisations. Now, there is a literature on whether Governments do terrorise their populations (short summary; yes, but not in every case) and a literature on whether Governments acting outside their borders can be said to terrorise other populations (short summary; yes, but not always intentionally). But, importantly, most of the terrorist organisations the West are afeared of are not governmental (and those that are end up being contentious and controversial cases).

    So, let’s let the governments of the respective sides argument be left to one side.

    Usually what happens now is that people end up fingering other factors, such as ethnicity and religious affiliation. This introduces a new problem, however. It seems fairly clear, given certain acts by American and British troops in the Middle-East that some sections of the armed services engage in classic terrorising or terrorist activity (ala my original definition, which is the standard definition of terrorist activity (and of which the link above is just a small insight into the psychological explanation as to why this kind of activity, in re the War on Terror, might occur)). Now, an awful lot of these terrorists are Christians (and, admittedly, some will be of other faiths) but I’m sure we don’t want to blame Christianity for their acts. Far better to cite situational factors.

    In which case the fact that may of these particular terrorists are Muslims may end up being the elephant in the room.

    I’m always reminded of Ireland when people talk about the evil Muslim terrorists. The terror war between North and South Ireland was ostensibly Protestant vs. Catholic, but really only because they were convenient generalisations of the two populations. It was more a fight between an interferring invader (typified as Protestants) and a people who just wanted security in their own land (typified as Catholics). Given that we Westerners have spent over a century interfering in the Middle-East I’m not surprised some of its varied (ethnically, culturally and religiously) populace has struck out. That doesn’t excuse the actions in any moral sense, of course, but we should be very wary of making ourselves out to be noble non-terrorists. We aren’t exactly virtuous (as a group) are we.

  • There is an Islamic code of conduct, which is spelled out in great detail in such works as Morals and Manners in Islam: A Guide to Islamic Adab, by Marwan Ibrahim Al-Kaysi (The Islamic Foundation), and The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, by Yusul Al-Qaradawi (American Trust Publications). It is incumbent upon all Muslims to follow the essentials of this code at all times, in all situations, and in their dealings with all people – both Muslim and non-Muslim. I say “essentials” because, of course, there are parts of the code that apply to such things as religious observances, which are specific to certain times/places and which naturally exclude non-Muslims. All Muslims know, or should know, their Islamic code of conduct. If they choose to ignore it or to tendentiously “interpret” it, they cease to be “Muslim” in any meaningful sense of the word. – Alan Ireland

  • There is an Islamic code of conduct, which is spelled out in great detail in such works as Morals and Manners in Islam: A Guide to Islamic Adab, by Marwan Ibrahim Al-Kaysi (The Islamic Foundation), and The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (American Trust Publications). It is incumbent upon all Muslims to follow the essentials of this code at all times, in all situations, and in their dealings with all people – both Muslim and non-Muslim. I say “essentials” because, of course, there are parts of the code that apply to such things as religious observances, which are specific to certain times/places and which naturally exclude non-Muslims. All Muslims know, or should know, their Islamic code of conduct. If they choose to ignore it or to tendentiously “interpret” it, they cease to be “Muslim” in any meaningful sense of the word. – Alan Ireland