Dr. Richard Benkin
Albert Einstein once said “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” What happened in Mumbai in the closing days of November 2008 was evil. The terrorists who planned and financed it were evil. The terrorists who carried it out were evil. And the terrorists who provided tactical and other support were evil. That should surprise no one. People long have known the depths of depravity to which radical Islam is capable of sinking. Have they not given us ample evidence?
Just since the September 11, 2001 bombings that killed over 3000 Americans, radical Islamists have carried out over 11,000 terror attacks worldwide. While they were not the first to use suicide bombers or hijack airplanes, Islamists carried both to new heights as their principle weapons of terror. They have blown up schools and students, driven busses into crowds of people, set off terror bombs on public transportation and elsewhere in dozens of countries throughout Asia and Europe. Their leaders openly call for genocide against Jews and Hindus, and their followers are trying to carry out those calls. Wherever they have had the power to do so, they deliberately destroy religious shrines and houses of worship and brag about it as step in destroying other faiths or variants of Islam. And then they have the gall to claim that these things were done because they were angry at some perceived offense, frustrated at their current living conditions, or defending their own warped conception of human rights. So, while terrible, are the events that unfolded in ten locations across Mumbai anything new or surprising? Did the terrorists do anything they have not promised us they would do?
The tragedy is that these events could have been prevented. Radical Islam has been warning the rest of us that it means to re-make our planet in its own image and kill anybody that threatens to stand in its way. Its practitioners have vowed repeatedly to destroy India as an abomination against Islam; yet its leaders act as if they were only kidding. Despite the country experiencing almost non-stop Islamist attacks, the ruling Congress Party maintains a strict policy of non-confrontation with home-grown Muslims who support the radical organizations. It recently showed far more zeal in prosecuting an alleged “Hindu terrorist” after a bomb went off in a predominantly Muslim town. The accused Hindu priest was interrogated several times, despite the fact that her only tie to the bombing was a car used in the attack, which 38 year-old Sadhwi Pragya Singh Thakur had sold years before. In a policy of appeasement similar to Britain’s (which was also a target in the Mumbai attacks), that same government deliberately refrains from identifying terrorists as Muslim.
Indian Hindus often complain that the government is not carrying out its mandate of secularism but practices a “pseudo-secularism” that bends over backwards to favor minorities even if it means heaping disabilities on Hinduism or Hindus. Its recently-passed budget contained millions in subsidies for Muslims to go on the Hajj to Mecca and pilgrimages to Jerusalem; but not a penny for the numerous but uncounted Hindu refugees from Islamist ethnic cleansing in Bangladesh. Other groups are agitating because the government took possession of Hindu temples but refuses to maintain them.
Before Mumbai, there had been 1,111 Indian fatalities (mostly defenseless civilians) from terrorist attacks in 2008 alone. Most attackers were Islamist, but 369 Indians were killed by leftists. When I was in India earlier this year, there was a terrorist attack or counter terrorist operation every day. But while security forces will go after individual terrorists, the government has made no strong moves to stop terrorism at its root—either by breaking up home-grown supporters or taking any one of numerous actions at its disposal against foreign nations involved in the death of Indian citizens. Neither has India done anything to end its open border policy, especially in the North and Northeast where I observed contraband in the form of arms and drugs being carted into India under the noses of the Indian Border Security Force and other militia. Terrorists also enter India freely from Bangladesh, Nepal, and China.
Indian intelligence sources now have confirmed that the Mumbai terrorists received training and support from Pakistan. All information points to at least two Islamist organizations, including Lashkar-e-Taiba in Kashmir. One of the captured terrorists, Abu Islam, however, reported “that they reached India via sea route and they were trained by the Pakistani army as well as [the] Pakistan intelligence agency, ISI.” Abu Islam lives in Pakistan, and several reports identify a number of terrorists as “British subjects of Pakistani origin.” These revelations already have caused an international stir. The British government asked the Indians “not to jump to conclusions” without a full investigation. More ominously, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi cut short his visit to India after the allegations surfaced; although he later said that Pakistan would “extend full cooperation and at all levels,” while denying a Pakistani connection to the attacks. Reneging on that pledge, however, the Pakistanis refused to send the head of the ISI as requested but only “a representative.”
The way India responds to these nascent geo-political events will indicate how extensive its anti-terror resolve might remain. Pressure against that resolve will come from Europe, Iran, the Arab world, and almost every member of the international NGO club; all of whom will counsel “cool heads” and argue against taking action to preserve Indian lives. These are the same parties that continue to push a faux human rights agenda Israel, thereby aping the Islamists they are in effect supporting. For instance, when Palestinian terrorists were blowing up innocent Israelis on public busses, they were unyielding in telling Israel to make concessions to the terrorists because the latter felt “humiliated” by the checkpoints they had to pass on their way to wreak havoc on Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. The United States similarly lost a lot of the resolve it had after the September 11th attacks. It did destroy Afghanistan’s oppressive and racist Taliban government. And by the way, which nation’s capital is only 100 kilometers from the radical seminary that trained the Taliban? Saudi Arabia? Iran? Pakistan? The answer, unfortunately, is India where the Darool Uloom Seminary just north of New Delhi.
US anti-terrorist actions have prevented any attacks on its soil since September 11th, and they are wrapping up their successful mission in Iraq. But the unity of resolve that characterized the United States in the days following 9/11 is a distant memory. The US President who launched the war on Islamist extremism, George W. Bush, will be leaving office in a matter of weeks; and his administration has been engaged in trying to pressure Israel into rewarding the Islamists. Moreover, Americans have just elected a President, Barack Obama, whose policy is to negotiate with those nation-states that sponsor Islamist terror.
It is up to Indians and Indian leaders to learn from these mistakes and recognize the danger they face on a daily basis from Islamist radicals. Whether in a new “coalition of the willing” (to borrow a phrase from Bush), the sort of changes in its border and security policies that the United States started to make after 9/11, or a sustained military and intelligence effort to destroy any of the millions of Indian Muslims who are part of or support Islamist extremists; the resources exist for India to energize the lagging international fight against the international scourge of Islamist terrorism.
[Dr. Benkin is a noted expert on South Asia and is available for speeches, commentary, or consultation through this paper.]