SACW #2 (26 Sept. 01)
- South Asia Citizens Wire | Dispatch #2
26 September 2001
#1. Fortress America (Achin Vanaik)
#2. A Citizens Statement from Pakistan
#3. A Global Vigil For Peace on Oct 2 2001 [Gandhi's Birthday]
#4. Not In Our Name (Farish Noor)
Wednesday, September 26, 2001
By Achin Vanaik
ON SEPTEMBER 11 morning, two hours before we were supposed to land at
Washington's Dulles airport, our plane got diverted to Montreal,
Canada. Making our way down by land over the next two days into
upstate New York, Maryland and Washington, one was able to get an
insight into the public mood not just from the international CNN-
type broadcasting stations or the major dailies but from a host of
local TV stations and local newspapers as well as from the average
citizen met and spoken with. The popular reaction provided sources of
both hope and despair. Hope, in that the shared moral outrage
expressed across boundaries of race, religion and ethnicity testified
to the existence of a universal humanitarian decency. Despair, that
this potential for a moral sensitivity that is impartial and
universal was stymied by the rapid surfacing of a predominantly
nationalist insularity of response to the tragedy.
The main question that preoccupied Americans was not why did this
happen but how could it happen? Or rather, insofar as the why
question was posed it was quickly disposed of to most peoples'
satisfaction. The perpetrators are mindless terrorists or religious
fanatics who hate America and what it stands for which is decency,
democracy, freedom, etc. Rare were the voices (mostly religiously
inspired pacifists or uncompromisingly liberal elements) who were
prepared to say that the U.S. must not seek revenge by waging war on
Afghanistan or engage in activities that would itself amount to
terrorism, i.e. killing the civilians of other countries. Rarer still
were the voices of those who were prepared to point out, even as they
expressed their pain and outrage against the attacks on New York and
Washington, that the U.S. Government's actions abroad have helped
create the breeding ground from which sub-state and combat group
terrorists have emerged.
Wholly admirable was the way in which people across the country
united to support and offer help in carrying out the necessary relief
measures. Similarly, there was a perceptive and sensitive discourse
in the media on what the efforts to avoid such attacks in the future
might portend regarding restriction of civil liberties thereby
weakening the freedoms and decencies of American society. Barring the
fringe, most public political figures opposed attacks on Americans of
Arab, South Asian origin or on ordinary Muslims in the country. That
would be a betrayal of the values that the U.S. is supposed to stand
for. Even rightwing Republican leaders made it a point to say that
this was not a war between the West and Islam but between the rest of
the world and terrorism.
Largely absent, however, was any recognition of the problems caused
by American foreign policy. The record here is simply awesome, both
in numbers and scale. It includes the nuclear bombing of civilians in
Hiroshima/Nagasaki, the use of chemical weapons in Vietnam where over
two million civilians were killed, the use of sanctions since the
Gulf War which have led to the deaths of 1.2 million Iraqis of whom
500,000 were children. Instead of any media self-introspection on
these grounds, there was an even stronger display of
self-righteousness than usual. Civilisation, best represented and led
by the U.S., was under attack. Therefore, all those (whether
countries, groups or individuals) who might refuse to support what
the U.S. Government intended to do in retaliation were effectively
enemies of not just the U.S. but of all civilised values.
Given such a mood, it was hardly surprising that two leaders of
Israel should try and seize the opportunity to harden the attitudes
of the American Government and public towards the plight of the
Palestinians. The former Israeli Premier, Mr. Benjamin Netanyhu,
called for the destruction of the Palestinian Authority as a
terrorist outfit while Mr. Ariel Sharon called Mr. Yasser Arafat
another Osama bin Laden. They were supported by numerous prominent
American personalities declaring in print and TV/radio that now
America knew what Israel has been suffering all along. Matters were
not helped by repeated broadcastings of film clips of Palestinians
celebrating the attacks. Mr. Arafat's act of donating blood was not
an effective counter in the public relations battle being waged by
the American right and Israel at this juncture.
One thing is quite clear. Even if the evidence the U.S. Government is
accumulating is not sufficient to establish a legally defensible case
about an accused or suspect (Osama bin Laden in this case), it simply
could not afford to admit as much. The public desire for revenge is
so strong that it has to act. There are several historical precedents
for this, the most recent being after the 1998 bombings of U.S.
Embassies in East Africa. The U.S. bombed a pharmaceutical complex in
Sudan which suffered unknown ``collateral damage'' (i.e. civilian
deaths) and has ever since blocked an independent U.N. investigation
into its claim that it was justified in doing so because it was part
of Osama bin Laden's network of activities.
Of course, the U.S. Government is not simply responding to domestic
pressure. The speed with which `long range thinking' was put into
place was also remarkable. It is clear that it wishes to seize this
opportunity to launch something like an 8-10 year campaign to attack
(on all continents) all armed sub-state groups (and selected regimes)
which are considered to be unacceptable to American interests. So the
issue is not just Osama bin Laden and his network but the overthrow
of the Taliban regime itself, followed by other targets to be
highlighted as and when Washington chooses. This is not a war against
terrorism but an effort to establish maximum freedom of
military-political activity (of a kind and scale never before
envisioned) for the U.S. throughout the world.
Returning to India after the Washington trip, one was again shaken by
much of the public and media response. After initial expressions of
horror, the main preoccupation seems to be how India can obtain
enough foreign policy benefit, i.e. swing the U.S. Government over to
`our' side against Pakistan and its sponsorship of terrorism in
Kashmir. The overall result is that only a small minority (though
bigger than the even smaller minority in the U.S.) of publicly
articulated opinion declares that in the fight against international
terrorism, it is not just sub-state actors/combat groups (whether or
not supported/sponsored by states) that are the culprits but that
states themselves are guilty of directing/executing terrorism.
Indeed, that the sustainability, diversity of forms, and sheer scale
of state terrorist acts and campaigns is qualitatively greater and
more dangerous than that of sub-state actors. Moreover, among the
culpable states is not just Pakistan and its behaviour in Kashmir and
Afghanistan but India (in Kashmir and the Northeast), Russia (in
Chechnya), China (in Tibet), Israel, and a host of numerous other
states with, of course, the U.S. itself as far and away the worst
To any morally impartial view which seeks to fight international
terrorism no matter who is responsible for it, the idea of
establishing a concert of nations led by the U.S. as the main
international mechanism (regardless of its getting a manipulated
sanction from the U.N.) through which one must fight terrorism, is
utterly unacceptable. One cannot legitimise as the main
correctors/policers of international terrorism those who are
themselves guilty of terrorisms which then not only goes unpunished
or unrecognised but is made unrecognisable. The double standards
involved here are not just morally shameful but politically
counter-productive because they will lead to more widespread
bitterness and alienation reinforcing the appeal of those who claim
that sub-state terrorism is the only form of retribution to the
strong to whom the principles of justice do not apply. It is time to
stand up and oppose the U.S.-led coalition which will wage war on
Afghanistan and to call on India not to join it.
[Please note this is the final version of the statement issued to and
published in the press. An earlier version was circulated on SACW 25
Released on September 24, 2001
1. We share the immense grief and suffering of families and
communities caused by the brutal and murderous attacks upon innocent
people in the US. Since the carnage was also inflicted upon people of
all faiths and of many nations, including Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs
of South Asian origin, there is also much sadness in thousands of
homes across all of South Asia.
2. We call upon people of all faiths and nations to affirm a
commitment to peace, justice and democracy, and to reject all forms
3. We call upon the US to review its policies in order to seek a
world order that is equal, fair and just for all nations of the world.
4. We call upon all states, to fully protect the social, economic and
political rights of all residents in their country regardless of
their ethnic and religious identity.
5. We call upon all people, to ensure that action against terrorism
addresses the root causes of terrorism, and that such actions are
grounded in the rules of international law and consensus of United
6. We call upon the Pakistan government to create conditions for
development of a civil and tolerant society, to take urgent steps to
curb individuals, groups and facilities that promote religious and
ethnic militancy within Pakistan
7. We call upon the Pakistan Government to ensure that the
utilisation of any relief or economic benefits obtained as a result
of the new situation is planned and executed in a transparent manner
with the involvement of all interest groups, and are directed
towards the well-being of the ordinary people of Pakistan.
8. We call upon the Government of Pakistan to open up the media to
allow public debate on all national issues.
This statement is issued by Nazim F.Haji, on behalf of and in
concurrence with a group of Pakistani citizens who believe that the
urgency of the times calls for a renewed pledge to promote broad
public participation in issues of peace, justice and democracy. The
group sincerely invites fellow citizens of all faiths to lead towards
a new Pakistan.
Arif Hasan Nisar A. Memon Dr. Badr Siddiqi
Karamat Ali Dr. Tipu Sultan Dr. S.T.Sohail
Dr. Rashid Jooma
Naeem Sadiq B.M.Kutty M.B.Naqvi
Dr. Zaeema Alvi Ahmad
Dr. Shifa Naeem Syed Ghulam Shah Raza Hussain Shah Nuzhat Kidvai
Dr. Aly Ercelawn Feroze Khan Najm ul Haq
M. Akbar Khan
Syed Qaiser Ali Umar Abbas S.Amir A. Husain
GLOBAL VIGIL FOR PEACE ON OCT 2 2001 [GANDHI'S BIRTHDAY]
An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.
Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth and a determination to
Satyagraha is a process of educating public opinion, such that it
covers all the elements of the society and makes itself irresistible.
Remember your humanity .. Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell
Since Sept 11 2001 our lives have been lived in the shadow of the
awesome TV images of violent attacks in the heart of the USA,
thousands of innocent lives lost, and countless acts of sacrifice and
heroism of ordinary people.
Even more fearsome has been what has followed: the unanimous sanction
for mobilisation of unbelievable force levels for war; and the
dangerous tendency by some sections of the leadership and the media,
to reinforce the link between terrorism and Islam, thus fuelling
resentment and attacks against peace loving people, mainly Muslims
and Arabs, the world over.
The internet has been flooded with thoughtful writings condemning
terrorism and violence, news of vigils for peace, and petitions
counselling caution and expressing fears that hasty action now may
lead us into World War III.
Our immediate concern is to forestall this last eventuality and to
convey this urgently to world leaders on behalf of millions of
ordinary citizens in a manner which will make a more powerful impact.
One way of doing this could be by using the Gandhian strategy of
Satyagraha - or non-violent civil action in the quest for truth- a
tool invented by Gandhi for mass mobilisation through non-violent
protest, and used effectively by Martin Luther King and Nelson
Mandela among others. We believe we can and must seize this moment as
an opportunity to raise our collective voices for Peace. People
around the world are meeting in the spirit of non-violence to
consider how we might all work together, to learn lessons from the
past, reflect on the present and to find a way ahead which does not
believe in an `eye for an eye'.
Please join us in mobilising the widest possible participation in A
GLOBAL VIGIL FOR PEACE on October 2 - Gandhi's Birthday - where
friends and neighbors can meet, talk, commune in silence or in song.
We do not necessarily need large rallies, but can plan a variety of
imaginative localised actions in small groups in offices, schools,
colleges, street corners, bus and train stations, community centres,
and places of worship, in villages, towns and cities across the
world. When many people walk together, surely we can build a new
While we use Gandhi's name, we also remember innumerable goddesses,
Gautam Buddha, Mahavir, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed, Kabir,
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and millions of women and men all of whom
worked for peace, tolerance,compassion and sharing in different parts
of the world. Oct 2 was selected because it provides a convenient
date around which to build on the proven abilities of persons like
Gandhi to convince millions representing diverse beliefs and
opinions, of the critical need for tolerance, equity and justice as
critical ingredients for peace - and above all that the struggle to
achieve these must be non-violent, because the means were as
important as the ends.
Co-ordinating action around the world on a particular date might also
help achieve that important ingredient - a critical mass and
hopefully a chain reaction of good impulses which indeed is the only
way to achieve operation INFINITE JUSTICE!
If you can, please gather signatures on a simple statement saying:
NO TO TERRORISM - NO TO WAR - NO TO VIOLENCE!
YES TO PEACE, JUSTICE AND EQUALITY FOR ALL!
Send these with your names and location to UN Secretary General -
Kofi Annan, US President Bush, and your own Head of State.
In any case let us know if you met and what happened when you met.
`We' and `Us' are just a group of concerned friends from across the
world - with no political affiliations but a shared vision for
This is in continuation of my letter regarding the Global Peace Vigil on
October 2, 2001 about which I wrote to you yesterday.
It would really be very useful if you could organise something in your
areas, regions etc.
In case you decide to do something in your region/area send a copy for
information to the following addresses where we can keep a record of all
Harsh Kapoor <aiindex@...>
Lalita Ramdas <lramdas@...>
Kamla Bhasin <k.bhasin@...>
Harsh Kapoor is setting up a website on this vigil and you will be
In peace and solidarity
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 16:33:33 +0000
Comment for New Straits Times (Malaysia)
Not In Our Name
By Farish A. Noor
As the hawks of war gather to shed the blood of innocents once again,
we are forced to hear our names being mentioned as the intended
recipients and beneficiaries of such barbarity. While leaders of
Western governments talk about launching 'crusades' in the name of
'humanity' and 'civilisation', equally opportunistic self-proclaimed
'leaders' of the Muslim ummah have begun to call for a 'Jihad' in the
defence of Islam.
What is blatantly clear for all to see is how the language of
politics is being used and abused by politicians - be they dressed in
suits or the mantle of the Prophet. And with this abuse of political
discourse comes the utilisation of key terms and signifiers that have
all but lost their meaning. Universal categories like 'Civilisation',
'Humanity', 'Islam' and 'Jihad' have been put to work to further what
can only be particularist aims, and worse of all, done with our 'best
interests' at heart.
So when the leaders of the United States talk about shedding innocent
blood 'for the future of humanity', who are they referring to? Are
they referring to their own supporters who are baying for the blood
of others to be shed for the sake of vengeance? Or do they take into
account the thousands of Americans who have come out openly in
solidarity with others and who have called on their own government to
choose the option of peace and justice?
Likewise when the leaders of the Taliban and that self-appointed
'warrior of Islam' Osama Ben Laden talks about the need for a 'Jihad'
against the West, are they talking about their own fanatical
followers? Or have they thought for even a second about the millions
of Muslims the world over who regard their brand of reactionary and
exclusivist Islam as repugnant and totally contrary to the teachings
of the religion itself?
We who are caught in between need to speak out against this flagrant
abuse of political rhetoric that is carried out in our names. For
millions of people the world over, terrorism remains an immoral and
evil phenomenon that we all categorically reject. And this rejection
is truly universal- No civilised society accepts terrorism as a
justifiable act, whether it is carried out by rogue militia units or
But what is even more important is for us to reclaim control of the
discourse of rights, democracy and religion so that it does not fall
into the hands of the Pharisees and war-mongers who can only turn it
into a vehicle of war. 'Humanity' means much more that what the
President of the United States may think, and 'Islam' certainly is
too big a concept to be grasped by the narrow-minded mullahs of the
Taliban and Osama Ben Laden.
Should conflict occur- and the likelihood is that it will- the people
of the world must come together to build and strengthen the bonds of
common humanity that cuts across the barriers of politics, religion
and race. The only meaningful alliance that can be built in the midst
of this confusion is one based on a common understanding of universal
justice that unites communities rather than driving them apart and
against each other. Muslims in particular must realise that our true
allies are those peace-loving advocates of democracy and justice in
the West, and not the Mullahs who call upon us to murder others in
the name of our religion.
We may not be able to stop the abuse of political language, and no
doubt there will be plenty more 'crusades' fought in the name of
Civilisation or Religion in the years to come. But we need to make
this point clear at least: The war-makers and terrorists of the world
may well fight till the last man and the last victim, but this
senseless bloodshed should never be carried out in our name.
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