India Ink

In yesterday’s Times the conservative columnist William Kristol notes how reluctant some are to acknowledge the Islamic roots — and explicitly Islamic agenda — of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai last week.

He cites a typical example, from Sunday’s Los Angeles Times:

Consider first an op-ed article in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times by Martha Nussbaum, a well-known professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago. The article was headlined “Terrorism in India has many faces.” But one face that Nussbaum fails to mention specifically is that of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic terror group originating in Pakistan that seems to have been centrally involved in the attack on Mumbai.

This is because Nussbaum’s main concern is not explaining or curbing Islamic terror. Rather, she writes that “if, as now seems likely, last week’s terrible events in Mumbai were the work of Islamic terrorists, that’s more bad news for India’s minority Muslim population.” She deplores past acts of Hindu terror against India’s Muslims. She worries about Muslim youths being rounded up on suspicion of terrorism with little or no evidence. And she notes that this is “an analogue to the current ugly phenomenon of racial profiling in the United States.”

So jihadists kill innocents in Mumbai — and Nussbaum ends up decrying racial profiling here. Is it just that liberal academics are required to include some alleged ugly American phenomenon in everything they write?

Although the jihadis are effectively stateless, thriving best where governments have failed, it falls to nations to resist them. But arousing nationalistic passions is anathema to some, who would prefer to view the threat as far more amorphous and unfocused than it really is:

Jim Leach is also a professor, at Princeton, but he’s better known as a former moderate Republican congressman from Iowa who supported Barack Obama this year. His contribution over the weekend was to point out on that “the Mumbai catastrophe underscores the importance of vocabulary.” This wouldn’t have been my first thought. But Leach believes it’s very important that we consider the Mumbai attack not as an act of “war” but as an act of “barbarism.”

Why? “The former implies a cause: a national or tribal or ethnic rationale that infuses a sacrificial action with some group’s view of heroism; the latter is an assault on civilized values, everyone’s. … To the degree barbarism is a part of the human condition, Mumbai must be understood not just as an act related to a particular group but as an outbreak of pent-up irrationality that can occur anywhere, anytime. … It may be true that the perpetrators viewed themselves as somehow justified in attacking Indians and visiting foreigners, particularly perhaps Americans, British and Israeli nationals. But a response that is the least nationalistic is likely to be the most effective.”

If, as Leach says, “it may be true” the perpetrators viewed themselves as justified in their attacks, doesn’t this mean that they did in fact have a “rationale” that “infused” their action?

But Leach doesn’t want to discuss that rationale — even though it’s not hard to find. Ten minutes of Googling will bring you to a fine article, “The Ideologies of South Asian Jihadi Groups,” from the April 2005 issue of Current Trends in Islamist Ideology. It’s by the respected journalist and diplomat Husain Haqqani, who, as it happens, is now Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani explains, is a jihadi group of Wahhabi persuasion, “backed by Saudi money and protected by Pakistani intelligence services.” He notes that “Lashkar-e-Taiba has adopted a maximalist agenda for global jihad.” Indeed, the political arm of the group has conveniently published a pamphlet, “Why Are We Waging Jihad?,” that lays out all kinds of reasons why the United States, Israel and India are “existential enemies of Islam.”

So much for Leach’s notion that the Mumbai terrorists had no “cause” or “rationale.” But Leach’s refusal to see this is in the service of persuading India not to respond in a “nationalistic” way — and of persuading the United States not to see itself primarily as standing with India against our common enemies.

Read Kristol’s essay in full here.

Related content from Sphere


  1. JK says

    There is no doubt that Wahabi extremism (Religious terrorism) is at work here. There may be other sorts of extremism involved here as well. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more about the fellow described in this one page article from US News and World Reports. (2005)

    There have been reports that under extreme pressure by the US (specifically US efforts to freeze or cut off funds to terror organizations) that Pakistan’s ISI may have found its’ relationship with Dawood less than “desireable” once LET began engaging US troops out of Pakistan’s Tribal areas. Dawood is a major player in “hawala banking.”

    I consider it doubtful that the “official” Pakistan government had a hand in the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan has after all moved some six divisions off the Kashmir LOC with India and moved these divisions to the Afghani side. Admittedly there are links between some ISI operatives and explicitly terrorist organizations.

    I am not at all uncomfortable at the necessity of destroying to the last vestige every terrorist group operating in this region of Asia, but here – with two nuclear armed nations – well this is gonna be dicey.

    Posted December 3, 2008 at 7:56 am | Permalink
  2. pdg says

    Hi all!

    I think she is taking the culpability of the muslem miscreants as a given- that the repercussions serve to undermine the wellfare of other Muslems is just reviewing how knee-jerk reactionary responses cause more harm than good in many cases-

    the ripple effect of continued violence is a larger problem- even than the acts of small bands of mal-contents who are obviously beyond the pale of civilized concideration… we play into their hands by going after-“the other” and further alienating those who look as if they are a problem to those who’s job it is to curtail trouble before it starts-

    by profiling non-troublesome kids cops are alienated them. to be pulled over by “the man” coming down on them for how they look-not a good thing -just as blaming all Muslems for the anti social acts of the wahabiists is not a just reaction- it is near-sighted at best-

    and Kristol just doesn’t have an open minded enough view point to hold water with me- many progressive thinkers he is a joke-

    I think it is pertainant to remember that the original “profiling” laws were inacted to protect white hippies -not blacks or any other odd looking folks to the unsophisticated eyes of law inforcment yahoos…
    love to all-Pat

    Posted December 3, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  3. JK says

    Hey pdg,

    “I think she is taking the culpability of the muslem miscreants as a given- that the repercussions serve to undermine the wellfare of other Muslems is just reviewing how knee-jerk reactionary responses cause more harm than good in many cases-

    the ripple effect of continued violence is a larger problem- even than the acts of small bands of mal-contents who are obviously beyond the pale of civilized concideration… we play into their hands by going after-”the other”…”

    To there, qualified agreement, well agreed second paragraph, the part about “knee-jerk reactions” in the first: agreed also.

    Posted December 3, 2008 at 4:28 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Pat, the point here is that this woman’s response to an explicitly jihadist act of large-scale, brutal terror in India is to complain about racial profiling in the US.

    Also: one does not have to blame every individual Muslim to have serious concerns about Islam itself, which seems to be an inexhaustible fount of fundamentalist bloody-mindedness. One could hardly blame civilized nations if they are starting to wonder whether it is in their best interests to admit Muslim immigrants at all.

    Finally, you are actually making an ad hominem dismissal of William Kristol as “a joke”? You may disagree with him, but let’s have a little perspective here.

    Posted December 3, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
  5. pdg says

    The perspective I have is that the guy is a sychophant -a borrowed discription and a joke – as in so biased as not to be taken seriously – as I would also rate Hannity & Limbaugh and others of that ilk- they are reactionary- and there is little they have to offer in any open minded discussion-
    ala any other narrow =minded cretan such as yr basic wahabiist-

    fundamentalism is a thow back to ancient thinking – as in christian or muslim or taoist-religion is backward!
    conservatism is a throw back to recent debunked thinking – as in neo-cons were very wrong
    moderate thinking is just wondering what the hell to think – as in yikes are they kidding-calm down
    progressives are looking to the future – as in lets try to move on with the goals that offer our better ideals a hope keeping in mind- (i would hope pragmatically) that there will be flack to face-
    love to all-Pat

    WS coffin once said ask socialist questions
    look for capitalist answers – i think that is a good formula

    Posted December 4, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    “conservatism is a throw back to recent debunked thinking”…

    Well, there you have it, I guess.

    Bill Vallicella recently wrote a fine essay on why a person might be a conservative. I’d be interested to know, exactly, what points you think have been “debunked”.

    Posted December 4, 2008 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    The point I want to make, Pat, is that dismissing someone as “closed-minded”, or a “sycophant”, is not an argument. If you disagree with something, you must rebut the idea, not the person.

    Posted December 4, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  8. pdg says

    well Malcolm,

    I am not looking for an argument, nor to make one -I join in just for fun when it comes to political discussions here…
    I figured, what with all the mud slung in the general direction of the Clintons, Gore, Kerry and Michael Moore -while offering not much more than a hateful attitude to back them up and a simplistic poo-pooing about the Bushists who have certainly done the nation & the world some real harms – I would just throw those (meant to be amusing) discriptions out there…

    it is unlikely that you appreciate where I’m coming from on this bro-and I am sorry for that,
    but please remember & know I hold you and yr family dear in my heart and wish no arguments between us… I’ll look elsewhere for political discussions-


    Posted December 8, 2008 at 12:25 pm | Permalink