Shaban / Ramadan 1423 H
Volume 15-11 No : 191
Camps \ Workshops
the US is now diverting world attention from its failure, to raising an alarm over Iraq.
By M. H. Lakdawala
The death of almost 200 persons in Bali, Indonesia, in the bomb blasts has shocked the world, since the place is almost synonymous with an idyllic resort.
What did those who exploded a massive car bomb on the Indonesian Island of Bali, killing more than 180 people and maiming almost 300 others, aim to achieve? Perhaps they gave one more opportunity for forces that miss no opportunity to malign Islam. The bombing in Bali calls for a serious review in strategy to fight terrorism. Several countries, including India, signed up enthusiastically in the ‘war against terrorism’. They need to speak up and bring pressure on Washington to change the course.
Even the coverage and projection of the terrorist act by the media has come into focus after the September 11 and Bali events. With the aid of the Western media, which wallow in each local tragedy in minute detail and magnify it into a harbinger of apocalyptic disasters to come, the terrorists are getting their message across, and leading Western policy-makers up the garden path.
What did those who exploded a massive car bomb on the Indonesian Island of Bali,
killing more than 180 people and maiming almost 300 others, aim to achieve?
Perhaps they gave one more opportunity for forces that miss no opportunity to malign Islam.
However, as the French philosopher Paul Virilio remarked, in ‘’Phantom des Terrors’’, as quoted by Ingrid Volkmer, in “Journalism and Political Crisis in the Global Network Society’’ : the role of the media in providing a breaking for the September 11 events was highly critical. Through the extensive coverage of breaking news, and the framing of terrorism into an ‘event’, the media became collaborators with terrorism’’. A recent report in Washington Post by Robert J Samuelson, a journalist himself, claims that, “our new obsession with terrorism will make us its unwitting accomplices- we will become merchants of fears’’. The experts argue that the media unintentionally, not only by its projection of the terrorist event in graphic details serve the interest of the terrorist and extremist groups, but also help the state’s cause in making a villain of these groups and cornering all the sympathies for the state itself. No doubt, this fear psychosis gave USA a pretext to implement its self-serving foreign policy.
The only anti-dote to this terrorist strategy is a clear focus on exactly how weak the terrorists are and how little damage they do. It goes against every instinct of human sympathy and every rule of practical politics to say so, but the horror in Bali was statistically and strategically insignificant. Good police and intelligence work will reduce the number of such incidents, but it will never eliminate them. They are part of the cost of living in a complicated and interconnected world.
The first objective of any competent terrorist group, therefore, is to get the attention of the target society and make itself a primary focus of public concern and government policy. It is by getting that far larger and more powerful society to react in ill-considered and self-defeating ways that you gradually approach your own objective. Unlike projected by media, terrorism is hardly a new threat in the late 20th century. But it evolved radically in the 1960s and ’70s and reached a notorious milestone in the 1980s, as terrorist incidents appeared to become more frequent and more lethal. Terrorism is not like war, which can devastate whole societies. It is an essentially marginal activity, carried out by those without much power, which only succeeds, if it can stampede the target society into overreacting. Some statistics- from 1942 to 1945, after the Russians, the Americans and the Japanese had all joined the fighting, the Second World War was killing over one million people per month: another Bali every ten minutes, day and night, for years. That’s what major wars used to be like before nuclear weapons.
If the Third World War had been fought around 1970, with all buttons pressed, it would probably have killed five hundred million people in the first month. Terrorism is a much more bearable phenomenon. Over the past 12 months, excluding the single and perhaps never- to- be- repeated mega-strike that killed over 3,000 people in New York and Washington, the monthly American death toll from terrorism has been less than three. “In the 1970s and ’80s, much of the terrorism was motivated by ideological content, or in some cases by separatists and nationalists,” says Brian Jenkins, an adviser to corporations and governments on terrorism and international crime issues. “In the 1990s, increasingly the engines that drive conflicts are ethnic hatreds or religious fanaticism. That changes the nature of struggle and the quality of terrorist tactics. So long as a group is pursuing a political agenda, then somehow the violence is related to the achievement of those political objectives. ... “There’s a notion of constituency, of public attitudes”.
But Jenkins notes that current terrorists appear to care little about national or international opinion — blurring the lines between terrorism, human rights abuses and even acts of war. “Rather than concern about the constituency,” he notes, “the concern becomes more about how much damage can you do to them ... Hutus, Tutsis, Bosnians, Kosovars. ... that lends itself to atrocities, massacres, less of an agenda and more to elimination of an ethnic enemy.”
The United States government is prepared to spend a hundred times as much to prevent one American death from terrorism as it would commit to prevent one traffic death, precisely because we view the former in a different light: human beings pay more attention to threats that they think they can do something about than to dangers that they can do little to control. In particular, history and maybe even evolution have conditioned us to go into overdrive when confronted with a threat from another group. Terrorists know that, and work with it. So long as the US continues to encourage Israeli aggression, keeps its troops in Saudi Arabia and supports repressive regimes in the Middle East, terrorists will find eager recruits. Having failed in its strategy against the Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the US is now diverting world attention from its failure to raising an alarm over Iraq. An attack on Iraq will only add more fuel to Arab anger and prompt more youngsters to join extremist organisations.
The life of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) will be featured for the first time through an animated film produced by a Saudi-based company. Muhammad (Pbuh): The Last Prophet has been approved by the Al Azhar religious authorities in Cairo, Egypt. The same authority had earlier banned any production of movies portraying the Prophet in person.
The animated movie costed more than $10 million and was scheduled to be premiered in the UAE and across the Middle East on October 16. The 90-minute film will be released both in English and in Arabic and has French sub-titles. Muwaffak Al Harithy, Chairman of Badr International, the company behind the movie told Gulf News: “ I believe that sharing the story of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) in an inspiring way is far more important than the money it has taken to release this film. The rationale for making this film was never that success would be judged on box office figures.” He said projects like this should not be entered into if the aim is to make a return on investment. From the very outset, they knew that they may not even recoup their investment. Al Harithy added that it is the first film of its kind not only in subject matter, but in the quality of story-telling, direction, music and animation. It is beyond comparison with the productions which already exist in the Middle-East dealing with the stories of Islam. “ We feel that it is time that Islamic stories are told in a modern way, appealing to a contemporary audience, hence it is the most ambitious animated film targetted at the Islamic market to date.” He said that the film cannot be compared to a Disney animation or Dreamworks Production films that have budgets of $75-140 million.
“ Still we are happy that Muhammad (Pbuh): The Last Prophet will be entertaining and interesting and will establish a challenging benchmark for any work to come after it.” He said, as a father, he searched for such films for his children and soon discovered that there were no quality films or television productions that dealt with the stories of Islam.What inspired him to make the film was “ the realisation that it will bring the story of Muhammad (Pbuh), the most important story of Islam within the reach of everyone in the Muslim world. It was one of the biggest challenges to make a film and tell the story in 90 minutes. “There is so much to say about Prophet (Pbuh) which cannot be told in such a short time,” said Al Harithy.
The film will be released in the Middle East cinema houses initially and then for the large Muslim communities such as Indonesia and then will be taken to the European markets.
In the Middle-East, the film will provide non-Muslims with a way of assessing the most important story of Islam and will perhaps help them understand the society they live in a little more.
(Courtesy: Gulf News
October 10, 2002)