USA: A 'failure of imagination'
A "failure of imagination", the
Panel investigating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the
US stated, was what kept US officials from understanding the Al
Qaeda threat before the catastrophic events in New York and
There is, however, a manifest and abiding danger today, that a
future investigation into terrorist plots that are yet to be
accomplished would find another, even greater, 'failure of
imagination', culminating in horrors that may easily dwarf the
events of 9/11.
The 9/11 Panel has been sagacious in noting that the critical
element that must be understood if an adequate response to global
terrorism is to be crafted, is that "we are in the midst of an
ideological conflict". The contemporary assessment of where
precisely inimical ideologies are located will be crucial to the
outcome of this conflict - and here, again, there is an evident
error in the dominant American evaluation. It is, of course, the
case that Osama bin Laden has been one of the most articulate
representatives of this ideology, and his Al Qaeda one of its most
effective manifestations. But there are many 'future bin Ladens'
waiting in the wings, largely unnoticed, or systematically and
intentionally ignored, by the American establishment, as well as by
much of the world.
Among the most dangerous instances of this neglect occur in
Pakistan. The present US Administration appears to have
substantially 'outsourced' the management of its security interests
in this region to what it perceives as a pliant, even servile,
military dictatorship headed by General Pervez Musharraf, and there
is a belief that this regime will bring about the 'enlightened
moderation' that America hopes for in its favoured ally. It is
useful, consequently, to identify where precisely, within this
arrangement, the ideologies of hatred are articulated, what their
constituent elements are, and what relationship the Musharraf regime
has with their most visible advocates.
On May 20 this year, a meeting was organised at Muzaffarabad in
Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) by the Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen (HM), the
largest terrorist group operating in the Indian State of Jammu &
Kashmir (J&K). The meeting commemorated the 'martyrdom' of two of
its 'commanders' in J&K, on May 6, 2004, and was only one of many
such routinely organised to commemorate the rather frequent
'martyrdom' of prominent terrorist cadres in J&K. The current
Pakistani fiction, substantially accepted by the 'international
community', is that the HM is an 'indigenous' Kashmiri group with an
agenda exclusively limited to the 'liberation' of Kashmir. The HM is
not a banned organisation in Pakistan, and operates openly with
significant infrastructural, material and military support from the
Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The May 20 meeting was addressed
by, among others, Syed Mohammad Yusuf Shah @ Syed Salahuddin, the
'Supreme Commander' of the Hizb; Shiekh Aqil-ur-Rahman, the District
Chief, Murzaffarabad, of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), one of the
largest 'mainstream' political parties in Pakistan, and Javed Iqbal,
also of the JI; Ghulam Rasool Shah @ Abdur Rafiya, Deputy Chief,
Jamiat-ul-Mujahiddeen, a terrorist organisation supposedly 'banned'
in Pakistan; and Mohd. Farooq Rahmani, Convener, All Parties
Hurriyat Conference (APHC), POK, an organisation engaged in a
'peaceful struggle' for the 'liberation' of J&K.
Significantly, the meeting was held openly in a public ground in an
affluent area in Muzaffarabad, and the benign presence of uniformed
police personnel is visible in the video record secured by the South
Asia Terrorism Portal.
It is not possible, here, to reproduce the full text of their
speeches translated from the Urdu, but their main thrust can be
communicated, without comment, with a few extracts:
Syed Salahuddin, 'Supreme Commander', Hizb-ul-Mujahideen thus
"Almighty Allah, by his will and tactics, is bringing the Jihad
Movement of Kashmir on a track that will liberate not only the
oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir but also crores of Muslims and
other minorities in India oppressed by Brahmin imperialists…
"Islamic history, the Holy Quran, the biographies of the Holy
Prophet Mohammed and his virtuous followers, and the whole of
history proves that no Muslim issue could ever be solved on the
negotiating table. Can anyone quote an example and tell me whether
any Muslim issue has been solved in their favour according to their
will on the negotiating table? Disputes have been solved only on the
battlefield. On the table? Yes! We were cheated! Don't go far, ask
the Palestinian people how they were cheated in the Camp David
agreement. Afghan Mujahideen were cheated in the Geneva Agreement.
If the Mujahideen had not tackled the problem through their iman
(faith), then today Russia would have Afghanistan firmly in its
"Most humbly and respectfully, I request the leadership of my
base-camp and the political leadership of the God-gifted state
(Pakistan), whether they are in power or in opposition, in politics
or in religion that: "Take not for friends Unbelievers rather than
Believers." Jews and Hindus were neither your friends earlier nor
can they be today...
"The God-gifted Pakistan will emerge as a prosperous Islamic,
nuclear and Islamic country that can listen to the cry for help of
the empty-handed, innocent child Mujahideen, the shamed mothers and
sisters in Palestine. There is no Salahuddin Ayyubi
or Nooruddin Zangi in the entire
Arab world who can listen to their cry for help. There is no
Mohammad bin Qasim, Tariq bin Ziyad,
and no Salahuddin Ayyubi in the entire Muslim world who can prevent
the blood shed of helpless Muslims, which flows like rivers in the
hills of Afghanistan, in the deserts of Iraq, in the sky high
mountains of Kashmir or in the Chechnyan valley strewn with flowers.
There are 56 Muslim countries, 56 organized Muslim forces and all of
them have surrendered to the devil's forces. They are defeated and
"Dear youth! Allah bless you, Allah has chosen you by his own
powerful hand. He has chosen you for protecting the honour of Islam.
Who is there today? Where have Saddam's 500,000 forces and 80,000
Republican Guards gone? Who is present today to challenge the
imperialist powers? Who is defeating the allied forces in the
deserts of Arab Iraq, and who is breaking the pride of America? Who
is causing trouble in the hills of Afghanistan and for the 750,000
forces of Indian imperialists in the Kashmir Valley, strewn with
flowers? Who is attacking the Generals in Chechnya? Dear youth! They
are none other than the Mujahideen, the successors of the holy
Prophet Mohammed. In this context, Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon
him) said: "To embark on the cause of Allah, whether in night or
day, is the greatest good on earth." These are the Mujahideen who
teach a lesson to all forces of the devil, who will make Allah's
religion achieve eminence and will protect the honour of the
oppressed millat (community). They are the Mujahideen about whom it
was said that on judgment day Allah will weigh all the treasures of
the earth and the sky on one side and a day or a night in the life
of the Mujahideen on the other side."
Sheikh Aqil-ur-Rahman of the JI declares:
"The rulers of Islamabad and India as well as those of America, who
are conspiring against jihad should understand that Muslims cannot
compromise with jihad. It is an integral part of our Iman (faith).
We do not posses the same eminence and stature as the five hundred
thousand brethren who have sacrificed their lives for this purpose.
But we will also follow their paths and sacrifice our lives."
Javed Iqbal, also of the JI:
"My brethren! Today, after 9/11, people all over the world are
saying that the situation has changed and the Mujahideen should
learn their lesson and they should stop their activities. My
brethren! If we believe in Allah, if we believe in the Holy Quran,
if we are the followers of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him)
and believe in him, then jihad is the destination of our lives.
Jihad is our only path and we have to follow it."
Sheikh Jamil-ur-Rahman, a political Leader in PoK:
"The Hindus can never be our friends. The Holy Quran confirms it. In
clear words, Allah also says that the Jews and Christians too cannot
be our friends. Those who are initiating friendship between India
and Pakistan are misguiding the nation. They are cheating the
nation. Friendship with the Hindus is unnatural, unprincipled and
These voices are neither isolated exceptions, nor the most extreme
in the ideological discourse that dominates the Islamist core in
In an address at Jamia Qadsia in Lahore, on July 9, 2004, Hafiz
Mohammad Saeed, founder of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its terrorist arm,
the supposedly 'banned' Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), states:
"Islam was spread and propagated in the world through jihad. Jihad
strengthens the relation between Islam and the Muslims and
reinforces their Iman (Faith). In the past too, through jihad,
infidels were defeated in the world and infidelity crushed. Islam
achieved eminence and even today, jihad will lead to similar results
by the will of Allah…
Earlier, on June 7, 2004, Saeed had written in Jasrat:
"The US thought that it would keep jihad limited to Afghanistan and
extend its agenda of usurping the natural resources of the Muslim
world to Central Asia. But jihad's wave spread all over the world.
The US wants to control this wave. Jihad is the biggest threat to
the US interest. There is nothing like al-Qaeda. It is the figment
of the US' imagination. The US has concocted an outfit like al-Qaeda
to massacre the Muslims all over the world. It has concocted false
stories related to al-Qaeda with the help of the foreign media…
"America is bleeding these days. It has become a threat to peace.
When a wounded animal becomes a threat to one's life, it is shot
dead. It is time to gun down the US. The US is the enemy of our
religious culture, jihad, curriculum, the two-nation theory, the
people of tribal areas and Kashmir."
What is articulated by these eminences grises of the jehadi terror
finds constant echoes in the Urdu media.
In Jasarat, on June 12, 2004, Javed Kasuri, 'Deputy Supreme
Commander' of the HM states: "The US, Israel and India feel
threatened by those who sit on a mat and recite the Quran in
madrassahs. Jihadis are the only force that can challenge US
imperialism. The entire west is Islam's enemy… To save Islam, all
the Muslim sects will have to unite and wage jihad against the
Conspiracy theories and denial abound in this discourse. In the
Nawai Waqt of May 26, 2004, Dr. Asrar Ahmad, a 'well known Islamic
"The US has invaded Iraq at Israel's behest. The US wants to make
greater Israel by subjugating Iraq. Sharon had stated some time ago,
that Iraq is part of Israel. The Iraq war is not the game of oil but
securing a stable future for Israel. The 9/11 investigations have
been stopped because it was masterminded by Israel and the US cannot
take any action against the Jews. Europe will go to war against the
US and Israel because a crusade is on the card that will be fought
between the Jews and the Christians. The Europe will try to conquer
the US and Israel to make the world a Catholic colony.'
On June 23, in an interview in Takbeer, Ahmad takes the thesis
"9/11 was not bin Laden's brainchild but of the US, Israel and the
Jews. It was masterminded to provide the US an excuse to destroy
Afghanistan. In fact, the US wants to make Afghanistan another home
for the Jews. It will facilitate Jews' settlement in Afghanistan…
"The UN's agenda is to promote obscenity, incest and free-sex
culture in the name of 'gender-empowerment'. The UN wants Musharraf
to legalize prostitution, gay and lesbian marriage in Pakistan…"
Ludicrous as these statements may seem to Western sensibilities,
they form a substantial component of Islamist 'scholarship' in
Worse still, as has been repeatedly noted in the past, the extremist
Islamist discourse on jehad, and shahadat (martyrdom) and the
'global conspiracy' against and threat to Islam is not the province
of mullahs and militants alone, and has penetrated every aspect of
the Pakistani educational system - and not, as is widely believed,
just the extremist madrassahs.
It is useful to note that the examples drawn up in this Assessment
are a small selection of statements and writings in the past less
than three months. A comprehensive archive of extremist discourse in
this vein for the entire period since 9/11 would fill volumes, and
would include innumerable statements by elements proximate to, or
directly connected with, the Musharraf regime.
Some of these dangers have been acknowledged, for the pre-9/11
period under its review, by the 9/11 Panel. One writer notes that a
cursory key word search of the Panel's report recovers "more than
200 references to Pakistan, many of them damning. There are less
than 100 references to Iran and Iraq combined."
Nevertheless, ignorance persists at unacceptable levels. The
international Press and diplomatic community, largely located in
protected and affluent enclaves, with their attention fixed firmly
on the relatively moderate and westernized English language media,
remain substantially uncomprehending of these dangerous
undercurrents. Worse, denial remains integral to the mindset of many
Western - and particularly US - observers. A mention of the
'dominant ideology of Pakistan' to a senior US diplomat posted in
that country, for instance, drew a sharp response rejecting the idea
that any such 'dominant ideology' could actually be identified. Such
denial also characterizes the mainstream political discourse on the
issue in India today, and constitutes a danger even greater than the
direct threat of contemporary terrorism, creating vast spaces for
the continuous consolidation of ideas that will breed much worse in
the years to come.
12th-century Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria, who united Arabs
across North Africa and Western Asia against the crusading
2. Nooruddin Zangi, Saladin's army commander.
3. Mohammad Bin Qasim, the Muslim soldier who conquered present-day
Pakistan early in the 8th century (AD 712) and extended Umayyad
Muslim rule to the Indus Valley.
4. Tariq bin Ziyad, a Berber Muslim who led the conquest of Visigoth
Spain in 711.
Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management