By Krishna Bhardwaj
In the night of May the 1st, President Obama announced that the head of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, had been killed by a special US commando in his hiding place, a ‘safe house’ in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a city which is about 50 km from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
The body had then been flown out by the US personnel in charge of the mission from Pakistan in the night and later interred in the ocean. The mission was carried out from a base in Afghanistan, without the involvement of the military and political authorities of Pakistan.
It may be recalled that some ten years earlier, al-Qaeda had claimed having masterminded the destruction and killing of thousands of innocents on 11th September 2001 by using planes full of passengers to hit against the World Trade Centre Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC. Such inconsiderate killing in the name of religion and ideological differences against the West was met with global disapproval although the disapproval was not unanimous. Since then, the killing of innocent people in any place in the world in the name of ideological and religious differences has proliferated. This wave of killing came to be associated with terrorism.
The question has been asked whether the death of Osama bin Laden meant that terrorism would now fade out. Nothing is more uncertain. First, the practice of terrorism has spread out to different parts of the world and it has been espoused by several other groups not affiliated to al-Qaeda. One example is the group that indiscriminately killed nearly 200 innocent people in Mumbai on 26th November 2008, a killing which is attributed to Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Pakistani terror group. Such groups may be expected not to be deterred by bin Laden’s death. Second, within al-Qaeda itself, other leaders emerged even before the late killing of bin Laden, with the potential to carry on indiscriminate killing just the same. Third, the differences of ideology and religion which triggered the 9/11 attacks on America still exist and have a potential to unleash what has been referred to as a ‘war of civilisations’.
The main hope that it may gradually cease to be accepted as a civilised way of dealing with differences is to be found in the manner of the recent uprisings against totalitarian regimes in the Middle East. Such uprisings are not grounded in religious doctrine. They are centred instead on seeking out freedom from the stranglehold of political power and destitution inflicted on the masses over several decades.
We are safe from this kind of amalgam between religion and terror in Mauritius. It is in our highest interest that such an amalgam be kept out of our collective decision-making and that we continue to value life and innocence by avoiding going into the destructive extremes that we see occasioned almost daily by the practitioners of terrorism in different parts of the world.
* Published in print edition on 7 May 2011