As a Pakistani, it has been a bad week to be in London. Not only could one's relations or friends have been blown up, but those who committed those hideous crimes justified them in the name of Islam. Even worse for me was the news that three of the four terrorists had been to Pakistan. But neither Islam nor Pakistan has anything to do with these atrocities. Nowhere does the Koran justify attacks on innocent people. Pakistan is being blamed for fostering terrorists, yet Pakistan has been a victim for the past 15 years.
Some history is in order. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the US used Islam to counter the occupation. It sponsored an international jihad in the Muslim world and encouraged volunteers from Muslim countries to join in it. Thousands, including Osama bin Laden, flocked to Pakistan, where US-funded training camps were set up under CIA supervision. These plucky mujahedin were glorified in the West. But once the Soviets were defeated, both Afghanistan and the mujahedin were abandoned by the US. Afghanistan descended into chaos, from which the Taliban emerged.
Pakistan paid a heavy price, being left with sectarian militant groups trained in terrorism and four million Afghan refugees. We were swamped with drugs and Kalashnikovs. Meanwhile, those Muslims glorified as heroes for dislodging the Soviets now turned their attention to other countries where Muslims were being oppressed. As this brought them up against the US, they went from being heroic jihadis to 'Islamic terrorists'. The culmination of this was 9/11.
But rather than trying to understand why 9/11 had happened, Bush and his colleagues took refuge in such inane expressions as 'they hate our freedom, our way of life, our democracy' and, even more ridiculously, 'they love killing'. The main stakeholders used 9/11 to pursue their own agendas for which it was convenient to conflate Islam and terrorism. Hence wherever Muslims were involved in a freedom struggle, they would become 'Islamic terrorists'. This is no mere semantic point. Ariel Sharon used the excuse of terrorism to use his formidable military might against the civilian Palestinian population. Similarly Russia would use the magic word al-Qa'ida to squash all accusations of genocide and human rights abuse in Chechnya. But the chief grievances were political, not religious.
Then India claimed that 'Islamic terrorists' were operating in Kashmir when that freedom struggle dated back almost 150 years. George Bush would use the term to attack Afghanistan weeks after 9/ 11, making war a first option rather than a last resort. And later he would use the same pretext to invade Iraq.
Yet the perception in the West remained that somehow Islam was connected to militarism and terrorism, that all Muslims believe that all suicide bombers go straight to heaven. No one mentioned that before 9/11 70 per cent of suicide bombings in the world were committed by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, who were Hindus. No one blames Hinduism, nor do they blame Shintoism for the Japanese Kamikaze pilots. Where religion is particularly strong, political martyrdom gets cloaked in religious terminology.
Thus Islam was put on the defensive. Heads of all Muslim countries went hoarse giving statements that suicide bombings were not allowed in Islam. General Musharraf went further, making Pakistan a frontline state against Islamic extremism and …