New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 14th, 2015
Married face of suicide terrorism
By Fawad Kaiser
The mirage of terrorism
By Dr Asad Zaman
Selective freedom of speech?
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Is freedom more powerful than fear?
By Shahid Javed Burki
Blow hot, blow cold
By Kamal Siddiqi
Terrorists’ training all along is to shock, awe, terrorise and to get a reaction. Using couples is one very effective way of achieving all these objectives
Most terrorist suicides are solitary but none so far has been the result of a pact between married couples to die together. Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook, a young couple, died in a gunfight with police accomplishing what looks like a suicide pact after carrying out an act of terrorism in San Bernardino that killed 14 people. It is the first case of a married couple among terrorist suicides. This sort of terrorism is an unusual event. Tashfeen Malik, 27, pledged allegiance to the militant group Islamic State (IS) and its leader under an alias account on Facebook just moments before she and her husband, Syed Farook, opened fire on a holiday banquet for his co-workers. It is suspected that wife Tashfeen Malik may have been the initiator and her husband Syed Farook may have been the dependent. The initiator usually plans the act and stimulates the other party. Whether the decision was evenly shared by both partners and initiative came from one of the two or it was the result of two independent decisions remains open for analysis. Married couple terrorism thus becomes alarming from the terrorist profile evaluation perspective to counter terrorism forces. They would need to review the strategic, social and psychological analysis of changing tactics hidden behind the married face of suicide terrorism.
The use of married couple bombings by terrorists is evidence of eroding constraints among terrorists to use chemical, biological and radiological or nuclear weapons. Besides a possibly more reckless approach to violence resulting from the weakened instinct of self-preservation, it is clear that such delivery of suicide terrorism will have great tactical advantages over other forms of delivery. Terrorist tactics tend to favour attacks that avoid effective countermeasures and exploit vulnerabilities.
The first characteristic of this form of terrorism is that the main weapon used is guns rather than bombs. This is partly because assault weapons are relatively easy to obtain. Bomb making, on the other hand, requires either access to explosives or the ability to make explosives from commonly available materials, which itself is a dangerous and difficult job. Moreover, once explosives have been acquired or made, a skilled bomb-maker is needed to assemble them into a device that will reliably detonate. Both tasks are complicated and require training. Guns can be used after minimal training and are frighteningly efficient at killing large numbers of unarmed civilians, particularly if they are in a confined place. A second characteristic of this style of attack is that the perpetrators have little or any expectation of coming out alive. The advent of suicidal attackers armed with guns is forcing hostage rescue teams to throw away their old manuals.
Terrorist profiling and behaviour analysis are among the most discussed in suicide terrorism studies. The experiences and roles of married couples have rarely been of interest. In the last few years, the situation in academic debate has little changed despite the growing understanding that without consideration of every possible situation, security is an empty concept. In other words, marriage could be a meaningful category of analysis only if it is defined inclusively so as not to remain synonymous only with terrorism. While being a contextual, socially constructed means of assigning roles and norms to given married couples not only is it related to personal and social identity and the ways people live their lives but also matters in distributing power, privileges and prestige. Married roles’ systems and relations impact all aspects of human existence, including those that have to do with violence and its extreme form of terrorism.
The news that both the terrorists cornered in San Bernardino were apparently a normal and unexceptional married couple has shocked. However, Tashfeen is far from being the first female suicide bomber. Hasna Aitboulahcen, who earned the dubious distinction of becoming Europe’s first female suicide bomber killed in the siege in Saint-Denis, was thought to be with her cousin Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the Paris attacks which left 129 dead. There have been female terrorist suicide attackers for decades.
They were dispatched by secular, leftist organisations in the 1980s in Lebanon and by ethno-separatist groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka in the 1990s. A Tamil female suicide bomber assassinated the Indian Prime Minister (PM) Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. In 2000, Chechen suicide bomber, a so-called ‘black widow’, Hawa Barayev, killed 27 Russian special forces’ soldiers. Between 2002 and 2005, women also took part in a wave of suicide attacks launched by Palestinian militant groups against Israeli targets. The central command of al Qaeda avoided the use of women as suicide attackers on its high-profile operations. However, IS has deployed them. The advantage of using couple suicide bombers for terrorist organisations can be simply tactical. They can avoid suspicion more easily by posing as one half of a couple.
Terrorists thrive to spin out media coverage for as long as possible. They know now that after the initial attack will come a hunt and then, probably, a last stand. Their training all along is to shock, awe, terrorise and to get a reaction. Using couples is one very effective way of achieving all these objectives. While realist notions of the utility of female suicide bombers, single or married, as a military tactic provides a valuable threat, the tactic’s emergence outlines the ‘necessity’ of female martyrdom and points towards the systemic factor driving the organisational imperatives of terrorism.
Although counterterrorism agencies can change the way in which they respond to these sorts of attacks, they cannot prevent them entirely. Until recently, much of the counter-terrorism work has focused on preventing bomb attacks. Most embassies, five star hotels and VIP residences have barriers to prevent car bombs from coming too close and bulletproof cars to reduce the number of casualties if a blast does occur. But guarding against armed, unknown attackers would require additional analysis and defences that can counteract the rapidly changing profile of the deadly terrorist.
Fawad Kaiser is a professor of Psychiatry and consultant Forensic Psychiatrist in the UK. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
December 14, 2015
After the recent California mass murders, Donald Trump has called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”. That might take a while; critical thinking is difficult in emotionally-charged atmospheres. Good judgments require comparisons with well-chosen benchmarks. For example, Pakistan had an infant mortality rate of nearly 180 per 1,000 in 1960, and less than 60 per 1,000 in 2010. Is cutting the rate by 200 per cent an impressive performance? That depends on our benchmark. Bangladesh, Iran and Egypt, starting out from a similar position have done much better, achieving 40, 22, and 20, respectively. Many African countries have done much worse. In comparison with all countries of the world, Pakistan has held a steady rank in the bottom quarter, doing neither well nor poorly. By changing the benchmark, we can call this performance good, bad or average.
Our view of reality is shaped by media, which dramatises events to create a hugely disproportionate picture of what is happening on the world stage. The cold and dispassionate statistics bear no relation to the images created by the headlines. Statistics on deaths by violence show Pakistan at 6.64 per 100,000, which is only slightly above the US at 5.56, and well below more than 50 countries, with more than 10 deaths per 100,000. Yet, going by headlines would lead one to believe that Pakistan is the most violent country in the world. Instead of statistical calculations, public responses are shaped by emotions. Failure to understand the crucial importance of comparison can have catastrophic consequences. After the 9/11 tragedy, large numbers of the American public switched to driving cars for long trips instead of flying. Statistically, the risk of dying from a car accident was about 60 times greater than the risk of dying in an airplane accident. It has been estimated that the fear of flying led to over a 100 extra deaths in car accidents monthly.
A Washington Post article entitled “Mass shootings are distracting from the real danger of guns in America” shows that deaths by terrorism are a tiny percentage of total deaths by firearms. Suicide: 19,800; murder: 10,500; mass shootings: 462; right wing terrorists: 12; Muslim terrorists: 19. The website War on Irrational Fear states that dogs kill six times more people than terrorists in the US, and bathtub falls kill 100 times more, but we do not declare war on dogs or bathtubs. Since 9/11, there have been a total of 52 incidents of religious terrorism in the US, of which 27 were created by FBI entrapment. The response to terrorism has been so far out of proportion as to be mindboggling. A New York Times article entitled “9/11: The reckoning” estimates that the US response to 9/11 has cost $3.3 trillion. Strangely, there is no mention of the human cost of millions of civilian lives destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Global outrage over a few European lives contrasted with the neglect of daily deliberate killings of hundreds of Muslims shows that Muslim lives don’t matter. Indeed, the ISIL or Daesh are not the only ones with bloodlust for killing random innocents; US Senator Ted Cruz has promised to avenge San Bernardino by bombing the Middle East until the sand glows in the dark.
This is not to minimise the significance of the San Bernardino shootings. Meaningless violence against random citizens represents a degree of radicalisation and extremism that has not been witnessed among Muslim societies in the past. Encouragingly, over time, the Muslim response to unprecedented barbaric and senseless violence is shaping up as a nearly unanimous rejection. Recent polls by Pew show that across the globe, Muslims are overwhelmingly opposed to the Islamic State. We can hope that, as Noah Feldman writes, this is “the last, desperate gasp of a tendency to violence that has lost most of its popular support”. Contrary to the image conveyed by newspapers, Muslims account for only a tiny percentage of the enormous amount of death and destruction currently going on. Thus, rejection of wars and violence should be a top priority for humanity as a whole.
Dr Asad Zaman is vice-chancellor of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. He holds a PhD in Economics from Stanford University
Hizbut Tahrir believes in coopting people in positions of power, especially in the military, and making them rise up in open rebellion against the established legal order
Last week the Punjab government and in particular the city district government of Lahore took the admirable step of curbing hate speech by taking down posters targeting the Ahmedi community that were displayed in Lahore’s Hafeez Centre. Earlier in the week, the police arrested a Punjab University professor for allegedly propagating the anti-state and anti-democracy message of Hizbut Tahrir, a proscribed organisation. These are steps that should have been taken long ago and many of us had repeatedly pointed out in columns and through social media the need for the state to come down heavily on such instances of hate speech.
Some people have argued that these measures constitute a curb on freedom of speech. It seems that these people have totally misconceived the meaning of freedom of speech as a concept generally and in particular the right of freedom of speech as exists under Pakistani law. Personally, I would prefer the kind of First Amendment regime on freedom of speech that exists in the US but bear in mind that even there fighting words, i.e. speech that incites violence, is actionable. In Pakistan’s case, while freedom of speech is a fundamental right, it is a qualified right under the Constitution of Pakistan itself. The legislature in Pakistan can impose reasonable restrictions on this right in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offence.
In the case of Ahmedis, their freedom of speech has been dealt a severe blow by the state and its laws. Bhutto’s constitutional amendment declared them non-Muslims for the purposes of law and constitution and added them, forcibly, to the category of religious minorities. General Zia’s Ordinance XX of 1984, a law that is one of a kind in its insensitivity and outright cruelty, makes it unlawful for them to even consider themselves Muslims. Much, indeed almost all, of their literature has been proscribed in Punjab because of an arbitrarily appointed body of ulema (clergy) that advises the Punjab government on hate speech! Even as I write these lines, an old bookseller of the community has been hauled into jail on trumped up blasphemy charges. Another Ahmedi, the publisher of the historic Al-Fazl newspaper, has been denied bail by the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan with Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarking that when it comes to religion, unfortunately, the law in this country has to take a back seat. Fairness, therefore, demands that hate speech against them should be equally criminalised and their right to live as citizens, unharmed without harassment, in this country protected in accordance with the Constitution and, in particular, the Objectives Resolution. Having been given the status of a non-Muslim minority, with extremely limited freedom of speech, against their will, surely they need to be protected from harassment by the majority community more than anyone else. All the provisions of the Constitution that speak to the cause of minorities and their status — hypothetically — as equal citizens should in theory be applicable to them as well. Therefore, one lauds the Punjab government’s belated action against hate speech directed at this community as a small mercy and a baby step in the right direction.
The second issue is of the action against the members of Hizbut Tahrir in Pakistan. Hizbut Tahrir, make no mistake about it, stands for nothing less than the overthrow of the state by force. There are people who suggest that Hizbut Tahrir is non-violent because they are not actively engaged in any militant activity against the state. They are wrong. Hizbut Tahrir believes in coopting people in positions of power, especially in the military, and making them rise up in open rebellion against the established legal order. The end game for them is very much violent and poses a direct challenge to the constitutional government of the country. Every member of Hizbut Tahrir without exception, therefore, is guilty of high treason as defined by Article Six of the Constitution. It goes without saying that high treason is not a fundamental right under Pakistani law or any law for that matter. No civilised government can allow a direct threat to the established legal order in any manner. No occasion arises for the freedom of speech argument either legally or morally in their defence. Indeed, it is the patriotic duty of every citizen to report any such person belonging to Hizbut Tahrir, which has been banned by law, engaging actively in propagation of that organisation’s reprehensible rhetoric.
History tells us that governments elsewhere have acted against groups doing much less. The US, that champion of freedom of speech, came down hard on Communists even though the Communists did not constitute the kind of threat to the US that Hizbut Tahrir poses for Pakistan. The First Amendment was conveniently sidestepped even by the US Supreme Court in that instance. I am not suggesting that the US was right in its 20th century witch hunts against Communists but that, in our case, the threat constitutes a clear and present danger. At the very least it would be consistent for Pakistan to do so given our own patchy history when it comes to curbing political dissent. Surely political dissent in the name of religion should not be excluded from the broader principle set by the state.
The alternative of course is to have unfettered freedom of speech. That would mean undoing all laws that curb freedom of speech. But it has become increasingly clear that Pakistanis are in no mood to take that high road, at least not at this point in time. I put to you then that there is no such thing as selective freedom of speech. I put to you that when the state curbs freedom of speech, especially of minorities, and when it prosecutes people for the written and spoken word, justice demands that it should do so in a just and equitable manner. It should mean zero tolerance for any hate speech as well as subversive speech in the name of religion, at least till Pakistanis grow up, learn to live with disagreement civilly and learn to differentiate, without a nanny state, between good speech and bad speech.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality.
That the quality of leadership and what the leaders believe in matter a great deal was on full display on the evening of December 7. That day, United States President Barack Obama addressed his nation and the world on TV from the Oval Office. This was only the fourth time since he became the country’s chief executive that he chose to speak from that location. The speech was prompted by the December 2 killing of 14 people by a husband-and-wife team of terrorists of Pakistani origin. The man, Syed Rizwan Farook, was born in the United States to parents who had migrated from Pakistan. The woman, Tashfeen Malik, was born in Pakistan and had spent most of her life in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. However, she attended Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan and briefly enrolled in Al Huda Institute in the city. She ‘met’ her husband-to-be via a website when he was searching for a woman to wed. She was allowed into the United States on what is called the ‘fiance’ visa and was waiting to get citizenship. The couple had a six-month-old daughter they entrusted to the care of the husband’s mother when they embarked on the killing spree. The Pakistan connection was clear.
This was the most potent terrorist attack on the United States since the felling of the World Trade Towers in New York and the ramming of a hijacked plane into Pentagon near Washington. Those attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, but was different from the one carried out in San Bernardino, California. The latter was something the Americans had begun to fear. It was the work of a couple who was American, but had been radicalised even before the arrival of the Islamic State (IS) on the world stage. Could such incidents be repeated by some Americans of Islamic faith, similarly disposed as the couple in California? The question demanded an answer. It came from two very different sources: the American president and the most popular candidate from the Republican Party for the election to the presidency in November 2016.
The approach Obama adopted was different from the one taken in September 2001 by then president George W Bush, his immediate predecessor in the White House. Bush said he will use the country’s full military might to destroy those who had attacked his country on September 11. Al Qaeda, operating out of Afghanistan where it had been given a sanctuary, had taken responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. Bush’s muscular approach took the American military to Afghanistan and within a couple of months, the Taliban government was overthrown. Fifteen months later, Bush ordered his troops into Iraq to topple the regime headed by Saddam Hussein. The United States is still present in both countries 14 years later with religious extremism flourishing in both nations. In fact, the invasion of Iraq and the way the country’s occupation was managed by Washington, contributed to the rise of the IS.
“Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure that we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let us not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear,” said Obama in his TV address. “We cannot turn against one another by letting this war be defined as a war between America and Islam. Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbours, our co-workers, our sports heroes and yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are prepared to die in defence of our country.” He pleaded that this brutal attack must be seen in its proper perspective. “So far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organisation overseas and, or that they were part of a larger conspiracy at home. But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalisation, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for a war against America and the West.”
But there were other political figures in the country who thought differently. Among them was the billionaire Donald Trump, the Republican contender for his party’s ticket in the presidential election of 2016. A couple of days after Obama spoke from the Oval Office, Trump addressed his supporters in the politically important state of South Carolina. He called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. He also suggested that non-Muslim Americans should keep a watch on those who subscribed to the Muslim faith and report any activity that appeared suspicious to them. Despite widespread criticism of his stance, the candidate did not relent. His position made The New York Times write the following in an editorial: “Not a vote has been cast in the 2016 presidential race. But serious damage is being done to the country, to its reputation overseas, by a man who is seen as speaking for America and twisting its message of tolerance and welcome… And the danger right now is allowing him to legitimise the hatred he so skillfully exploits, and to revive the old American tendency, in frightening times, toward vicious treatment of the weak and outsiders.”
Shahid Javed Burki is a former caretaker finance minister and served as vice-president at the World Bank
Till last month, most of us would have thought “Heart of Asia” was a restaurant. But last week, thanks to this dialogue process which was supposed to be focused on Afghanistan, we have seen relations between India and Pakistan taking a turn. It seems we are the best of friends now.
As Sushma Swaraj made a lightning visit to Islamabad, what we saw a visible improvement in relations. A beaming Sartaz Aziz shook hands with Swaraj several times and things couldn’t have gotten better. She even attended a cultural show and the media reported that she and Aziz shared a table at a banquet held on the occasion.
According to one Indian paper, with cool winds blowing from Margalla Hills in the Pakistan capital, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Islamabad with some warmth. Swaraj played along and told the media on her arrival that relations between the two countries should improve and move forward.
One hopes that this warmth doesn’t turn to heat in the coming days. So far, all sides are playing along.
This tune is different from what we have been hearing from both New Delhi and Islamabad over the past several months. Only in October, Swaraj had rejected a four-point peace plan for Kashmir proposed by Pakistan. There was much anger then and in months before that.
Nawaz Sharif had announced his proposal at the annual United Nations General Assembly, saying the two nuclear-armed countries should formalise a ceasefire in Kashmir and take steps to demilitarise the divided region.
In reply, India issued a swift rebuttal, accusing Pakistan of claiming to be the primary victim of terrorism while “in truth, it is actually a victim of its own policy of breeding and sponsoring terrorists.” Swaraj said “We don’t need four points, we need just one: Give up terrorism and let us sit down and talk.” One wonders what the change of heart was in New Delhi. We remember the cross border firing incidents and other unfortunate events.
But by the time Swaraj left, India and Pakistan had decided to start a comprehensive bilateral dialogue. Swaraj said that that the foreign secretaries of both countries will work out details on how to take this composite dialogue forward. Will this lead to serious dialogue or will we see yet another derailment any time soon?
It seems efforts to normalise ties between the two countries took a dramatic turn since Prime Ministers Sharif and Modi had a brief chit chat in Paris on November 30. Their informal interaction then led to the previously unannounced talks between National Security Adviser Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval in Bangkok.
Now others are jumping onto the bandwagon. We have the news that Imran Khan met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and invited him to visit Pakistan.
According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup, “both the leaders” welcomed recent developments in bilateral relations, and expressed hope that these would lead to closer cooperative ties between the two countries. The former Pakistan captain, on whose request the meeting was held, also requested Modi to resume bilateral cricket ties. It is believed this will happen soon.
Only last week, the PTI chairman had expressed shock at the revelation that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had held a secret “deniable” meeting with his Indian counterpart in 2014 on the sidelines of the Saarc Summit in Kathmandu.
This week, Imran criticised the present leadership of both nations and attributed the lack of courage and conviction as the reason why the secret meetings were held. One doesn’t know if he is in support or against such dialogue from such statements.
He also commented “We don’t want to be enemies forever. You have to think about the future. There are mutual cricketing heroes in both our countries. Like Wasim Akram is adored and loved in India, Sachin Tendulkar is a hero in Pakistan.”
All well said and done, we can only wonder at the change of heart in both capitals. The impromptu visit of the PTI chairman also leaves one begging for answers. At the same time, an improvement in relations between the two countries may help both countries economically as well.
So we will look and see how things pan out in the days to come.
Kamal Siddiqi is Editor of The Express Tribune
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