India Insight

from FaithWorld:

Lashkar-e-Taiba’s goals

In the aftermath of the Mumbai massacre, a lot of attention has been focused on the militant Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba that has been blamed for the bloodbath. Simon Cameron-Moore, our bureau chief in Islambad, has written an interesting piece on what they've done in recent years. As a religion editor watching this story unfold, I was also curious to know how they think. What kind of religious views do they have? My Google search has turned up an interesting answer.

An article entitled "The Ideologies of South Asian Jihadi Groups" gives a very concise and complete run-down of Lashkar-e-Taiba's thinking (hat tip:Times of India). In today's context, the article's author is just as interesting as its content. An academic at the time he wrote the article in 2005, Husain Haqqani is now Pakistan's ambassador in Washington. He's been in the media quite often arguing that Islamabad did not support Lashkar-e-Taiba even if it was operating in Pakistan. Indian media arent't buying it.

Sorting that out is not my job. I just wanted to note a list of the goals Lashkar-e-Taiba has set for itself. In a publication entitled Why Are We Waging Jihad? that Haqqani cites, the goals are listed as:

1) to eliminate evil and facilitate conversion to and practice of Islam;

2) to ensure the ascendancy of Islam;

3) to force non-Muslims to pay jizya (poll tax, paid by non-Muslims for protection from a Muslim ruler);

4) to assist the weak and powerless;

5) to avenge the blood of Muslims killed by unbelievers;

6) to punish enemies for breaking promises and treaties;

7) to defend a Muslim state; and

8 ) to liberate Muslim territories under non-Muslim occupation

Can we call these Lashkar-e-Taiba's "religious goals?" It's hard to draw a dividing line, but these cover both religion and politics. In South Asia, where they have first-hand experience of this kind of thinking, they would describe these as "politico-religious" goals. That clumsy term is more precise, but could it catch on elsewhere?

from FaithWorld:

GUESTVIEW: Mumbai violence brings New York faith groups together

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. Matthew Weiner, the author, is the Program Director at the Interfaith Center of New York. He is writing a book about Interfaith and Civil Society.

When terror attacks like those in Mumbai occur, many people of faith want to stand together despite their differences to condemn them with one voice. Faith leaders in New York, having seen their own city targetted in 2001, quickly responded with a show of support for their sister city in India. Their news conference on the steps of New York's City Hall on Monday was an example of how faith communities in the world's most religiously diverse metropolis can join hands to speak out against such violence. (Photo: New York interfaith meeting, 1 Dec 2008/Edwin E. Bobrow)

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, senior vice-president of the New York Board of Rabbis, Mo Razvi, a Pakistani-American Muslim and community organizer, and the Interfaith Center of New York organized the meeting while Councilman John Liu got the green light to use City Hall as the venue. Potasnick worked through Thanksgiving weekend to make it happen and insisted on having representatives from every faith. "It is very important to condemn the attacks...but it is imperative we stand together with one voice," he said.

from India Masala:

The Mumbai gawkers


Imagine taking a DJ to a funeral or U.S. President George W Bush taking Oliver Stone along to Ground Zero after the 9/11 attack. Would you call it inappropriate? I think the word doesn’t even begin to describe Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s actions on Sunday afternoon.

On a visit to the ravaged Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, he was accompanied by his son, actor Riteish Deshmukh, and filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, both of them strolling around as if it were a normal walk in the park.

That a city already grappling with rage and grief had to see images of Varma walking around the Taj like he was location hunting for a new film, speaks volumes about the sheer apathy and callousness of the people in power.

Heaven rains down tears on Mumbai

The Heavens rained down tears of sorrow on Mumbai on Saturday morning as the death toll from the attacks on the proud city climbed steadily.

The unseasonal rain marked the third day of the siege of the city’s landmark Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

I have spent the past three days covering the story day-and-night and sitting here in the rain on Saturday morning watching the flames pour from the 105-year old Heritage Building and listening to gunshots, I have to wonder why this has gone on for so long.

The young face of militancy

When the first pictures of the Mumbai attackers were shown on national television, they sent a shiver down my spine.

Staring back at me from the television screen was a guy about my age, dressed in a dark T-shirt with ‘Versace’ written across it, clad in jeans, hair falling across his forehead and a blue backpack slung over one shoulder.

The first thought that struck me was “this guy should be in college right now.”

The nightmare on television screens is real

Just returned from the Oberoi where hundreds are still inside – Indians, foreigners, cooks and cleaners. London in 2005, Mumbai trains 2006.

Each time I follow the same movements – learn what, locate where, retrieve family, check team, do phoners, make frantic calls with London desks.

And then reflect… strangely I was in both hotels just hours before Wednesday’s attacks.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Battleground India but Delhi clueless?

An attack of the scale and sophistication unleashed on Mumbai would not be possible without months of planning, and yet it completely went below India's intelligence radar.

Indeed, so unaware were the security agencies that even when the attacks began, the first reaction was these were probably gangland shootings that India's financial capital is known for.   So if the agencies have been so clueless about an attack so mammoth in its sweep, the question experts are beginning to ask is how safe are India's vital assets?

The nuclear facilities for instance ? A chilling thought but one that must be answered, says B. Raman, a former top officer at India's Research and Analysis Wing. "I shiver and sweat at the thought of what is waiting to happen tomorrow and where. The mind boggles as one tries to think and figure out how the terrorists could have planned and carried out terrorist strikes of such magnitude, territorial spread and ferocity without our intelligence and police having been able to get scent of it," Raman, one of India's foremost intelligence experts, wrote. "I could not sleep the whole of last night. One question, which kept bothering me again and again was : how safe are our nuclear establishments and material?"

Tears, threats, triumph in Jet Airways layoff drama

jet.jpgI was on a Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Mumbai on Wednesday, the day the airline said it may lay off a further 1,100 employees in addition to the 800 it had retrenched.

Outside the Delhi airport, TV news channel vans had lined up; inside, Jet staff at the counter tried not to meet the sympathetic eyes of passengers. Aboard the aircraft, which had telltale empty seats, newspapers folded into seat pockets had headlines of the layoffs.

I wondered if any of the efficient stewards and stewardesses had been tempted to rip off the covers, or if they were just relieved they were not on probation.

Can I lend you some bucks for that swamp? Practising what you preach

Greetings from my insanely overvalued Mumbai apartment!

Mumbai’s skyline is seen April 9, 2008After experiencing Japan’s bubble economy through the 80s as a near starving student, I watched how loans based on overinflated property values, led to the slow motion destruction of banks considered to be the bedrock of the Japanese economic miracle.

Sumitomo, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Fuji, Daichi Kangyo – and Long Term Credit Bank of Japan (bought by a US hedge fund post collapse and now reincarnated as Shinsei Bank) – these were the banks who helped build Japan from the ruins of WW2… So, when things went too far and collapsed early the 90s, American economists told the Japanese to get rid of “non performing loans” and restructure.

Well, it took ten years , but they kinda did. Fast forward to 2008, and what do you know – it’s American banks who have made loans to people who can’t really pay, on the basis of you guessed it… inflated property values! Even better they managed to hawk off packaged versions to companies not even in the banking industry… think AIG.

What do you have to do to be worthy of your own statue?

Two statues were in the news this week, both controversial in their own way. First, Mayawati, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, ordered a 45-day-old statue of herself be pulled down to be replaced by a bigger one.

File picture of MayawatiThen Mumbai announced it was building a statue of Shivaji Bhosle, a 17th-century Hindu warrior king more often known by the honorific title Chhatrapati Shivaji. The statue, city officials said, would grace Mumbai’s Back Bay and be taller than New York’s Statue of Liberty.

Mayawati’s self-aggrandisement has provoked a mixture of amusement and scorn. The Hindustan Times pointed out that it takes a certain kind of chutzpah to spend public money on statues of yourself. Amit Varma, who blogs at India Uncut, worries we are at the start of a slippery slope: how long before Mayawati wants a statue of herself taller than Lady Liberty?