Only the US Can Tame This Monster

January 9, 2009
View from Dubai
Only the US Can Tame This Monster
Aijaz Zaka Syed

Watching the mind-numbing savagery unleashed on Gaza in utter helplessness with the rest of the world and listening to the statements of Israeli and Western leaders over the past few days, I’ve often wondered: ‘Are we all on the same planet?’

On Monday, Israel’s Shimon Peres told visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Israel was committed to peace. At that precise moment, Israeli jets were bombing the daylights out of Gaza, literally.

While the Peres-Sarkozy meeting was shown live on CNN with the Israeli leader singing paeans to world peace, Al Jazeera English showed how the peaceful state of Israel has been promoting peace in Gaza.

The narrow strip, the world’s largest prison, has been on the fire for the past two weeks with Israeli jets constantly raining death and destruction on the ‘terrorists’ below. And on the ground, Israeli tanks take care of those escaping the punishment from skies. Hospitals are deluged with those who have ended up as another faceless number, another statistic in the Zionist war for total supremacy in the Middle East.

While Sarkozy and other EU worthies hold forth on the virtues of peace during their whistle-stop tour of the Middle East, the heart-rending scenes of wailing parents with dead children in their arms are too disturbing to watch even from the comfort and safety of one’s drawing room. Even though camera swiftly pans across the Shifa hospital in Gaza, you can’t help notice men, women and children with their limbs blown off all over the place. One farmer carries a dead toddler in one arm as he points television cameras to his two other dead children in the hall.

Why did those children die? What was their crime? Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, locked in a battle for power with Labour’s Ehud Barak, sweetly points out this is something every civilised country has to do to protect its people.

What civilised country? Protecting what? What’s she talking about? You first occupy someone’s home by force and then kill his children to protect yourselves!

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who used to visit the Middle East almost every week, is not to be seen now. In any case, even if Condi had decided to honour us with her visit, you need no foreign policy experts to tell you which side she would take.

Speaking after Israeli attacks killed more than 300 people on the day after Christmas, Condi said: “We are deeply concerned about the escalating violence. We strongly condemn the attacks on Israel and hold Hamas responsible!”

As British stand up comedian and activist Mark Steel says it’s like being asked to comment on teenage knife-crime in UK and saying: “I strongly condemn the people who’ve been stabbed, and until they abandon their practice of wandering around clutching their sides and bleeding, there’s no hope for peace.”

As for Condi’s irrepressible boss, he remains as steadfast as ever in his devotion to Israel. Rejecting calls for ceasefire, Bush said: “I understand Israel’s desire to protect itself. The situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas.”

I wonder if there are any television sets in the White House and whether W watches any of them when he gets a break from his gym and bicycle regime. Does the world’s most powerful man ever pause and ponder when he sees those children crying for their dead parents? Does he ever wonder where those kids will go and who’ll take care of them? Does he ever watch Palestinian parents grieve for their kids and think of his own?

But then as far as the born-again believers and the Zionists are concerned, the Palestinians are not human. They don’t even exist, as Israel’s first woman leader Golda Meir famously said. And who cares if they are exterminated and expended if it will save and protect the great state of Israel? Israel’s security is all that matters.

Okay, we never had any expectations from this administration. But why is Bush’s successor silent?

Where’s the man whose message of hope and promise of change had electrified the entire Middle East and the world only weeks ago? I remember Palestinian children and students in Gaza plumping for Obama in the run up to the November 4 election. Raising slogans for Obama as if they were voting for him, Palestinian kids would shout, ‘Inshaallah’ with their fingers making victory sign.

Was it because Obama’s middle name happens to be Hussain? No. The Palestinians, like the Americans themselves, believed in Obama’s extraordinary message. They believed, like many others in the Muslim world did and still do, that someone who promised change and a fair deal to all Americans would be fair to the Middle East too and could correct historical injustices.

Which is why Obama’s deafening silence on Gaza is most intriguing. (He broke his silence Tuesday night by expressing ‘grave concern’ on civilian casualties ‘in Gaza and in Israel’. But we expect more from Obama!)

Since Israel’s brave forces, armed to the teeth with the world’s deadliest weapons, unleashed their awesome firepower on a population that can’t defend itself, the Middle East has been asking this question time and again: ‘Where’s Obama?’

The Palestinian children who cheered and prayed for your victory are waiting for you, Mr Obama. They need you and they need you to speak out against this shameless aggression against a 
besieged people terrorised from all sides.

As I key in this, UN-run school has become the latest casualty of Israel’s so-called quest for security. Forty-two people, most of them children, have been killed in the Tuesday night attack on the UNWRA compound that has been a shelter for hundreds of uprooted Palestinian families uprooted by this war.

Meanwhile Arabs are once again pushing for another UN resolution on Gaza. But even if the UN manages to pass such a resolution, where’s the guarantee that Israel will heed it? The UN has passed many such worthless resolutions in the past, including the one asking Israel to end occupation and return to its pre-1967 war borders. They have been consigned to the dustbin of history. So what difference will this one make?

Let’s face it. If anyone can tame this monster, it’s only those who created it in the first place. If the US puts its foot down, there’s no reason it can’t rein in Israel. So if the Arab and Muslim states really want to stop the Palestinian holocaust, they should be pushing the US, not the UN.

The buck stops in Washington. And please don’t tell me the Muslims with all their numbers, resources and oil wealth cannot persuade the US to 
deal with the Frankenstein it has created. They can —  if they really want that is!

(Aijaz Zaka Syed is Opinion Editor of Khaleej Times, Dubai. He can be reached at


Gaza: We are all guilty

January 3, 2009
Gaza: Are we all not guilty?

Aijaz Zaka Syed

Just when you think the Palestinians have suffered enough and nothing more can test their fortitude, trust Israel to come up with more ingenious ways of winning hearts and minds.

Just look at the shock and awe of the Gaza offensive. What perfect timing and what a surprise to spring on a fatigued and famished people. A perfect Christmas present from Israel when the whole world is either away on holiday or in a general celebratory mood to ring in the New Year. The weather is great. This is perhaps the best time to be in the Middle East and Holy Land — the land of olives, peace and prophets.

At a time like this, the Palestinians are burying their dead. They’ve already buried hundreds of them. And by the time Israel is done dealing with “Hamas terrorists,” they might have buried thousands of their loved ones.

What Israel has unleashed on Gaza is outrageous even by Israeli standards. Amira Haas, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz, in her dispatch aptly titled, “Christmas in Gaza: No More Room in the Morgue”, says: “There are many corpses and wounded, every moment another casualty is added to the list of the dead, and there is no more room in the morgue. Relatives search among the bodies and the wounded in order to bring the dead quickly to burial. A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent.”

Another first person account by Safa Joudeh for an online publication talks of a “surreal” experience comparing deluged Gaza hospitals to slaughterhouses: “Never had we imagined anything like this. It all happened so fast but the amount of death and destruction is inconceivable. The streets are strewn with bodies, their arms, legs, feet, some with shoes and some without. Hospitals and morgues are packed and some of the dead are still lying in the streets with their families gathered around them. And even after the dead are identified, doctors are having a hard time gathering the right body parts in order to hand them over to their families. The hospital hallways look like a slaughterhouse. It’s truly worse than any horror movie you could ever imagine.”

Israel of course assures the world that all these victims were “Hamas terrorists” and they deserved to die. Even the young children and infants dying in the arms of their parents were a clear and present danger to Israel. Like the family of Anwar Balusha who lost five of his daughters when Israel bombed a mosque in Beit Hanoun. The five sisters were asleep when one of the mosque walls collapsed on to their small asbestos-roofed home and they were all killed in sleep. The eldest one was 17 and the youngest just four. But of course their death was necessary for Israel’s safety.

Tzipi Livni, the “moderate” successor of Ehud Olmert, reminds the international community that Israel has to protect itself. “We need to give a better life of peace and quiet to our citizens,” pointed out Ms. Livni after two days of bombing that killed nearly 300 Palestinians. Killing Palestinians and flattening Palestinian towns and cities is the only way of protecting the Jewish state that was carved out of Palestinian land.

And as always, Israel’s loyal American friends second her view. The honorable US Ambassador to UN Zalmay Khalilzad holds Hamas responsible for the whole thing. “Sequence wise,” Khalilzad pointed out after another of those pointless UN Security Council meetings, “it’s the Palestinian rockets that started this!”

If we are talking of “sequence” and history, Ambassador Khalilzad, why not go back a bit more in time and look what started those homemade, rudimentary rockets in the first place? The answer is Israeli occupation of the past six decades. By the way, over the past seven years, 14 Israelis have been killed by those rockets made from fertilizer while more than 5,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel with the weapons given in aid by the US. The Europeans are more nuanced in urging “restraint by all sides.” In other words, victims are once again to blame for inviting this upon themselves. The familiar charade! There has been no Western denunciation of the Israeli slaughter. Such aerial destruction is after all routinely visited on Iraq and Afghanistan.

As for the UN, that boneless wonder and handmaiden of big powers, the less said the better. Three days after Israel unleashed its blitz on Gaza, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stirred out of his slumber to call for an end to violence! When it comes to standing up for the Palestinians, the world body’s record has never been spectacular. But under Ban, it has truly been a headless chicken. It knows not what it’s doing or where it’s headed.

As for the Arab and Muslim world, it has yet to prove it exists and is alive. Let alone confront Israel or respond to the Palestinian suffering, for the first three days the Arab and Muslim states couldn’t even agree on when and where to meet to discuss the crisis.

So while Israel relentlessly pummels and pulverizes Gaza and the world watches in silent indifference, all the Arabs and Muslim countries can do is condemn the Jewish state for its “flagrant violations of the principles of international humanitarian law.” As if Israel cares for what Arabs and Muslim think about it!

But then what’s new? This is how it has always been in this utterly one-sided conflict. Israel kills, burns and brutalizes Palestinians at will and the world watches in morbid fascination as if it was a Hollywood production; as if it wasn’t real people of flesh and blood dying in front of our eyes but actors on silver screen play-acting to entertain us.

Where’s the civilized world for God’s sake when we need it? Where is the international community with all its hallowed institutions and august organizations? Where are all those human rights agencies and NGOs that never tire of talking of all kinds of rights and charters and conventions? And where are the Arabs and Muslims? What is the point of their trillions of dollars of wealth if it cannot protect a tiny, helpless and homeless community? What’s the point of their swelling numbers — a billion plus of them — if they cannot stand up to a ruthless killer and prevent it from killing innocent children sleeping in their homes?

Don’t we realize that by remaining silent and doing nothing to stop these crimes against a literally starving and long terrorized people, we actually prove our guilt by complicity? As Edmund Burke warned, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. The world is watching the Arabs. If they fail to act now, history will never forgive them.



No Time to Hide for Muslims

January 3, 2009
30 November 2008
View from Dubai

No Time to Hide for Muslims

Aijaz Zaka Syed

Watching the terror nightmare unfold in Mumbai over the past three days with me on television, my kids have repeatedly asked me: “Who are these terrorists and why are they doing this?” And every time I wished I could offer them a convincing answer. 


What could I tell them? For one, I was equally clueless why these guys had taken over India’s financial and cultural capital and were targeting people who had nothing to do with them and had done nothing to harm them.  

For two, I was too ashamed to tell them these guys were ostensibly Muslims and came from a country that was created in the name of Islam.  

At work, while my colleagues went about covering the madness in Mumbai and laying out special pages with the images of the incredibly beautiful hotel, Taj, with its Islamic arches and domes, go up in smoke, I find it hard to look my colleagues in the eye. 

And this happens all the time. Every time innocents are targeted in the name of Islam around the world, one can’t face one’s non-Muslim friends and colleagues.  I feel like burying myself in the ground.  Growing up in a religious family, one never thought one would see the day when being a Muslim could be a source of shame. 

A distraught friend who has devoted her life to speaking and fighting on behalf of Arabs and Muslims wrote in yesterday saying “I’ve had it with the Arabs and Muslims and Islamic militancy. Forgive me but I am throwing in the towel.”

I couldn’t write back to her but understood her pain.  She grew up in Mumbai and is understandably upset. 

My friend went on to say: “The Muslims and Islam have a problem and only they can solve it.  If they do not, the whole world will turn against them.”

If this is how our most loyal friends feel, imagine the sentiments and reactions of the rest of the world.  Can you blame the world if it’s turning against Muslims? What do you expect when not a single day passes without the name of our faith being dragged through the mud by fellow believers around the world? 

How many innocents have to die in the name of Islam before Muslim leaders and countries take effective action to deal with the nuts, who are out to destroy us all with their nihilistic cult?

I know that the Muslim leaders including those in the highest echelons of power have lately started speaking out against the extremists. 

Darul Uloom Deoband in India, one of the oldest and most respected centres of learning in the Muslim world, issued a fatwa against terrorism at a large gathering of Islamic scholars and leaders in June.  Last month, nearly 5,000 scholars backed the edict at a huge congregation in Hyderabad. 

The OIC, the organisation of Muslim states, and Saudi Arabia, the leader of the Arab-Islamic world, have of late been equally vehement in condemning these repulsive acts of violence targeting innocents. 

Eminent Muslim intellectuals and journalists like Tariq Ramadan, a grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan Al Banna, and India’s MJ Akbar and numerous others too have repeatedly protested this distortion of Islamic teachings and spirit.  

These calls of conscience on behalf of mainstream Islam have however proved voices in the wilderness.  Clearly, we need to do more to be heard by the world and to stop this shameful victimisation of innocent people in the name of religion.

The great irony of the Mumbai attacks is the killing of Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare and his colleagues.  Karkare, a brave and decorated officer investigating the Malegaon blasts and other recent terror attacks that he established to be the handiwork of Hindu extremists, not Muslim groups like SIMI, was killed by the terrorists outside Cama hospital Wednesday night.   Obviously, Muslims do not know who their real friends and enemies are. And, pray, why is India increasingly being singled out for this savagery?  What do they think this country is? A Hindu country or an anti-Muslim nation? 

Do the ignorant dummies repeatedly being sent out on the so-called jihad know that this great country is home to the world’s largest Muslim population? Almost twice the size of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan!  India’s greatest superstar is a Muslim, not to mention the countless achievers in other fields. 

Why are our friends across the border bent on destroying the whole world with themselves? Is this what Islam and the noble Prophet teach and stand for?

It’s all very well for us to say Islam has nothing to do with extremism and terrorism.  We can go on deluding ourselves these psychopaths do not represent us. 

However, the world finds it hard to accept this line of argument because it sees the extremists increasingly assert themselves and take the centre-stage while the mainstream Islam remains silent.   

The great religion that preaches and celebrates universal brotherhood, equality of men and peace and justice for all has been hijacked by a demented, miniscule minority. And, as my friend says, only Muslims can solve this problem.  Only Muslims can confront these anarchists in their midst. 

Only they can get their faith freed from the clutches of extremism. This is no time to hide. It’s time to stand up and speak out. For the terrorists will continue to speak on our behalf, until we do not speak up.  This is no time for silence.  Enough is enough!

c. Khaleej Times

No Time to Hide for Muslims (Der Spiegel article)

January 3, 2009



12. Dezember 2008, 18:30 Uhr


“Die Muslime müssen gegen den Terror aufstehen”

Kaum eine Woche vergeht, ohne dass islamistische Terroristen irgendwo auf der Welt zuschlagen. Wirkungsvoll gegen die Gewalt vorgehen können nur die Muslime selbst, glaubt der Journalist Aijaz Zaka Syed. Auf SPIEGEL ONLINE fordert er von seinen Glaubensgenossen mehr Engagement gegen den Terror.

In den drei Tagen, in denen wir am Fernseher dabei zuschauten, wie Mumbai vom Terror-Alptraum heimgesucht wurde, fragten mich meine Kinder immer wieder: “Wer sind diese Terroristen und warum tun sie das?” Jedes Mal wünschte ich mir, ich könnte ihnen eine überzeugende Antwort geben.

Was hätte ich ihnen sagen sollen? Zum einen war ich selbst ratlos, warum diese Leute Indiens finanzielles und kulturelles Zentrum erobert hatten und Menschen angriffen, die nichts mit ihnen zu tun und ihnen nichts getan hatten. Zum anderen war ich zu beschämt, ihnen zu sagen, dass diese Leute augenscheinlich Muslime waren und aus einem Land kamen, das im Namen des Islam gegründet wurde.

Eine verzweifelte Freundin, die ihr Leben dem Engagement für Araber und Muslime gewidmet hat, schrieb mir vor einigen Tagen: “Ich habe genug von den Arabern und Muslimen und der islamischen Militanz. Vergib mir, aber ich gebe auf.”

Ich konnte ihr nicht antworten – aber verstand ihren Schmerz. Sie ist in Mumbai aufgewachsen und ist verständlicherweise aufgebracht.

Meine Freundin schrieb weiter: “Die Muslime und der Islam haben ein Problem, das nur sie selbst lösen können. Sollten sie es nicht tun, wird sich die ganze Welt gegen sie wenden.”

Wenn sich schon unsere loyalsten Freunde so fühlen, dann stelle man sich erst mal die Empfindungen und Reaktionen des Rests der Welt vor. Kann man die Welt tadeln, falls sie sich gegen die Muslime stellt? Was ist zu erwarten, wenn kein einziger Tag mehr vergehen sollte, ohne dass der Name unserer Religion von Glaubensgenossen rund um die Welt in den Dreck gezogen wird?

Wie viele Unschuldige müssen im Namen des Islams sterben, bevor muslimische Führer und Staaten wirksame Schritte einleiten, um gegen die Verrückten vorzugehen, die uns mit ihrem nihilistischen Kult zerstören wollen?

Ich weiß, dass muslimische Führer – darunter jene in den höchsten Machträngen – in jüngster Zeit begonnen haben, sich gegen Extremisten auszusprechen. Das Dar ul-Ulum Deoband in Indien, eines der ältesten Bildungszentren der muslimischen Welt, hat im Juni bei einer großen Versammlung islamischer Gelehrter und Führer eine Fatwa (ein islamisches Rechtsgutachten, Anm. d. Red.) gegen Terrorismus veröffentlicht. Vergangenen Monat stellten sich rund 5000 Gelehrte bei einer Zusammenkunft im indischen Hyderabad hinter dieses Gutachten.

Die Organisation der Islamischen Konferenz sowie Saudi-Arabien haben zuletzt ähnlich vehement Angriffe gegen Unschuldige verurteilt. Muslimische Intellektuelle und Journalisten wie Tarik Ramadan – ein Enkel des Gründers der Muslimbruderschaft -, der Inder MJ Akbar und viele andere haben wiederholt gegen diese Verzerrung von islamischer Lehre und Geist protestiert.

Doch diese Rufe zur Besinnung im Interesse des Islams haben sich als einsame Stimmen herausgestellt. Wir müssen eindeutig mehr tun, um von der Welt gehört zu werden und diese beschämenden Attacken auf unschuldige Menschen im Namen der Religion zu stoppen.

Die große Ironie der Attacken von Mumbai liegt im Tod des Anti-Terror-Chefs Hemant Karkare und seiner Kollegen. Karkare war ein tapferer Offizier. Er hatte die Malegaon-Anschläge (dabei starben im September 2006 in Nordindien über 30 Menschen, überwiegend Muslime, Anm. d. Red.) und andere Terrorattacken der jüngeren Vergangenheit untersucht, die er Hindu-Extremisten zuschrieb – nicht muslimischen Gruppen wie Simi (Studenten der islamischen Bewegung Indiens). Karkare wurde von den Terroristen unweit des Cama-Krankenhauses in Mumbai umgebracht. Zweifellos wussten sie nicht, wer ihre wirklichen Freunde und Feinde sind.

Und bitteschön: Warum wird immer öfter Indien für diesen Irrsinn ausgewählt? Denken die Terroristen, dieser Staat sei ein reines Hindu-Land oder eine Anti-Muslim-Nation?

Wissen die Ignoranten, die in den sogenannten Dschihad geschickt werden, dass dieses großartige Land die weltweit größte muslimische Bevölkerungsgruppe beherbergt – fast doppelt so groß wie die Islamische Republik Pakistan? Indiens größter Superstar ist ein gebürtiger Muslim (der Bollywood-Schauspieler Shahrukh Khan, Anm. d. Red.), nicht zu vergessen zahllose erfolgreiche indische Muslime in anderen Branchen. Warum sind diese Menschen versessen darauf, die ganze Welt und sich selbst zu zerstören? Ist es das, was der Islam und der edle Prophet lehren?

Zu sagen, dass der Islam nichts mit Extremismus und Terrorismus zu tun habe, ist ja schön und gut. Wir können uns weiter mit dem Argument benebeln, dass diese Psychopathen uns nicht repräsentieren. Nur: Die Welt kann diese Argumentation schwer nachvollziehen, weil sie sieht, wie sich Extremisten immer stärker durchsetzen und in den Mittelpunkt drängen – während der Mainstream-Islam stumm bleibt.

Diese großartige Religion, die universelle Brüderlichkeit, Gleichheit, Frieden und Gerechtigkeit für alle predigt, ist von einer verrückten, winzigen Minderheit als Geisel genommen worden. Wie schon meine Bekannte sagt: Nur Muslime können dieses Problem lösen. Nur Muslime können diesen Anarchisten in ihrer Mitte entgegentreten. Nur sie können ihren Glauben den Klauen des Extremismus entreißen. Es ist jetzt nicht die Zeit, sich zu verstecken. Es ist an der Zeit, aufzustehen und Stellung zu beziehen. Denn die Terroristen werden weiter in unserem Namen agieren – solange, bis wir selbst für uns sprechen.

Dies ist keine Zeit zum Schweigen. Genug ist genug!

Übersetzung: Florian Gathmann