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Zakaria's Distinguishing between Response to Taliban vs Al Qaeda Is Faulty

I have a very high regard for Fareed Zakaria as an analyst of world politics and economy.  But today I was very disappointed at the way he addressed a very major crisis in the South Asian world.  And it is more disappointing because he is from India and has been in touch with the folks here on many occassions.

His topic today was the difference in the world’s response for Islamists who don’t hurt the “world” (like Taliban) and those who do (like Al Qaeda).

I firmly believe that the difference is minimal.  And here is why:

“The extent of Taliban/ISI/Jihadi cooperation was revealed during the Indian hostage crisis of 1999, the resolutiion of which I witnessed first hand”

Says Zahid Hussain in “Frontline Pakistan” while referring to the Indian Airlines hijacking crisis in 1999 – which best showed how ISI, LeT/JeM and Taliban were joined at the hip!  And that is the central issue to understand.  Taliban is not a separate set of people.  They have an aim.  And according to Fareed, that aim is “Islamic rule” and not “Global” Jehad. I feel it clearly goes beyond that in its totality.

But lets first analyze Fareed’s statement.  Ok, first let us be clear of some basic hometruths in the context:

1. Islamic Rule. For Taliban, the territory for “Islamic Rule” earlier was Afghanistan.  Now it is Pakistan. Why?  And this is not a rhetoric question.  It is a serious one.  They have started threatening the LeT and JeM operatives who are not fighting the Pakistan Army.  So, the question is what constitutes their “immediate” territory of interest as far as implementing the Islamic Rule is concerned?  And why?  My argument is that they are after Pakistani Nukes.

Meanwhile the “territory” for Islamic Rule started with Kabul.. went to entire Afghanistan.. now it also includes Pakistan and may be a matter of time before the articulation also includes India and the rest of the world.  They haven’t sworn off of that.. or have they?

Therefore, is the lack of overt articulation an evidence of its absence?  I doubt that as we saw in Kashmir in the years after the end of Afghan War with Soviets and the withdrawal of the US.  Many Taliban fighters found their way into Kashmir to fight against the Indian Army.

2. Jehad. It is clear that they are as Jehadi minded as anyone else is.  So, mere “establishment of Islamic Rule” is not their own “crime”.  Their crime is bigger and more severe – of violence against anyone who is not a Muslim and against those Muslims who do not believe in their brand of religious rule.  The worse part of their existence is that they have succeeded!

And that is where I do not understand the discussion which went on at GPS today of how the “Al Qaeda is on a retreat” in the world.  It is NOT.  And I am not talking of Al Qaeda the entity.  But Al Qaeda the mindset.  Go to any Islamic or Muslim forum on the net.. and you will see it so clearly.

Like Zahid Hussain says, Taliban, ISI, Jehadis are together.  And they are important and critical cogs in a big wheel of violent Islamic mind.  We can argue over what role one particular “cog” is playing at a particular time, but anyone who denies the existence and motivation of a common ideology is either naive or worse misleading.

Now, to the main question of Fareed Zakaria – “Is bombing only likely to succeed as a solution against all Islamic radicals?”  The short answer is No.  But that is a misleading answer as well.

I suggest that there is NO non-violent answer within Sunni Islam worth discussing.  Any answer within Sunni Islam will be fraught with hypocritical “work arounds” which have been and will be circumvented, at best, or simply pushed aside and the proponents executed at its worst.  One has to honestly approach this question from the standpoint of history.  When has any peaceful initiative succeeded and sustained itself over a period of reasonable time within the Sunni pantheon?  Ask this question and the analysis will provide you with a decent and categorical direction to move to.  Anything short of that is merely cosmetic thinking.  No more.

I am now convinced that the answer for salvation for Islamic society lies is Sufism and not Sunni Salafi/Wahabi based Islamic tradition.  The more we keep avoiding this major tectonic shift within the Islamic world the longer we will keep encouraging the Jehadis – whether “local” or “global” in their articulation and action.