Sunday Reading for the Terrorized

Just wanted to highlight a few things to ruin a nice Sunday. It happened to me. It could happen to you:

  • From Chicago Tribune [r.r], comes the profile of Muhammad Atta. It is a chilling piece and one that shows the risk we run by de-humanizing those murderers.
  • The Independent says that the risk is there because we have 70,000 al-Qaeda operatives at large. Did they get a hold of the al-Qaeda pledge drive records? no. Some twit just made up that number.
  • Juan Cole, no twit, does have a sobering report card for the War on Terror. He says that al-Qaeda achieved in Iraq what it was hoping to achieve in Afghanistan – a guerilla war.
  • Dawn quotes the Opposition Leader in Pakistan threatening to import that brilliant Iraqi-style guerilla war. That’s very appropriate of Mr. Fazl ur-Rahman. Who, furthermore, claims that the US investigations has “cleared” Usama b. Laden of involvement in 9/11. This guy is insane. Thank god we have a military dictator. Hey, Field-Marshall-to-be, do something dictatorial, will you? Send Mr. Fazl ur-Rahman gift subscriptions to a few decent newspapers and a “honorary” press-attach√à.
  • In the Guardian, V.S. Naipul does his own impression of a nut-case. Forget guerilla wars, he wants to destroy Saudi Arabia and Iran. Among the Believers, Indeed.
  • In the Washington Post, a Muslim congregation in Virginia endures FBI scrutiny from the outside and questions about the role of Islam post 9/11 from the inside.
  • And the Reuters tells us to re-set our personal doomsday clocks, please.
  • And finally, BBC-Cricket says the Aussies are “chomping at the bit” to play the US. Hmmm…Superman v an ant-hill would be more competitive. Heck, NZ beat the US by ONLY 210 runs.


Some happy news on the movie front. I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman – author of Sandman graphic novels. He is an amazing storyteller or myth-maker, as I like to call him. His 2002 children’s-book-for-adults, Coraline, is on top of the charts at the sepoy household having gone through innumerable readings. It is the story of a girl who walks through a door into a mirror image reality – if we consider the mirror to be slightly evil. Here is a review of it by that “other” author of children’s-book-for-adults Phillip Pullman.
Anyways, the good news I wanted to share with me 4 readers was that it has been optioned as a movie. Normally that is not cause for celebration but, in this case, the movie will be made by Henry Selick doing a full stop-motion version. Brilliant, I say. Selick is the mastermind behind Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas – another great movie – whose latest work is in Wes Anderson’s Life Aquatic. Movie heaven.

Articles of Faith

When the Chechnya hostage crisis began, shey’s rebellion sent an impassioned email asking a bunch of the bloggers to condemn the chechens as terrorists acting against the fundamentals of Islam. I agreed wholeheartedly but I was not sure that Islam needed any defense from the likes of me. I composed a rather lengthy post about my feelings on the responsibilities of Muslims (the self-avowed, self-proclaimed variety) to respond to terrorism carried out in the name of Islam. But I deleted it. I really had nothing to say. The jihadists are egomaniacal, literalists with a fishbowl view of the world being driven along by zealous mullahs on a power trip. Strip away their “islamic hijab” and they crumble like low-life murderers and criminals that they are. I was going to tie this analogy to the French hostages and the jihadist demand to suspend the ban on hijab in France. A move that backfired as all of France (Muslims and secularists) have united behind the ban.

Luckily, I have no need to say any of those things, since my teacher Naim sahib has done all that with far more eloquence and wisdom. His article, Hijab and I is up at Outlook India. Please go read it as it touches on his personal histories with hijab (in Bara Banki, in Hyde Park) and, especially, his thoughts on hijab after Sep 11. Is hijab a religious edict? A cultural practice? Is it a sign of feminine oppression or of liberation? What does it signify when you wear it as a symbol of a religion (not)engaged in conflicts around the globe? Whatever it is, I think he is absolutely correct in concluding that, what is most important is to remain true to who you are:

It dawned on me that she had succeeded where I, more mature and wiser in my own sight, had failed. She had found the courage and the wisdom not to buy into the collective guilt which only too many too soon began to heap upon all Muslims. She was a fighter. Unlike me, that frail young person had found within herself the strength to do what she thought was right in the particular moment. She had also resolutely held on to what was necessary to her as a permanent value.

And as I can remain true to myself, I condemn brutalists and terrorists everywhere on purely humanistic grounds.

Ingenious Puppetry

Our mutual friend, Paul K., had the good sense to go on a trip to Poland with Franz Kočka and document the experience.
Franz is an excellent tour guide to Eastern Europe who had me in stitches. Please go see the pictravelogue here. My favorite entry is this: “He will strive all his life without reaching it.”