Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Pity the Poor Terrorists

In the Los Angeles Times, Asra Q. Nomani claims that the long-standing mistreatment of India’s Muslims lead to the attacks in Mumbai:

Indeed, the government report I read about in the newspapers two years ago acknowledged that Muslims in India had become “backward.” “Fearing for their security,” the report said, “Muslims are increasingly resorting to living in ghettos around the country.” Branding of Muslims as anti-national, terrorists and agents of Pakistan “has a depressing effect on their psyche,” the report said, noting Muslims live in “a sense of despair and suspicion.”

According to the report, produced by a committee led by a former Indian chief justice, Rajender Sachar, Muslims were now worse off than the Dalit caste, or those called untouchables. Some 52% of Muslim men were unemployed, compared with 47% of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91% were unemployed, compared with 77% of Dalit women. Almost half of Muslims over the age of 46 couldn’t read or write. While making up 11% of the population, Muslims accounted for 40% of India’s prison population. Meanwhile, they held less than 5% of government jobs.

There’s no chicken-or-the-egg mystery here. I don’t doubt Nomani’s data, but it’s hard to employ a group of people who largely refuse to partake of the processes that get people hired. How do you give a proper education to a population that has launched a madrassa system to rival Saudi Arabia’s? There are nearly 10,000 New Delhi-founded Deobandi madrassas throughout Asia. These are radical institutions, and if you don’t believe me, ask Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. He was educated in one.

Nomani is, of course, not alone. Writing in Time magazine, Sameer Reddy offered a near-perfect self-parody of the “poor, alienated terrorist” argument:

If there is a quantum of solace to be extracted from this tragedy, it’s that it serves as an urgent call to address the underlying causes of terrorism, the most pressing issue of our time, with a targeted effort to counteract the destabilizing effects of poverty, lack of basic education, health care and civil rights. Whether the assailants in India came from within, or were foreign agents sent from Pakistan or the Middle East to undermine the country, the fact is, their motives likely originated in alienated circumstances.

And whose fault is that?


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