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Al-Qaeda and Militancy- Lecture by Jason Burke


The Institute of Social and Cultural Studies (ISCS), University of the Punjab, arranged an interactive session with Jason Burke (South Asia correspondent for Guardian and The Observer). The discussion revolved around the evolution of Al-Qaeda, 9/11 terror attacks and the impact of militancy on the upcoming general elections in Pakistan.

Jason Burke-pcx

Jason Burke has been covering issues pertaining to extremism and militancy since 1990. He told the students about the birth of Al-Qaeda back in 1988 and opined that militancy had been fomenting in various parts of the world even before the existence of Al-Qaeda. According to Burke, 9/11 terror attacks marked the climax of Al-Qaeda’s capability. He was of the view that the West had poor understanding of Al-Qaeda’s linkages with other militant groups and the fact that none of the militant groups ever swore allegiance to Al-Qaeda. “The attack on the World Trade Center, targeted America, specifically, but had a global impact. The campaign initiated by Osama Bin Laden was fostered by Bush administration through the Iraq invasion in 2003”, said Burke. He explained to the the students and faculty members of Behavioural and Social Sciences that attacks of this nature compel people to make a choice. Osama Bin Laden wanted to unite the strands of militancy against the U.S in the wake of 9/11 attacks. He labeled this as a mass scale clash of ideologies, proliferating mass violence. However, as per his views, violence no more prevailed through global collaborations, but it was relatively localized now.

Regarding the upcoming elections in 2013, which Burke intends to cover as a correspondent, he held the opinion that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) might threaten the elections by claiming that they are being held in line with global ideals of democracy or secularism.

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Islamophobia Intensifying into Islamorealism


As images of the twin tower collapsing flashed on the television screens, Al Qaeda was alleged for carrying them out. The world was segregated into ‘evil’ and ‘bad’ by the president of a hegemonic state. Muslims forcibly had to wear the tag of ‘terrorist’. The ‘war on terror’ was against all those who were with Al Qaeda and its leader, world’s most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden.

This war has covered a time period of 11 years and after a decade of blood shed Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a secretive operation by the US NAVY SEALs. If this is what the US wanted then the world must have been converted into a peaceful abode. The terrorist groups must have been eliminated by now and Muslims all around the world wouldn’t have been suffering from such discriminatory tortures. Every bearded man or a Pakistani wouldn’t have been stigmatized for his adherence to the injunctions of Islam. The ‘war on terror’ has inflamed the world by using ‘hate speech’, ‘psychological manipulation’ and ‘unethical stereotyping’. It’s not just the Muslims now, one of the world’s most tolerant states was literally shaken when at least 87 were shot dead by an eccentric Christian at Oslo, back in 2011. Anders Behring Breivik underwent a psychological check up and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Cemil Çiçek told a session on intercultural dialogue as part of the Third Consultation Meeting of the Parliamentary Speakers of the G20 Countries in Riyadh that:

“As people in North Africa and Middle East risk their lives to fight an honorable struggle that highlights the joint values of humanity; in Europe racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia are on the rise with the economic crisis. It is of great concern that political parties portraying migrants as a source of security concern, unemployment, crime, poverty and other social problems are increasing their support.”

This year we saw outrageous demonstrations against an anti-Islam film by Muslims all around the world. Things have gone beyond the poor and unjust notion of ‘Islamophobia’- which doesn’t imply a good picture of the world at all.

Rick Jacobs in his op-ed contribution for The New York Times discusses ‘The Sin of Sowing Hatred of Islam’ on September 25, 2012. According to him:

“The American Freedom Defense Initiative is the group spearheading this provocative anti-Islam campaign. In July, a federal judge in New York ruled in favor of the group in a freedom of speech case, forcing New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to place an ad that denigrates Islam in subway stations, and now, time may have run out for further appeals. It reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
Those ads went up Monday.
What is the message of this ad, directed at the multitude of subway riders of countless faiths and ethnicities?
By using the term “jihad” in the context of a war against savages, the ad paints Islam as inherently violent, evil and bent on overthrowing the Western democracies and their key ally in the Middle East, Israel — even though, for the vast majority of Muslims, “jihad” refers to a spiritual quest, not the more politicized idea of holy war.
Yes, these ads are lawful. But they are wrong and repugnant”.

It’s an alarming incident. The dichotomy of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is getting more distinct. Where evil is being used as a synonym for the Muslims. Flawed and irrational concept of Islamophobia is burgeoning up as Islamorealism. It is just another well organized attempt to sling mud at the world’s fastest spreading religion. While the Arab world is engulfed with Syrian massacre and calls for self-determination, if Muslims won’t properly react to this strengthening ‘propaganda’ against them, then more anti-Islam films will be released soon.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Research Hub

 

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Media and the Coverage of ‘Terrorism’


Director, Institute of Communication Studies, Prof. Dr. Ahsan Akhtar Naz addressing the audience, Seated: Left (Farrukh Sohail Goindi), Center (Mujeeb ur Rehman Shami), Right (Sajjad Mir)

Communication technologies have provided an instant and easy access to global issues and ‘terrorism‘ is in the list of ‘most frequently exposed’ topics. The Institute of Communication Studies, keeping in view the sensitivity and complexity of the link that media has with the portrayal of terror, arranged a seminar on November 8, 2012. The seminar was presided over by the Director of the Institute of Communication Studies, Prof. Dr. Ahsan Akhtar Naz. In his preliminary note, the Director opined that terrorism took a lot of space in the global media after the 9/11 attacks. According to him, private television channels in Pakistan give more coverage to certain events that are a consequence of terrorism while there are some which are never brought into limelight. He suggested that policy makers at media institutions should identify and eliminate this difference in coverage. Farrukh Sohail Goindi and Sajjad Mir also shared their views with the students. The Chief Guest for the seminar was Mujeeb ur Rehman Shami.

While expressing his opinion about the ‘war on terror’, Farrukh Sohail Goindi said that there was no inquiry about the 9/11 attacks. Al-Qaeda was accepted as a terrorist organization. He told the students that during a visit to the United States even a person driving a Taxi asked me about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. ‘Everyone was concerned whether or not Osama Bin Laden has access to Pakistan’s nuclear assets and I used to chip in a lighter vein that he doesn’t, but the US can get an access to them’, said Goindi. Discussing the issue of media portrayal, he said that Osama Bin Laden was a freedom fighter when he was fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan for the ‘US interests’. Farrukh Sohail Goindi was of the opinion that Western media was following the agendas of US imperialism and Pakistani electronic media is also helping them to impose their opinions. He concluded with an interesting analogy, “for me the media can terrorize more than any General of NATO or a leader of Al-Qaeda and I call those ruthless terrorizers ‘General BBC‘, ‘General CNN’”.

Sajjad Mir before sharing his views stated that he couldn’t disagree with Farrukh Sohail Goindi. According to Sajjad Mir, the battle of left versus right has been eliminated, the world in gradually diving into the cyclone of ‘corporate culture’. He considered media a part of the capitalist system. Sajjad Mir discussed the manipulative strategies employed by the media in order to frame specific people as terrorists. He highlighted the prevailing terrorism in Mexico, which has never been given so much attention. Recalling an interview with the BBC, Sajjad Mir told the students that he was asked 20 years ago about the definition of a ‘fundamentalist’ and he defined it as a ‘political, economic and social resistance movement against imperialism’. In his concluding note, Sajjad Mir said that for achieving fairness and balance in the coverage of terrorism it is essential to get rid of media imperialism.

The Chief guest of the seminar, Mujeeb ur Rehman Shami advised the students to fight intellectually and compete with the world by gaining knowledge. He urged them to conduct research studies on the coverage of terrorism by the media.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Reporting at the Institute

 

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A US – led Syria and Beyond. . .



The Syrian massacre has flooded the news items all around the world. It’s been a year since Obama administration, for the first time, called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down and let Syrians have their right of self-determination. However, the obdurate dictator turned a deaf ear to this call. The clash between the ‘regime loyalists’ (supporters of Assad) and myriad rebel factions has claimed thousands of lives in Syria for almost seventeen months. The roots of this ongoing civil war can be traced to Benghazi, Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi refused to surrender in front of the rebels. His forces were ready to fight and what they couldn’t resist was the ‘overreached’ retaliation by NATO which had entered the conflict on behalf of the rebels. China and Russia allowed the resolution which gave NATO such sweeping powers to pass, but Russia along with South Africa criticized NATO’s role after the death of Qaddafi. This dispute in the UN Security Council created an unpleasant atmosphere as there was a disagreement between the members at a time when an agreed response to violence in Syria had to be chalked out. It was Russia which insisted on quelling the pressure from Assad’s regime and including the President while deciding any future political set up for Syria. This was the reason for the appointment of Kofi Annan (the U.N.-Arab League joint envoy to Syria) in February 2012 who worked on ”mission impossible” (as he himself quotes it). After failing to devise an ‘agreed’ plan, for a political transition that did not explicitly require Assad’s departure, Annan has now resigned. The persistent efforts of Washington to dislodge Assad through negotiations have failed utterly, especially after the resignation of Kofi Annan. The U.S blames Russia and publicly denounces it for purporting a dictatorial regime. On the other hand, Annan blames the Security Council giants (big western states) for name-calling Russia and China. Other than the obviously disgruntled, Moscow and Beijing, the U.S shouldn’t ignore Brazil, India and South Africa which are also in the list of dissenters this time. All four of them are established democracies.

From the Geneva recommendations to the six-point peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, nothing was endorsed with consensus. It is interesting to highlight that both the drafts had a common agenda which favoured a democratic transition at the cost of dismantling authoritarian rule. For this purpose, the notion of a government of ‘national unity’ (which allows the opposition and those already in the government to share power) was presented. This clearly indicates that the U.S isn’t ready to back a complete ‘regime change’ and wants to maintain some of the institutions in Syria which will have to abide by its standards of ‘human rights’. Moreover, there is an unattended question which inquires about the composition of Syrian opposition factions. The most ripe option is that of ‘rebels’ being fed by Washington’s Gulf allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. With the infiltration of Al-Qaeda jihadis, increased involvement of Turkey, influx of arms and intelligence support from the U.S, Assad is likely to depart especially after the defection of Syrian Prime Minister, Riad Hijab. There is nothing better for the U.S. other than deciding an abominable fate like that of Qaddafi for Assad or pushing him behind the bars like Hosni. However, the focus is now on the post-Assad Syria that is a more daunting task, orchestrated a decade ago.

U.S General Wesley Clerk, former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe, is on record informing US journalist Amy Goodman that within weeks of the terrorist atrocity on 11th September 2001, the then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld wrote a memo describing “how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran,” (after invading Afghanistan). This seems to be somewhat ‘real’, but delayed plan in the wake of all that is being done to carve out the fate of Syria. However, the failure in Iraq and the 2006 Israeli defeat in Lebanon has compelled the U.S to alter the old ‘core strategy’ of direct occupations. It has now embarked upon the mission of encouraging destabilisation, clandestine operations and feeding civil strife in the targeted regions.

Syria is the latest victim in the grip of a bitter conflict in which Al Qaeda-type terrorists have established a foothold similar to the one in neighbouring Iraq. It nurtures armed thugs and terrorists being indirectly supported by the U.S. The long Turkey-Syria border is one of the main routes for smuggling armed men and weapons into Syria. The Syrians represent the heart of what Jordan’s King Abdullah called the “Shia crescent”: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. It is the opposition of this crescent against Israel which irks Washington and the ‘advocates’ (Egypt and Jordan) of Israel in the Arab world. Lebanon was bombed and invaded in a US-backed Israeli invasion in 2006, but was repelled by Syrian-backed Lebanese resistance led by Hezbollah. Efforts are now also being made by Saudi Arabia to weaken Hezbollah, the Shi’ite organization that is being backed by Iran. Iraq is disintegrated and bleeding heavily, with daily sectarian terrorist atrocities. Iran is the target for which Israel and the U.S are bloodthirsty in order to ensure Israel’s hegemony in the region. The post- Assad Syria driven by ‘U.S aspirations’ will not only be worse than Iraq, but will also allow the accomplishment of anti-Iranian proxy war under the U.S, Saudi, Qatar leadership, with the easy consent of Britain, France and Israel.
Not to forget what the naïve rebels who initiated the peaceful uprising wanted- a democratic transition ‘without’ any foreign intervention no matter how well-intentioned it might be. A ceasefire and political adjustment can include the rebels into the process of negotiation, who are being deliberately turned into terrorists. The idea of militarisation is still strongly condemned, even by the democratic organizations in Syria. The Syrians must accept the fact that they are still not the decision-makers of their country. A glittery illusion from the U.S in the name of human-rights has turned their homeland into a battlefield tilting in favour of Israel.

The verbal content of this post was originally published in Jahangir’s World Times- September 2012

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in International Affairs

 

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