Narendra Modi’s double standards on terrorism

Narendra Modi tends to demonise Muslims by lionising the usage of terms like "Islamic terrorism" but is enraged when he comes across the term "saffron terrorism." Isn't such a position overtly against minorities whom the RSS loathes? (Image: Associated Press)

Narendra Modi tends to demonise Muslims by lionising the usage of terms like “Islamic terrorism” but is enraged when he comes across the term “saffron terrorism.” Isn’t such a position overtly against minorities whom the RSS loathes? (Image: Associated Press)

Terrorism has no religion. It has no colour. It is neither Islamic nor Hindu. It cannot even be classified into green and saffron. But yes, terrorism by Muslims and Hindus does exist, and can be more appropriately referred to as “Islamist terror” and “Hindutva terror”. The former being representative of political Islam while the latter being that of political Hinduism.

But how does Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi view terrorism? Does he approve of linking the name of a particular religion to terrorism?

Shortly after 9/11, Rajdeep Sardesai hosted a television debate on The Big Fight to discuss the repercussions of the tragedy which had claimed thousands of lives in the USA.

Narendra Modi was present on the occasion representing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) point of the view on the subject. As the debate began, Modi delivered a shocking remark stating that despite the activities which had been going on, the Indian media was so caught up in “pseudo-secularism” that they were afraid of using the term “Islamic terrorism”. He argued that after the downing of the Twin Towers, the global media had started identifying the core problem and he would like to “congratulate” Rajdeep for being courageous enough to bring this topic to the table.

“Somwaar tak, last Monday tak, Hindustan ka media, anek kargujari ke bawajood bhi Islamic terrorism yeh shabd upyog karne ka sahas nahi karta tha kyunki unka pseudo-secularism unpar itna haawi tha ki satya bolne ki inki himmat nahi thi. Kal mangalwaar ko, last mangalwaar ko, jab duniya ke akhbaar yeh likhne lage, America ki ghatna ke baad, tab pehli baar aur main Rajdeep ke iss initiative ka main abhinandan karta hoon ki sach ko sach ke roop mein pesh karne ka unhone sahas dikhaya hai. Jahan tak Islam ka sawaal hai, uske bahut ache pehlu hai, aaj jo log hai woh Islam ka kis roop se upyog kar rahe hai yeh sawaal hai.”- Narendra Modi after 9/11

Modi’s compliments were immediately brushed off by Sardesai, who said that they did not use the term “Islamic terrorism”. They also invited a rebuke from Rafiq Zakaria (who has since passed away) who asked what terrorism had “got to do with Islam.”

In his opening remarks, Modi did say that Islam has good and bad aspects and the real question pertains to how it is being used in today’s time. But his happiness over the usage of the term “Islamic terrorism” was undoubtedly immature and incorrect.

Contrast this with Modi’s response to the Congress when Sushil Kumar Shinde made the infamous “bhagwa” or “saffron” terror charge. In a speech delivered in typical Modi rage, he asked how saffron terror can exist when the same colour was a part of the “tiranga” or the national tri-colour.

He argued that the tricolour was saluted by soldiers of the Indian army and they were not terrorists. He spoke of Swami Vivekananda and Swami Dayanand Saraswati stating that monks who sacrifice everything in search of salvation wear saffron robes.

He angrily asked the crowd, “Was Swami Vivekananda a terrorist? Was Swami Dayanand Saraswati a terrorist?” Lastly, Modi said that Hindu temples hoist saffron flags and threw yet another question at the crowd, “Are our temples centres of terrorism?”

Modi’s hypocrisy and double standards on terrorism are evident when one listens to his views on “Islamic” and “saffron” terrorism, respectively. If terrorism has no religion then how can it be termed as “Islamic” when it cannot be branded as “Hindu” or “saffron”?

In a recent speech delivered before a gathering of Christians, Prime Minister Modi said, “My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence.”

He added, “My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions.”

This is precisely what Modi hasn’t done in his previous utterances. He tends to demonise Muslims by lionising the usage of terms like “Islamic terrorism” but is enraged when he comes across the term “saffron terrorism.” Isn’t such a position overtly against minorities whom the RSS loathes?

It’s time for us to go beyond symbolism. Modi remained quiet when members of the Sangh Parivar were hogging the limelight day in and day out courtesy their incendiary remarks. Following US President Barack Obama’s criticism of religious intolerance in India and the debacle in the Delhi Assembly elections, Modi seems to have given a politically crucial message reassuring the Christian community of their safety. But this surely isn’t enough.

Modi has to outgrow his own prejudices. If extremism by a bunch of Hindus cannot be described as saffron terrorism then neither can one label the activities of al-Qaeda and ISIS as Islamic terrorism. The process of racial profiling has to be halted and the first person who needs to change his mentality is Narendra Modi.

(This article was originally published in The Huffington Post.)

Glamourizing terror? Rambo and Obama do it better!


The controversial cover page of Rolling Stone which allegedly “glamourizes” Boston bombing suspect, Dzokhar Tsarnaev (Rolling Stone)

A popular magazine in the United States by the name of Rolling Stone has courted controversy by placing a glamorous image of Dzokhar Tsarnaev on the cover page of its latest issue which will hit the stores on August 3rd. Dzokhar Tsarnaev happens to be an accused in the Boston Marathon Bombings which took place on April 15th this year and led to the death of 3 people besides injuring 264. Dzokhar carried out the entire attack in complicity with his elder brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev. While Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in the shootout which occurred between the brothers and Boston police, Dzokhar was arrested in an injured state and has been charged with several offences pertaining to terrorism. The attack carried out by the brothers was in retaliation to what the brothers considered to be an unjust and hostile foreign policy of the United States towards Muslim majority countries.

Coming back to the core issue, the Rolling Stone’s latest move has attracted sharp reactions from persons based both inside and outside the United States. Some have given a call for boycotting this issue of the magazine. However, the intimidating response which the magazine has attracted appears “immature” and “shallow in perception”. There has not been a single news report which has suggested that the Rolling Stone have anywhere by means of its content tried to justify the act of terrorism and butchery carried out by Dzokhar Tsarnev. The head caption on the cover reads “The Bomber” and the text printed underneath it reads “How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.”

The subtext makes it quite evident that Rolling Stone’s cover story attempts to trace the personal journey of Dzokhar from being an everyday college going lad to a terror bomber. The allegation that the photograph used promotes terrorism or glamourizes it would be more suitable for those Facebook fan pages and groups where American girls have described Dzokhar as “cute” and have asked for him to be “pardoned”. It would also apply to Internet sympathizers of Dzokhar who actively lend support to the acts of terror carried out by the likes of Dzokhar in response to what they consider to be a “ruthless assault of America on Islam and Muslims.”

The American entertainment industry however cannot be totally absolved from the allegation of lionzing terror as was done in Sylvester Stallone starrer Rambo. The representation of Afghan Mujahideen as patriotic freedom fighters fighting against Soviet repression was done effectively and repeatedly by Hollywood as part of CIA-sponsored propaganda against communism. The world today is aware of the havoc which was caused by these mujahideen once they came to power in Afghanistan. If American human rights activists are genuinely opposing glamourization of terror then they should not only condemn several award-winning movies made in the 1980s but they should also stand in opposition to US President Barack Obama’s decision to lace Syrian rebels (associates of Al Qaeda) with weapons to fight the illegitimate regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. We need to categorically realize two things in regards to the Syrian conflict: First, the United Nations and not the United States has to take the lead in toppling the Assad regime which is guilty of fuelling a conflict which has left 93,000 people dead and second, the United States cannot aid an Al-Qaeda affiliate group when Al Qaeda itself is responsible for murdering thousands of innocents citizens across the world. Till Washington doesn’t take such a step, there is no point in misinterpreting and blowing out of proportion a story whose purpose is nothing but to bring to its readers the transformation of a boy into a terrorist.