Reportage: Arthur J Pais
Imagine the economic and social problems of Muslims in India is solved, Salman Rushdie said the other day; imagine the Kashmir problem is also solved; imagine too, the Israelis and Palestinians have made peace. Would al Qaeda and the various self-proclaimed jihadists "then put their guns down?"
He has no illusions any such thing would happen, he said firmly.
The jihadists are bent not only on "dragging us into the Middle Ages," he declared but are also planning on world domination. "It is all about power grabbing."
Rushdie was musing, at an Asia Society event in New York, over the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
The terrorists were not really concerned what happened in Kashmir, he continued, and their action has to do with everything that overtook Sufi Islam in Pakistan and had it replaced by "fanatical Islam, an Arabised Islam."
Mumbai-born Rushdie (who refuses to call Bombay by its new name, asserting that the name Mumbai is the creation of politicians), shared the evening with two other New York-based writers -- Mira Kamdar (Planet India) and Suketu Mehta (Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found) -- with immediate connections with Mumbai
Rushdie was forced underground for many years in the United Kingdom following the death fatwa against him by Iran in the 1980s
He was speaking for the first time extensively on the Mumbai attacks, and he covered a wide spectrum of topics including the "lamentable" response to the attacks by the security forces, the "nauseating" reaction of fellow Mann Booker Prize-winning writer Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things) to the attacks and the "utter duplicity" of the Pakistan government in addressing the charges that terrorists were trained and dispatched from Pakistan.
Calling Pakistan the centre of world terrorism, he said, "all roads of terrorism in the world lead to Pakistan," and though religious parties there got just about two percent votes in the general elections less than a year ago, the Pakistani "elite" is conniving with the religious groups to undermine India.
The jihadists tap into "the resentment the Pakistani elite feels for the success of India," he said.
"Broadly speaking India is a free country, broadly speaking India is a democracy and broadly speaking India is economically successful," he added. "On the other hand, Pakistan is a basket case." There is no institution in Pakistan there on which a free society can be built."
America has blindly poured billions of dollars into Pakistan after 9/11 and it only strengthened Pakistan's jihadists, with the encouragement of the previous President and military leader Pervez Musharraf, he said. Mushraff "skillfully" manipulated the West. "To the westerners, he was a westerner, and to the mullahs he was a mullah," he said.
Americans treated Pakistan with "velvet gloves," he said even as the country was becoming the "world centre of terrorism."
Video: Kind courtesy Asia Society
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