"When the going gets tough, the tough get going", was a saying my mom drilled into me as a kid, to make sure I would learn that how I reacted to a problem was going to reveal much about my character.
For some reason, this childhood lesson came to mind as I read this morning of the terrible series of explosions that have occured in Malegaon, India today:
At least 37 people were killed and over 100 injured in Malegaon on Friday as explosions rocked the scene of a Muslim congregation in the powerloom town in north Maharashtra.
The blasts occurred around 1.55 pm — within minutes of each other — after Friday namaaz as the crowd made its way out of a mosque called Rehmani Masjid and a nearby cemetery referred to as the Bada Kabrastan. ....
The casualties included a number of beggars who had lined the streets seeking zakat (alms), which is distributed on the occasion of Shab-e-baraat.
[Compare what happened next to how the United States, and the citizens of New York City, reacted on the morning of September 11, 2001.]
Soon afterwards, mobs went on the rampage through the town which has a history of communal violence, pelting stones and shouting slogans to protest against the incident. Curfew was immediately clamped and the police rushed reinforcements to secure the area.
It seems that the police will be hampered in their investigation of the bombings, by local tensions within the muslim community:
The "secular" parties may have made things more difficult for the law-enforcing agencies in Malegaon.
Malegaon witnessed a bitter electoral battle during the 2004 Assembly polls as six-time MLA Janata Dal (Secular) leader Nihal Ahmed faced off with Congress contender Sheikh Rashid. Rashid pulled out all stops to defeat the socialist veteran, dividing the Muslims like never before. And the bitterness, for all appearances, still lingers.
There was so much of bad blood in the campaign that elders wondered if the tussle was worth it. Rashid accused Ahmed of playing the communal card and supporting Osama Bin Laden. Ahmed refuted the charge and accused Rashid of using unfair electoral practices. The divided Muslim community is now one of the main problems that police face, say officials.
"If we talk to Rashid, the Ahmed camp gets upset with us and vice-versa. It has become virtually impossible to bring about a consensus among local Muslims, many of whom are migrants from UP [the northern state of Uttar Pradesh]. The other problem is that a section of Muslim youth, fed up with the slanging match between Rashid and Ahmed, is increasingly turning towards organisations like the SIMI [Student Islamic Movement of India] ...
The first suspects that authorities have placed on their list of possibilities, are the Bajrang Dal, whose main slogan, according to Wikipedia, is
..."Seva Suraksha Sanskar", or "service, safety, and culture". An integral part of its agenda is preventing the killing of cows. ...
It has also vowed to protect India's Hindu identity, from the dangers of Muslim population growth, Christian conversions, and antinational communists.
Like a certain peaceful religion we hear a lot about, the members of Bajrang Dal are somewhat flexible in their definition of "protection":
The Bajrang Dal is known to have followed a similar pattern in blasts at Parbhani’s Mohammadi Masjid and mosques at Pona and Jalna earlier this year.
"We are probing this angle, though it is too early to hold any group responsible," DGP P S Pasricha said on Friday.
Another theory doing the rounds is that a Jaish-e-Mohammad module could have engineered Friday’s blasts to create communal trouble.
Intelligence agencies suspect that the Malegaon blasts were aimed at provoking communal tension as terrorists could not foment trouble during the recently concluded Ganapati festival.
A senior official from one of the central agencies in Pune said similar, subversive acts had been planned during the 10-day Ganapati festival.
However, tight security measures prevented any untoward incident. "There was no specific intelligence input on Malegaon," the official said.
"The motive seems not only to kill people, but also create panic and communal tension in the already sensitive Malegaon," he said, explaining that after failing to cause damage during the Ganesh festival, Malegaon could have been seen as a soft target.
As we approach The Date of another September 11th, it is hoped that citizens of the west will undertake a thorough reflection on our collective and individual reactions to that event. What light has the past five years revealed about our reactions; have we done what we should have, has it been the right response... as tempting as it may be to think in leftist utopian terms of absolute solutions and absolute failures, have we done the most we could have done under the circumstances, should we have gotten more tough; what is to be a dignified definition of "getting tough" in our response to islamic barbarity?
Incidents like this bombing in Malegaon, if indeed undertaken in retaliation for the recent Mumbai train bombings, are a useful reminder that eye for an eye justice is not always the dignified path, that adopting a long-term view (seeing beyond our own life being one of the characteristics that elevates humans above animals) involves measuring more than just material details, it must also include measuring things unseen: one's sense of humanity, one's sense of civility, one's ability to rise about the natural, animal-like tit for tat and embrace one's sense of responsibility to struggle to live with honor. Where is the honor in blowing up beggars? Where is the civility in killing every single muslim, wouldn't that just make us like the fundamentalist wahabbis and their fanatical shia cousins, who think in precisely the same inhumane terms?
If ultimately we are to be judged by how we handle adversity, reactions being the most revealing x-ray of one's inner character, then the judeo-christian heritage animating western civilization exhorts us to renew our ability to measure solutions to the tough choices we continue to face.
Our challenge today remains the same as on the afternoon of September 11: how to find the civilized middle ground between the extreme temptations to become either as barbaric as the jihadis or as suicidal as the left's ongoing determination to remain grazing sheep waiting to be fleeced.
Between the painfully clear extremes of killing everyone and killing no one lies a half-seen shifting ground that will be so tough to recognize, we will need the participation of as many penetrating judgments as possible to adjudicate a tough solution worthy of a human being.