Sunday, September 14, 2008

Delhi Terrorists' Email From Hell: "An Eye For An Eye..."

“An eye for an eye...”, boasted the subject heading in the fateful 13-page email received by India news media agencies, an email strongly suspected of being sent by the bomb-maker himself, claiming credit and justification for the latest terror bombings of markets and parks throughout the Indian capital city of Delhi. The body count from that act of "vengeance" stands today at 30 dead and a hundred wounded.

Portions of the email are appearing piecemeal in the Indian press. The message, expressed over and over again, is revenge:

"Eye for An Eye, The Dust Will Never Settle Down"… "To dreadfully terrorise you this time, by the Will and Help of Almighty Allah, we are about to devastate your very first metropolitan centre, your most strategic ‘hindutva hub, your green zone -- yes! It's your own capital".

“With this message, we once again declare that our intense, accurate and successive attacks like the one you will see exactly 5 minutes from now, Inshallah, will continue to punish you even before your earlier wounds have healed.”
"This accurately planned deadly strike is just another reaction to all those pre-and post-26 July harassments imposed by your ATS and police on the innocent Muslims."
"Your oppression will always be revenged Inshallah though after years to come. Never assume that we have forgotten the demolition of Babri Masjid and by Allah we can never forget it! It is that grave mistake of yours which will make you taste humiliation for generations to come."
The suspected author is Abdul Subhan Usman Qureshi, a 32-year old computer whiz-kid from Mumbai diffidently referred to as the "teckie jihadi" by the Indian press, a knick-name partially earned through the complex steps he takes to hide his tracks whenever he posts messages such as this latest hateful screed.

Abdul Subhan is said to be the bomb-making expert as well as the criminal mastermind behind several of the terror bombings that have ripped India in recent times. So far scattered "footsoldiers" from his group, the Indian Mujahideen, have been caught but the leader remains at large.

The lengthy email itself is sparingly quoted; most of the media is instead providing a summary of its contents:

The latest email from Abdul Subhan, who uses his alias "al-Arbi", which has the theme of revenge running through it, reads similar to the previous ones in many ways -- references to scriptures to justify the attack on non-believers, warnings of more attacks against those behind "injustice and oppression" inflicted upon Muslims all over the country, boasts of capacity and reach to strike anywhere and warnings to cops, media and judiciary.

…[T]here is no let-up in the effort to intimidate the cops, the media and the judiciary by warning them of retaliation. If anything, the warnings have become more ominous. There is no regret either for the previous atrocities, with the IM even threatening to repeat the barbarity it committed by attacking hospitals in Ahmedabad.
Yet, it is different in some crucial ways. To begin with, in comparison to the emails that preceded the blasts in courts in towns of UP, Jaipur and Ahmedabad, the latest one is thin on references to scriptures -- a factor which could be attributed to the imprisonment of Mufti Bashar, the Azamgarh cleric who provided the religious input for the drafts sent by Subhan till he was arrested for Ahemdabad blasts.

Reading the rage-filled words of this message from hell makes me feel like I’ve fallen down a hole so deep there’s no longer any light getting through. It’s the same spiritual void we can all fall into if we lose sight of the moral difference between justice and vengeance… And with the frequency of their barbaric attacks against us, it’s a pit that we are increasingly likely to topple into.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth… we’ve all heard the expression over the years. But rarely do we ever see it in its proper context; it isn’t supposed to be a prodding to bear a grudge over past crimes, it was supposed to teach us to restrain our natural urge to indulge in cruelty, by restricting our options regarding how we are to act towards those who do us harm. Through temperance of our natural capacity for evil we were supposed to arrive at a balanced and disciplined form of deferred retaliation, called justice, a different concept than vengeance. Deferring cruelty is no easy matter, even with trivial offenses made against us; it’s all the more challenging a task when we see our friends and neighbors maimed and blown to bits by unrepentant psychopaths, as just happened in Delhi.

Anyone who’s ever carried a grudge knows the awful truth: revenge doesn’t fill the hole, it doesn’t reassemble what’s been broken, it doesn’t return what’s been taken… it just makes bad situations worse. Revenge is an idea based on a lie, a presumption that there can be such a thing as "pure" victory. The folly that is human experience includes the paradox that in victory there is somehow defeat; we don’t need classic Greek history to teach us of Pyrrhic Victories, each of us can probably look within their own lives to find examples of how winning turned out to include losing. What’s harder to observe is the equal truth that defeat can contain triumph.

In gaining there can be loss, while in giving away there can be gains… isn’t this the whole idea behind sacrificial love?

When we are told to “Love Our Neighbor”, this guiding principle is not meant to replace the Ten Commandments, granting license for murder, pillage and violence to be committed against us. It is meant to moderate how we respond to the eternal flaws of human character that plague us century after century. Do we really win by becoming indistinguishable from those whose barbaric behavior wounds us so deeply, spiritually as well as physically? As an absolute, we could kill them all and be done with it, but what shadow would shroud such a victorious achievement, what price would be paid by such a dark triumph? To save our skins we must not sacrifice our souls… for giving in to the animal half of our inner nature, the part of us attuned to the material world around us, this surrender is surely more “humiliating” than to turn our backs on our other, spiritual, half, the part of our nature demanding we raise ourselves up to the light whenever we inevitably fall into our individual pits of anger and despair.

The fall itself is not humiliating; it is really what we choose to do once in the pit, that shames us... and can ultimately place such weights upon us that we remain condemned to lurk there, in the darkest of nights.

It’s a fitting irony that the perpetrator of these vengeful attacks worships a moon as the sign summarizing his understanding of his belief system. The light of the moon is reflected light, needing something much grander than itself in order to shine. Honesty and self-awareness of its smallness would reconcile it to accept a secondary but still supportive role; yet if it succumbs to vanity it will strive to eclipse the light of its larger neighbor… and through such petty actions, its small size is made all the more apparent.

I pray that he, and others in similar holes, may one day see The Light.

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