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Old 01-07-2007, 10:54 PM
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Lightbulb Lord Desai: The Roots of Terror: Islam or Islamism?



We are grateful to The Lord Desai based at the Palace of Westminster, London, for his submission.

Dear ATCA Colleagues
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

Two men rammed a flaming Jeep into the main passenger terminal of Glasgow airport at 2:00pm on Saturday, 30th June, crashing into the glass doors at the entrance and sparking a fire with more than a thousand people inside. Security bollards blocked the path of the vehicle as the driver tried to ram the main doors of the Glasgow airport terminal. The air became heavy with the stench of petrol. Driver and passenger leapt from the vehicle and it burst into flames. Airport staff described the men as screaming "Allah" as the driver doused the burning vehicle with more fuel soaking himself in the process.

This comes close on the heels of the two vehicles stranded in the heart of London's West End shopping and theatre district with car bombs made from gas canisters, gasoline and nails left the day before yesterday. UK police are conducting one of their biggest ever manhunts. The UK Home Office has raised its terrorist threat assessment to the highest level, "critical,'' from "severe,'' meaning an attack is expected imminently. It was last at "critical" in August 2006, after the foiled airline bomb plots.

Glasgow airport was closed and evacuated yesterday, and two people were arrested. "We believe the incident at Glasgow airport is linked to the events in London,'' Strathclyde Chief Constable Willie Rae has said. "There are clearly similarities, and we can confirm that this is being treated as a terrorist incident.''

The terror incidents come days before the second anniversary of 7th July, 2005, when four Islamic extremist suicide bombers killed 52 people on London's transport system in the deadliest strike on the city since World War II.

COBRA, the UK Cabinet's emergency committee, met twice yesterday after convening the previous day in response to the London bombs. "It is right to raise the level of security in airports and in crowded places in the light of the heightened threat,'' Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a televised statement after the COBRA meeting. He said the London incidents and the Glasgow "attack'' should remind people to be "vigilant."
__________________________________________________ __________________________

We are grateful to The Lord Desai of St Clement Danes, based at the Palace of Westminster, London, for his submission to ATCA, "The Roots of Terror: Islam or Islamism? Distinguishing between Religion and Ideology."

Professor Lord Meghnad Desai -- Baron Desai of St Clement Danes -- (born 10/07/1940) is a British economist, writer and Labour politician. His recent book, "Rethinking Islamism: The Ideology of the New Terror" [IB Tauris / Palgrave Macmillan] was published in December 2006. Born in Vadodara (Baroda), India, Desai grew up with his four siblings - two brothers and two sisters. He went straight to secondary school at the age of five, matriculated at 14, was an Honours student before he was 18, had a Master's degree before age 20, and a PhD at age 22. After he secured a Master's degree from the Mumbai School of Economics (then Bombay School of Economics), his parents wanted him to become an elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer. But the qualifying age was 21, and he was still 19. In between, he won a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. He left India in August 1960. From Pennsylvania, where he completed his PhD in 1963, he served as an intern at the London School of Economics and got a job there in 1965. In 1989 he married fellow-economist Gail Wilson. Lord Desai has written extensively on a wide range of subjects. From 1984-1991, he was co-editor of the Journal of applied Economics. He has been both Chair and President of Islington South and Finsbury Constituency Labour Party in London and was made a life peer as Baron Desai, of St Clement Danes in the City of Westminster in April 1991.

In 2002, Lord Desai wrote a book Marx's Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism which states that globalization would tend toward the revival of socialism. He published a biography of Indian film star Dilip Kumar titled, "Nehru's Hero: Dilip Kumar in the life of India" [Roli, 2004]. He has described the book as his 'greatest achievement'. Examining Kumar's films - some of which Desai has seen more than 15 times - he discovers parallels between the socio-political arena in India and its reflection on screen. He discusses issues as varied as censorship, the iconic values of Indian machismo, cultural identity and secularism, and analyses how the films portrayed a changing India at that time. During the course of writing this book he met Kishwar Ahluwalia, his second wife who worked as an editor for this book. On July 20, 2004 he married Ahluwalia. Desai, then 64, and 47-year-old Ahluwalia, were both divorcees and married at a registrar's office in London. In 2005 he retired as Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance, which he founded in 1992 at LSE, where he is now Professor Emeritus. He is Chairman of the Trustee's Board for Training for Life, Chairman of the Management Board of City Roads and on the Board of Tribune magazine. He is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. He writes:

Dear DK and Colleagues

Re: The Roots of Terror: Islam or Islamism? Distinguishing between Religion and Ideology

Religion is a private matter or at least ought to be. Religion provides solace to the troubled psyche of many when they are puzzled by accidents of life such as sudden death of a beloved person. Yet religion is often in the public arena. Every religion has been used as a tool for aggression and violence, to instil hatred of the people of other religions. No religion has a monopoly of virtue though each will claim the others are worse.

Since the events of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks in London, Madrid, Bali, Delhi, Sharm-al-Sheikh, we have seen the emergence of Al-Qaeda as a global terrorist organization. Al-Qaeda is also happy when any bomb thrower claims to belong to it or when anti-terrorist forces accuse it of yet another carnage. But the argument then mistakenly extends to all Muslims. Some people assert that Muslims are terrorists or that Islam is an intolerant religion. In the Western media there have been long debates about whether Muslims are incapable of living in modern tolerant societies, does Islam have a problem since it never had a Reformation. Muslims in the Western world, and not only just there, are viewed with suspicion because of their religion.

I have argued in my most book Rethinking Islamism, the roots of this new terrorism are not in religion but in a political ideology which uses religious language but its purpose is like any other political ideology to win power. The roots of this ideology Global Islamism are in the history of the decline of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War and its partition by the British and the French. This partition was planned in secret while the war was still going on by the British and French foreign offices in the Sykes-Picot Agreement even as the Allies had promised their Arab friends independence. The Balfour Declaration followed in 1917 with Britain promising a homeland for Jews in a territory which it did not then possess.

Osama Bin Laden has concocted a story of Muslim decline and victimisation at the hands of what he calls the Crusader powers. He blames the existence of Israel as well as the troubles in Chechnya, Kashmir, East Timor, Bosnia on the single agency of US led imperialism taking over from Britain and France. He objected to the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia as they defile the Hijaz. He appeals to Muslims all over the world [Sunnis only since he loathes all other branches of Islam] to avenge this insult by attacking all non-Muslim powers involved in any of these disputes. India in his view is part of the Crusader West.

Every ideology tells a story about the plight of a people, of a nation, of a race or even of the whole of humankind. It talks of a glorious past, a miserable present for which someone else is responsible and a glorious future if the someone else is removed. In Communism, it is the Capitalist whom the working class will remove to usher in Socialism and later Communism. In Global Islamism, the villain is the West and it can be eliminated only by a military defeat or else by the conversion of every non-Muslim to Islam. But it is Islam as defined by Osama which is an intolerant puritanical and fanatical sect holding a monopoly of virtue.

It is essential to defeat this ideology since we all want to live. Terrorism kills innocent bystanders, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. But to fight an ideology we have to take political steps while the anti-terrorist squads do their police work. We need to deconstruct the ideology. We begin by pointing out that other countries and regions which were subject to imperialism -- China and India -- have recovered from their victim hood and emerged strong. Muslims of the Middle East can do the same not by appealing to some false unity to wage a war against the West but via education, investment, good governance and innovation. We need to say loudly that while Islam has one book and one God, it has a rich diversity of manifestations around the world . We need to point out that Muslims around the world live in harmony with other people and share the common concerns about leading a happy prosperous life, caring for their children's future and a safe and healthy old age for their elders. Our faiths are our private concerns and the ills of the world are tackled more by negotiations and diplomacy than by suicide bombing.

Distinguish between religion and ideology. Then you fight the terrorist while leaving the devout alone to pursue her or his faith.

Best wishes


Meghnad Desai

[ENDS]
We look forward to your further thoughts, observations and views. Thank you.
Best wishes


For and on behalf of DK Matai
Chairman, Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance (ATCA)

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