Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 4 Issue 17 | October 15, 2004 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   A Roman Column
   Human Rights
   Straight Talk
   In Retrospect
   Time Out
   On Campus
   Slice of Life
   Book Review
   Dhaka Diary
   New Flicks
   Write to Mita

   SWM Home


Straight Talk

"What does Terrorist Mean?"

Nadia Kabir Barb

"What does terrorist mean?" asked my son from the back seat of the car as we drove down the motorway. While my husband and I tried to compose an answer, our elder daughter asked if she could answer his question. "A terrorist is someone who uses bombs to blow up places, commits suicide by blowing themselves up and kills other people as well for no apparent reason", was her explanation. We felt obliged to add that it was not for "no apparent reason" but usually so called terrorists believe in a cause. But even to us our words sounded hollow. How distressing that at the tender ages of 8 and 11, concepts such as "terrorists, terrorism, suicide bombers" etc. had filtered into their innocent worlds. But the children and youth of today are more aware of the world around them due to the ever expanding reach of technology. They can watch live coverage of events as they unfold. Images of twisted steel, shattered buildings and charred bodies are beamed directly into their living rooms. Even from an early age they seem to be more politicised. On the one hand we spend an eternity trying to teach our children right from wrong and then we are exposed to the atrocities committed in the name of religion.

Soon after our conversation I saw the newspapers on the stands with the headlines, "He's Dead" blaring out. The words just leapt out, stark, simple and final. Kidnapped just over three weeks ago by the militant group Tawhid and Jihad, Ken Bigley had been beheaded. The proof was a videotape confirmed as being authentic. Despite efforts from organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain, Yassir Arafat and even Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to appeal to the kidnappers to free Ken Bigley, it was obviously to no avail. Ken Bigley's mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The consequence of his mistake was to be kidnapped, held hostage for three weeks and then ultimately slaughtered. He was neither family nor friend but his death affected me in a way I could not quite comprehend. In retrospect, his death did not just signify the tragedy of yet another innocent life extinguished but an almost greater tragedy where the fate of Muslims around the world was held in the balance. As Bigley's cousin Ken Jones put it, "The whole thing stinks,", "The people who did this are animals. They are barbaric - worse than animals."

After the disaster of 9/11, being a Muslim in a country which is not predominantly Muslim has been difficult at times to say the least. It has been one catastrophe after another, the bombings in Bali, Madrid, Turkey, Egypt and the ever growing list has just added to the denigration of Muslims around the world. The sad truth is that Bigley's death brings the number of hostages who have been killed since April to 32 people (BBC). But my growing concern is for my children and for the children of this generation born into a world where global terrorism exists and where safety is non existent. It is a dilemma these days to know whether to insulate our children from the horrors of the real world or to prepare them for the harshness of reality. When I think about my daughter's comment stating that terrorists kill innocent people for "no apparent reason", it makes me feel that maybe she is right. I am trying to find a causal connection between the kidnapping and subsequent beheading of Eugene Armstrong, Jack Hensley and Ken Bigley and the cause Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's militant group are fighting for. I have come up empty handed. Their demand was for the release of Iraqi women prisoners. Yet they beheaded the two Americans almost immediately and while cutting off the heads of the three men, did it in the name of Islam. But what does that have to do with Islam and what does it achieve by killing innocent men who just went to Iraq to do their jobs? It may just be the case that it is to instill fear into the West.

So, on the one hand we have Leaders like George Bush and Tony Blair, doing whatever it takes to follow their agenda, be it lying to the public, fabricating information, being responsible for thousands of lost lives but turning a blind eye to the consequences of their actions. We also have the Saddam Husseins' of the world who are power hungry tyrants. And on the other hand we have ever increasing number of militant, terrorist groups who also do whatever it takes to further their cause, be it kidnapping innocent people or murdering hundreds of unsuspecting people by blowing them up. The irony of it all is that in the midst of this power struggle it is the common people who are caught in the cross fire. I want my children to grow up in a world where there is some semblance of sanity, where religion is not wielded as a weapon and where being a Muslim does not require them to be held responsible for the actions of others. Right now all we can do is hope and as they say, "Hope is our only comfort in adversity".


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2004