Muhammad Ali's 'true face of Islam' vs. terrorism
Few men were rewarded and vindicated in their lifetime as Muhammad Ali had been. Such a man of action was he in professional boxing, against discrimination and for truth and justice that there would be little posthumous by way of honouring him. Fewer still come through as a man of substance dawning deeper and deeper on the consciousness levels of people after his death as he did.
But more than that, as Louisville, Kentucky says goodbye to its favourite son Muhammad Ali and world leaders pay homage to his memory, his legacy acquires a sharper meaning and poignant relevance in today's world plagued by terrorism.
Interfaith services in an apt recognition of Muhammad Ali's unifying role representing 'the true face of Islam' are on hand to celebrate his life and works as part of the funeral proceedings.
He wouldn't yield to pressures from sponsors, exerted twice before a heavyweight championship encounter to ostensibly distance himself from Islam. His association with Malcom X and hiring a Muslim woman cook for his camp miffed some potential sponsors threatening not to back Ali. The boxer, only waiting to be a legend, held his ground, saying, "So be it," (his belief was not something to be bartered away). Eventually, they would come round to his views.
Equally, he wouldn't compromise on a matter of conscience. At what price had he refused to be drafted in the US army for a stint in the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector? Four years in jail, aged 28 to 32, a prime span of time lost to his career and world boxing!
So Muhammad Ali drew on his religious beliefs and humanitarian principles to launch a kind of Jihad of his own. It was so very different from the version that the fanatics parade today.
In fact, not long ago Muhammad Ali had reportedly come hard on brutalisation in the name of religion.
Speaking of targeted terrorist killings in Bangladesh, the spate has been mind-boggling – 48 deaths in 46 attacks during the last 18 months. Until June 5 this year alone, casualty figure at 18 was high compared with 30 for the whole year in 2015. This includes a new dimensional choice of a target: Policemen have come under attack before but here a reprisal has been wreaked on the wife of a police superintendent for his work. Falling in pattern though, has been the brutal murder of a Hindu priest in Jhalakathi.
One theory behind the hacking incidents is that Ansarul Islam Bangladesh and JMB with suspected links to ISIS may have coordinated the operations.
From the government side, an explanation has come forth that terrorists are 'soft targeting' individuals in contrast to attacks on government installations. Is this a measure of success that the perpetrators are soft targeting? The vulnerability zone is expanding which is very worrisome. At the end of the day, citizens of certain predictable categories are dying, sense of security is being reduced generally, and the administration's credibility in protecting life and limbs of citizens comes under question mark.
We think all this is avoidable provided the direction swerves towards counter-terrorism and updated to match the strategic shifts of the terrorists. It is quite possible that the hired murderers only know themselves and act on the directive of just the next man up without any knowledge of anyone else in the structure involved in terrorist operations. There are also perhaps 'sleeping cells' mingling undetected in the community that look over potential targets and assess their movements to maneuver an operation with a lethal effect. It is also learnt that those who had been jailed around 2009 in terrorist cases were subsequently released on serving their terms but a systematic follow up on their status is said to be lacking.
Another area of work is to maintain watch on so-called returnees from Afghan and Iraq wars and those who may be harbouring a desire to sneak through to the ISIS network. Understandably, tabs are kept on them but vigorous surveillance is called for.
Why must most CCTV cameras be inoperative in crucial times? Clearly there is an issue with maintenance but are they being deactivated by terror operatives?
Unless a good concerted effort is made to neutralise terrorism and concrete results shown in rounding up and punishing the culprits, public and community cooperation, a vital prerequisite for success, may remain elusive.
Of course, an impression about some quarters being at work to destabilise the country or betray a sense of the state weakening or may seem to be weakening, is gaining ground. This is a serious concern going forward. It needs to be addressed head-on rather than taken in one's stride.
The writer is a contributor of The Daily Star.