In India, some already call it the “Invasion of Bombay” and their country’s 9/11 moment. This is no exaggeration. For, although the deadly raids on India’s economic capital did not claim as many lives as 9/11 did in New York, the psychological impact is likely to be as potent.
By Amir Taheri
Last Updated: 9:39AM GMT 30 Nov 2008
The “invasion” showed that Islamic terror is capable of organising military-style operations against major urban centres in “infidel territory”.
Since 1993 when they first gathered in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, to discuss global strategy, Islamic terrorists have come up with a number of theories on how to defeat the “infidel” and achieve world conquest.
Osama bin Laden had theorised that the “infidel”, led by the United States, would crumble after spectacular attacks designed to cripple its economy, just as the Meccan “infidel” government did when the Prophet Muhammad crushed its resistance with deadly raids, “Ghazwas”, against its trade routes.
However, 9/11 did not lead to an “infidel” retreat. On the contrary, the “Great Satan” hit back, destroying the structures created in Afghanistan to sustain global terror.
That persuaded some al Qaeda leaders that a new strategy was needed. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s number two, started advocating one in 2003, arguing that the Jihad should first target Muslim countries where it had a chance of toppling the “impious” regimes.
Three years later, another theoretician of Jihad, Sheikh Abu-Bakr Naji, proposed his new strategy. This suggests that low intensity war be extended to anywhere in the world with a significant Muslim presence. India, where Muslims account for more than 15 per cent of the population, and Bombay, where 25 per cent of the population is Muslim, are prime candidates for testing that theory.
Naji’s theories are spelled out in his book ‘Edarat al-Wahsh’ (Governance in the Wilderness). The idea is to render places not under “proper Islamic rule” into wildernesses in which no one is safe. The “infidel” and the “impious Muslim”, leaving their homes every morning, should be unsure whether they would return in the evening.
Naji recommends kidnappings, the holding of hostages, the use of women and children as human shields, exhibition beheadings, suicide bombings and countless gestures that make normal life impossible for the “infidel” and “impious Muslims”.
Whoever organised the “Invasion of Bombay” must have read Naji with care. For the operation amounted to smorgasbord of terror tactics served at the same banquet. Seizure of territory, holding of hostages, suicide attacks, regular military assaults, and exhibition killing were on show for more than 48 hours.
Islamists see the “Invasion of Bombay” as their victory. In their websites yesterday, many called it “Clear Victory” (Fath al-mobeen), a term used to designate the Prophet’s earliest victories.
The Jihadists have reason to feel triumphant.
They showed that they were still capable of hitting hard and on a grand scale, continuing the chain of their “triumphs” in New York, Madrid and London. They showed that they are able to change tactics and adapt to new circumstances. They made a mockery of the much advertised “counter-terrorism cooperation” between Washington and New Delhi by showing that Indians were not any safer as a result of their government’s alliance with the American ” Great Satan”.
The utter confusion of Indian counter-terrorist units, rushing about like headless chickens, seen live on TV by millions, must have been greeted by Jihadists with their usual war cry of “Allah Akbar!” (Allah is the Greatest).
Just a few weeks ago, Jihadism was in retreat.
It had lost its bases and safe havens in Afghanistan, was under attack in Pakistan’s tribal area, and all but abandoned by the new leadership in Islamabad under President Asif Ali Zardari. Appeals on Jihadist websites for money indicated a cash flow problem while denunciation of Jihadi methods by some leading Muslim theologians affected the flow of new “Volunteers for Martyrdom”. The “invasion” may help ease pressure on Jihadists nested in Pakistan’s tribal area by diverting public attention to India and the dispute over Kashmir.
More importantly, perhaps, the attacks showed the vulnerability of Indian democracy and economic growth which some Muslim intellectuals have been promoting as models for Islamic nations. The Jihadi response is categorical: Only Islam is the solution! (Al-Islam how-al hall).
The “invasion” is certain to persuade some former donors to resume disbursing “zakat” or religious tax that as pious Muslims they feel they should pay for Jihad. It may also attract new recruits, especially among young Muslims of Asian and North African origin in Western Europe.
If the attacks succeed in wrecking Zardari’s efforts at peacemaking while derailing rapprochement between Washington and New Delhi, the “invasion” could also produce an unexpected diplomatic fruit for the Jihadis.
This was a bad week for opponents of Islamic terror. India, Pakistan and other governments concerned should do nothing to make it worse.
*Amir Taheri is author of ‘Holy Terror: Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism’. His new book, ‘The Persian Night’, will be published next month.