Terror in Mumbai

A week ago we were witness, via our televisions, to the horror that unfolded in Mumbai, India, over a period of several days, as Muslim radical terrorists attacked Western targets throughout the city of 19 million people.  It was a coordinated attack unlike any other we have seen, capturing the world’s attention for four or five days as it played itself out.  Westerners were kidnapped and held not in an attempt to extort some concessions from authorities, but to maintain the world’s attention on the grievances of the terrorists.  In the city of Mumbai there are more people than there are Jews in the entire world, yet, even here, Jews were singled out, as terrorist took over the Jewish Center that was established by Chabad.  Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, were killed at the Chabad House along with kosher supervisors Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum of New York and American-Israeli Bentzion Chroman.  A fifth victim was Israeli Yocheved Orpaz.  At least one other hostage was reportedly killed.  Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah’s son, two year old Moshe, was saved from certain death by the heroic actions of his Nanny, who spirited him out of the Chabad Center.   The Associated Press reported that the boy – whose birthday was Saturday – was unharmed, but was wearing blood-soaked pants. Here is an email from a colleague describing the work of Rabbi Holzberg and his wife Rivkah: "I was in Mumbai this year on business. A city from Dante's hell, filthy and crowded beyond a westerners nightmares. There is no kosher food or minyan in Mumbai, so I went to the Chabad house. They have 3 minyanim a day and after every meal the shaliach and his wife serve meals. There are 20 to 50 people eating there per meal, mostly traveling Israelis and businessmen, many frei. I asked Rabbi Holtzberg "where do you get the food from?" He replied "I shecht 100 chickens a week to serve 400 fleishig meals, and my wife cleans them. Since there's no pas yisroel here my wife bakes bread . (for about 800 people per week) every bit of food is home made." They ask for no money and charge nothing. By every meal he says a dvar torah, to inspire the orchim. Avraham Avinu would be proud of Rabbi Holtzberg."

Who were these terrorists, and what did they want.  According to the web site of the group most likely responsible for this atrocity, they have eight  goals: 1) to eliminate evil and facilitate conversion to and practice of Islam; 2) to ensure the ascendancy of Islam; 3) to force non-Muslims to pay jizya (poll tax, paid by non-Muslims for protection from a Muslim ruler); 4) to assist the weak and powerless; 5) to avenge the blood of Muslims killed by unbelievers; 6) to punish enemies for breaking promises and treaties; 7) to defend a Muslim state; and 8 ) to liberate Muslim territories under non-Muslim occupation There are some who say that the way to eliminate terrorism is to address its root causes:  oppression, occupation, poverty and humiliation.  But the goals of the terrorists of Mumbai seem to go far beyond the worthy goal of eliminating oppression – they seek to establish dominance over others through the exercise of raw power.  Perhaps they seek to do to the West what they experience the West as doing to them.   In that case, they are merely seeking to exchange one form of oppression for another. Other peoples have been oppressed without having resorted to terrorism.   Ghandi and Martin Luther King led non-violent protests against their people’s oppressors.  Why have Muslims resorted to suicide bombings and other forms of terror?  In the opinion of Alan Dershowitz, terrorism is caused by the “incitement by certain religious and political leaders who are creating a culture of death and exploiting the ambiguous teachings of an important religion.”  He gives as an example Sheikh Muhammad Sayed Tantawi, the leading Islamic scholar at the elite al-Azhar University in Cairo, who has declared that martyrdom operations are the highest form of jihad.  “Yet many important Muslims have condemned the attacks in Mumbai, and it is important to take note of that.  Mumbai’s top Islamic clerics have refused to bury the nine Islamist militants killed during the three-day siege in the city. Declaring the rampage proved they could not have been true Muslims, they declared that no Muslim cemetery in India would accept them. A debate has broken out about what to do with the bodies, which according to Muslim custom should have been buried within a few hours of death.”   (Reuters news story) The Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, is America's largest Islamic civil liberties group.  It put out this statement: "We condemn these cowardly attacks and demand that all hostages taken by the attackers be released immediately and unconditionally. We offer sincere condolences to the loved ones of those killed or injured in these senseless and inexcusable acts of violence against innocent civilians. American Muslims stand with our fellow citizens of all faiths in repudiating acts of terror wherever they take place and whomever they target." Founded in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. We at MPAC extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the Indian people. As Americans, we are familiar with the imminent and the long-term repercussions of terrorism," said Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati. "Here at home, we remain committed to combating, rejecting and effectively countering the scourge of terrorism in all forms." Indian Muslim Council-USA (IMC-USA: http://www.imc-usa.org), an advocacy group dedicated towards safeguarding India's pluralist and tolerant ethos, denounces in strongest possible terms the terror attacks in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. IMC-USA empathizes with the families of victims, hostages and police officers killed in the attacks and hopes for the safe release of the hostages.  Rasheed Ahmed, President of IMC-USA said: "The perpetrators of these crimes against humanity should be captured and punished to the maximum extent of the law." It is important that we understand that there are voices of moderation in the Muslim world that denounce violence and seek peaceful means to settle differences.  Unfortunately the belligerent and violent often claim the most press and attention and drown out the voices of peace and reconciliation.  May we speedily see the day when we will resolve our differences, in the words of the prophet Zechariah which are chanted in the synagogue on Chanukah, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Holy spirit.” Shabbat Shalom