This morning on the radio, I heard a debate on whether the torture methods used by the CIA was a reasonable way of extracting information. It was heartening to hear most callers saying that it was not in any case justifiable. The others went on to portray the horrors of 911 and the deaths and shock that resulted. Using this pretense, they presented the case that extraordinary situations demand extraordinary measures.
One guest in particular made an interesting point that when looking at the events of 911, one should note that the enemy is working out of a moral framework. Hence to deal with such an enemy the response should also be beyond our own moral framework.
Listening to this took me back to a time when Afghanistan was being pounded by “Daisy cutters” bombs. People who had nothing to do with 911 and who had no idea why hell was being unleashed on them were perishing left right and centre. It was in that climate that I came across a video of a Q&A session. The programme was being held in Pakistan. A renowned scholar was in the hot seat and in front of him an agitated audience who were keen on hearing vehement condemnation of this barbaric act (bombing in Afghanistan).
The scholar indeed condemned the act of disproportionate response. He further highlighted the gross injustice of taking action without ascertaining the perpetrators of the crime.
He was then asked a very pressing question: whether it was justified that in face of such naked aggression and disproportionate reaction, a similar response should be developed?
The scholar paused for a while and what he said after that has truly inspired and remained with me ever since.
He said “No we cannot, because we are Muslims. We do not follow our whims because we have submitted. We have submitted to Allah and Islam means total submission. Any response should never fall short of dignity and collateral damage should never be discounted. War cannot be waged against non-combatants in any case.
One barbaric act cannot be justified with the other. And it was this act of ignorance that Nabi Muhammad (S.A.W) came to eliminate. If a woman’s child is kidnapped, is she justified in kidnapping anyone else’s child? We are not a people who respond to extreme oppression with oppression”
I had just witnessed an act of bravery that countered the tide of adverse opinion. A clip for that is available here. The scholar was Javed Ghamidi.
We as a people, particularly those feeling the heat of oppression sometimes forget or underestimate the power of passive resistance. There should always be resistance active or passive in opposition to despotism, but it should never fall out of the moral framework. It is passive resistance that has brought about justice and meaning to the world in particular in the last century. It has upturned imperialism and shown the door to apartheid. War of attrition never decides who is right; War only decides who is stronger.
If a barbaric act is replied in the same coin than one has to concede the the moral high ground. And losing moral high ground causes a seismic shift in collective consciousness.
CIA may justify their action and point out the great success they had in limiting events similar to 911 but it has lost indeed its credibility and support in a country it aims to protect.
CIA report can be accessed here