Thursday, August 28, 2003

The True Cost of Silence

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -- attributed to Edmund Burke.

In default of a doctor the quack runs the hospital. After a series of bombs killed 50 and maimed 100 in Bombay, the liberal prescription for the ailment was "restraint".  Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said it best: do nothing.  "This is not the time for finger-pointing, nor should Indian leaders try to take political mileage out of this gruesome tragedy". After the great had dusted their hands of the matter, they left the field to Nazi charlatans.

Bombay's Muslims were on edge yesterday as thousands of Hindu hardliners marched through the city in protest at the car bombings that killed 52 people on Monday. With black bandannas over their mouths, the extremist Shiv Sena party demonstrators congregated for a "silent protest" beside the Gateway of India, where one of the explosions occurred. "The culprits should be caught and shot in the middle of the road," said Roopali Dhongle, a housewife. This was a veiled reference to Muslims, who are widely blamed for the blasts. About a fifth of Bombay's 20 million population is Muslim. Leading the march was Uddhav Thackeray, the son and political heir of Shiv Sena's founder, the cartoonist Bal Thackeray. The father, an admirer of Adolf Hitler, has expressed his willingness to "wipe out" trouble-making Muslims.

But surely there can be no harm in letting Nazis take the lead because the problem -- Islamic terrorism -- doesn't really exist. The diplomatic adviser to French President Jacques Chirac, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne declared that neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad were terrorist groups. He open-mindedly added that "if we find that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are indeed terror groups opposed to peace, we may have to change the EU's stand." And with Hamas absolved, who could regard the comparatively milder Students Islamic Movement of India's concussive exuberance in Bombay as anything other than an adolescent prank which we would be too mean-spirited not to indulge.  The real problem is probably India's Nuclear Nationalism, an explosive amalgam of Hindu fanaticism coupled with a misguided admiration for America. As the Indian 'pacifist' and distinguished film director Anand Patwardhan put it: "The collapse of socialism saw a revival of bigotry. America had now become our role model." And that bigotry is the real reason we can't all get along, the real answer to 'why we are hated'. From there it is easy to see how the Jews might have planted the bombs in the Bombay market, just as Zionist agents destroyed the World Trade Center. Come to think of it, Uddhav Thackeray might be exactly the right man to put in charge of this non-existent problem.

Next to the liberals, the greatest exponent of willful ignorance was CS Lewis' fictional demon, Screwtape, who advised his nephew Wormwood that everything was possible if he could first convince the world that the devil did not exist. Nothing sets a man on the road to hell, Screwtape said, better than "to enthrone at the center of his life a good, solid, resounding lie". And the best one of all was a lie so precious that one "does not believe it himself". The nervous choruses of Kumbaya bring no cheer and the camera lights shed no illumination on the dark hours of Bombay's mourning. But we are guided forward all the same. There is Screwtape's beckoning whisper: "the safest road to Hell is the gradual one…without milestones, without signposts…"