Cyberspace ravings

Print edition : December 11, 1999

THE Lashkar-e-Taiba's jihad is not being fought just in Jammu and Kashmir; the battle is also being waged in cyberspace. The message of hate of the ultra right-wing organisation, and that of its parent religious body, the Markaz Dawa wal'Irshad, i s now just a few mouse clicks away - at www.dawacenter.com. With everything from theological articles to audio downloads of leaders' speeches, the Web site provides insights into the Lashkar's tactical objectives, and also the basis of its bloody ideolog y of hate.

Among the most important documents available on the site is Markaz founder Hafiz Muhammad Sayeed's speech to the group's congregation near Lahore on November 3. There, Sayeed clarified the Lashkar's viewpoint that "the jihad is not about Kashmir o nly". "About 15 years ago", the Markaz leader concluded, "people might have found it ridiculous if someone had told them about the disintegration of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic). Today, I announce the break-up of India, insha-Allah. We w ill not rest until the whole (of) India is dissolved into Pakistan."

Sayeed promises a new war which will "encompass all of India including Junagarh, Mavadar (and) Hyderabad". The choice of the three has obvious significance, underlining as it does the distinctly sub-continental character of the Lashkar's Islam. An articl e on "Jihad in the Present Times" informs readers that in "India, if you recite aloud the Azan, the Hindus and Sikhs come to violence". "In India", the article asserts, "the Muslims are being slaughtered just because they profess Islam. Their prop erty is plundered, their women are disgraced and molested and their mosques are razed to the ground."

Even if Bal Thackeray's anti-Muslim campaign and the demolition of the Babri Masjid both figure on the Lashkar Web site, the content is not centred exclusively on India. "In China, Russia, Albania and Yugoslavia, "another article on jihad asserts, "millions of innocent Muslims were put to death." The article also refers to Muslims being butchered in Chechnya and Bosnia. Some of the Markaz less probable targets of hate include Spain, where "the Christians literally and practically wiped out the wh ole Muslim population". Here and elsewhere, "it is our duty to restore Muslim rule to this land of ours".

Several key tenets, in the Markaz view, make this duty binding on all Muslims. Jihad, an article asserts, is incumbent until the persecution of Muslims ends, and "the way of life prescribed by Allah dominates and overwhelms the whole of the world" . "Fighting is also obligatory," it continues, "until the disbelieving powers and states are subdued and they pay Jizya (capitation tax) with willing submission". The recovery of property once ruled by Muslims, avenging historical atrocities again st Muslims, and the defence of Muslims who are under attack are all projects which demand the participation of all believers.

Curiously, the United States, which had been for long a prime villain in Islamic chauvinist narratives, figures little on dawacenter.com. Sayeed's speech to the annual congregation mentions the country and President Bill Clinton just three times in the c ourse of three pages of single-spaced text. One reference is to the U.S. failure to apply the same standards it used in East Timor to Kashmir, while the other two condemn that country's denunciation of the jihad as terrorism. If the Web site is an ything to go by, the U.S. has little to fear from a terrorist organisation that emerged from its own Afghan policy.

Dawacenter.com is frankly dismissive of democracy. Discussing the military coup in Pakistan, Sayeed urges Gen. PervezMusharraf to impose martial law, with its basis of legitimacy a "divine constitution that nullifies all other constitutions". "Just like there can be no god but Allah," he asserts, "there can be no constitution other than the one given by (the) Quran. I challenge all the groups and organisations to prove (the) Quran not being the perfect constitution from Allah. Anyone who does so will be eliminated from the fold of Islam." It is easy to see why this authoritarian rhetoric, along with calls to end strikes and agitations, is attractive to some sections of Pakistani society.

Brutality is broadcast as a badge of honour by the Lashkar. One article on its Web site notes that the "Lashkar fighter will usually execute an (imprisoned) Indian soldier by slitting his throat". "However," the article continues, "beheading and disembow elling are also common methods, employed mostly for psychological reason(s). In at least one case, a Lashkar fighter, Abu Haibat, brought the head of an Indian soldier back with him to Pakistan." Such actions are legitimised, since Hindus are, in the Las hkar's world, invariably savages, rapists, or murderers, or all of these put together.

Hate propaganda is used to justify such tactics. "A Gorkha soldier received a message from home that his mother was seriously ill and might pass away," one fairly typical article records, "so he was asked to come soon. He went to his commanding officer a nd asked for leave, saying that he had to go to eat his mother's flesh. But he was not granted leave. On this, he gave his gun and pouch to Mujahideen and took some money in return and ran off. Brother Salamat Ullah told that they (Gorkhas) do not bury o r cremate their dead but eat their flesh."

That the Markaz rhetoric is not just words is evident. Sayeed's call for a war against India, for example, has been mirrored in the arrest of Lashkar operatives from Hyderabad, Bhiwandi and several locations in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. While dozens of Web sites peddle hatred on behalf of demented Hindu, Muslim and Christian sects, what is most disturbing about the Lashkar's cyberspace ravings is that they clearly have some official sanction from Pakistan. The annual congregation was carried out with G eneral Musharraf's express blessings, overturning efforts by deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to stop it.

It is easy to dismiss the Lashkar-e-Taiba's rantings, thin on fact and often founded on lurid fantasy, as beneath contempt: indeed, there is no great distance between its content and pamphlets about Muslims routinely put out by Hindu fundamentalist organ isations. But the fact remains that the organisation has grown rapidly in recent years with the patronage of the Pakistan state apparatus, and is now the largest terrorist group in Jammu and Kashmir. What dawacenter.com has done is to make the content of Lashkar struggle available on the Web, and underline the importance of this fascist crusade.

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