God and Geronimo
Osama gone, let us begin afresh for a shared future
DATELINE SRINAGAR BY ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB
Roughly two centuries ago, European explorers began their mission to capture ‘Osama bin Laden–I’ dead or alive on the American soil. That was the time when the real America – known as the United States of America today - was inhabited by the Native Americans.
Explorers’ ambition to occupy and colonise America was met with stiff resistance. In later years the resistance was led by the legendry Native Apache fighter – Geronimo – who, one can argue, easily fits the title of ‘Osama–I.’
Born in 1829, Geronimo fought the United States’ forces as the American West was being settled. Geronimo’s story is different from ‘Osama bin Laden-II’s’ in the sense that he was never captured or killed. He eventually surrendered when a US general is said to have promised that he would be reunited with his tribe members who had been forcibly moved to the state of Florida from reservations in Arizona.
The United States did not hold to its promise, and Geronimo died a prisoner of war in 1909.
About a century later we heard Geronimo’s name again – and in an entirely different situation. The United States’ military chose to code name ‘Osama bin Laden–II’ as ‘Geronimo’ during the Abbottabad operation. So when the US Navy seals killed ‘Osama–II’, the Seals flashed back the message – Geronimo E.K.I.A (meaning ‘Osama bin Laden Enemy Killed in Action’).
As the news of ‘Osama bin Laden–I’ having been code named Geronimo spread, Native Americans were just furious. Some of their prominent leaders demanded an apology from President Barack Obama.
Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, a Native American rights organization, told a US Senate committee hearing on Thursday that "when people representing the US reach back a century to take a gratuitous swipe at Geronimo as an enemy and to equate him with a terrorist, they are insulting all Native American nations and people."
So far so good. Let us talk future.
Planet Earth has always been far from being perfect. Most of the histories are testimonies to its imperfections. Despite cradling the human race, this world has seen gore and inhumanity almost in every era. Injustices and inequities are so rampant in this world that God doesn’t mind sending Geronimos every now and then. Geronimos better don’t take birth at all.
We guys have come a long way since the dark and other similar kind of ages. But can the 21st century and beyond be a replication of our uncivilised past?
A lot has been written about the death of Osama bin Laden. A lot could again be said about the circumstances in which he died. A lot will still remain unsaid. But all those questions may not really help us to make a new better beginning.
In these surcharged times, cowboy nationalism is understandable. But jingoism which could pit two civilizations against each other for good could be a collective suicide.
Humanity is at a crossroads today not just because the death of Osama bin Laden marks the beginning of a new era; it is because of other reasons. This planet is today facing a real existential threat, for the first time in modern history. The population explosion is not just a cliché, it is a survival challenge. We are on the brink of running out of key natural resources. Climate change is grimly staring at our faces.
With the Cold War era over, if we shed the clichés of political correctness, it seems clear that the West, particularly the US, is locked in a civilizational clash with the Muslim world. But it is far more serious than what it was between the US and the former USSR.
For a new beginning, the western governmental approach towards Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir and the other Muslim world needs a drastic transformation. Similarly, a strand of the Muslim attitude which seeks to establish Islamic supremacy as the sole raison d’etre in this world needs to go. That cannot be imposed. It has to be embraced by will, if at all, by whosoever chooses to do so. Those who don’t, they equally deserve a life and respect. That is what Islam actually teaches.
Jews and Christians, on their part, would also need to come to terms with the reality of Islam. That is how the world has shaped. They may or may not agree with the Quran being the final word of God, but Islam and its large following is a reality which cannot be wished away.
Those Muslims who deny the Jews their right to live in a certain place in the Middle East deny a historical fact as well. But to deny the Palestinians their right to live in lands where they have lived is morally unacceptable too.
Some recent western invasions of Muslim lands have hurt the psyche of the latter beyond words. Iraq is the foremost example. Even if seen from a western perspective, the Iraq invasion was a disaster. But for many Muslims it was like a civilisation of theirs having been erased. From a secular regime, which might have some shared interests with the west at some point of time, Iraq is all set to be an Iran extension.
What all good had been done to some Muslims’ psyche for the western intervention in Bosnia, the gore of Iraq withered that all. It reinforced the Muslim fears that terrorism or no terrorism, Israel’s sense of security is paramount.
Close to a million Iraqi civilian deaths is a catastrophe. Similarly, the deaths of 2455 American and allied soldiers in action in Afghanistan since 2001 this year are bad enough. Pakistan’s loss of 30,000 civilians is no less than a catastrophe.
The problem is that if we do not make a new beginning now, revenge will always invoke counter revenge and the cycle will go on.
Time has spared none. The greatest of the civilians have vanished in time. The mightiest of the empires haven’t left a trace to find today.
Humanity’s only chance to survival seems to make Osama Bin Laden’s death as the mark for a new era – a beginning which is based on mutual respect, not hegemony. A beginning which is based on empathy and not selective application of universal human values.
(The columnist can be emailed at Arjimand@greaterkashmir.com)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 May 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 May 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 8 May 2011 00:00:00 IST
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