India sorts out terrorist bombings

mumbai bombingDetails on the perpetrators of Tuesday's horrific bombings of the Mumbai train system are still scant, but investigators are considering it the work of Islamic extremists from Pakistan. As further details come in, it will be important for journalists to sort out the messy theological details of the group and whether it is connected to a more international Islamic terrorism effort. What is unfortunate for many reasons is that the Mumbai train bombings have been quickly ushered off the front pages of our papers and off the evening newscasts. This is partly because there are no obvious culprits as of yet. Then there is the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Middle East, with what is beginning to look like outright civil war in Iraq, and the escalation of violence between Israel and its neighbors. More on that later.

Here's the BBC's account from Thursday afternoon on the Mumbai bombings:

Indian police are continuing their hunt for those behind Tuesday's bomb attacks on commuter trains in Mumbai, in which some 200 people were killed.

Police have questioned hundreds of people, and one person was arrested in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

But police have denied reports they released sketches of any suspects.

A Muslim organisation banned in India, the Students' Islamic Movement (Simi), is the latest group to deny involvement in the attacks.

While the perpetrators of this attack may not be connected by name to the terrorist attacks in London, New York and Washington, D.C., it is important to question those claims of independence from a larger worldwide movement. Are there theological similarities that allow a Muslim to perform such an act of reckless murder? Is the random killing of hundreds of innocents compatible with the teachings of the Quran? My understanding, from a variety of sources, is that it is not.

Why was India the target of such attacks? An obvious answer is Pakistani militants. A less obvious answer is that India's rapid secularization horrifies fundamentalist Muslims. Even less obvious is whether this was the action of Hindu extremists. Here is Christopher Kremmer in Australia'sThe Age:

Tuesday's bombings, targeting commuters in the financial capital of Mumbai, represent not just the ruthless murder of at least 170 people but a strike at the idea of India itself.

Sadly, we are no longer shocked by such attacks. But the real surprise, given the vulnerability of India's teeming cities and its history of religious and political violence, is that there have been relatively few of them.

Leaders from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh down have wisely avoided rushing to judgment about who may have been responsible. Mumbai's history of bombings includes underworld elements and Hindu extremists, as well as Muslim ones. Speculation fuels rumours, and rumours can trigger reprisals. The Congress-led coalition now in power has nothing to gain from a collapse of law and order in Mumbai or anywhere else.

I appreciated this Reuters article in the Khaleej Times on Mumbai Muslims giving blood to Hindu bomb victims. But the article begged for answers on why this was significant religiously, other than Muslims and Hindus not usually cooperating on anything.

I regret not writing about the Mumbai bombings sooner. If an attack of a magnitude 10 times less than this had hit my hometown of Washington, D.C., I would have been all over it. Remember the coverage of the London bombings? Needless to say, I think the American mainstream media need to offer some type of explanation for the pittance of coverage this dramatic event has received.

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