Mumbai outrage

2008-11-29 00:00

There is something particularly reprehensible about terrorist assaults on civilians. Where passions run high but no state of formal war exists, militant strikes on military or police installations, diplomatic embassies or even government offices might be understandable, but the cold-blooded targeting of peaceable people as they go about their ordinary lives is an unpardonable abomination. It seems, however, to be part of a growing trend as unscrupulous activists seek to maximise the impact of their attacks. This week’s outrage in Mumbai fits an alarming pattern that runs through the Lockerbie tragedy, New York’s 9/11 catastrophe, London’s underground and Madrid’s train blasts, the bombing of tourist restaurants in Bali, and other similar incidents. In a world where the ease of travel has made tourism a major international industry, commuters, travellers and holiday-makers have become horribly vulnerable. In Mumbai, the terrorists added even hospitals to their railway station and hotel

targets.

Just who these assailants are and whether their cause is an internal Indian matter, related to Indian-Pakistani tensions, or has wider ramifications has not been immediately clear. The sophistication of their operation suggests an al-Qaeda link, and the singling out of Jews together with American and British nationals points to Islamic anger at the whole Middle East stand-off. Such levels of antipathy towards the perceived “enemy” are beyond alarming, and widespread repugnance at this atrocity will doubtless fuel equivalent anger in return, but finding a way forward demands more than vengeful retaliation.

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