Remember the 80, but don't forget the 8,000!Whoever takes the life of one human unjustly, it will be treated as if he has taken the lives of all humans whoever walked this earth.
We find this message in the Qur’an and in the Bible. Similar messages can be found in the scriptures of other religious traditions. Human life is always sacred. No one has the right to take the law into their own hands and take revenge on some perceived injustice by killing innocents.
Perhaps the worst excesses in murder and genocide in human history were carried out by the Mongols. I mention them because they were my ancestors. The Mongols swept across China, forcing the king of China to build a huge wall whose trail to this day can be picked up by satellites in space.
The Mongols then smashed down the doors of Baghdad and other cities. They plundered, raped, murdered and burnt wherever they went. No one was safe. We read reports of Mongol troops grabbing babies by the feet and smashing their heads against the walls of Baghdad. All in the presence of their mothers, who were typically raped and then murdered.
Baghdad back then was what London is today. The Mongol attack on Baghdad involved terrorising the heart of civilisation. Baghdad was a place where scholars and dissidents, students and artists would all meet under the protection of the Caliph. The Tariq Ali’s and Salman Rushdie’s and Abdul Majid Khoei’s of that time found security and sanctity in Baghdad. At least until the hordes arrived.
Apart from Hitler’s treatment of European Jewry, it is hard to find a modern equivalent of the Mongol massacre. The closest would perhaps be the war in Bosnia.
Human life is all sacred. We all have the same coloured blood. Among the victims of the London bombing was a young English Muslim girl named Shahara Islam. Her surname is a powerful metaphor in this conflict. If anyone needed proof that Islamic civilisation is much a victim as any other, it could be found in her name. Islam is a victim. Islam is innocent.
London had some 80 Shahara Islam’s die in the bombing. And hardly 10 years before, another place in the heart of Europe saw 8,000 Shahara Islam’s brutally murdered. Yet sadly little coverage was given to this anniversary.
In case anyone still remembers, the name of this town was Srebrenica. In July 1995, some 8,000 men and boys were massacred in this town. Their crime was that they supported a multi-ethnic multi-religious state. The inhabitants of this town were largely Muslim. The defenders of the town were a Bosnian army unit consisting of Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians. The invading army were Serb ethnic chauvinists.
The UN peacekeepers sat back and watched the massacre take place. The world watched. The Bosnian army, hampered by a UN-imposed arms embargo, were powerless to do anything. The ethnic chauvinists won the battle. Humanity lost the war.
80 Britons died in London. 8,000 Bosnians died in Srebrenica. 6,000,000 Jews died in the Second World War. No one knows how many died at the hands of the Mongols. The numbers just keep getting worse. Humanity keeps losing the war.
So what is the answer? Civilisational war? Seeking justice for past crimes? There will always be Christians who never forgive Jews, Jews who never forgive Christians, Hindus who never forgive Muslims, Muslims who never forgive Sikhs.
And a God who will be happy to forgive the lot of them if they just stopped fighting and tried to get along!
You cannot fight terror with terror. Mongols terrorised the world. But one day a sufi Muslim introduced Islam to a Mongol warrior. Within a month, the vast Mongol horde had been adopted by the most civilised nation of the day. Centuries later, they arrived in India and left us with such wonders as the Taj Mahal.
If there is one thing all faiths teach, it is that you can never write off anyone. The ones society damns are often the most blessed. Christ spent much of his time with tax collectors and prostitutes. Muhammad’s closest followers were slaves and the homeless. Religion teaches love. Terrorists teach hate. Terrorism knows no religion.
Whether it be 80 or 8,000 or 6 million. Human life is human life. As one holocaust survivor said, we should not focus on numbers. Rather, we should look at it as one life lost, then another, then another, then …