The Meaning of Mumbai

Mumbai & Beyond: Turning Horror toward Healing

Over the years, I have noticed a pattern like this: When some terrorist group claiming roots in Islam commits a mass murder, Muslim organizations denounce those actions. The "mainstream" US media ignore such denunciations. Then some people denounce the Muslim world for the absence of condemnations against terrorism, and grow new fury against Islam. 

In the hope of forestalling this sequence, I am sending (below) some quotations and citations of Muslim responses to the Mumbai murders. Below that are four other items: A Mourners Kaddish in Time of War & Violence; a memo on what President-elect Obama could do; a memo on what world religious bodies could do; and a memo looking at the attacks from a specifically Jewish standpoint.

Some thoughts of my own: There is a great danger that the government of India will respond with some sort of attack on Pakistan, inflaming incredibly dangerous conflict between two nuclear powers. Instead, a sane, responsible, and worthy Indian response would be to invite a full reevaluation of the Kashmir question with UN participation in seeking a decent solution responsive to the desires of the people of Kashmir, plus a serious effort at cooperation with the Pakistani government (which must itself respond with the same commitment) to find and punish as criminals the murderers of Mumbai.

As for the US and the West generally, there must be an effort to make available major reinvestment funds, especially through micro-loans and other means of grass-roots empowerment,  to repair the social and physical infrastructure of the frontier territories of Pakistan and Afghanistan. For that is where rage against the West is rising because of US & NATO attacks that devastate local civilian communities.

The horror and anger we feel in this crisis can be turned toward more violence ---  or toward healing. 

Shalom, Arthur
North American Muslim Organizations

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): 

CAIR Condemns Mumbai Attacks
Muslim Civil Rights Group Demands that Hostages Be
 'Released Immediately and Unconditionally'
Press Release

Council on American-Islamic Relations

November 27, 2008

A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today condemned attacks on a number of sites in the Indian financial capital of Mumbai that left at least 100 people dead and many more injured.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages taken during the attacks. Witnesses say the attackers sought out American and British citizens.

[ ...] 
In a statement, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

"We condemn these cowardly attacks and demand that all hostages taken by the attackers be released immediately and unconditionally. We offer sincere condolences to the loved ones of those killed or injured in these senseless and inexcusable acts of violence against innocent civilians. American Muslims stand with our fellow citizens of all faiths in repudiating acts of terror wherever they take place and whomever they target."

The Washington-based group also asked the Indian government to protect all its citizens from the type of retaliatory attacks that have taken place following similar incidents in the recent past.

CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
MPAC Condemns Mumbai Terror Attacks
 November 26, 2008

The Muslim Public Affairs Council today condemned a series of seven terror attacks in Mumbai, India, which have left at least 80 dead, and more than 900 injured. According to media reports, about 40 British nationals and other foreigners are currently being held hostage at a Mumbai hotel.
[ ...  ] 

Those responsible for these brutal and immoral attacks should be swiftly brought to justice. Islam considers the use of terrorism to be unacceptable for any purpose.

"We at MPAC extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the Indian people. As Americans, we are familiar with the imminent and the long-term repercussions of terrorism," said Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati. "Here at home, we remain committed to combating, rejecting and effectively countering the scourge of terrorism in all forms."

 Founded in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of Muslim of Muslim American. MPAC offices are located in Washington, DC, New York City and Los Angeles.

Indian Muslim Council-USA

US Based Indian American Group Denounces Terrorist Attacks in Mumbai
November 27, 2008

Indian Muslim Council-USA (IMC-USA:, an advocacy group dedicated towards safeguarding India's pluralist and tolerant ethos, denounces in strongest possible terms the terror attacks in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. IMC-USA empathizes with the families of victims, hostages and police officers killed in the attacks and hopes for the safe release of the hostages.

. Rasheed Ahmed, President of IMC-USA said: "The perpetrators of these crimes against humanity should be captured and punished to the maximum extent of the law."

IMC-USA calls on the Indian government to find ways to increase the safety and security of ordinary citizens as well as provide immediate and adequate compensation to all the victims of this carnage. Recent years have witnessed an alarming growth in the number of groups committing mindless acts of violence against innocent civilians. In the past few months alone there has been a string of bomb blasts in many cities, ethnic cleansing and targeting of minorities, police harassment and scapegoating of innocent civilians and fake encounter killings. "The Home Minister is responsible for this widespread deterioration of law  order and security situation and should be held accountable", stated Rasheed Ahmed.

[…]IMC-USA also calls on the Indian government to setup a high level commission to investigate the increasing scourge of violence and terrorism in the country and ways to engage the civil society in effectively curbing this menace.

Kashmiri American Council (KAC):

Mumbai Terrorist Attacks Reprehensible
Crimes Against Humanity: Dr. Fai

November 27, 2008

The Kashmiri American Council (KAC) expressed its utter disgust at the terrorist attacks perpetrated in Mumbai, India. Condemning the bestiality in the strongest terms, the KAC pledged to contribute, in whatever form possible, to the rehabilitation effort of the affected families.  Dismayed at the photos displaying the carnage, fleeing victims and burning buildings, Executive Director of KAC, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, prayed that the authorities would pursue all reasonable efforts to investigate, apprehend, and punish those who are guilty of committing these reprehensible crimes against humanity.

The KAC Board, in an extraordinary meeting, pledged to oppose those who would resort to violence in order to pursue whatever ends they claimed.  Reports indicating that terrorists specifically targeted Western tourists further aggravate enlightened sensibilities.  Targeted victimization of innocents has no justification and encourages retribution from any and all quarters.  To that end, the KAC hopes that all India's citizenry allows for a cooling period and hopes that communal harmony prevails during this troubling time in India s history.

Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN)

CAIR-CAN Condemns Mumbai Attacks
Islamic Group Hopes for Safe and Speedy Return of Hostages
November 28, 2008)

The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) today condemned the attacks in Mumbai, India in which Montreal actor Michael Rudder and Toronto yoga instructor Helen Connolly were wounded. Currently, six Canadians are also unaccounted for and are believed to be held hostage.

Foreigners from diverse countries, including Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Sweden, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Yemen, Israel, New Zealand and Singapore, are among those being held captive according to Indian officials.

"We categorically condemn the Mumbai attacks and demand that all hostages be immediately released. We also pray for the safe and speedy return of those held captive," said Sameer Zuberi, CAIR-CAN Communications Coordinator.

"Our condolences go out to the families of those victimized in these tragic events. As people of faith we must strongly speak out against the terrorizing and kidnapping of innocent civilians," Zuberi added. 

CAIR-CAN also called on the Canadian government to direct all resources necessary to assist those Canadians affected by the Mumbai attacks.

Muslims Condemn Mumbai Terror Attack
By Brad A. Greenberg

Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

November 26, 2008

Muslims worldwide have been denouncing the attacks, and not parsing their words. This condemnation is from

Regardless of who was involved, the people who carried these attacks out are animals, with little sense of humanity or morality.

As Muslims, we condemn such senseless carnage against innocent civilians, wherever it may occur. This goes against the fundamental spirit of Islam, which promotes a culture of life and humanity, not bloodshed and violence. And another example of why extremist ideology, whatever that ideology may be, needs to be refuted and condemned.

 "Whoever kills a person [unjustly]… it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (Qur'an, 5:32)

Today, we join all Indians in expressing our outrage and our condemnation of this senseless spilling of innocent blood.

May Allah grant patience to the victims of terrorism, and may He extract full justice against the perpetrators.

Leaders of Muslim Majority Nations


From Egypt, Arab League Slam Mumbai 'Terrorism'
Agence Frances Presse and Africasia (UK)
November 27, 2008



Yitgadal V'yit'kadash Shmei Rabah

May the Great Name, through our expanding awareness and our fuller action, lift Itself to become still higher and more holy;

May our names, along with all the names of all the beings in the universe, live within the Great Name;

May the names of all whom we can no longer touch but who have touched our hearts and lives, remain alight within our memories and in the Great Name;

May the names of all who have died in violence and war be kept alight in our sight and in the Great Name, with sorrow that we were not yet able to shape a world in which they would have lived.

May the Great Name, bearing ALL these names, live within each one of us;
(Cong: Amein)

B'alma di vra chi'rooteh v'yamlich malchuteh b'chayeichun, u'v'yomeichun, u'v'chayei d'chol beit yisrael, b'agalah u'vzman kariv, v'imru: --

May Your Great Name lift Itself
still higher and more holy
throughout the world that You have offered us,
a world of majestic peaceful order
that gives life to the Godwrestling folk
through time and through eternity ----
And let's say, Amein (Cong: Amein)

Y'hei sh'mei rabbah me'vorach
l'olam almei almaya.

So therefore may the Great Name be blessed, through every Mystery and Mastery
of every universe.

Yitbarach, v'yishtabach, v'yitpa'ar, v'yitromam, v'yitnasei, v'yithadar, v'yit'aleh, v'yithalal -- Shmei di'kudshah, -- Brich hu, (Cong: Brich Hu)

May the Great Name be blessed and celebrated, Its beauty honored and raised high; may It be lifted and carried,
may Its radiance be praised in all Its Holiness --- Blessed be!

L'eylah min kol bir'chatah v'shir'atah tush'be'chatah v'nechematah, de'amiran be'alma, v'imru: Amein (Cong: Amein)

Even though we cannot give You enough blessing, enough song, enough praise, enough consolation
to match what we wish to lay before You -

And though we know that today there is
no way to console You
when among us some who bear Your Image in our being
are slaughtering others
who bear Your Image in our being.

Yehei Shlama Rabah min Shemaya v'chayyim aleinu v'al kol Yisrael, v'imru Amein.

Still we beseech that from the unity of Your Great Name flow great harmony and joyful life for the Godwrestling folk;
(Cong: Amein)

Oseh Shalom bi'm'romav, hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu v'al kol yisrael v'al kol yishmael v'al kol yoshvei tevel -- v'imru: Amein.

You who make harmony
in the ultimate reaches of the universe,
teach us to make harmony
within ourselves, among ourselves --
and peace for the Godwrestling folk,
the people Israel;
for our cousins the children of Ishmael;
and for all who dwell upon this planet.
(Cong: Amein)

Oseh Shalom bi'm'romav, hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu v'al kol yisrael v'al kol yishmael v'al kol yoshvei tevel -- v'imru: Amein.

A new Presidential policy on religiously defined terrorism should act in three directions: (1) Work to strengthen those in every religious community -- beginning with those in American mosques and Muslim organizations -- who oppose religious violene; (2) Treat terrorism as a crime to be policed and punished, not through "war' that breeds more terrorists by destroying civilian life; (3) heal the political canker-sores (such as conflict over Kashmir and over Israel-Palestine) that have festered into motivations and excuses for terrorism.

Right now — not waiting till January 20 — President-elect Obma should start visiting mosques, speaking in mosques. It is shameful that he did not do so even once during the entire election campaign. At these mosques, he should praise those Muslim organizations — by name , including the Islamic Society of North America, CAIR, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council — for their forthright and vigorous public statements denouncing the Mumbai attacks, and others in the past. He should make clear that of course they were doing no more than is their responsibility, but it is especially incumbent on the American media to let the public know about these statements, and that he is mentioning them to aid in that process.

He should be clear that the serious adherents of ALL religions should be condemning the use of violence in the name of their own as well as other religions, and that this should be true when Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists use violence in the name of their faith. He should praise the efforts at Jewish-Muslim inter-education by the Union for Reform Judaism and ISNA, and urge churches and mosques to pursue the same kind of efforts.

And he should urge the governments of India and Pakistan to undertake two joint projects:

(1) seeking out by means of criminal investigation and police work the perpetrators and planners of the Mumbai attack, explicitly refusing to criticize either government for the Mumbai attacks and refusing to define them as acts of “war” or responding to them through a “war” on terror: Mass murders they were, and should be prosecuted hat way, rather than creating more terrorists by bombing whole villages in retaliation.

(2) Agreeing to heal the poisonous canker of the Kashmir question by bringing the UN to negotiate toward and conduct a free and fair election by Kashmiris to decide their own future, including such choices as independence, demiitarized accession to Pakistan or India, and unconventional multinational status with representation in both national governments, etc.

No doubt some will complain that this is encouraging terrorism by responding to terrorist actions. In fact, it cuts the roots out of terrorism by providing a legitimate political process to achieve what the people want, not what the terrorists demand.

He should ask the leaders of American faith communities to convene a world conference on religious dialogue and action toward peacemaking and to put on the table the question of how each community separately and all together can address the bloody, violence–inciting streaks in their own texts and traditions.

Finally, Secretary of State-designate Clinton should announce that on January 20, the United States will begin work to convene a multinational conference to work out a comprehensive peace settlement in the broader Middle East that includes full peace agreements and security for Israel, a new and viable Palestinian state, all Arab states, Iran, and Afghanistan.

Shalom, salaam, peace —

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center


Asalaam aleikum, shalom aleichem, pax vobiscum -- peace be with you!

I am writing you as co-members with me of the Madrid World Interfaith Dialogue (and I am writing a few other religious leaders as well), with some thoughts on actions we ourselves and the Muslim World League and His Majesty the Protector of the Two Sacred Places could take in regard to the prevention of additional violence that is claimed by its perpetrators to be carried out in the name of religion -- any religion.

In the immediate wake of the Mumbai attacks I was concerned that we might see a repetition of a pattern in which after such attacks, many Muslim groups around the world fiercely condemn such terrorist acts; but in the US, the "mainstream" media do not report these condemnations, many people do not know the condemnations have been issued, and hostility to Islam increases. So I sent our readers of The Shalom Center 's email reports (about 10,000 people) a detailed summary of the condemnations.

Many wrote back, glad to have this information. Some pointed out that it would be good also for world authorities in Islam, such as those in Saudia and those in Al Azhar University and in Qom, to issue a fatwa against all terrorist attacks on civilians -- as have already the Fiqh Council of the United States and thousands of imams in India.

Secondly, I think the time is ripe for a broad leadership of all major religious communities and the committed peace activists in each community ---- including all of us who gathered in Madrid, and others as well -- to call together a multireligious world conference on the prevention of "religious" violence through both religious dialogue and shared action toward peacemaking. I think such a meeting might put on the table two important questions:

How each community separately and all together can address the bloody, violence–inciting streaks in their own texts and traditions;

And how the communities can address in compassion and from a deeply spiritual standpoint the political flashpoints that have given (spurious) motivations and alleged justifications to acts of terror — such as the questions of Kashmir and of Israel-Palestine.

I welcome your thoughts about these proposals for thoughtful and religious action in the name of God.

With blessings of shalom, salaam, peace — Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Director, The Shalom Center
Co-author, The Tent of Abraham.

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow *

Why did the terror attacks of Mumbai deliberately aim at a Jewish target along with the others they selected?

Dennis Prager’s answer to that question is “Jew-hatred,” which he ascribes to the terrorists who claim Islam as justification for their action. (He calls them “Islamists,” a pretend- category that only obfuscates the truth. If “Islamist” means anything, it means seeking for Muslim-majority countries to be governed more in accordance with Muslim teaching. Some Islamists use violence to that end; some do not.) Prager says: “For years I have warned that great evils often begin with the murder of Jews, and therefore non-Jews who dismiss Jew-hatred (aka anti-Semitism, aka anti-Zionism), will learn too late that Jew- and Israel-haters only begin with Jews but never end with them.” As historical evidence, he argues that this use of terrorism “justified” by appeals to Islam began with attacks on Israel and then expanded to attacks on other people.

But this ignores several aspects of history. First of all, terror attacks on Israel and Israelis did not begin out of Muslim-oriented groups; it began from secular Palestinian nationalists, often of Christian rather than Muslim origin. It began by targeting Israelis, and often other governments, even governments of Arab and Muslim-majority countries, seen as oppressive toward Palestinians ( e.g. Jordan, with the uprising of September 1970) and only later aimed at other Jews. Terrorists of Muslim origin joined later in this practice, mostly when secular Palestinians had abandoned it.

‘The most obvious explanation for these attacks was that they were aimed against the occupation by Israel of what many Palestinians defined as Palestinian land -- in the early days, defined by many Palestinians to include the whole of Israel and then later, redefined by mnay Palestinians as the areas captured by Israel during the 1967 war. As it began to seem that most non-Israeli Jews had adopted defense of Israel as one of the key dimensions of their Jewishnesss — had defined themselves as “surrogate Israelis” -- some terrorist organizations occasionally targeted non-Israeli Jews as well.

Since as I put forward this hypothesis I can sense some anger rising from some who may read this letter, let me add at once that this “reason” does not justify terrorist attacks on Israelis or Jews, any more than the attacks on Americans and Brits in Mumbai are justified by Muslim rage against the US-British occupation of Iraq.

Despite the French proverb, to understand is not to condone. To diagnose accurately the origins of a disease does not ”condone” or “accept” the disease; it is necessary to a healing of the disease.

The Mumbai attacks targeted three sets of people and one political structure: Americans, Brits, Jews, and the political structure that insists on Indian control over mostly-Muslim Kashmir. (The attacks did not need to target Hindus as such, and did not mind killing Muslim citizens of India, because the intent was to destabilize India and weaken the possibility of Indo-Pak détente.)

It seems to me that a far more efficient and accurate explanation for the Mumbai attacks is that they were aimed in rage and cleverness against what seemed to the attackers three occupations of land and peoples that are majority-Muslim: Palestine (however defined), Iraq, and Kashmir.

So if this diagnosis is correct, what is an effective response that can prevent the spread of the disease and “cure” it where it already exists?

It seems to me there are two prongs of such an effort.

The first is to define terrorism as a crime, not an act of war, and to pursue its perpetrators as criminals, not attack the populations and countries from which terrorists emerge as if they were objects of war. Why? Because war is a mode that uses practically indiscriminate violence (as we are seeing with US-NATO efforts to attack the Taliban that result in bombing villages, wedding parties, etc) The “war” category and the training of armies is to use all the violence that can be mobilized to “crush” the enemy. The “crime” category and the training of police is to use the minimum of violence necessary to apprehend and try specific criminals.

The “war” category creates more hatred of the war-using governments among communities that had any degree of sympathy with the cause espoused by terrorists even if those people disliked the use of terror. The “crime/ police” category tries hard to distinguish the population in general from the criminals who use terror. The “war” category breeds more terrorists; the “crime” category breeds fewer.

Institutionally, the next step in defining terrorism as criminal would be for the United States to join the International Criminal Court and for the Court to define the use of terrorism across national boundaries as an international crime.

The second prong is to end the occupations that become the “justification” for terrorism. That means the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerualem; the US-British occupation of Iraq; the Indian occupation of Kashmir; and the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan. That does not mean the same formula in all these cases; for example, the end of the UK occupation of Northern Ireland required and achieved a delicate sharing of power through formulas that will not be quite the same in any of the other cases. Power-sharing in Afghanistan, for example, should include the women's groups that everyone, including the US government, has ignored.

Defining the problem as “Jew-hatred” leads to circling the wagons in support of Israeli government policy, no matter what it is, and encouraging the use of war and occupation as ways to crush “Jew-hatred.” This approach has not worked for 40 years, and will not work now. Defining the problem as I have suggested offers a coherent strategy for curing the disease and seeking the shalom that can only be achieved for Jews if at the same time salaam is achieved for Muslims.

* Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director of The Shalom Center and the author of many books on Jewish practice and US public policy. Most recently, he co-authored The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, and Muslims (Beacon).


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