During the last couple of days I have read several journalists and bloggers referring to the attacks in Mumbai last week as “India’s 9/11” (a quick Google search received 34,300 results, among at least the first 10 referred to Mumbai), or asking “Is Mumbai like Oklahoma City?” or stating “This is India’s Columbine”.
All these events were extremely tragic and obviously there are cross-cutting similarities, such as Islamic fundamentalism in the Twin Tower-case or young disillusioned nationals as in the other two cases. But even when I tried to make this brief generalisation here, we can see that it doesn’t work.
Islamic fundamentalism with connections to Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba, yes, but the targets were not only “Western”, but also Indian local such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Young, yes. But nationals? Hm. There are still uncertainties, rumours and guesses. But there seem to have been at least one Pakistani, a couple of British nationals of Pakistani background and a Maldivian.
Obviously it was a well-coordinated attack in style with September 11, but that doesn’t justifying the simplification of the motivations behind Mumbai. And whilst acknowledging the complexity of 9/11 for its own reasons, Mumbai is complex in itself.
My point is that we need to look at each case separately, to avoid simplifications that reduce our thinking to totalities such as “All terrorists are Muslims”, or “All Christians are fanatics”. Instead we must highlight the socio-economic structures and intersectional injustices that excludes individuals and groups from participating as equal individuals in our societies. We must never justify terrorism, but we must also never reduce it to only violence. It’s much more complex than that.