Well its nice to see the Tories new strategy for community cohesion starting to unfold on last night’s Question Time, even if all it amounts to is not letting Sayeeda Warsi out in public without a Neocon minder, a role covered on this occasion by the utterly charmless author, Douglas Murray, a man whose fondness for the sound of his own voice appears to know no bounds.
And yet, despite Dougie’s hogging the limelight throughout much of the inevitiable opening question on terrorism and Iraq, Warsi still managed to drop a bollock with the very words to come out of her mouth:
‘ I think that there can never be any justification for the use of violence against civilians…’
Now that is, of course, the stock political opening gambit in any debate on terrorism and, by and large, a line that goes unquestioned…
…unless, of course, you’ve said something like this on a previous edition of Question Time.
We have a community in Britain, a Pakistani and Kashmiri community, who holds a very, very strong view about Kashmir and the scope of freedom-fighting in Kashmir. It would concern me if… the definition of terrorism was to cover maybe (the) legitimate freedom-fight in Kashmir.
‘[L]egitimate freedom-fight in Kashmir’, eh?
You mean the one described in this assessment by the South Asian Terrorism Portal, which, amongst other things, cites the following as examples of major terrorist – of should that be ‘freedom-fighting’ – incidents in 2006:
May 21: Two terrorists in police uniform attack a rally of the Youth Congress at Sher-e-Kashmir Park in the capital Srinagar, killing three political activists and two police personnel, minutes before the scheduled arrival of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Inspector General of Police (Kashmir), K. Rajendra Kumar, is among 25 persons injured in the attack that is claimed by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Al-Mansoorian. The two terrorists are subsequently killed in an encounter.
May 1: Suspected LeT terrorists kill 22 Hindus in the mountain hamlets of Kulhand and Tharva in Doda district and 13 at Lalon Galla, a high-altitude meadow above the town of Basantgarh in the Udhampur district.
April 14: Terrorists trigger out seven grenade blasts in the capital city of Srinagar, killing five civilians and injuring 44 persons, including 14 SF personnel. A local news agency, Current News Service, reported that four terrorist groups – Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JuM), Al-Mansooran, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and J&K Islamic Front – claimed responsibility for these blasts.
A report that, in addition, give the number of civilian deaths in ‘freedom-fighting’ incidents in the first five months as 147 – oh, and that’s on top of the 3,600 or so civilian deaths in the preceding five years and, according to the data given on this page, something of the order of 11,500 civilian casualties since 1988.
In fact there’s reams of background information and data to be foundon SATP’s site.
This all comes from an organisation called the Institute for Conflict Management, which is based in New Delhi but which appears well enough regarded in academic circles outside India to be considered a credible source, and it cites a kill ratio of something approaching three civilians to one member of the Indian security forces, together with a extensive list of major incidents over the entire period which contains the usual mix attacks; some solely on security forces, some exclusively targeting civilians and some of the usual, and rather more indiscriminate, kind in which both military personnel and civilians wind up dead.
All of which, as is typically the case in such matters, makes it rather difficult to draw clear distinctions between illegitimate terrorism and legitimate freedom-fighting, if you’re inclined to attempt to draw such distinctions – and however you want to slice it, what’s been going in Kashmir over the last 18-19 years or so it not the kind of conflict in which one can easily make such narrow distinctions and credibly advance the view that any/all use of violence against civilians cannot be justified – not without being extremely hypocritical in the process.
So that then poses the question as to whether Sayeeda, who in the past has stated both that:
“I don’t believe that I have to justify everything I write, line by line and word by word.’
“It may offend people sometimes but I will speak from the heart and speak the truth. And if speaking the truth is upsetting community relations, then I hold my hands up to that.”
…was merely following in the time-honoured Question Time tradition of spouting the official party line, chapter and verse, or whether he comments should be taken as an indication that she’s now repudiating her previous views on the Kashmiri conflict, a matter that seems to me to be of great public interest not just to Labour party members but to a considerable number of people on her own side.
It’s rather a shame that no one thought to ask last night, nor, indeed does she appear to have indicated, as yet, that she’ll be taking up Tory Home’s offer of a right of reply to this article by two members of staff from the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom, from which it would appear that her performance last night has done little to reassure Tory ranks…
I’m no neocon, but Warsi’s performance on Question Time was not reassuring.
Posted by: Simon Newman | July 06, 2007 at 00:29
“I’m no neocon, but Warsi’s performance on Question Time was not reassuring.”
I agree. Her constant attacks on the author Douglas Murray for using ‘inflammatory language’ were pathetic. His position on Hamas and Islamic terrorism was morally clear and defensible, and is similar to Michael Gove’s.
It’s a sad state of affairs when a so called conservative ends up agreeing with a vacuous idiot like Davina McCall.
Posted by: N John | July 06, 2007 at 02:42
“It’s a sad state of affairs when a so called conservative ends up agreeing with a vacuous idiot like Davina McCall.
I look forward to Davina’s appointment to the shadow cabinet. On the strength of that performance a post as Shadow minister for Education beckons…
More seriously, Warsi appeared to be sympathetic to Hamas, an Islamist terrorist organisation dedicated to killing all Jews. This may be the position of Ken Livingstone and the BBC, but it’s a new development for the Conservative party to embrace it.
Posted by: Simon Newman | July 06, 2007 at 12:04
Deeply unimpressive/worrying performance on Question Time from Warsi.
Posted by: ChrisC | July 06, 2007 at 12:24