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A BRITISHER’S VIEW - Radical Islam, hard at work

As the west moves forward — with an open wallet and a helping hand — the east is degenerating further into its own abyss, and the Mumbai attacks are only the latest, sorrowful reminder of old grudges, new gripes and fresh blood.

Decent, law-abiding free spirits are hard-pressed to pinpoint and locate the terrorists, and their financiers: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, India, Pakistan, the Saudis, Shiites, Sunnis, etc., etc., ad nauseum. The rats may be widespread, but their common denominator is radical Islam.

Now, the lethal action has shifted to Mumbai, home of Bollywood, the world’s worst-mannered place according to a Reader’s Digest poll and, as America’s globalization darling, the training hub for most of our ‘customer service’ representatives and telemarketers. Now, Mumbai is also the place where Islamic militants (who else?) unleashed a three-day assault on two luxury hotels, a railway station, a café and a Jewish center, killing 195 people; among them, 22 foreigners, including a Jewish couple from Crown Heights. Now, the players are the nuclear and emotionally volatile nations of India and Pakistan, and most noteworthy is the admitted involvement of Islamic terrorists (who else?) in the virulent, domestic dispute over a valley, snuggled between the great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal range, called Kashmir by Pakistan and Jammu by India.

That ‘Switzerland of the east’ has been decimated by three wars in the past 61 years, including one in 1962 between India and bordering China, which seized control of the Trans-Karakoram Tract a year later. Kashmir has been a flashpoint for India and Pakistan well before both countries became independent of British rule, and while a clause in India’s Independence Act of 1947 allowed Kashmir to accede to either nation, Maharaja Hari Singh surrendered it to India, within months, in return for military help and a pledged referendum — a work in deadly stalemate to this day.

Any prolonged conflict gives rise to new generations of mutant radicals, and Kashmir is not exempt from the indiscriminate rage of separatists on both sides, accused of raping Kashmiri women who, in a 2005 study by the international medical and humanitarian aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres, were among the worst victims of sexual violence in the world.

In Third World countries, such as India and Pakistan, it is difficult to separate the good guys from the bad. A 2002 MORI survey reported that only two percent of respondents in Kashmir believed militant groups were to blame for the rapes and other human violations, while 67 percent held India’s troops culpable. Small wonder that elsewhere in the state, the figures were reversed.

If other nations can share borders peaceably, why can’t India and Pakistan share the delectable slice of creation God gave them? After all, the two cultures share more similarities than differences — among them, arranged marriages, an entrenched caste system, a soaring drug trade, honor killings, piety up the wazoo and an inherent frustration over western lifestyles.

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