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COLUMN SEVENTY-SIX, OCTOBER 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

1. LESSONS FROM SRI LANKA

Subject: Friedman1
Date: Wed, 07 Aug 2002 11:19:23 -0400
From: al aronowitz <info@blacklistedjournalist.com>
Organization: THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST

August 7, 2002

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka " It's often forgotten that while suicide bombing started in the Middle East, the people who perfected suicide as a weapon of war were the Tamil Tigers militia here in Sri Lanka, the island-state off the southern tip of India. In the last decade, Tamil suicide bombers, many of them women, killed some 1,500 people, including an Indian prime minister and a Sri Lankan president. And in a bizarre twist, the Tigers filmed many of their suicide bombings to show and motivate their troops.

But since last December a cease-fire between the Tigers?who have been militating for a separate state for Sri Lanka's Tamil Hindu minority in the northeast?and the government, which is dominated by the Buddhist Sinhalese majority, has halted all suicide bombings. No one can be sure it will last, after 18 years of civil war. But it's still worth examining how suicide was defused here, and whether any of this might apply to Palestinians and Israelis.

To begin with, one of the key factors in halting Tamil suicide bombings was the Tamil diaspora, living in North America, Europe and India. This Tamil diaspora had been the main source of funding for the Tamil Tigers. But the Tamil diaspora is made up largely of middle-class merchants and professionals, and when in the late 1990's the U.S., Britain and India all declared the Tigers a "terrorist" group, not freedom fighters, the Tamil diaspora became embarrassed by them and started choking off their funds.

"The Tamil diaspora started out as a force encouraging Tamil radicalism, but eventually it evolved into a source for moderation," said Suresh Premachandran, head of a Tamil rights party in Sri Lanka. "Sept. 11 changed that even more. People here knew after that there would never be any sympathy for any suicide bombers."

Unfortunately, in the Middle East Arabs and Muslims continue to indulge, justify, praise or provide religious legitimation for Palestinian suicide bombers, even after 9/11. The Palestinians have convinced themselves, with the help of many Arabs and Europeans, that their grievance is so special, so enormous that it isn't bound by any limits of civilized behavior, and therefore they are entitled to do whatever they want to Israelis. And Israelis have convinced themselves that they are entitled to do virtually anything to stop it.

Second, Sri Lankans had to pay retail for their extremism. They had no oil or foreign powers to finance their war. And because so much domestic savings was diverted to the war, Sri Lanka's roads and infrastructure today are decrepit. It is not surprising, therefore, that the peace movement, which blossomed in the last two years, was led by the business community?particularly after the Tamil Tigers blew up Colombo's airport in July 2001 and sent the country into an economic tailspin.

"The business community finally said, `Enough is enough,' " said Mahesh Amalean, chairman of MAS Holdings, Sri Lanka's leading apparel maker. "That turned the tide. Our motto became `Sri Lanka first.' "

Israelis and Palestinians, by contrast, got to buy their extremism wholesale. Palestinians could engage in suicide bombings without becoming destitute because the Arab states are always ready to pass the hat for them. Israelis have been able to build insane settlements in the heart of the West Bank, because the U.S. was ready to provide aid with no limits attached.

Third, in Sri Lanka the government realized it had no military solution for suicide bombers'that the only way they could be stopped was if the Tigers themselves could be induced to turn them off. The Tigers, meanwhile, realized that while they could terrify the government with suicides, they couldn't even hold their own ethnic capital, Jaffna. So they both finally opted for negotiations. Unfortunately, the Palestinians abandoned a peace offer and opted instead for the delusion that suicide bombing will get them more, and Ariel Sharon has opted for a purely military response.

Finally, while Jews and Arabs have carried out their war with all the world watching?and often meddling in ways that prolonged the conflict'sri Lankans have conducted their war, in which 64,000 people have died, with almost no coverage.

"Ours has been a forgotten war, and we've had to live with our mistakes and to find our own way out," said Milinda Moragoda, one of the government's peace negotiators. "It had its disadvantages, but also its advantages."

                   (Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company)  ##

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2. WHERE FREEDOM REIGNS

Subject: Friedman2
Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2002 11:19:23 -0400
From: al aronowitz <info@blacklistedjournalist.com>
Organization: THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST

August 14, 2002

Where Freedom Reigns

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

BANGALORE, India " The more time you spend in India the more you realize that this teeming, multiethnic, multireligious, multilingual country is one of the world's great wonders " a miracle with message. And the message is that democracy matters.

This truth hits you from every corner. Consider Bangalore, where the traffic is now congested by all the young Indian techies, many from the lower-middle classes, who have gotten jobs, apartments " and motor scooters " by providing the brainpower for the world's biggest corporations. While the software designs of these Indian techies may be rocket science, what made Bangalore what it is today is something very simple: 50 years of Indian democracy and secular education, and 15 years of economic liberalization, produced all this positive energy.

Just across the border in Pakistan " where the people have the same basic blood, brains and civilizational heritage as here " 50 years of failed democracy, military coups and imposed religiosity have produced 30,000 madrassahs " Islamic schools, which have replaced a collapsed public school system and churn out Pakistani youth who know only the Koran and hostility toward non-Muslims.

No, India is not paradise. Just last February the Hindu nationalist B.J.P. government in the state of Gujarat stirred up a pogrom by Hindus against Muslims that left 600   Muslims, and dozens of Hindus, dead. It was a shameful incident, and in a country with 150 million Muslims " India has the largest Muslim minority in the world " it was explosive. And do you know what happened?

Nothing happened.

The rioting didn't spread anywhere. One reason is the long history of Indian Muslims and Hindus living together in villages and towns, sharing communal institutions and mixing their cultures and faiths. But the larger reason is democracy. The free Indian press quickly exposed how the local Hindu government had encouraged the riots for electoral purposes, and the national B.J.P. had to distance itself from Gujarat because it rules with a coalition, many of whose members rely on Muslim votes to get re-elected. Democracy in India forces anyone who wants to succeed nationally to appeal across ethnic lines.

"Even when Gujarat was burning, practically the whole of India was at peace " that is the normal pattern here," said Syed Shahabuddin, editor of Muslim India, a monthly magazine, and a former Indian diplomat. "India is a democracy, and more than that, India is a secular democracy, at least in principle, and it does maintain a certain level of aspiration and hope for Muslims. . . . If there were no democracy in India, there would be chaos and anarchy, because so many different people are aspiring for their share of the cake." It is precisely because of the "constitutional framework here," added Mr. Shahabuddin, that Indian Muslims don't have to resort to terrorism as a minority: "You can always ask for economic and political justice here."

It is for all these reasons that the U.S. is so wrong not to press for democratization in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Is it an accident that India has the largest Muslim minority in the world, with plenty of economic grievances, yet not a single Indian Muslim was found in Al Qaeda? Is it an accident that the two times India and Pakistan fought full-scale wars, 1965 and 1971, were when Pakistan had military rulers? Is it an accident that when Pakistan has had free elections, the Islamists have never won more than 6 percent of the vote?

Is it an accident that the richest man in India is an Indian Muslim software entrepreneur, while the richest man in Pakistan, I will guess, is from one of the 50 feudal families who have dominated that country since its independence? Is it an accident that the only place in the Muslim world where women felt empowered enough to demand equal prayer rights in a mosque was in the Indian city of Hyderabad? No, all of these were products of democracy. If Islam is ever to undergo a reformation, as Christianity and Judaism did, it's only going to happen in a Muslim democracy.

People say Islam is an angry religion. I disagree. It's just that a lot of Muslims are angry, because they live under repressive regimes, with no rule of law, where women are not empowered and youth have no voice in their future. What is a religion but a mirror on your life?

Message from India to the world: Context matters " change the political context within which Muslims live their lives and you will change a lot. 

                          (Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company)  ##

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