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Raffique Shah


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Jokey terrorists, jokier politicians

By Raffique Shah
June 10, 2007

After overcoming the initial shock of television networks across the world featuring this country in an alleged plot to "blow up the JFK airport" in New York, I could not help but break into peals of laughter. The first giggle came when the US networks featured the sorry picture of the alleged mastermind, Russell De Freitas. This "Sad Sack", as The New York Times dubbed him, looked incapable of blowing hot air with any force, far less deal the US a "blow more devastating than 9/11", as a State Department spokeswoman insisted.

It was clear then that the US Government, which has survived on driving the fear of Islamists in the hearts of Americans, was about to play yet another joker from George Bush's pack. I waited patiently to see the other two "plotters" who had been arrested here. The Guyanese Kadir looked like someone to reckon with, but Trini Ibrahim looked like your friendly roadside doubles vendor. And when, finally, the "armed and dangerous" Nur gave himself up, I was in stitches. I wondered whether they had picked this guy off Tamarind Square before he could grab a plate of free food. To think that these four, and presumably others, were involved in the plot they are accused of, was taking a joke much too far.

I am not suggesting that they might not be guilty of some form of conspiracy: one does not judge a person by his appearance. Still, I cannot help but believe that if anything, these Islamists are guilty of gross stupidity. Imagine Mr Mastermind, who could not muster more than US$70, meeting his namesake (now revealed as the informant) and instantly spilling his guts about the alleged plot. Is this guy for real? Then De Freitas pays for airline tickets for them to travel to Guyana to meet with Kadir. They later came to Trinidad where Ibrahim, who is said to have known fellow-Shia Kadir, kept them for a few days. Thereafter the plot thickens with an alleged meeting between Sunni Abu Bakr and these Shias.

Like most sane people I am sickened by "sickos" who, in the name religion commit acts of barbarism that should have ended with the Dark Ages. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, these zealots rape young girls who could be their granddaughters for what they deem adultery. They stone hapless women to death. They murder Muslim women whose only "crime" is to seek to uplift themselves. In India, some Hindus commit similar atrocities, mainly against the low-caste, in the name of Ram-knows-what. And in Europe, good Christians murder people of other faiths only because they pray or dress differently. One cannot exclude from the "sickos" list America's government-sanctioned barbarism in Iraq and elsewhere committed in Bush's "war on terror" that has made the world a hotbed of terrorism.

But if the deadly games being played on the international stage between the crusaders and the "crusadees" are cause for concern to us all, the reactions of our local politicians to this latest photo opportunity were even "jokier". Few people will have known-or cared-that Ibrahim was a member of the COP. Yet, by nightfall on Saturday, as if to catch the CNN and Fox News cameras before they focussed on the plotters, there was a full house of COP-pers claiming he was one of their 50,000 members (note, not 50,005 or 48,500 .exactly 50,000). "But we can't screen everyone who applies to be a member of COP," said Gary Griffith, as if anyone cared. Talk about hogging the limelight.

By then Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who claims he never knew Ibrahim even though he may have dined with the "terrorist", was crowing about how "terrorists can seek no refuge in this country". He preened as US Government officials praised the TT Government for its cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Of course, Mr Manning and his top sleuths cannot yet find the infamous "dustbin bomber" who actually maimed a few Trinis. They are yet to determine who planted cocaine and missiles in Sadiq Baksh's water tanks. And the bomber who breached the recent World Cup security at the Hilton remains unaccounted for. Terrorists, beware!

Not to be outdone, The UNC saw an opening to pounce on both its rivals. Dookeran was accused of recruiting terrorists while the PNM was said to have terrorists in its Cabinet! It made no reference to thieves within the ranks of any party, or that the same US Government officials want, among others, an ex-Minister in the UNC Government, extradited to face corruption charges. Or that if you want to meet top officials of the UNC, just hang out outside the courthouse on any given day.

Venture into the religious groups and they cut an even sorrier picture. Every Islamic sect has distanced itself from the "jokey foursome", saying the Qu'ran does not sanction terrorism. A minor arm chopped off here, a beheading there .but not terrorism. You think these people jokey in joke?