The Los Angeles Times | November 29, 2008 | Tim Rutten

There are many facts remaining to be discovered about the atrocities in Mumbai this week, but we already know what we really need to know.

The physical institutions targeted and the individuals singled out for particular attention by the killers — Americans, Britons and Jews — are signatures of the fanatic Islamists we've come to know as jihadis. The sites of their attacks may vary — New York, London, Madrid, Nairobi, Mumbai — but the object of their quarrel with history remains the same: modernity.

Mumbai was selected not simply because it was a so-called soft target but because it is a symbol of modernity in the world's most populous democracy. The city the West first knew as Bombay is today the symbol of India's place in the modern world, as the center not only of banking, commerce and a burgeoning high-tech sector but one of the world's great film industries. (It's worth recalling that when the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan, one of the first things it did was to close the cinemas and ban DVDs from Mumbai's Bollywood.)

The places the killers struck — luxury hotels, a railway station, a hospital for women and children, the Chabad Jewish center — are all powerfully linked in the popular mind with the modern world. As the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy has argued, the jihadis have linked anti-Americanism, anti-British sentiment (the assumption is that London is Washington's lap dog) and anti-Semitic antagonism toward Zionism into a potent new ideology. To the extent it seems to find an increasingly sympathetic hearing in some fashionable sectors of the intellectual West, including the U.S., Levy correctly labels it "the socialism of imbeciles."

(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com

 

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