Blog Action Day – Poverty

In Development, Economy, Internet, Politics, Poverty, Public Education on October 15, 2008 at 7:38 pm

I must admit, Blog Action Day has snuck up on me. I was quite busy at the beginning of this week, and I haven’t thought much about what to write on the issue of poverty. One thing that does come to mind is a recent lecture I attended. David Oliver Relin, author of Three Cups of Tea (I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to understand how one man can reshape the world through education). In his presentation, he discussed what he believed to be the best weapon against terrorism was to destroy ignorance with education. Through education, poverty and suffering (huge factors in the development of terrorist groups) will be removed. While I question this stratagem’s ability to fight current terrorist groups, I see the great value in the future accomplishments. Why do terrorist groups target the United States and its allies? From my point of view, it seems to be ignorance, misplaced blame, and zealotry. To be honest, the US has spilled our fair share of milk in the region, but the primary reason for their own situation is because some groups want to keep it that way. They don’t want to change, whether voluntarily or by military force.

Okay, but what does that have to do with poverty? In case you haven’t noticed, terrorism and poverty go hand in hand. Terrorist groups seek out suffering people to mold into their own gorilla force. Mr. Retin showed us some interesting, gladdening, as well as terrifying images. One was of a radical madrasah setting up a disaster-relief camp for victims the major 2005 Kashmir earthquake. There were tents for shelter, tents for food, and a tent for radical teachings. Here is an excerpt from an article on the earthquake and the aid delivered by terrorist group Jammat-ud-Dawa:

The Jihadi aid campaign

Meanwhile, long before the arrival of army regulars, international aid agencies, or emergency search and rescue teams, an alternative volunteer army was reporting for duty in the earthquake zone: the Jihadis. Bearded young men converged on towns close to the epicentre, after threading their shiny white mini-vans or military vehicles through boulder-strewn roads. More trekked by foot across rockslides, carrying picks and shovels. 

Yahya Mujahid, a Muslim militant chief, said he ordered his guerrillas to put aside their Kalashnikov rifles and hired 100 mules so they could get relief supplies up to the heights and carry out the injured. 

The efforts won accolades from anguished survivors. No one else was on the spot to help locals unearth the injured and administer first aid, shroud and bury their dead, or dish up dates and hot soup so they might break the Ramadan fast at dusk. These aidworkers appeared extremely organised. In Muzaffarabad, a garrison city and the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, a big banner was erected over a tarpaulin spread with prayer-mats and quilts. It identified the energetic do-gooders as Jammat-ud-Dawa. 

This group is known to be a spin-off of the banned religious militants, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and is widely seen as the fundraising and recruiting wing for Islamist warriors who cross into India. 

Musharraf, under pressure from the Americans, outlawed Lashkar as a terrorist organisation in 2002 because of its links to al-Qaida. The name change has allowed Jammat-ud-Dawa to continue building its religious seminaries, to train preachers for mosques, and dispense medical care to the indigent. But will they be able to muster support and force their way onto the national political agenda?

Before Pakistan’s army was there, before the internal community could respond, there was Jammat-ud-Dawa. They delivered aid; they were the ones that helped the victims in their time of need. Support had been won for the group, and a negative view of the government and the international community was fostered. Not exactly a win for the war on terror. I know that US aid couldn’t possibly have responded before locals did, but I am using this as an example of something we must prevent in the future.

Flying in aid wouldn’t help us fight current terrorist organizations, but it would help prevent new soldiers and groups from being created. When it comes down to it, fighting terrorism is a big public relations campaign. There is an image of the western world in the minds of people, and that image determines whether they throw their support behind them, or us. We need to keep pushing in on current organizations so we can make sure they never blow up a bus full people again; at the same time we need to fight poverty and ignorance. What we do today determines what we won’t have to do tomorrow.

Note: This is a first draft, but I wanted to make sure it was posted in time for Blog Action Day. Let me know what you think in the comments. Look for revisions in the future.


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