The month of Ramadan in the Islamic almanac is associated with piety. The faithful pray and fast. It is thus shocking to find Islamic militants en gaging in acts of violence in this period. The attack, claiming the lives of 17 persons and causing injury to 122, was directed at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. This coun try's history and geography are overlaid by the life of the Prophet and two of Islam's most important shrines - Mecca and Medina - are located here. The finger of suspicion points to al Qaida, an outfit that claims to have launched a crusade under the flag of Islam. How an organization propagating itself as being truly Islamic can carry out an attack on Saudi Arabian soil in the month of Ramadan will remain a mystery. But stranger acts of murder and mayhem have been perpetrated in the name of religion and vendetta. Al Qaida obviously values revenge more than it does its faith. The attack in Saudi Arabia has other ironies. This country has provided funds for the propagation of Islam and the building of mosques across the globe. Yet it is now at the receiving end of Is lamic terrorism. This victimization is a function of a particular perception which sees Saudi Arabia as a collaborator of the war against terrorism being led by the United States of America. Saudi Arabia is thus being seen as a surrogate target for the US. It needs to be recalled that this is not the first attack on Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
What is also significant is that there were no Westerners among those who were killed and injured. There is a certain randomness in the violence. Terrorists seldom have any compunctions about killing innocent people. They see the taking of life as a triumph by itself. Such acts of indiscriminate violence attempt to gain a degree of legitimacy by associating themselves with a religious cause. In reality, they represent nothing more than the forces of barbarism. No religion condones killing and certainly not the killing of innocent people. The masterminds of the war against terrorism will have to devise new strategies to fight this war. It is a difficult war to conduct and win because the enemy is never visible and it is impossible to predict where the enemy will strike next. It is evident that the West’s intelligence network is not adequate. Witness the failure to locate Mr Osama bin Laden and Mr Saddam Hussein. The use of shock and awe may not be enough to win this war. The fear of sudden suicide attacks in random places will continue to cast its shadow on the lives of ordinary people for some time.