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December 01, 2008


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Law Student

I fail to see the relevance of this article. Right now, the real issue is who perpetrated this attack, why it happened, and how we can prevent it. Right now, the issue is not about the prior bad acts of Hindu fundamentalists. By discussing irrelevant parties and engaging in "tu quoque" argument, Nussbaum's article distracts us from the important lessons of this tragedy.

Chicago Grad

Professor Nussbaum is purely pursuing her agenda. It's quite disappointing to read this kind of work from one of our own. Her articles does nothing to truly call out what's happening here in Mumbai and across the world - terror against all those who do not believe in a certain faith.

Why must Professor Nussbaum pursue her agenda at the cost of addressing real issues?


I understand the point of the article but eventually people are gonna get fed up with this sort of logic. When a certain group of people do something horrible inspired by their religous ideology, instead of adressing the problems with that specific ideology somebody always brings up another issue. Besides this sort of argument goes on forever, Hindus could just say that Muslims invaded their land for no good reason about a milennia ago and killed plenty of Hindus over a thousand years.


it's curious that when terrorists attack, liberals counsel us to consider the roots of radicalism. but when state or mob violence is directed against muslims, we should focus on the plight of the targeted muslims.

Hindu extremism is bad and should be repudiated, but so should radical islamic terrorism.


Geez. Don't you think there is more than one issue to discuss after these tragic events? The universe of ideas is a large one.

And what is professor Nussbaum's "agenda"? Caring about the civil and human rights of minority groups in developing countries? The horror! Pointing out how media tends to further stereotypes and stoke fear by covering only certain spectacles of violence and not others?

And why is doing this "at cost" to other "real" issues surrounding this violence? Is it because small brains can't handle thinking about multiple issues pertaining to complex situations? Your attacks seem motivated by something other than reason.

I fail to see one compelling argument above about why it is wrong to address how this violence is going to further harm the interests of minority groups in fledgling democracies, and why it shouldn't. Of course the violence is awful and reactionary violent fundamentalist Islam is a huge issue, but so is concern for the viability of pluralistic democracy and the human and civil rights of minority groups and how they might be affected by this, including those millions of nonviolent muslims in India.


There is no "cloud" over India's Muslims any more than there is a "cloud" over America's Muslims.

Indians, like Americans, can see past innuendos based on someone's relationship to Islam (e.g., Barack Hussein Obama, AJP Kalam). But just as America has punished those Muslim Americans who would attack it (Hamdi, Padilla), India will take actions in defense of the nation itself.

To reword a favorite quote of one of Nussbaum's colleagues, being a liberal democracy is not a deathwish.


LAK - you are missing the entire point. Nussbaum's article shows where her priorities are. She takes not one moment to say "We have to stop this" or "Let's do something about it" but just says "Oh look, these people will be singled out."

Let's take a hypothetical scenario. Crazy caucasian male blows up a gigantic building and kills many innocent people. Is the appropriate response to follow that with an article sympathizing with the plight of Caucasian males who might now be profiled? Clearly not.

This is not a hypothetical scenario, it's called Timothy McVeigh.

Your lack of argument is as sad as Nussbaum's completely inappropriate response. There's nothing "small brained" about highlighting that certain responses are non-responses. Nussbaum's response just merits an "Oh jeez, thanks for the obvious reminder." You're the only one here who seems to have another agenda.


I cannot believe the indian students in Chicago are not knocking on Nussbaum's door demanding an apology for the insensitivity she has shown in this article towards India. It seems to me that she is justifying the actions of the terrorist by citing the actions of Hindus. So, the pakistanis' have come to avenge the treatment the Muslims in India get? It was just as horrifying to read her opinion in LA times as it was looking at pictures of the dead in Mumbai. Indians don't need to be hurt anymore than we already are.


Anon, you simply demand that Nussbaum should have written a column to make the obvious point that literally everyone agrees on -- that these attacks are terrible and that the perpetrators should be brought to justice -- instead of engaging what she actually chose to write about. But of course you don't, and can't, challenge her central claim that backlash to these attacks constitutes "more bad news for Indian Muslims." If you find it insensitive to talk about the plight of a minority group, that's fine, and you can say so, but don't cloak it by railing against what you imagine to be Nussbaum's "priorities."

By the way, if you read the column to the end she does say exactly what you want. "Let's go after criminals with determination," she writes, and it's obvious that she includes the perpetrators of these attacks as "criminals."


I agree with Vasanthi.

Nobody can argue with the article's conclusion of "Let's go after criminals with determination, good evidence and fair trials, and let's stop targeting people based on their religious affiliation."

But the overall tone of the piece sounds like some kind of justification for the recent terrorism.

Thom Brooks

Anon -- did you read Nussbaum's post? I doubt it.

You say the following:

Nussbaum's article shows where her priorities are. She takes not one moment to say "We have to stop this" or "Let's do something about it" but just says "Oh look, these people will be singled out."

However, if you read Nussbaum's post, you would immediately see her statement:

Let's go after criminals with determination, good evidence and fair trials, and let's stop targeting people based on their religious affiliation.

It is then clear that you could not be more incorrect in your portrayal of her views, as you present a false, if not simply grossly misleading, picture.

I am also not sure others understand her position either. I strongly recommend that you read closely her well argued The Clash Within (Harvard UP, 2007) which presents her case convincingly in rich detail.


I view Nussbaum as a terror apologist who intentionally misdirects readers away from the true nature of the Mumbai attack and its root causes. Previous comments have addresed various aspects of her actions. I will limit my comment to the most recent post in which the writer defends her by pointing out that she ultimately seeks punishment for those responsible. As Nussbaum says..."Let's go after criminals with determination, good evidence and fair trials,...".

I have a MAJOR problem with her (mis)characterization of the actions as being merely "criminal" in nature. At the time she wrote her op-ed,it was publicly known that the terrorists were singling out Westerners and and Jews as primary targets. It was also known that specific victims were also singled out and tourtured. In short, she denies the global Jihadist nature of the attack despite the facts!


Anon, how can I contend with such stellar reason and argument? Your OK City example shed the light on why it would be inappropriate to consider the impact of the bombing on that oppressed minority group in our country, white men. Further it would be grossly inappropriate for any academic to even begin to articulate concern for disaffected poorly educated rural white men and what would drive them to bomb the Federal Government out of irrational paranoia in the wake of such a bombing. I mean, what kind of intellectual could be so misguided to do that?

Writing and caring about the effect the Bombay bombings, perpetrated by a bunch of Pakistanis, will have on India's minority Muslim population is a perfectly appropriate response for an academic who studies not just human rights in general, but India specifically.

It isn't misdirected. It doesn't mean Nussbaum sides with Terrorists. If this results in another pogrom against Muslims in India or the further denial of their basic civil rights there, it would be worthy of concern. I don't think that is controversial statement, nor does it apologize for terrorism.

Uzair Kayani

I certainly understand the anxieties and hostilities that can arise in these situations, but I think many of these comments are misguided. If you would attack terrorists, or Jihadists, or even Muslims in general, I suppose that is understandable these days. Professor Nussbaum is none of those, though. She is simply arguing against collective guilt.

And even collective guilt is understandable as an emotional matter. Sometimes a thorn pricks you, so you kick the plant. It is a stupid thing to do, but people do it often enough. Those reactions have usually led to more harm than good. I wish some of you wouldn't cast people as traitors every time they try to make you think twice.

Thom Brooks

Scott -- why think Nussbaum a "terror apologist" on these grounds? She has singled out a particular problem that has been overlooked in virtually all the commentary produced on the Mumbai attacks. Perhaps you would much rather she simply repeated what everyone else has already said. However, I thought her comments nowhere support some bizarre apology for what happened: rather, Nussbaum is clearly as horrified by the attack as any of the rest of us.

I cannot help but think you are projecting something into your interpretation of her words which is not only uncharitable, but divorced from her actual text. Again, if you think she is missing the wider context, then please read her engaging book The Clash Within (Harvard UP, 2007).


I'm shocked at how badly a group of law students can so blatantly misconstrue an article. It seems to me that only a few people, LAK being the first, understood the article or even made the attempt to do so. The rest seem to be jumping the gun, and arguing that the "only" concern should be with "getting the bad guys," or some such nonsense. If you're not concerned with the larger issues that produce ethnic and religious conflict, then why even weigh in on the issue? Nussbaum is not excusing terrorism. Nothing in her article would even suggest as much; instead, she is pointing out that the eagerness of the press and the Indian government to condemn Muslims needs to be put in historical context. Chic argues that historical contextualization is a rabbit hole, that we can keep going back for centuries to find more and more examples of atrocity. But that is not what Nussbaum does; she takes a recent example that continues to affect those living in India and Pakistan. It's not like the extremist groups in Gujarat have gone away; it's not like the arms manufacturers in the province don't continue to supply them with weapons; it's not like the governors of that province are not still complicit with racism. Nussbaum is talking about a problem that still exists, and that very well could flare up in the coming weeks (God forbid).

sad and appalled

Reading this comment thread makes me very sad about the state of education at U. Chicago.

So many commenters seem to be attacking Professor Nussbaum's thoughtful and nuanced piece either without reading it, or without understanding it, or perhaps without being able to break out of a (scary) mindset in which any discussion of violence against a group somehow constitutes an excuse for violence BY that group. Yikes.

I hope that those commenters attacking Professor Nussbaum in this way are not representative of most students and alumni of the University of Chicago!

Ben Borbely

I have not read Prof. Nussbaum's article, but only Bill Kristol's rather harsh critique of it in the Times, but, nevertheless, I have an observation: Sad and Appalled (author), you've hit the nail right on the head. The debate is between those who, on the one hand, try to explain the attack in an academic, nuanced, and/or thoughtful way, and those who feel the most pressing task is forceful condemnation. It would be nice to think the two are not mutually exclusive, but trying to do both does blunt the force of the repudiation. I know from personal experience from studying the Holocaust (history major in college), the more one learns about the actors on both sides, the more confusing things become emotionally. One still sees the evil, and the horror, but the realization of the humanity of the perpetrators problematizes the individual and collective desire to reject those actions as utterly foreign and inconceivable. So yes, both goals are worthwhile (understanding the problem as well as rejecting the reasoning), but during the immediate aftermath of a bad deed--and for those who are closer emotionally to the act, this can last a long time--understanding is hard and perhaps less worthwhile than pure revulsion and rejection. Perhaps current policy-makers should not indulge in that luxury, but for the general public and the commentariat, perhaps it is in many ways the healthier response.


Iam just wondering if Martha Nussbaum has ever written on the plight of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Off course, Hindus have never terrorised the majority muslim populations of pakistan and bangladesh. Off course, it is a post-modern style to mention Gujarat in any muslim issue to do with India. Do these people do an objective analysis? have they read nanavati's report?

Finally, have they read the racist rants in the Quran, based on which the Jihadists go around purging the world of Kufars?

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