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Saudi envoy walks out over Jethmalani’s remarks

Legal Correspondent

New Delhi: The former Union Law Minister and senior lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, caused a flutter at an international conference on terrorism here on Saturday by alleging that Wahabism was responsible for terrorism, provoking a walkout by Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to India Faisal-al-Trad.

In his address, Mr. Jethmalani, who is president of the All-India Senior Advocates Association, said: “Unfortunately in the 17th century, they produced an evil man in Saudi Arabia by the name of Wahab, who was concerned about the decline of the Muslim world, but he hit upon a wrong remedy.”

He alleged that the Wahabi terrorism instilled rubbish in the minds of young people to carry out terrorist attacks. When he said “India had friendly relations with a country that supported Wahabi terrorism,” Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Faisal-al-Trad was seen walking out of the conference held at Vigyan Bhavan.

Adish C. Aggarwala, chairman, All-India Bar Association and joint organiser of the conference, said the Ambassador returned after Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily clarified that Mr. Jethmalani’s views were not those of the government.

Mr. Jethmalani said: “It was unfortunate that entire Islam as a religion was being blamed for terrorism. There are also Hindu terrorists and Buddhist terrorists.” He said he was a student of all religions, including Islam, and had the highest respect for the Prophet, who he said was a man of peace.

Describing the Non-Aligned Movement and Panchsheel as evil, he said India should align with the forces of good to combat evil forces. “India and its Foreign Ministers must learn to reassess the doctrines of the past. India’s foreign policy establishment should be courageous to shun the country’s relationships with its enemies.”

Mr. Jethmalani, who is representing the Anil Ambani group RNRL in the Ambani brothers’ gas dispute in the Supreme Court, said the government, in its arguments, had said it intended bringing gas from the country which supported terrorism, an apparent reference to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.

Taking exception to Mr. Jethmalani’s remarks, Mr. Moily said: “India’s commitment to the Non-Aligned Movement would not be shaken by any country or any individual. The views expressed by my senior colleague Mr. Jethmalani are not the views of the government.”

He said: “Terrorism cannot be attributed to any particular religion, as no religion teaches terrorism.” The government was against any attempt to link terrorism to a particular religious community, but it stood for “inclusive development” of all. In July, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proposed a comprehensive convention on international terrorism at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Egypt, and the government was committed to dealing with trans-border terrorism in that spirit, he said.

Singapore Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong described the Mumbai terror attacks as a “grave tragedy” against humanity. He called for better coordination among nations to deal with the menace, because no individual nation could fight it on its own. “The countries must exchange and share information with each other to tackle terrorism.”

Justice Awn S. Al-Khasawneh, judge of the International Court of Justice, asked Mr. Jethmalani not to make sweeping statements. He decried any attempt to link terrorism to any religion, thus creating a fear psychosis. “The message from this conference must not be fear-mongering, but tackling terrorism within the framework of law. Combat it with methods such as combination of cooperation among countries by preaching the message of law and peace rather than fear mongering.”

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