Victim of Zealots

By Raffique Shah
September 29, 2013

Raffique ShahReally, it’s a messed-up, mixed-up world in which someone like young Ravindra Ramrattan falls victim to indescribable madness, to savagery clothed in religion. Even as I ponder the enormous possibilities that were terminated in murderous gunfire in far-off Kenya, I take comfort in my agnosticism that has kept me aloof of the zealots of one religion or other, and my revolutionary spirit that soars above the ideologues who manufacture and manipulate madmen for whom no life is precious, not even their own.

Put bluntly, ah vex, ah damn vex. Young Ravi did not deserve to die the way he did. The savages who stormed that mall with death and destruction on their warped minds will never understand how much they have hurt not just Ravi’s family and friends, but humanity—and I make this bold assertion without reservation.

Before the tragic events and news that a Trinidadian scholar had died in the mayhem, I had no idea who Ravi was. I will have noted his achievements back in 2002, another academic notch for my alma mater, Presentation College, Chaguanas, but nothing more. Usually, you next hear of scholarship winners like him when they complete post-grad studies and move into top corporate positions, commanding six-digit salaries and aiming for the stars, meaning mucho dollars.

From all I have read following his death, Ravi was very different. On the academic side, he seemed to have been pure genius: a first degree at Cambridge, a second at Oxford, and another at the London School of Economics. It doesn’t get better than that—except that in his case it did.

He chose to apply his genius not to acquiring personal wealth, but to alleviating poverty in parts of Africa where tens of millions of people are condemned to living their lives in persistent poverty. Oh, it’s a common denominator in most developing and semi-developed regions of the world—Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and even parts of North America and Europe. So Ravi could have returned home or closer to home to try to develop economic and monetary policies that might help break this vicious cycle.

Instead, he chose East Africa, where, based on what his friends there wrote, he was comfortable working and living. In so many ways, his was a unique choice. Such selflessness was commonplace in the halcyon days of the 1960s and 1970s when many people of my generation pursued altruistic goals by dedicating their lives to the upliftment of the less fortunate in their own countries and the oppressed in faraway lands.

Materialism soon put paid to that altruism, and I thought it had died when we matured and faced reality—children, families, bills. However, it seems to have survived in the heads and hearts of a few brilliant young people, Ravi being one. What is more remarkable in this case is that his family does not appear to be wealthy, a luxury that would have better allowed him to pursue noble but financially unrewarding goals. So he did what he chose to do out of caring for humanity—only to be cut down in his prime by sub-human slime.

Reports are that the group that has claimed responsibility for that act or terror is a Sudanese arm of Al Qaeda that goes by the name of Al Shabab. It was supposedly a reprisal attack for Kenya’s military intervention in Sudan (as part of a larger African Union force). If so, why did they not attack a military installation? They didn’t because they are cowards, and by some warped thinking, they see civilians, and in this case foreigners, as fair game.

How can that ever be right? Yet, it has become the norm in this bitter war between extreme Islamists and their enemies, imagined or real. The ironic thing is that the West and Western values that they wage war against are what created them.

By now most people know the story: America, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia worked together from 1979 to finance, promote and arm Islamic fundamentalists in the lawless Pakistan-Afghanistan border territories. Initially, the Mujahadin fought against a leftist government in Kabul. Then the Soviet Union entered the fray and the West upped the ante, providing the Islamists with more sophisticated weapons and military training.

Afterwards, the Taliban and Al Qaeda expanded exponentially, spreading Islamism (as distinct from Islam) with horrendous savagery. While their notoriety stinks, they are not the only zealots who have committed atrocities in the name of religion. Just about every denomination has had its savages, from Christian crusaders of medieval times to murderous Milosevic of yesterday. Hindu fanatics routinely attack their lower caste brethren and Muslims. Now, even Buddhists in Mynamar are burning and killing.

Poor Ravi was “collateral damage” in this unholy war that has no borders. That angers me.

(This one is for Valdez—Brigadier Joseph Theodore—an outstanding military commander I had the honour to work with. He was firm but fair. He stood by his troops and served his country well.)

16 thoughts on “Victim of Zealots”

  1. Quote from the blogger “RamKillerMan” on the Trinidad Express site:
    “But I am pretty sure that Ramrattan lived like a Maharajah in Kenya… just as his fellow Indians do (Pretty sure he was having a ball in that ‘up-scale’ mall)… Indians have a lock on Kenya’s economy… Thanks to the same British who brought allyuh to T&T..”
    End of quote.

    Implication: Al Shabaab may have spared Kenya from another Ish Galbaransingh…………….

  2. Ravi did not follow the trend rather he was blazing a trail for a better Kenya. He was using his knowledge to address one of the “knawing” pains of Africa–poverty. Moreso his efforts was to empower the locals to climb out of the pit of poverty. One can only be filled with admiration for his noble efforts. Not many scholars chose the pathway of self sacrifice to the betterment of others. His thirst for learning drove him to seek to create a better life for others.

    Al Shabab is an example of the mindless excercise in self destruction from causes that do nothing to improve humanity but rather everything to destroy it. The Bible instruct followers to do everything for “edification” or rather building up. The teachings of Christ is clear “love your enemies”. It is difficult to love a group like Al Shabab but they need it the most. Hate is eating away at their heart and destroying every shred of their humanity. At the end of this life journey the blood of the innocent victims of their rage drip from their hands. Now to be clear we don’t love their evil ways, in fact love does not rejoice in evil. Rather we realise that Al Shabab is a victim of their brainwashing and love compels us to say a prayer for them that the cloud of deception be removed.

    In Egypt 50 churches were destroyed by those shouting “Allah who Akbar” A few days later 78 Christians were murdered in Pakistan. A day after in Nigeria the cowards entered a school compound and slaughtered 50 students. But one cannot blame the killers, from early childhood they were indoctrinated into this hate ideology. This type of thinking and mind control is a psychological and spiritual diseases eating away at core of these poverty stricken nations who clings to religion as the only way out..sadly. What they need is love if you love others you will always want the best for them. Please say a pray for them….

  3. Many people died in that attack, including many indigenous Kenyans who were engaged in building their nation from the bottom up. Poverty is not a knowing pain of Africa. Africa is not a poor Continent, it is broke continent. It is broke because its resources are being plundered for use by others.

    Please spare me the Indian savior of Africans bit. I find it nauseatingly odious and ethnic masturbatory. Certainly the young man was innocent and did not deserve to die. However, to use this as one of your Hindutava ethnic masturbatory releases is more than ickie, it is odiously sickening.

    1. Son there are poor people all over the world, not only in Africa. The fact that he went to help the poor should not be deem a deficit in African thinking or yours you racist Paton.

  4. Among the victims of that attack by crazies who are following a culture and group that were involved in their initial enslavement, was Aviation and Communication expert and Attorney Peter Simani. He was a brilliant lawyer, Chaired the political Parties Dispute Tribunal, and was also Director of the Kenyan Communications Commission.

    Kofi Awoonor a celebrated and reknowned poet from the Ghana Ewe ethnic group. He was lauded as “A writer, politician and traditionalist with great wit, sense of humour and very well-spoken”. His son was also wounded in the attack.

    Everyone who died or was wounded in that attack is a victim. However, the racist tendency to use a grief stricken occasion for ethnic masturbation is more than odious, it is perverse and sick. The young Trinidadian who lost his life was one of several expatriate economist employed in Kenya. There are hordes of professionals who are finding the prospects for employment in Africa better than what exist in the land of their birth. Get a life and stop using this board for ethnic jerking off.

    1. Of course they were all victims of some crazy illiterate young black males whose only claim to fame is the act of murder. Never mind using the Koran to justify it. Amin slaughtered 500,000 of his own. Left alone Africa will destroy itself.

  5. Kenya has a very large South Asian Population and is very friendly to people from those parts of the world. They are able to come to part of the world where the majority of people are black, where the Government is black, and find the kind of welcome that would not be reciprocated if the movement was in the reverse. Too many glom unto the idea that people who go to Africa go there to help Africans rather than for their own interests. Sometimes those interest are parallel with the needs of Africa, other times they are not. But basically the movement to Africa is a search for opportunities for a better life, whether in business or employment.

    1. Historian Makrand Mehta once explained: “Gujarati businessmen, ranging from … middlemen to industrialists have played an important role in the economic development of East Africa. As creative emigrants and an inner gift for innovation and entrepreneurship, they were involved in every facet of commercial life.”

      The Kenyan government today embrace South Asians and so to the Ugandan government because they are good at building businesses and employing Kenyans.

  6. The Kenyan Massacre’s Roots in America’s Somalia Policy

    By Sheldon Richman
    September 24, 2013 –

    Last weekend’s hostage-taking — and the murder of at least 61 people — at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has its roots in the U.S. government’s intervention in Somalia, which began in the 1990s. Although there is no justification for killing innocents, it is fair to point out that al-Shabaab, the Islamist group that committed the attack on the mall and that controls parts of Somalia, would probably not be in power if not for the United States.

    As Scott Horton, host of a nationwide radio program focusing on foreign policy, points out in the September issue of Future of Freedom (which I edit), the U.S. government has intervened directly in Somalia and backed repeated invasions by neighboring African states, including Kenya. In the process, a relatively moderate government was overthrown, resistance to invaders was radicalized, and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab gained partial control, which would have been unlikely without that intervention.

    Horton, drawing on firsthand reporting by journalist Jeremy Scahill, notes that after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration compiled a list of countries “ripe for ‘regime change,’” including Somalia, “none of which had any involvement whatsoever in the attacks or any real ties to those who did.… Luckily for the Pentagon and CIA, it was not very difficult to find cutthroat warlords willing to accept their cash to carry out targeted assassinations and kidnappings against those they accused of being Islamists — or anyone else they felt like targeting.”

    A backlash followed. Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union, a coalition of a dozen groups, put down the warlords and the U.S.-sponsored Transitional Federal Government. “The ICU then declared the reign of Islamic law,” Horton writes. “That, of course, was none of America’s business, and even if it had been, the Somali regime lacked the power to create an authoritarian religious state like, say, U.S. ally Saudi Arabia.… And Somalia’s traditional Muslim beliefs were much more laid-back and tolerant than those in Arabia.”

    This was unacceptable to the Bush administration, so in late 2006 it had Ethiopia, its Christian client state and an old Somalia antagonist, invade and overthrow the ICU, “with CIA and special-operations officers leading the attack.” In 2008, however, Somalis kicked the Ethiopians out. Helping in the effort was, in Horton’s words, “the youngest and least influential group in the ICU, al-Shabaab (‘the youth’).” On its way out of power the Bush administration, seeking to save face, got the “old men of the ICU” to agree to “accept the form of the Transitional Federal Government.” This only inflamed al-Shabaab, which accused them of being American agents.

    “It was only then — years after the whole mess began — that it declared loyalty to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. It started acting like al-Qaeda too, implementing Arabian-style laws and punishments in the areas they dominated, such as cutting off the hands of those accused of stealing,” Horton writes.

    Unfortunately, the Obama team has continued along the same disastrous path:

    After the Ethiopians withdrew, [the administration] sent in the armies of Uganda and Burundi under the auspices of the African Union to hunt down and destroy al-Shabaab. Then came the Kenyans, who apparently panicked after luxury resorts near their border had come under attack. In 2011 the Ethiopians reinvaded. Kenyan forces took the port city of Kismayo from al-Shabaab in 2012 and loudly declared victory when the rebels melted away. But the stubborn insurgency continues the fight.

    The Americans, for their part, continue to back the invading forces, as well as what passes for the “government” in Mogadishu, with hundreds of tons of weapons and tens of millions of dollars.

    The CIA and the U.S. military still take a direct hand, not only by helping the nominal government, but also by attacking Somalis with helicopters, cruise missiles, and drones — and, Horton writes, “by overseeing at least two different torture dungeons.”

    The horrendous attack in Nairobi has the news media abuzz over possible terrorist threats to “soft targets” such as shopping malls, not only in Africa but also in the United States itself. As we think about this, we should realize that this is a threat made in Washington, DC.

    How many times do we have to experience what the CIA calls “blowback” before the American people cry, “Enough!”

  7. Kenyan Upscale Shopping Mall Terror Attack: Were Indians Targeted?

    By Palash Ghosh
    September 26 2013 5:46 AM

    The recent four-day terror attack/siege at an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, by Al-Shabaab-allied gunmen impacted the country’s small, but vibrant, East Indian community.

    At least six (perhaps many more) of the estimated 72 people who died at the Westgate shopping mall were of Indian descent, principally Gujaratis, part of a community that has lived in East Africa for more than a century.

    The Indo-Asian News Service reported that some members of the local and international Gujarati business communities are demanding improved security in public venues in Kenya.

    “The Kenyan government should look after the safety of our people and let them do business harmoniously,” said Avi Sabavala, president of the Vadodara Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Gujarat, India.

    “Our people are resilient. This attack may have [some] impact on [the] Gujarati business community in the short term, but I do hope that the Kenyan government will try to instill confidence among the Gujaratis again.”

    In fact, the Westgate Mall was built by Lakshman Raghavani, a Gujarati construction tycoon who runs Lakshmanbhai and Co. in Kenya.

    “The Westgate Mall was a hub for the Indian community,” Manmit Jabbal, an Indian architect who designed parts of the Mall, told The Hindu newspaper. “Almost 25,000 people visit the mall over weekends. … We end up visiting it three times a week”

    The Times of India reported that about 70 of the 300 or so stores in the mall are owned by Gujaratis.

    Moreover, many of the peoples injured in the mass shooting were sent to hospitals founded by Indians — the M.P. Shah and Aga Khan hospitals.

    On the whole, between 70,000 and 100,000 people of Indian origin — constituting less than 1 percent of the population — live in Kenya. Despite their very small numbers, Indians play a key role in the nation’s economy.

    The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs estimates that Indians control between 30 and35 percent of the total economy of Kenya — an extraordinary figure.

    In addition, reflecting how well established the Indian community is, there are about 15 Swaminarayan temples across Kenya (many Gujarati Hindus are followers of the Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism).

    Thus, a major terror attack like Westgate (which apparently had nothing remotely to do with India or Gujarat) still may make some local Indians very nervous about doing business in the country.

    One prominent Gujarati businessmen claimed that many Gujaratis have returned to India from East Africa in recent years due to growing instability in the region.

    “The Gujarati community is not feeling safe over there [in Kenya],” said Kamlesh Vithlani of Vithlani Enterprises, a Gujarati manufacturing firm. “They are not feeling secure … [The] Kenyan government should make them more secure.”

    The Economic Times reported that officials in India fear that Indian people and Indian assets in Africa could become the targets of terrorism in connection with rise of extremism on the continent.

    However, Indian economist and one-time chief consultant in the Indian finance ministry Ashok Desai told IANS news agency that he doesn’t think the tragedy at Westgate will damage Gujarati business interests in Kenya longer term.

    “From the business point of view they [Gujarati and Indian businessmen in Africa] have not put all their eggs in one basket, but have actually diverted their money and diversified to places like the U.S.,” Desai said.

    “The Indian businesses in Nairobi are really big and innovative.”

    Referring to the long-time domination of the East African economy by Indians prior to decolonization, Desai added that “Gujarati business in East Africa functioned in a kind of compromise in these countries, by paying off local politicians on the one hand, and shifting wealth to areas like Britain and the U.S.”

    Historian Makrand Mehta once explained: “Gujarati businessmen, ranging from … middlemen to industrialists have played an important role in the economic development of East Africa. As creative emigrants and an inner gift for innovation and entrepreneurship, they were involved in every facet of commercial life.”

    But the Indians’ economic success and disproportionate influence in places like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and elsewhere often triggered resentment among local Africans — most spectacularly, Indians were ordered expelled by Ugandan President Idi Amin in the 1970s.

    Indians in Kenya
    Once the railway was completed, many of these labourers chose to settle in what was then the East Africa Protectorate and bring family over from India. The early Asian settlers hailed predominately from the Indian provinces of Gujarat and the Punjab and quickly embraced the opportunities to be had in the new British territory. The railway opened the interior to trade, and many soon began migrating away from the coastal cities. Most settled in the new town of Nairobi, which had been the capital of the British protectorate since 1905. Unlike black Africans, Asians were permitted to reside legally in Nairobi in what was then a burgeoning white settler town.[2]

    By the 1920s, there existed a sizeable Asian population who demanded a role in the developing political life of what became Kenya Colony. At the forefront of the early pioneers was A.M. Jeevanjee, who established Kenya’s first newspaper now known as the The Standard. Racial hostilities gradually intensified in the 1920s, however Indians, enjoying significantly greater economic strength than black Africans, had greater bargaining power with the colonial government. As early as 1920, they turned down the offer of two seats on the legislative council as this was not representative of the size of their community. Tensions with Europeans remained high until 1927 when Indians won the right to five seats on the council, compared to eleven reserved for the Europeans. Both parties prevented any African representation.

    After the Second World War, Asians were to be found in all occupations: in business, the police force, bureaucracy and the professions, both in Nairobi and the townships.[3] Their commercial skills contributed to the economic development and prosperity of Kenya and the rest of East Africa.[4]

  8. RamKillerMan is a pnm racist who spreads vile & vindictiveness daily in the Express newspaper

  9. There is nothing I hate more than selectively outraged folks.Well, I also despise folks who dabble in phony victimhood, irrespective of which planet they are from.
    In 1990 , Islamist bandits – with the help of well placed , religious, business, and political ,collaborators – led by Lennox Phillip, aka Yasin Abu Bakr ,stormed our Parliament , where they maimed , and murdered , thus plunging our country into social darkness.
    Few , in or out of power ,shed a tear , but more time were spent since then , trying to justify the beat down of an Afrikan leader, in ANR Robinson- aka de Castaria Kid/AHHH- wee- bouy.
    Up to present time ,nada substantial , was done to get to the heart of the matter- unless you really think, that the time wasting charade of a 1990 Commission , as initiated by ‘Her Madjeestrick Queen K,’was aimed at truth ,and justice.
    For the record ,maybe 6 out of 72 folks of Indian descent ,lost their lives in this recent Kenyan tragedy -including one of our own unfortunate citizens- and based on the over the top , domestic, and international reactions , it’s WW3 otra vez. Go figure!
    Listen to this :- “But the Indians’ economic success and disproportionate influence in places like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and elsewhere often triggered resentment among local Africans — most spectacularly, Indians were ordered expelled by Ugandan President Idi Amin in the 1970s.”
    Don’t you like me, hate to see efforts aimed at phony victimhood? You lived for a century in a country, but yet , is looking for someone else to offer you protection. Why don’t you encourage your kids to join the protective services, or better yet, start a few Security firms of your own , that might help protect businesses?
    Note people , that during all the sanctimonious gloating, by the author of above article, not once did they mention, that self serving bozos like Kenya Danial Moi , did everything to encourage Indo Kenyan economic successes , while ignoring his own people?
    I wonder if folks like Palash Ghosh, would offer an analytic exploration , on why Indo – South Africans, excelled in SA , as opposed to authentic Bantu Africans, who got their lands stolen , experienced systemic genocide , and were historically treated like space aliens in their own country ,by White , Neo APARTHEID savages, unlike their more cuddled Colored friends, who migrated from South Asia?
    Stay vigilant people,and more importantly remember my watch word, on this here information highway- ‘beware of a man /woman , with nothing to loose.’
    Let’s make everyone stakeholders , si?

  10. I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the family of the young man who passed.

    On the usual ethnic back and forth that pervades this blog, all I would say is not to allow ourselves continue to be used as pawns by global power structure, where the illuision of “whiteness” continues to pollute every country, from the hapless folks in India who are many shades darker than me to the beleaguered Mizrahi Jews who do not fit into the Ashkenazi perception of “Jewishness”.

    But anyway, I digress. What happened in Kenya is a tragedy and an outrage on many levels; that people professing a belief in a Supreme Being should commit such carnage all in the name of said being is religious fundamentalism run amok.

    This is why although I do believe in a Divine Entity, I always try to focus on the humanity of others and not on some writings which were based on a time period some two thousand years or more ago.

  11. Another story of what goes around comes around. The author must try to step out of his box a bit more and see the entire picture so that we can all learn from it. Yes the world is a troubled world and academics do not trumps “common sense”. If I were to work in Laventille I would know to watch my back every day. I would know if I need to be in a “Hot Spot” I would need to take the necessary precautions. The author must investigate all the facts instead of bringing a one-sided story to the fore. This young man though very brilliant academically needed to understand that God points the way always. He created us and so He is always in charge. When we succeed in this life we need to do so humbly knowing that it is God’s will not ours.

  12. Hey Jerry ,let’s keep it real, me amigo, your T&T is way too small of a country , for anyone to seriously believe,that somehow,culturally sound/socially stable Chase Village, Las Lomas, Couva, Los Bajos, Siparia, Oropuche, Tabaquite ,or El Secorro/Aranguez ,are in any way safer ,than historically maligned enclaves, such as Lavantille, Morvant, Mt Dor, Febeau Village ,Caranege , Beetham, Belmont/Gongazales ,or Nelson Street.

    Let us shed a tear for this extremely unfortunate young man , while at the same time commend his commitment, to the service of others . Any unwarranted ,premature death of a child ,can never be a pleasant experience for a parent,and so we empathize ,with the Ramrattan family.

    For the record ,young Ravi would be in as much danger of not drawing a pension , or dying in his sleep at 94, if he had lived in T&T,as opposed to Kenya.How much road deaths do we have per year, or ever rising ,annual murder, in our law less society?

    Stay vigilant my people!

    1. Neal I believe you need to change your glasses or perhaps you need to learn to read and understand what you are reading. I was not comparing Laverntille to where the young man came from in T&T. Rather where he worked he was not aware of the history of the place and became complacent. In this troubled world of today we need to always use our “common sense” daily.

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