Religious Terrorism: Civilisational Context and Contemporary Manifestations
Source: As published in Civilisational Harmony: Global Conflicts and Indian Vision, Chapter 8, pp 196-241, Global Foundation for Civilisational Harmony (India), January, 2008
Transcending time and space, religions have influenced civilisations-in cultural, social, material and spiritual arenas- more profoundly than any other single factor. Tangible achievements of man’s possessive and creative impulses, struggle for self-preservation, pursuit of mundane happiness or supra mundane bliss, all bear its imprint. Religion has been both a dominant cause and effect of rise and fall of civilisations, influencing the conduct of war and peace, social intercourse, political and economic life, cultural motif and individual and group ethics.
‘Terror has no religion’ is a common refrain, particularly of political interest groups. Franco Frattini, the European Union’s Commissioner for Justice, banned the use of term ‘Islamic terrorism’ in 2006. He averred, “You can not use the term Islamic terrorism. People who commit suicide attacks or criminal activities on behalf of religion, Islamic religion or other religion, they abuse the name of religion”1. If this assumption is valid, religious terrorism is a misnomer and arguably deserves no place in any civilisational or religious discourse. However, if it is only a tactical positioning to evade hard realities it can cause immense harm. Dishonest diagnosis leading to a faulty treatment is unforgivable, particularly if it is deliberate. The assumption hence needs to be examined objectively in the light of hard realities on the ground, credible historical evidence, theological interpretation and religious doctrines of warfare in different religions. Taking the reality what we wish and not as it exists is an escapism that comes with unaffordable price tag. Some well-intentioned politicians, social scientists and intellectuals advance the formulation that it is a public interest myth floated to isolate the terrorists-which unfortunately it isn’t. Moderates among the coreligionists find in it an escape route from accepting their responsibility of confronting the wrong doers, lest they incur their wrath. The historical experience, unexceptionally, underlines the fact that escapism in the face of a danger, that is real and eminent, though may have apparent short-term tactical gains, but involves a heavy strategic cost that future generations have to pay.
While examining validity of the proposition, it may, however, be underlined that religion in terrorist context has to be understood more in its empirical form- the way it is practiced and its consequences felt, rather than theological sense, as intended by its founders. As Bertrand Russell puts it “Religion is primarily a social phenomenon. Churches may owe their origin to teachers with strong individual convictions but these teachers have seldom had much influence upon the communities in which they flourished. The teaching of Christ, as it appears in the gospels has had extraordinarily little to do with the ethics of Christians. The most important thing about Christianity, from a social and historical, point of view, is not Christ but the Church.”2
Religious Terrorism - Reality Or A Myth?
Religious terrorism is real as it is inspired by and carried out in the name of religion. Faith, in psychological sense, is a subjective phenomenon and its reality lies in what the believer thinks to be true and not what the truth is. Faith is a powerful motivator of human behavior influencing, in varying degrees, his perceptions, reasoning, response, actions and consequence estimates. Since a terrorist derives his motivation from his religious beliefs, religious terrorism is a reality. The interpretations of the governments fighting it, the victims, the courts of law etc. matter little as they do not affect their self- view or the world-view. However, as religion in its social form has an institutionalised structure, the only entity which can declare their acts as irreligious is the church to which they owe allegiance. As long as that approval exits, the acts can be illegal, inhuman, unreasonable or even psychopathic but they certainly are not irreligious. Faith has its own dialectics and jurisprudence from which a terrorist draws legitimacy for his actions. Wherever and whenever the source of this legitimacy emanates from religion, and is not declared as an act of an apostate by institutional mechanism of the religion, it is religious terrorism. Illustratively, to a question whether Eric Robert Rudolf, bomber of Atlanta Olympic in 1966, belonging to Army of God, was a religious terrorist or not, Michael Barkun, Professor of Political science at Syracuse University and a consultant to the FBI on Christian extremist groups held the view that, “Rudolf can legitimately be called a Christian terrorist”.3 Ku Klux Klan, with an unmistakable protestant identity, for nearly hundred years carried out acts of terror in the name of religion to achieve certain political objectives, but was always accepted as a Christian terrorist group. Significantly, the end came not as much by the efforts of the FBI and the police as by the initiatives of the Christian Church leaders to oppose the violent cult. Martin Luther King Jr., who spearheaded the Civil Rights Movement, was a Baptist minister. He insisted on ‘personal responsibility in fostering peace’.4 The formulation that terrorism has no religion precludes the responsibility of religious leaders and religion’s institutional mechanism to share responsibility. It makes the problem an exclusive responsibility of the coercive instruments of the state. This leads to violence being countered by higher violence generating a spiral effect, which may not serve the long term interests of the society best. Such myths advanced by politically correct, unreasonably optimistic or willfully ignorant, hence, do not appear to be sustainable.
As long as the Jehadis believe their actions to be as per the injunctions of Islam and the Islamic clergy does not frontally challenge and prove them wrong, Jehadi terrorism will deserve to be treated and tackled as religious terrorism. The response of the Islamic clergy against top terrorist killers has not been a fraction as severe as against Salman Rushdies, Taslima Nasreen and their likes who were excommunicated from Islam and fatwas were issued for their extermination. No such fatwa has been issued against any terrorist. The response of non- commitment that ‘Terror has no Religion’ only gives religious space to the terrorists, they so desperately need for their existence.
Secondly, the predominant motivation of religious extremists is to serve the political cause of their religion and not their spiritual salvation. The religion provides that psychic motivation to kill, or be killed, without any compunction. Devoid of this, no ordinary human being of prudence will undertake the suicide missions and cause concomitant pain and suffering to the innocents to please the ‘True God’. To understand the psychological phenomenon what is important is not the view of those who suffer but the self-view of those who carry out depredations in the name of religion. Daily Mail of London in its issue of 2nd July, 2007 brought out an interesting revelations by Hassan Butt, who till recently was a member of Al Qaeda affiliated Al-Muhajiroun in London. Butt observed, “We used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy”.5 He added, “Though many British extremists are angered by the deaths of fellow Muslims across the world, what drove me and many others to plot acts of terror within Britain and abroad was a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary worldwide Islamic state that would dispense Islamic justice”.5 Providing an insight into terrorists religious dispensation of the terrorist mind he averred that, “The foundation of extremist reasoning rests upon a model of the world in which you are either a believer or an infidel… The Islamic jurists have set down rules of interaction between Dar ul Islam (the land of Islam) Dar ul Kufr (the land of unbelievers) to cover almost every matter of trade, peace and war. What radicals and extremists do is to take these two-steps further. Their first step is to argue that, since there is no pure Islamic state, the whole world is Dar ul Kufr. This reclassification of the globe.allows any Muslim to destroy the sanctity of the five rights that every human is granted under Islam: life, wealth, land, mind and belief. In Dar ul Harb, (land of war) anything goes, including the treachery and cowardice of attacking civilians.”5
It is interesting that even the secular modern states, who proclaim that terrorists have no religion, provide those services and facilities as per their claimed religion either in jail or if killed in action. Those very coreligionists who declare that ‘terror has no religion’, rally around to protest against alleged religious persecution if they find any of the religious facilities wanting. Except the terrorists who take an honest position of being religious fighters (Mujahedeens), the inherent dichotomy in the position of others is indefensible. If the world is facing religious terrorism let it be faced as such and solutions found taking the reality as it exists and not as it is wished to be.
Do Religious Traditions Provide Space To Justify Terrorism?
No religion justifies terrorism, in terms of the ingredients associated with it in moral context, is correct in a subjective framework. There is plenty in each religion which can be quoted against cruelty, killing of or inflicting injury on the innocents, causing wanton destruction etc. The problem arises when drawing from the same or equally authentic and impeccable sources, the opposite can also be justified. Contestants take subjective positions, deliberately or otherwise, which are in consonance with their self interests, predispositions or psychological fixations and then find religious justifications to rationalise their actions. This begs an objective examination of how much space different religions provide, if any, in support of violence which is inhumanly cruel, can be directed against the innocents, and target people for having a faith and belief system in variance of their own. It is no definition of modern day terrorism; actually there exists none-despite all the noise about its being the gravest threat faced by the modern civilized world and collective global effort to combat it. The underlying problem in finding an acceptable definition has been more political than intellectual; each involved entity wanting to fine-cut a definition which sub serves its interests, immediate or potential. Without getting into the semantics, it would be worthwhile examining if religions do provide any space where such indiscriminate and inhuman violence can be justified. If such violence can be justifiable there is every possibility of terrorists exploiting it to validate their actions.
Wars and violence in the name of religion is an established historical reality and thus part of religious history of most of the religions. If we consider use of ‘illegal violence’ as a binding ingredient of terrorism, probably some of the most inhuman atrocities committed will not qualify to be treated as terrorist acts since they were not in violation of the laws of their times and lands where they were perpetrated. However, in the evolutionary process of civilisations, while some religions transformed themselves with the changing needs of the society few were relatively slow to change. If in the moral jurisprudence, legality is taken as procedural and not substantive part of terrorism probably most of the religious traditions could be found guilty of indulging in religious terrorism in one form the other.
All religious traditions have a concept of just war to be waged in pursuit of what is believed to be true, not by reason but by faith, when ordained by institutionalized religious apparatus. Radicals position themselves as upholders of social and political ethics and, from their point of view; it is not that religion has become political but politics which has become irreligious that needs catharsis.
Just war concept was not only exclusive to expansionist and proselytizing faiths but more so in respect of non-proselytizing pacifist religions. What, however, distinguished the two were the ends for which just wars could be waged (Jus ad bellum) and the means that could be employed (Jus in bell). A comparative study of the means and ends of the just war becomes essential to understand the ideological underpinnings of the modern day religious terrorists since the terrorists try to draw their inspirations and legitimacy from these religious sources. The subjectivity aspect of terrorist phenomenon also needs to be factored in. All terrorist groups at ideological plane condemn terrorism and emphasize strong disapproval of their religion against it. They concurrently, characterize acts of adversaries as terrorist acts, retaliation against which, they feel, is not only permitted but ordained by their religion as a sacred duty. A terrorist considers his acts to be part of a just war. He perceives himself to be a religious warrior engaged in a just war against the enemies of his ‘True God’ and his ‘True Religion’.
A study of the role and place of terror in religion has two distinct aspects. One, the space, if any, that the religion in ideological domain provides to justify terror and two religious histories, which are cited as religious precedents, particularly when associated with the lives of Prophets and other holy men.
In Judeo-Christian tradition, waging of war to achieve religious and political objectives through a just war is approved. In Christianity, a just war, however, must be (a) exercised as a last resort when other peaceful means have been exhausted, (b) it can be declared only on the approval of legitimate authority, (c) ultimate goal of just war is to promote the cause of religion and (d) use of violence should be proportionate. In practice, these rules have, however, been often violated. As observed by, Christopher Tyerman in ‘God’s War: A New History of the Crusades’ and supported by many other authoritative sources on the subject, “Like many religions, Christianity has seen historic periods where some of the faithful and their leaders have resorted to terrorism, such as incidents during the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Reformation. In recent periods, examples of Christian terrorism are overwhelmingly tied to individuals and small groups”.6 Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant Reformation in Christianity said, “It is both Christian and an act of love to kill the enemy without hesitation, to plunder burn and injure him by any method until he is conquered”.7 As far as historical precedents are concerned, mony examples can be quoted of use of violence against the innocents, faith killings, inhuman cruelties etc.
Islam, essentially being a warrior religion and its early ascendancy being significantly attributable to political and military actions, had more strident and specific rules of engagements against religious adversaries. Unlike Christianity, where very little can be attributed to Christ in use of violence against the opponents or defining the rules and ethics of war, prophet Mohammad himself a military commander laid considerable emphasis on this issue as per the setting of his times. Besides Quran, many of the rules are contained in the Hadith, sayings attributed to Prophet Mohammad that postdate Quran. Some of the major doctrines of warfare include:
(a) Exhorting the Muslims to fight in the name of Allah but not to exceed the limits i.e. disproportionate use of force was not approved.Quran said, “Fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits” (2.190).
(b) Revenge killing was approved. Referring to non conformist opponents, it was said that “Kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution be severer than slaughter” (2.191).
(c) No mercy was recommended towards non-believers as they were considered obstacles in Allah’s way. It was ordained “when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite their necks until when you have overcome them”.
While in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions violence was approved to achieve, mutually intertwined, politico- religious objectives, in Eastern religious traditions it was justified only to uphold Dharma (the eternal laws sustaining the creation of Supreme reality) and not to provide political support to the religion or the reverse. Torked Brekke elucidating this fundamental difference of approach, in his highly scholastic ‘Ethics of War in Asian Civilisation –A Comparative Perspective’, observed that “Classical Islam gives criteria for just war which are similar to those found in the Christian tradition, Hinduism on the other hand has been seen as completely alien in its theoretical treatment of war and warfare. Hinduism comes out radically different from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic family of religions”.8 Elaborating, he adds, “Killing for mundane goals was always forbidden according to the dominant ethical tradition of Hinduism”.8 Prof. Francis X. Coolney of Harvard University corroborates the same view in his study of wars in comparative religions. In his research paper, Coolney brings three basic elements of Hindu warfare viz. (a) “killing for mundane goals is always forbidden”, (b) “intending harm is always condemned”, and “no war by base motives and energized by malice towards the others”9 is justified.
Hindu missionaries did not accompany or were followed by marching armies. As early as the 4th Century BC Megasthense, a Greek Ambassador to an Indian court, in his diary observed, “Whereas among other nations it (destruction) is used, in the contests of war, to ravage the soil and thus to reduce it to an uncultivable waste, among the Indians, on the contrary, by whom husbandmen are regarded as a clan that is sacred and inviolable. The tillers of the soil, even when battle is raging, are undisturbed by any sense of danger. The combatants on either side in waging the conflict make carnage of each other, but allow those engaged in husbandry to remain quite unmolested. Besides, they never revenge enemy’s land with fire nor cut down its trees”.10 The treatment of war and conflicts in Hindu theology thus precluded possibility of religious justification for any indiscriminate violence or terror against religious or other adversaries. This is duly reflected in India’s record-one of the most ancient civilisations that rarely went for conquests or carried its sword to advance its political or religious interests.
Even when some practitioners of state craft, particularly Kautilya, in the wake of foreign aggressions in 300BC, came out with new state craft doctrines advocating means which were not in consonance with Dharma to protect sovereign interests of the state, he failed to get religious approval for the same. Rejected by the Hindu theologians, he failed to make any worthwhile dent on aggregate Hindu psyche. Kadimbini Bhatt a noted Hindu saint and scholar of Sixth century AD lambasted Kautilya for his unethical formulations and declared his teachings to be blasphemous.
This largely explains why oriental religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism etc., even when at their zenith, with no major religions to compete, did not opt for political conquests or holy wars to expand their empires or propagate their religions.
The postulates which bolster intolerance or provide scope for violent actions on religious grounds thereby giving ideological justifications to terrorism can be summed up as under;
(a) The concept of chosen people – People belonging to a particular faith believing themselves to be divinely privileged to the exclusion of others.
(b) The concept of True and False gods - The belief that only the ‘God’ worshipped by oneself and the co- religionists is true while the ‘Gods’ worshipped by others are false. It is religious and a service to the true God to destroy the false gods and their worshippers.
(c) Concept of martyrdom – The belief that the world is coming to an end and the martyrs, who die fighting for the religion, will be rewarded for their sacrifices in the world or the life hereafter. It creates a desire for deviant martyrdom, a keenness to die for killing others, making people psychologically dangerous for the society;
(d) Revelations are divine, infallible and unchangeable- Even suggesting or talking about any change on ordained matters is blasphemous. The concept of Ijitihad (Process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation) was highly restricted and confined to areas of Islamic law, social relationships, economic practices etc. and not in respect of religious postulates like Jehad (religious war), Kufr(non believing), Shahadat (martyrdom etc.) as they derive their authority from Quran. In any case, even the doctrine of Ijitihad imperative had fallen in disuse after eleventh century. As Toynbe asserted, when cultures limit variability and diversity, they lose their capacity to adapt to changing circumstances;12
(e) Bond of religious solidarity subsuming all other bonds of human relationships- the religious identity subsumes all other identities and, irrespective of merits, one was duty bound to stand by his coreligionist in any conflict with followers of other religions. Higher the stranglehold hold of these elements on any religion greater has been its inflexibility, fanaticism and propensity for violence.
Historically, different religions had different traditions of response to; (a) Challenges confronted - physical and ideological; and (b) Dynamics of change-political, economic, social, technological etc. These two paradigms to a large extent are intertwined and the response in one area has conditioned the other. Modernity emphasized individualism, political and economic competition, and moral benchmarks dictated by self interest. Colonial imperialism was a manifestation of this phenomenon so was defining new jurisprudence formulated to regulate the world order, including rules of war and peace, trade and commerce, international relations and human rights. Christian West, the dominant player, crafted these rules which sub served their interests. This constituted a challenge to others- either to change or to confront. Those unwilling to comply constituted challenge to the West. Religions which displayed greater flexibility and propensity to change and were able to integrate new variables depicted faster progress while the confrontationists were able to preserve their pristine fundamentals more zealously. Religions which, responded to challenges by adopting orthodoxy also developed a seize mentality while others suffered weakening of religious institutions and their hold over the community.
As Muslims were the dominant power of the pre- industrial era, they faced the challenge most acutely. Looking backwards, they responded trying to find solutions in their past and relying on their fundamentals. Islamic societies for reasons religious, historical and internal power dynamics found it difficult to opt for change to modernity. There was a tendency to turn its gaze “to the glorious past”. It was considered to be the only way to the glorious future – both before and after the death. As observed by Lauren Langman and Douglas Morris of Loyola University in their research paper, “In the face of various assaults or challenges to Islam, from the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols to the Inquisition and expulsion from Spain, and more recently the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th Century, Islamic societies and leaders repeatedly embraced more conservative positions… When the central scholarly community of Baghdad was destroyed by the Mongol invasion, a centre of liberal, diverse learning was lost. This happened again in the Iberian Peninsula…Progressive alternatives to Islam orthodoxy were lost. This resulted in retrenchment and cultural conservatism.”11 The fact that Islam as a religious movement, right from its inception, heavily emphasized its military dimension and its founder had to militarily subdue his adversaries to establish the supremacy of his divine revelations contributed in shaping Islam’s response to challenge. Because of asymmetry of power in the new dispensation, terrorism became the new mode of Islamic warfare to cope with the challenge.
In pursuit of its political and economic ambitions, West provided the causation and to defend itself, the hard line Muslims, defying geographical boundaries, responded by getting radicalized and opting for Jehad. It set in motion a vicious cycle of stimulant- response relationship each feeding on and aggravating the other. With availability of technology, money, and state support by some Islamic states, the phenomenon assumed dangerous proportions.
Religious terrorism, a genetic mutation of fanatic radicalism, has acquired a very special import in contemporary world as it threatens the individuals, civil societies nation states and modern civilisational values equally seriously. Following the post September 11, 2001, strikes, in last six years, the US estimates of fatalities due to international terrorism have been placed at 18,154, while those of domestic terrorism at 32,112.11 Though the norms adopted for compiling these statistics are questioned by some experts who feel that menace of terrorism faced by non-developed countries is not adequately reflected in these estimates, basic points of colossal loss of human lives by terrorism is undisputed. Religious terrorism accounted for bulk of terrorist incidents of violence and well over 60% of persons killed, making it the biggest killer in the present day world.
Islamic terrorism takes the major share of religious terrorism in terms of human lives lost and geographical area covered- extending to Americas, Europe, Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Central Asian Republics, Russia, South East Asia and Australia.
Though the current high intensity and vast expanse of Islamic terrorism is relatively new, symptoms of radicalisation started becoming apparent immediately following the fall of Ottoman Empire. If terrorism is not taken merely as gory details of terrorist depredations or back grounders of terrorist outfits and their leaders, but more importantly, a war of ideas which threatens modern civilisation and way of life, it becomes necessary to have a closer look at evolution of these ideas and the factors that shaped them.
Conflict Of Islamic Radicalism And Secular Humanism-Evolution And Causes
Islam within five hundred years of its birth held sway over Middle East, Caucuses, North Africa and parts of Europe, South Asia and South East Asia. By the end of twentieth century, its size had substantially shrunk, its military and political power degraded, and Muslims left far behind in their social, economic and economic progress. Rather than take responsibility for the fall and find the causes within, which militated against their faith system, they tried to find them outside. Muslims suspected a global conspiracy against them and a serious threat to their faith from western ideas and interpretations of democracy, secularism, socialism, rule of law etc. It was perceived that West in its ruthless pursuit of a political and economic agenda, was out to destroy Islam and hit at its fundamentals. After the First World War when the Western powers carved out of the Ottoman Empire small non-Muslims states under the Sykes-Picot Agreement, their fears got further strengthened. Radical secularisation of Turkey under Kamal Ataturk, who was inspired by rationalist and secular ideas of Zia Gokalp and the abolition of Caliphate were widely resented dubbing Attaturk as a Western stooge. The emergence of Bahai faith at the end of the nineteenth century was suspected to be a part of conspiracy to undermine Islam.
This started a debate within Islam; Why the Fall and what was The Remedy? The modernists attributed this decline to inability of Islam to keep pace with changing setting and environment and pleaded for fundamental changes to modernize the Islamic society. The radicals differed. They attributed departure from the original path, as shown by the Prophet and Shari’a, as the root cause and demanded going back to the fundamentals of ‘glorious past’ to achieve the ‘glorious future’. Both fundamentalists and terrorists today draw sustenance from the thought that modern society is rotting, and the cause of rot is drift from the only true God and religion which Muslims were ordained to establish-Nizam-e-Mustafa (the sovereignty of God). In their view, “The only lasting sustainable solution lies in turning to the word of God in its purest form – the Quran and Sunna. Muslims must turn to the original core texts and interpret them in a way that makes them relevant to the needs of today”.12 As Islam historically when threatened, has tended to embrace orthodoxies laying emphasis on Jehad-fight to defend the faith, expectedly, fundamentalists opted for this route.
Moderate thinkers, such as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, felt that Islam’s problems were consequented by superstitious beliefs and unscientific practices which had crept in the medieval times. They wanted Islam to adopt western-style scientific education, relate social progress to the betterment of the common man and acquire scientific temper. The medieval Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) was considered to be unfit to meet new requirements of the society and the individuals. They also advocated disconnect between worldly and spiritual matters wanting the religion to confine itself to religious matters.
They faced stiff resistance from the conservative Islamic clergy. Western educated moderates were dubbed as puppets in the hands of western powers- who failed to exert enough to assert themselves and opted for the policy of calculated non-confrontation leaving free space to the Islamic conservatives in religious matters. Well established in the fields of politics, trade, education, high skill professions etc., they developed a vested interest in avoiding confrontation with the Ulema’s (Scholars of Islam-usually including the clergy) whose rancor threatened to weaken their standing in the Community.
Muslim Brotherhood, A fundamentalist organisation, inspired by the teachings of Ibn-Taymiyya, an eighteenth century ideological successor to Mohammad Ibn Abu Al-Wahhab, was formed in Egypt in 1928. Some Muslims, owing allegiance to Muslim Brotherhood, spearheaded a violent campaign against the British opposing their presence in Egypt in violation of 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty. The Movement waned and waxed and gradually lost its momentum but was soon replaced by its more strident successors. In early fifties, Sayyid Qutub emerged as the group’s principle ideologue who propagated that the decline of Islamic world “could be reversed” only if a small group of real Muslims emulated the ways of the Prophet Muhammad and worked to “replace the existing governments in Muslim lands with Islamic ones”.15
Qutub’s ideology brought about radical redefinition of Islamic postulates in modern context. He advocated establishment of a true Islamic society based on Quran and Shari’a in which every Muslim was required to submit only to the will of Allah and not to the man or the laws made by him. He proclaimed that the way to bring about this transformation was only through Jehad. He announced Jehad was “Islam’s tool to exercise it divinely – ordered right to step forward and establish political authority on earth. Islam had the right to attack and destroy all obstacles in the form of institutions and traditions if it was required to release mankind from their pernicious influence and to engage in Jehad for this purpose”.14 Qutub characterized secularisation of law, philosophy of socialism, liberalism and modernisations as un-Islamic and tools of oppression. He justified Jehad against them. Qutub’s ideology had a seminal affect on Islamic extremist thought. Though he was tried and executed in 1966, his followers made him a martyr and he became an inspirational icon for later day radicals and terrorists. Every Islamic terrorist movement today swears by Qutub’s ideology. No credible school of Islamic theologians in last half a century has come forward to seriously contest his formulations.
At the political front, following the Second World War, nationalist struggle for independence began in many parts of the world including Muslim societies. However, while in non-Muslim societies, it remained a secular political initiative, in newly independent Muslim states, like Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria etc, it got intertwined with religious identity of the people and the mullah. Even moderate Islamic political leaders considered it tactically expedient to play the religious card, unmindful of its long term consequences. This led to religion becoming central to the polity of these countries, providing space to the radicals to expand their influence. The moderate political leaders, though in private, were contemptuously critical of their teachings, publicly never wanted to be seen on wrong side of the Ulema’s. They also provided financial and other state support to these institutions who started producing a new breed of radicals and potential foot soldiers for Jehad.. All this gave legitimacy and dedicated support base to the radicals which had long term political and security implications. s
The economic interests of West in the Middle East, particularly after the oil boom, made them not only to overlook but even strengthen unpopular, non-democratic regimes whom they could manipulate with ease to sub serve their economic interests. Most of these regimes for their survival at home were dependent on the conservative Islamic clergy and used them to counter the moderates and pro-democratic elements by dubbing them as un-Islamic. In the dichotomy that ensued, while the secular West was busy through theocratic dictatorial regimes manipulating its foreign and economic policies internally the conservative radical forces, opposed to democracy, secularism and pluralism were getting strengthened. The people in power while subservient to the West when outside the country were critical of them at home to curry favour with the conservatives. Emergence of religious institutions and madrassas at large scale, was another supporting factor in rise of radicalism.
The creation of Israel, without adequately addressing the Palestinian question and adjusting the refugees, proved to be the biggest contributory factor in growth of Islamic radicalism. It caused wide spread alienation among the Muslims throughout the world.
The Soviets finding Palestine issue strategically advantageous to extend its influence and add to West’s discomfiture, developed linkages with Palestinian hard line groups opting for resolution of conflict through violence. It selectively equipped and trained them to bleed the West. This provided Islamic extremist access to modern weapons, tactics, and expertise to engage regular professional forces in unconventional warfare, an expertise for which all had to pay a heavy price later.
Lastly, US response to the marching Soviet troops in Afghanistan in 1979; was a critical development in the evolution of modern Islamic terrorism. Mobilising Muslim youth from all over the world in the name of Jehad, equipping, training and logistically supporting them to fight the Soviets had four important adverse consequences;
(a) It brought about a physical interface and unity among scattered radicals at global level, later developing into a global net working and the consequent menace of international terrorism;
(b) The trained and religiously motivated Jehadis on return to their homelands after the Afghan war created modules of terror in their native countries;
(c) It validated the radical doctrine that Jehad, which was blessed by ‘Allah’, could subdue the mightiest. Victory of Jehad not only vanquishing a super power but eventually leading to its dismemberment and freeing of Islamic Central Asia came as a great moral booster to the Jehadis;
(d) Pakistan, a highly unstable Islamic state with nuclear capabilities, saw in Jehadis a potent force which could be effectively leveraged for asymmetric warfare and achieving its politico-military objectives. It patronized the new soldiers of Islam using it with a politico-military agenda in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Central Asia etc. The spill over effect was soon to be felt all over the world including the West.
Salafi Terrorism-The Eminent Threat
Most of the Islamic terrorism that the world is experiencing today- in the West, Arab countries, South Asia or South East Asia- is the Salafi variety of Jehad. Salafism represents a Sunni Islamic School of thought that is credited to an eighteenth century ideologue of Saudi Arabia named Muhammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab. It was later refined and perfected by Scholars of al-Azhar University in Egypt, notable among them being Muhammad Abduh Jamal-al-Din-al-Afghani and Rashid Rida. Salafis insist on reverting to the conduct followed by pious ancestors (Salaf) of the early period of Islam. They believe Islam was perfect and flawless during the days of Prophet Muhammad but undesirable innovations and impurities crept over the period of time. They all had to be identified and discarded. The School is thus opposed to any change and innovations and highly inflexible and orthodox in its approach.
Though its original home was Middle East and it largely remained confined there for many decades. Of late, its spatial growth in Sunni dominated areas all around the world has been notable. For rootless immigrants and disaffected second-generation youth in Europe, the attraction of the authentic Salafism as a way to differentiate from others-as it is seen to be pure and stripped of the local superstitions, conferring a status of moral superiority.21 One of the main political objectives of the Salafis is establishment of Islamic caliphate which could establish the sovereignty of Allah. The concept of caliphate is totally rejected by the Shias-Shia ideologues have their own interpretations of ideal Islamic world order, which create a different variety of radicalism and poses a different genre of conflicts with its own implications. The present day threat predominantly emanates from Sunni-extremism. Sunnis constitute over 80% of the world Muslim population, have widely dispersed global spread and exclusively contribute to the Salafi ranks, who believe in Islamic universality, allowing no local diversions.
Sunni revivalists of the caliphate idea include Hizb-ut-Tahir, a major radical Pan Islamic outfit which has its presence in over 45 countries. In Central Asia they stand for establishment of an Islamic state from Black sea to Xinziang in China. Similarly, an idea of a united Islamic state in South East Asia comprising of Indonesia, Malaysia, Southern Thailand, Parts of Philippines and other adjoining areas is envisaged. Similar vision is harbored for South Asian countries and many other parts of the world. All these new gains, through Jehad, integrated with Islamic world are envisaged to be part of the Islamic caliphate. It may be mentioned that during prophet Mohammad’s time, Arabia had no state and the Quran does not speak of any Islamic state as such. The notion of caliphate is of much later origin and came into existence only after the death of Prophet Mohammed. Salafis stretch the concept of Islamic Umma to mean a united Islamic Sovereign political entity rather than unity of Islamic people that it meant. Political consolidation, they consider is necessary for enforcing the divine laws of Quran the examples of Prophet (Shria), Islamic laws (fiqh) etc. Their conflict with notions of modernity likes democracy, Secularism, equality before law, human rights etc, is fundamental and irreconcilable. They consider that egalitarianism of Islam provides sufficient space to meet all human needs – both physical and spiritual.
The spread of Salafi philosophy has given a quantum jump to Islamic radicalism and concomitant terrorism. It has provided a new breed of radicals and foot soldiers for Jehad with a fire power and geographical expanse never known to any religion, including Islam, in history. The role of ideology in Salafi-Jehadi terror is multi-functional and intertwined to social and political processes. For a Salafi Jehadi the strategic objective is not only creating liberated Shari’a zones but perpetration of Jehad itself and attainment of martyrdom. The ideology both expresses and reinforces a culture of self martyrdom as a strategic good in itself giving rise to phenomenon like suicide terrorism. Salafis consider themselves as Al Taifa-al Mansoura (the victorious group) who alone would be saved at the end of time. They are critical of moderate Salafis who only believe in it ideologically but are unwilling to participate in Jehad, and label them as Margi’eb (prevaricators). This fraternity reaches its apogee in combat and revolves around the common pursuit of martyrdom.16 The promise of brotherhood and its associated group is essential component of the recruitment process, especially for Jehadis in the West.17 In its most extreme form, Salafi “parallelism” can be found in the concept of ‘takfiri’, separation from all elements of society outside their cells. In this concept exclusion both of Muslims and non-Muslims is legitimate and not apostate. This permits the targeting of everyone outside the group, Muslims and non-Muslims for violence.18 The Salafi terrorist ideology creates an obligation for physical Jehad as Bin Laden wrote “the most important religious duty –after belief itself- is to ward off and fight the enemy. Jehad is obligatory now for the Islamic nation, which is in a state of sin unless it gives its sons to maintain Jehad.19
Spatial Growth And Expanse
The above dialectic of Islamic terrorism renders a geographical theatre analysis meaningless. For them, the whole world is a single entity where Nizam-e-Mustafa (the Sovereignty of Allah) has to be established. Briefly, a geographical analysis has to be understood factoring in the following constraining factors:
(a) At ideological plane, the Jehadis consider the areas, where the sovereignty of Allah does not exist as Dar-ul-Harb. Here wars have to be fought to convert or kill to establish Islam. In the Islamic regimes, wars have to be fought to enforce the laws laid down by Quran, Shari’a, etc. This practically extends their arch of action to the entire world.
(b) Emergence of International Islamic Front for Jehad under the over-arching leadership of Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda has brought in ideological unity and global networking among Islamic extremist of various hues. The call of global Jehad cutting across nationalities, ethnicity, language culture etc., renders boundaries of nation states meaning- less. It has converted Al Qaeda from a terrorist outfit to an Islamic movement with no formal structure and centralized control but as a global motivator for terror and violence;
(c) Modern technology and revolution in informatics has enabled the terrorists to communicate with ease, facilitate flow of funds to each other, access common sources of terrorist hardware and draw upon human resources from a wide catchments area. In this scenario, state specific threat assessment or response strategy has become difficult. Geographic boundaries are part of the problem and not solution;
(d) Even where institutionalised linkages do not exist, perception of common enemy and ideological commonality reinforces group psychology which binds them in a common bond to think globally even when acting locally. There are various nuanced inter-linkages which are difficult to define but dangerous to ignore. There are very few experts today who can claim full knowledge of all the groups operating, their inter relationship and areas of cooperation. A terrorist of any area is a potential threat to any other part of the world.
Despite these limitations, as different regions have their own peculiarities, their own set of functional terrorist groups, have differing response systems etc, a geographical analysis becomes necessary.
Middle East is not only the birth place of Islam but also of modern Islamic radicalism from where it spread its tentacles to new areas and mutated to take the form of global terrorism. This later engulfed new areas and graduated to full blown terrorism with global security implications. The festering Palestine issue has been central to Muslim religious leadership, intellectuals, politicians and laymen, cutting across national, sectarian, ethnic and denominational identities. Many militant groups from Palestine and other Middle Eastern Islamic countries targeted Israel to carve out the state of Palestine, which was deemed by them to be their legitimate struggle, and continue to do so.
After the conclusion of US backed peace plan it was expected that the peace will ensue and violence will abate. However, with road blocks surfacing in the peace plan, these hopes have been belied and violence has again escalated. The terrorist groups which currently are in the forefront of militant action include Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), Palestinian Islamic Jehad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hezbollah. Their targets include government facilities, Israelis security forces and the civilians.
Hamas, Palestine’s major Muslim fundamentalist movement and terrorist outfit, has been primarily active in Gaza Strip and West Bank, where its armed wing has been striking. Besides, the armed wing, it has an extensive social service network which assists it in recruitment, intelligence gathering, and providing over-ground support to the armed cadres. Its social service network runs, mosques, health care clinics, orphanages, sports clubs etc. Its declared charter endorses armed struggle to establish supremacy of Islam, destruction of Israel, and establishment of an Islamic State on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. During last five years Hamas has been increasingly resorting to suicide attacks, targeting Israelis civilians and military establishments, leading to sharp escalation in casualties and damage to properties. It is well organised, financially strong and by its armed actions has been able to create wide spread fear-psychosis in the civil population. Though Hamas’s official membership is unknown, the intelligence agencies place the figure of their armed wing, over ground activists and active supporters in tens of thousands.
Palestinian Islamic Jehad (PIJ), like Hamas, is committed to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian State and the destruction of Israel. It is strongly anti-West, holding it responsible for the present plight of Palestinians and persecution of Muslims. Though small, it is better knit and organised; enabling it to undertake some meticulously planned terrorist operations inflicting high casualties. Since 2002, it has upped its ante of violence, particularly against Israeli civilian targets like city buses, shopping malls and cafeterias.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is active mainly in West Bank and is affiliated to Al-Fateh, which claims to be a secular Palestinian nationalist movement but maintains links with armed Islamic organisations. The political objective of the group is to drive away the Israeli Army and Jewish settlers from West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem through an armed struggle and to establish an independent a Palestinian State.
Hezbollah, a Shia terrorist group with quarter of a century long history of terrorist actions, mainly operates from its bases in Lebanon and enjoys full support of Iran. Led by Lebanese based Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and Imad Fayez Mugniyah, who in terrorist circles is considered a legendary terrorist commander and operator are prime targets of Israel and the West. Mugniyah, variously reported as Hezbollah’s operational chief, security chief, chief of international operations and commander of Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah’s armed wing), has master minded series of highly sophisticated and daring terrorist operation in Middle East and much beyond- bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, bombing of US embassy in Lebanon killing sixty three people, attack on US marine and French paratroopers in Beirut leaving 141 dead, being illustrative. Palestine cause is a passion with Mugniyah and recently he agreed to assist Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jehad to recruit foreign nationals’ capable of infiltrating into Israel. Despite being a Shia, in Sunni terrorist circles he is highly admired by all; Osama himself being his great fan. Mugniyah’s meeting with Osama Bin Laden in mid- nineties is on record and it is known that Osama sought his help in building up Al Qaeda’s international strike capabilities. Mugniyah agreed to train and provide expertise to Al Qaeda Mujahedeens in handling of explosives and planning secret operations in exchange for money. His extremely close links to Iranian establishment are well known, who besides financing provide the group with logistic assistance like use of government air crafts to its leaders for visiting Lebanon.
Fateh-al Islam, a Sunni Islamists group with activists from Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, of late, has come to notice for undertaking terrorist operations, particularly in Lebanon. The organisation stands for organizing the Palestinian Refugees community in-line with Shari’a Law and building resistance against Israel. The outfit first surfaced in November, 2006 when it split from Fateh Al-Intifada, a Syria backed Palestinian group. It is strongly suspected of its secret links with Syrian Intelligence. The group gained provenance in May, 2007 when it got engaged in series of clashes with the Lebanese Security Forces. The organisation is reported to be linked with Al Qaeda and had been working in tandem with the outfit of slain Jordanian born terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi. Palestine Liberation Front and Asbat Al Ansar, are other two active terrorist outfits, the later primarily operating in Lebanon demanding strict enforcement of Islamic laws.
Following, American intervention leading to ouster of Saddam Hussain, Iraq has emerged as the bloodiest battle field of conflict between hegemonic power ambition and religion- inspired violent retaliation. Initially, it was estimated to remain a political power struggle between pro and anti Saddam forces with manageable religious overtones. But like many other assumptions, this too was to be proved wrong. Religious fury has now dominated the engagement, both anti US and among rival sectarian Muslims groups, relegating the political players to the margin. Iraqi civil society which hardly has the tradition of religious orthodoxy, has presently been totally eclipsed by the warring religious and tribal sentiments with political, economic, nationalist, and social issues taking a back seat.
Like most of the developments on terrorist front, both in this region and beyond, Al Qaeda’s resurrection has been the most disquieting feature. In Iraq too, after some initial hesitations, it entrenched itself quite deeply and decisively despite some inherent disadvantages like a large Shia population, Al Qaeda being under heavy pressure in Afghanistan and serious beating its terrorist infrastructure received following Sept 11, 2001 strikes. It maneuvered the situation to its advantage by forging alliances with high potential local groups, even where it had substantial differences with them on ideological issues or strategic objectives. In this marriage of convenience, all were right allies as long as they treated US and its allies as their enemies and were prepared to declare Jehad against them. Attracted by Osama’s larger than life image and the crafty alliances that he forged, many groups rallied under Al Qaeda’s banner and soon occupied center stage position. The declared political objective of Al Qaeda in Iraq is to topple the US supported “Un-Islamic Shiite puppet regime” and restore Sunni domination. But more importantly, its strategic objective is to bleed, punish, and discredit US and hopes that West’s engagement in Iraq will swell the ranks of Jehadis and enhance their standing in the Islamic world. It feels that inflicting unaffordable losses on America will make its claim of sole super power look ridiculous to the doubting Muslims giving rise to a new phase of Muslims resistance to the West. They also assess tactical setbacks to US, if sustained, will generate mutual dissensions among their allies, create domestic compulsions at home for them, and lead to reduction of pressure on the Jehadis in different theaters of the world. In Iraq, all perceived supporters of US-politicians, security personnel, suspected spies and government functionaries besides members of rival religious sects are on their radar, leaving very few out of the danger zone. Al Qaeda was responsible for the attack on Golden Mosque in Samarra, a sacred Shiite shrine, which triggered off most vicious Sunni-Shia clashes.
The outfit has large number of non-Iraqi volunteers from Algeria, Yemen, Syria and Saudi Arabia engaged in Jehad under Al Qaeda banner. Structurally, they are not under a unified command nor the tactical operations are coordinated. The terrorist actions, decentralized and localized, are out sourced to local Islamic outfits, tribal outlaws having their private armies, sectarian and religious leaders controlling various Mosques, and the criminal elements. The indulgence of Al Qaeda in complex local level Iraqi politics has also a down side as it has earned them many enemies and Zarkawi’s death is attributed to the local rivalries leading to his betrayal.
Tanzim Qaedat Al-Jehad Fi-Bilad is an important terrorist network active in Iraq. Floated by Zarkawi and closely linked to Al Qaeda, the organisations works in tandem with other local groups like, ‘Islamic State of Iraq’, an umbrella group of Sunni insurgent outfits formed in 2006. ‘Islamic Army of Iraq’, a Sunni-led group with over 15,000 activists has been responsible for large number of attacks against US forces.
The ‘1920 Revolution Brigade’, named after 1920 uprising against British colonial occupation of Iraq is another terrorist outfit sharing military objective of driving out foreign forces from Iraq and establishing an Islamic state. It specializes in use of Improvised Explosive Devices and has been responsible for a large number of roadside explosions as also mortar and rocket attacks in West of Baghdad. The group maintains close liaison with ‘Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq’, a grouping of Sunni scholars who are opposed to West’s intervention in Iraq. ‘Ansar Al-Suna’, a Sunni Salafi group, active in Central Iraq and ‘Ansar Al Islam’, active in North-East Iraq, also deserve a special mention for series of violent actions executed by them in the recent past. Most of these groups though maintain close ties with Al Qaeda, retain their decisional autonomy and ideological stance..
In addition to the groups’ active in Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and now Iraq, there are many other local Islamic outfits having their cells in other parts of Middle East. Al Qaeda has its modules and sympathizers in many of the Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The organisation is opposed to the present Saudi Royalty and wants total withdrawal of US troops from there. Middle East also is an important source of financing for Al Qaeda, though after post Sept. 2001, with the tightening of control on terrorist financing through multilateral international effort, there is discernible drop. It is now mostly being routed through Pakistanis settled abroad, who regularly remit funds to Pakistan from where they find their way to North Western tribal area and Afghanistan.
Egypt has not only been a premier seat of Islamic learning but also a hub center of providing ideological leadership to the Islamic world. Salafi Islam and its doctrines were evolved in Al-Azhar University of Cairo in late nineteenth century, which today form the basis of Salafi terrorism. The first reaction to termination of caliphate was felt in Egypt with the formation of Islamic Brotherhood in 1928, which can be considered as first among the modern radical organisations. Though over the years, Islamic Brotherhood has undergone lot of transformation and has fallen from grace among the hard line terrorists for its alleged soft stance, it played a vital role in the early years in nurturing Islamic radicalism and influencing the minds of those who were to provide radical leadership in years to come. Terrorist groups, however, were not able to develop deep routes in Egypt because of strong counter-terrorism policy pursued by different Egyptian governments, right from the time of President Naseer. Groups like Gamaa Al Islamia, which stands for over-throwing Egyptian government and establishment of an Islamic rule, and ‘Egyptian Islamic Jehad’ another Sunni militant group continue to have their presence and influence in the country. Some groups aligned to Al Qaeda are also active and there hands in some recent terrorist cases is suspected.
Of late some other parts of North Africa are also getting sucked into the vortex of Islamic extremism. Most notable among these is Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). This Algeria based Sunni group has renamed itself as Al-Qaeda and owned up responsibility for series of terrorist actions after Al Zawahiri second–in-command of Al Qaeda declared the group’s allegiance to it on Sept. 11, 2006. The group, till recently, only seen to be a domestic insurgency group wanting to throw out the Military regime in Algeria has now graduated to a full fledged Salafi terrorist group, recently announcing its decision to send Mujahedeens to fight Americans in Iraq. In a January 2007 speech, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, Al Qaeda trained commander of the organisation announced objectives of the organisation to fight in Palestine, Iraq, Somalia and Chechnya.
In the evolution of Islamic radicalism and terrorism South Asian countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh have a special import, both academic and empirical. The first two where the virus proliferated most abundantly and the third where it hit most lethally. Largest number of Muslims have fought and died in the name of Jehad from this region in the last quarter of a century and over two hundred Islamic extremist groups and Jehadi organisations of various hues and sizes still claim their existence, of which about a dozen deserve to be taken very seriously. Islamic terrorists who struck in different parts of the world in last one decade have had some link or the other with the region. However, while the first three have overwhelmingly contributed to the Jehadi ranks and their depredations, Indian Muslims, who are numerically largest, have by and large remained out of it. Though India, with over 40,000 civilians killed, is world’s biggest victim of Islamic terrorism, ironically, majority of those killed were Muslims falling prey to the bullets of their coreligionists from across the border. All the three states where Islamic radicals received state or civil society support are politically unstable, burdened with no or weak democracies, trapped in slow economic and social growth and seen as near failing states. More importantly, though theocratic Muslim states, they themselves are facing a virulent form of sectarian terrorism.
History and geography have conspired to make this region the single largest contributor to the growth of Islamic terrorism as also its major victim. To flush out the Soviets, Islamic zealots were brought from all parts of the Islamic world to Pakistan and Afghanistan forging a unity among those who shared northing in common but willingness to die for a cause they considered Islamic. This convergence, enabled by western powers, not only made a superpower to retreat and eventually fall apart but made Islamists aware of the potential of Jehad and force multiplication effect of networking. Its aftermath saw ascendancy of Taliban – recruited, trained, weaponized and militarily backed up by Pakistan an ally of the west. More sinisterly, Taliban, under Pak patronage, converted Afghanistan into a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists with training bases and infrastructural support to extremists from Turkey to Indonesia, Chechnya to China and Europe to Africa. It became the home of Al Qaeda and gave Islamists a geographical space to pursue their global agenda with impunity.
Counter terrorist military action against Taliban following post September 11, 2001events did shake it. There was, however, a strategic flaw in response pruning was mistaken for uprooting. Clandestine support from across the borders, failure to neutralize the top icons, Karzai’s handicapped governance, shift in West’s focus from Afghanistan to Iraq and duality of the frontline ally enabled Taliban and Al Qaeda to reclaim the lost ground. Today, Afghanistan is fast relapsing to its past. Al Qaeda has found new sanctuaries in lawless tribal areas of North West Pakistan and Baluchistan. Taliban influence has substantially increased in these areas where Pakistan Army is increasingly on the defensive. Heavy military casualties forced them to strike a dubious deal with Taliban’s in September, 2006 which enabled them to consolidate their position. The sanctuaries in Pakistan and lack of control on the borders enabled Taliban leaders to cross over to safe areas in Pakistan whenever under pressure from the NATO troops. Within Afghanistan the terrorist scenario has worsened and there is considerable increase in their striking capabilities. The incidents of attack on the government troops and the civilians have substantially increased. .
Following Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, many factors influenced Pakistan’s strategy and response towards Islamic terrorists. First, having discovered their strength and potential, it decided to hold and nurture them as integral, albeit deniable, instruments of its state apparatus. A subservient Taliban regime was installed in Afghanistan which besides achieving strategic depth against India was envisaged to work as Pakistan’s backyard for dirty tricks. The agenda included installing Taliban prototypes in the Central Asian Republics, reaching out to radical Islamic forces globally and leveraging them to Pakistan’s advantage in the politics of Islamic world. The second policy objective was to settle scores with India on Kashmir and avenge the humiliation of 1971. Pakistan decided to use the Jihadi forces at its command against its asymmetric adversary hoping to succeed where its earlier military adventures had failed. The Jehadis, the huge left over arsenal and the infrastructure to recruit, indoctrinate, train, equip and infiltrate the terrorists, was positioned to launch a covert offensive against India. The West, instead of coming to India’s help or force Pakistan to rollback the apparatus, underplayed India’s concerns. The fire looked too far and distant than it actually was. The prophetic warning to US Congress by the then Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee in October 2000 that ‘Distance and geography provide no nation immunity against international terrorism’ met with characteristic indifference. Pakistan soon became a nursery not only for terrorists who trained their guns on India but those who targeted the West, Arab world, Far-East and other Afro-Asian countries. Keen to extend its influence in unstable Islamic Central Asian Countries, Pakistan used Taliban to strengthen radicals hoping to establish Taliban type regimes there. Radiational effect of terrorism thus started advancing in all directions—India being worst hit due to Pakistan’s hostility and geographical proximity.
The other important factor that shaped events in Pakistan was September 11 attacks in US which overnight changed global perception of the threat. Pakistan could no longer support the Taliban and Al Qaeda as before. It made a tactical withdrawal and decided to cooperate with the West to the extent it was necessary to protect Pakistan’s strategic interests. In a dangerously calibrated response, it made queer deals and counter-deals with both the sides. September 5, 2006 agreement with the radicals in North-Waziristan, marketed to both sides as something done to favour them is illustrative. While Taliban used the dichotomy to their advantage, West lost valuable time and is still trying to decipher Pakistani intentions.
The third factor has been inexorable growth of sectarian violence within Pakistan among rival Islamic groups. Intertwined in a complex relationship of mutual collaborations and hostility, Pak intelligence had used them selectively but is now finding it difficult to live with its contradictions. For different reasons, different groups have turned against Musharraf though still receive some patronage on the quite down the line. Attempts on the life of President Musharraf, however, have led to head on collision and brought to the fore their threat to internal security.
Pakistan’s policy of ‘different strokes for different folks’ bracketing the terrorists in three broad categories viz., those targeting the West, those responsible for domestic violence and those hitting at India has created a confusion that Pakistan is finding difficult to cope with. The problem stands compounded because of convergence of anti-establishment elements under re-emerging Taliban and resurgent Al Qaeda. Classifying terrorists under different labels is proving to be both strategic and tactical mistake. Pakistan continues to be soft on the groups operating against India. Their top leaders live and move around in Pakistan freely, travel on Pakistani passports and run businesses with impunity. Though ISI controlled training camps, and other terrorist facilities have not been rolled back, greater discretion is exercised to achieve higher deniability.
The situation in Bangladesh has fast deteriorated after September 11, 2001, than is normally understood. When Pakistan and Afghanistan came under pressure, a good number of terrorists, reportedly with Pak intelligence support, found Bangladesh as safe haven. Using Islamic card for political gains, the Bangladeshi society stands highly radicalized—local groups working on the franchise of Pak-Afghan terrorist outfits including Al Qaeda. The collective strength of terrorist groups like Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami, Harkat-ul Ansar, and Okaye Jote etc. now is estimated in several thousands. While India is the principal target, the anti-US and anti-West outbursts are too shrill to be ignored. The proximity to arm bazaars of Pacific Rim countries has enabled them to procure sophisticated weapons and explosives. Illustratively, on April 2, 2004 at Chittagong port, 1,790 rifles, 150 rocket launchers, 2,700 grenades, one million rounds of ammunition etc. were seized while being loaded in ten trucks. The brother of then ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader owned the two trawlers who brought the consignment from Malaysia. The weapons, it is reliably learnt, had India as their destination.
South East Asia And China
After early 90’s South East Asia has emerged as another hub of contemporary phase of international Islamic terrorism. Jemiah Islamiyah, (JI) which came into existence in late seventies, as a non descript Islamist group has spread its tentacles in many area adopting a stridently militant posture. It aims at establishing a Pan-Islamic State consisting of Indonesia, Malaysia, Southern Phillipine and Southern Thailand. The group which has its cells in almost all these countries, and traces its routes to ‘Darul Islam’, a violent radical movement that sprang up in late forties at the end of Dutch colonial regime in Indonesia. Though in its early years it did not subscribe to violence but after 1990s it has shown marked proclivities towards violence. These are attributable to its interface with Al Qaeda and other Afghanistan-Pakistan based radical Sunni Islamic groups during and after Afghan war. Its important leaders include Nurjaman Riduan Ismuddin (also known as Hambali), Hambali aften described as Osama bin Laden of South East Asia was arrested in Thailand in August 2003. Noordin and Azhari Hussain, a British-educated engineer and explosive expert, and Mohammad Noordin, a former Accountant, both Malaysian born members of JI, were responsible for attacks on Marriott Hotel and Australian Embassy in Jakarta in August, 2003 and September 2004 respectively. Besides, Abu Bakar Bashir, an Indonesian of Yemeni descent is the group’s ideologue leader who actively associates himself with the outfits operational plans. He joined ‘Darul Islam’ in the 1970s and was imprisoned in Indonesia. He later fled to Malaysia where he recruited Mujahideens to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. In 1998, following stepping down of President Suharto, he returned to Indonesia to run a Muslim seminari in a Muslim majority island of Java. He denies his involvement in any terrorist activity though his involvement in the October 2002 Bali bombing is strongly suspected. He was the head of JI’s reginal shura, and has close links with Al Qaeda leaders.
The group is outlawed in Singapore and Malaysia, while Phillipines Security Establishment has been maintaining a close vigil over it activities Response of Indonesian government has been relatively soft, at least in early years, as a view is shared by some influential persons in the government that precipitated action against JI may well its support base and lead to strengthening of radical forces. There has, however initially been hardening of attitude following the Bali bombings in October, 2002.
In Philippines Abu- Sayyaf, An off shoot of ‘Moro National Liberation Front’ which initially spearheaded a Muslim separatist movement in philipines, is an Islamist militant organisation operating from Southern Philippines. Its avowed objective is to carve out a separate Islamic state for the country’s Muslim minority. Abdurajak Janjalani, who fought under ‘International Islamic Brigade’ in Afghanistan during Soviet occupation, was its founding leader. Crucial financing to form the organisation was provided by one Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, a Saudi businessman following the death of Abddurajak in 1998, his brother Khadaffy Janjalani led the organisation till 2006 when he was killed. With the killing of Abu Sulaiman the successor in January, 2007 the organisation practically became headless as it does not have a committed second rung leadership. The second rung leaders are more of criminals than ideologically motivated Jehadis. Organisations links with its Middle Eastern donors have also got adversely affected. Recently, Radullam Sahiron, an old man with one arm severed and no operational experience was made the chief in January, 2007. The organisation is presently weak but its recovery can not be ruled out. It is also likely to continue with its criminal activities like extortions, kidnapping for ransom etc.
Activities of the organisation have included bomb blasts, assassinations, kidnappings and extortions. One of the major terrorist incidents perpetrated by the group was kidnapping of twenty people, including three Americans, in May, 2001 at a tourist centre. Abu Sayyaf beheaded one of the American captors and held the other two Americans as hostage in an island in Southern Phillipines. In June, 2002, in a rescue operation two of the hostages were killed and one American missionary Gracia Burnham was rescued.
Of late, Southern Thailand has emerged another active area where Islamic insurgents have been attacking Buddhists, including monks, in large numbers. Though in earlier years the movement did not show change in global activities for violence, with the Islamic mind set there was a cascading effect leading to escalation of violence. Over the past three years, the insurgency has claimed nearly 2000 lives. The conflict with the Muslims dates back to 1902 when Sultanate of Pattani in Soutnern most tip of the country was annexed by Thailand. Attempts to forcibly assimilate these ethnically Malay Muslims caused resentment amongst Muslims. The Muslim insurgency in Southern Thailand is still nebulous dispersed with a loosely defined organisational structure. However, among the major insurgent groups Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Coordinat(BRN-C), attani United Liberatiuon Organisation (PULO), Bersatu, Gerakan Mujahidin Islam Pattani (GMIP) are notable. Though it is essentially a local insurgency for greater political rights it has of late been given a Jehadi lavel by its leaders. The confused handling of the Islamic.
China:- In Xinziang autonomous region of China, Uighurs constitute the Muslim majority whose estimated population is around 15 millions. Civilisationally, close to Central Asia, Uighurs till 18th century were either ruled by distant Central Asian empires or not ruled at all. Annexed by China during the Qing dynasty, the Uighurs could never be culturally and politically integrated with the main land. After the advent of Communist rule in 1949, the Chinese government tried to marginalize Islam, settled the Hans to bring about a demographic change and undertake repressive measures to silence the voice of dissent. All this was resented by the Uighurs who considered it a serious threat to their religious, social and economic interests. The simmering discontent led to formation of East Turekstan National Congress which demanded creation of a secular, democratic government in Xingziang where political and economic interests of the original inhabitants were duly protected. They were also opposed to settlement of Hans Chinese in the region. The situation ,however, started deteriorating after early 90s. The bloody clash in the town of Baran in 1990 in which hundreds of Uighurs were killed proved to be a watershed point. The dismemberment of Soviet Union leading to creation of Central Asian Republics and the rise of Talibans in Afghanistan influenced the course of future events. Religious revivalism was discernible and Uighurs developed linkages with their Islamic neighbourhood. The erstwhile Sufi tradition of Uighur Muslims slowly started getting influenced by its more violent and radical varieties. Recently, “China is under threat of terrorists, separatists and extremists who often collude with foreign-terror organisations”. (Ref: Special Report – Peace Mission 2007 – Military Expert: Anti-Terrorism Is An Important Mission of Chinese Army). China, besides heavily banking on its military initiative through People’s Liberation Army has continued with it policy of demographic dilution of the Uighurs through Han settlements and other administrative measures which have not found favour with the Uighurs. The Chinese Special Report of Military experts on anti-terrorism stated that “The People’s Liberation Army has shouldered important tasks in taming the three evil forces as well as safe-guarding the country’s sovereignty” (Ref: Special Report – Peace Mission 2007 – Military Expert: Anti-Terrorism Is An Important Mission of Chinese Army).
Russia and Central Asia
The Northern frontier of Islam like deep in the steppes of the Russian Northern Caucasus and stretches as far north as Kazan . The anscient Turkic Muslim kingdom. After the final defeat of the Mongols in 1480, Russia subjugated Muslim-controlled territories in the late Fifteens to early Sixteens century. As the Soviet Union collapsed, the Islamic nationalist minorities asserted themselves and independent states of Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan were created. However, Russia was still left with some Muslim dominated areas in North Caucasus which included Chechnya, Baghestan. The Muslims in this area led by radical Islamists like Shamil Basaayev and Jordan-based Khattab raised banner of revolt demanding establishment of a North Caucascian Republic extending from Black Sea to the Caspician. They received both ideological and financial support from the Arabs. They also developed close linkages with the Al Qaida. It also received ideological support from Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The rebels claim allegiance of twenty millions Russians which include Tatars, Chechyans, Bashkirs and inhabitants of Daghestan.
Russian response to Islamic uprising was primarily militarily. Its policy was spelled out in two important documents, both formulated during Putin’s tenure as Head of the National Security Council of Russia. The doctrine characterising terrorist bases as illegal military formations, declared that they will be countered with all the might of Russia and Armed Forces. It also entered into a Secret Treaty with Commonwealth Independent States (CIS) and formed an Anti-terrorism Centre in Kyrgystan. China joined this in April 2001. The terrorists attacks and decisive military response led to series of high intensity engagements , with large number of casualties.
Shamil Basaayev was the cult figure of Chechyan uprising and his death in mid 2006 gave a severe blow to the Chechyan rebellions. Earlier movements self-styled President Abdul-Khalim Sudalayev was killed in June, 2006. BasaayEv, the Chechyan field commander was responsible for most of high profile attacks in the war for Chechyan independence, which included siege of a school in Deslan in September, 2004 in which 300 people died – mostly the children. His notoriety attracted many youth to the movement who wanted to take the war to the Russian people by making them their targets. Amongst the old guards now only Doku Umarov still remains but he is too weak to be consider as a substitute for Baasayev. One of the major shift that Umarov has brought about in the policy is that their future targets would be military and not the civilians. This has substantially brought down the level of violence in Chechnya.
Elimination of Basaayev and to a lesser degree of Dzhokhar Dudayev, Aslan Maskhadov, Adbul-Khalim Sadulayev and Omar Ibn al-Khattab. Have seriously eroded the striking capabilities of the Chechyans. The d rawing up of support from the neighbouring Islamic CIS countries and stricter vigil being kept by their governments have also come as a set back. The erstwhile channels of financing from Arab countries have also been throttled to a considerable degree on account of international cooperatiuon received by Russia, particularly from US and others. However, all these set backs are temporary and there is not dilution in ideological commitment and conviction of the Chechyan people to continue the Jihad. The foothold that Islamic radicalism have established is unlikely to be eroded in the wake of global spread of the Islamic radicalism in general and adjoining Central Asian countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular.
Following the dissolution of Soviet Union, the newly emerged Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan took a course different from the Baltic republics. In these nascent break away states, unlike the Baltics, there was no dominant urge for democracy, free enterprise and the freedoms which had been denied to them under the Communist regime. However freedom of religion and a new enthusiasm about their rich past and heritage seized their imagination. Communism which had suppressed their religious urge for nearly three quarter of a century was suddenly rediscovered. Momentous developments were taking place in the Islamic world in general and their contagious neighbourhood in particular, and they could not remain insulated from their influence. Ahmed Rashid a noted Pakistani journalist who visited these states a year after they gained independence observed that “I was besieged by people wanting to know about the world of Islam outside their valleys and mountain villages. Few people knew about the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the depth of Palestinian resistance to Israel or the mini wars that had been waged by Islamic militants in Kashmir, Algeria, Egypt and the Philippines. Many had forgotten their prayers and other rituals of Islam” (Ref. Jihad: The rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid)
Three factors influenced the course of events in these states. Firstly, the older generation which had passed the stories of ‘soldiers of Islam ‘who had resisted the 1917 Bolshevik revolution for long years giving a valiant fight, were remembered and revalidated. Their brutal repression and subsequent religious persecution was recapitulated by the new generations with a sense of spite and hatred; Secondly, the Soviet army had drawn heavily for its manpower from these areas. These youth –Tajiks, Uzbeks, Kazaks etc. – who had close civilisational affinity with the Afghan Mujahideens of various ethnic origins close to them started looking at their Islamic identity with a new sense of self –admiration. Presene of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, drawn from various Islamic countries of the world, gave them an awareness of the strength and expanse of the Islamic Ummah (community of believers in Islam). The eventual defeat and withdrawn of the Soviet troops destroyed the invincibility image of a super power against might of Islam. Moreover, a large number of these conscripted soldiers became aware of their ethnic, linguistic and religious identity which they found was closer to these against whom they were fighting rather than those for whom they were fighting. Concurrently, the Muslims of the region also became aware of the Iranian revolution and the changes that were sweeping the Islamic world. It particularly influenced Tajiks who historically had special relationship with Iranians.
The third factor was the role of Pakistan in post Soviet withdrawal phase when it created Taliban and used it to spread its tentacles in Central Asia with the objective of establishing Soviet type regimes there. It thought to control the affairs of these oil rich land locked countries on the Islamic using Taliban regime as its proxy.
West, particularly US, faces multi-faceted problems in relation to terrorism. Firstly, it is the common enemy of all the Islamic terrorists all over the world, irrespective of th local factors responsible for the conflict and the players involved. As US has global political and economic interests, this renders their citizens and interests globally vulnerable. In dealing with the states where these terrorist outfits are active they require a high degree of brinkmanship as often these require are mutually contradictory requirements which have to be reconciled. This often makes them suspects in the eyes of those very Islamic regimes whose interests it seeks to promote. Capability building and motivating different state governments to initiate effective counter-terrorist steps also proves difficult and problemtic. Mostly the states involved lack the capability or the intentions to act, or quite often both. Regimes, even with best of intentions, which come to power with support of the West soon lose their credibility and consequently the efficacy. The regimes of Karzai in Afghanistan and ……………………in Iraq are illustrative. This leads to their direct engagements which further complicate the problems and provides Islamists a ploy to propagate that Islam is in danger. West’s serious limitations of understanding the culture, ethos, language and delicate societal relationships leads to their adopting highhanded methods often resulting in use of disproportionate force causing heavy collateral damages. The other problem of the West’s is of the homeland security. Most of the Western countries have a large diaspora of Muslim immigrants from the Arab world and other Islamic countries. A good number of them have not been able to integrate themselves with the new societies of their adoption leading to social, economic and psychological conflicts. The Islamists back home find in them useful human material for recruitment. Organisations like Hizb-ut-Tahrir undertake series of steps to radicalize the Muslim youth. Tahrir though itself not a terrorist outfit is the conveyer belt to terrrorism. It is presently active in forty-five countries including most of the West European counties like UK, Germany, France, Italy etc. As observed by Zeyno Baran, Director of International Security and Energy Programs at the Nixon Centre “HT has been particularly successful at recruiting frustrated youth who have lost faith in the systems of the countries to which they or their parents came. As a senior European diplomat has put it, after joining HT, they turn from being rebels without a cause to rebels with a cause”.
The another problem is the inroads that the radicals and terrorist groups have been able to make within the civil societies
Contemporary Trends And Problems
In the last one decade, frontiers of Islamic radicalism, quick to be followed by Jehadi terrorism, have substantially expanded. The sapatial growth is accompanied by acquisition of more lethal and innovative strike capabilities by the terrorists in terms of skills and resources. The global counter terrorists efforts have been a mixed card of achievements and failures. Overall, the successes have been more tactical than strategic. There has been degradation of Al Qaida cadres including some o its senior operators like Khalid Sheikh, Mohammed Atef Abu Zubadeha etc. However, the outfit has revived itself not only in Afghanistan and Middle East but also new areas of Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, Sudan, Turkey, West Europe etc. Jehadi ranks are showing exponential growth both in numbers and geographic expanse. Following are some of the main disturbing features of the contemporary scenario:
(a)More Muslims Falling Prey To Radical Ideology:
The major failure has been on ideological front. In the war of ideas the Jehadi ideology has neither been defeated nor isolated. The failure can primarily be attributed to (i) inability to create a powerful ideological movement within the Islamic community against terrorism to counter the Wahabi and Salafi ideologies. The weak voices of few clerics and Muslims intellectuals who have stood against Islamic radicalism lack credibility and are perceived as lackeys of the West; (ii) Non resolution of entrenched grievances against injustice, real and perceived, and fears of domination by the West; (iii) Disproportionate use of force in conflict areas. Heavy human losses of coreligionists seriously agitates Muslim psyche; (iv) Lack of concerted efforts to counter vicious religious propaganda by the Islamists through a highly networked non-terrorist radical organisations.
(b)Decentralisation of Jehadi terrorism
Mushrooming of independent terrorist groups which are not structurally linked to Al Qaida or any other trans-national organisation, but draw ideological inspiration from them in different parts of the world. The Jehadi movement today is highly decentralized and diffused and the threat from self-propelled cells, some of them totally unknown and comprising less than a dozen self proclaimed Mujahideens, have sprung up in hitherto unsuspected areas. US, Europe, Israel and the places where their citizens live or interests are involved figure high in their hit list. For some of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi based terrorists India remains the prime target area.
(c)Situation in Afghanistan:
Consolidation of Al Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan contributed by many factors like shift in West’s focus to Iraq, dubious role of Pakistan, failure of Karzai government to deliver, rise in Poppy production to fund Al Qaida and Taliban have neutralized much of the advantage that accrued following international effort to control terrorist financing. The new recruitments to terrorist cadres and Taliban carving pockets of control in non- urban ares of Afghanistan have serious security implications.
(d)Developments in Iraq:
Iraq is one single factor that has most profoundly impacted Muslim psyche world over cutting across their sectarian, geographical or denominational differences. The conflict has become a cause celebre for the Jehadis world over and has generated high level of hatred and animus towards US and all those who are perceived to be its allies, including the US friendly Islamic states and leaders.
(e)Accredition In Financial Resources, Weapons, Technical Capabilities And Tactical Expertise:
The terrorists today have access to money, high technology and military hardware despite various initiatives taken to control, it at local and international levels. Easy commercial availability of equipment which can be used for terrorist operations has made the task of terrorists easier. Assistance from some regimes, though more covert and circumspect than before, has not fully stopped. Access to new technologies and equipment, communications facilities use of cyber space for propaganda, recruitment and communications etc have not been effectively checked. The use of dirty bomb or some other techniques for mass killings though not eminent, poses a probable long term threat. As evident from same seized documents and questioning of arrested terrorists, the thought has been engaging the minds of various terrorist groups and the possibility of their springing a surprise cannot be ruled out unless high grade operational intelligence capabilities are positioned in right places. Terrorists are quick to learn from their experience and develop defeat systems to technological or other operational counter measures taken by the governments. Adhering to ‘Time tested methods’ is increasingly proving to be an erroneous counter terrorist doctrine.
(f)Inadequacy Of Global Cooperation And Coordination In Counter-Terrorist Effort:
The global cooperation and coordination in international counter terrorist effort still leaves many gaps, at conceptual structural and operational levels. The anxiety of each nation to exploit the arrangement to its best advantage giving precedence to short term national interests over strategic global interests is a fundamental lacuna. The US and other Western countries perceived as pursuing their national interests under the garb of fighting international terrorism is soon emulated by others, often to the detriment of west’s interests When US made Pakistan as its principal ally in fighting terrorism, fully aware of its continued terrorist sponsoring role in Kashmir, it did not factor in Indian sensitivities. A preferred arrangement would have been to take India on board and convince Pakistan to stop support to all Islamic terrorists irrespective of their targets. Eventually the Americans themselves found that at the end of six year war and heavy deployment of its troops and resources the Islamic terrorism in the area was no where near containment and its epicenter shifted to the areas which were governed by its own ally. The flow of intelligence sharing, particularly the operational grade intelligence is selective shared, again on political considerations, mostly favouring the Western countries.
(g) Signs Of Fatigue In Some Nations:
Fight against terrorism is a war of endurance. There are indications that the past Sept. 11, 2001 resolve and determination is petering out and some countries are thinking of an exit strategy. There have been instances where the regimes have given concessions to the terrorists, either overtly or covertly, for some short term gain. The agreement of September 6, 2006 of Pakistan with Taliban is illustrative. Similarly, a soft approach towards Islamic extremists in Southern Thailand has emboldened them. The doctrine of making no concessions to the terrorists and not striking any deals is going to be much more important in future than ever before. The Jehadis who claim that the victory is well in the sight of late have started harbouring a feeling that the world is wilting under terrorist pressure. It only needs a final push. The policy of appeasement on the spurious argument of tactical compulsion could be a strategic disaster.
The Way Ahead
The above account brings out there distinct features (a) Fast growing geographic expanse of Islamic terrorism, (b) More fundamentalist radical ideology of Salafism substituting the moderals variety of Islam global maturating among Islamic terrorists, mostly under Al Qaeda franchise and (d) Sharp accretion in the offensive capabilities of the terrorists-availability of hardware funds and contacts to procure them.
The battle against terrorism has got to be fought at various levels and in various threatres. It is not with in competence only of the Army, Police, Intelligence and other agencies of the government who alone can bring about an end to the problem. It needs to be despite vastly superior state power of the terrorism fishtive states – military, economic, technological and political – the terrorist can bring organised societies and the states down to there knees by attacking critical targets. Striking at high vulnerability or densly populated areas; not only leads to colossal lose of life and property but generates a global fear that engulf millions which potentially can cause serious political instability or economic rupture. To combat and contain the problem the present generation of statesmen, politicians, strategic thinkers, military planners, intellectuals and the society at large has to take some a concrete measures. Some of the steps which could help ameliorate the critical position could include the following concere steps:
(a) The Jehadis too have some serious vulnerabilities and disabilities. Which need to exploitated one of their vulnerability is that their ultimate political objective of establishing an Ultra-conservative Islamic caliphate based on Shari’a is unpopular and unacceptable to the vast majority of Muslims. “Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied in the Jehad propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences that they seek to persuade” (Ref: Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate - Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States - Dated April 2006). Though it is true that not many Muslim intellectuals have openly and spiritedly come forward to oppose Jehad ideology, it is also true that no well known school of Islamic thought has openly come out in support of terrorism though many of them have accused the West also of indulging in terrorist activities. There is a need to engage these Islamic theologicians to evolve a code of conduct that will delgitimize activities of terrorists and their radical supporters.
(b) Need to define terrorism is another pressing requirement. The terrorists or the states supporting them should not be able to get away under the excuse of their being freedom fighters or people who are fighting for a just cause. While the existing UN resolutions relating to terrorism have been useful in the absence of a UN accepted Convention on Terrorism, they have not been able to make the desired impact. This has been held up for want of an agreed definition of terrorism.
(c) Locating the dark areas and activising the governments there to take action: In its present phase non-discript small terrorist modules have started mushrooming in most unexpected area. In some of these areas the governments are complacent, the terrorists consider such areas of special operational importance to them for carrying out their activities. Al Qaida activists have been able to transit through many such areas in the past where they were not subjected to usual checkings by the complacent staff. Large part of Africa are becoming increasingly lawless and cane become future centres of covert terrorist activities.
(d) Enhancing operational intelligence capabilities and its real time sharing with concern states: Most of the intelligence agencies including some of the best resourced organisations of the West really fall far short of required expertise and skills in collection of real time operational intelligence. Despite huge technical back up support and availability of resources, there is dearth of human talents capable of producing 1 quality human intelligence and undertaking pro-active operations. Such a capability needs to be built as an integrated international requirements. The intelligence sharing is still highly politicized and decisions on with whom to share, what to share, and how much to share are determined more by political considerations than genuine professional demands. Some of the states like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan are very favourably placed to collect highly valuable intelligence regarding internatiuonal terrorism but their contribution has left much to be desired.
(e) Reducing the areas and intensity of conflict: while the root cause theory in dealing with terrorism is fraught with serious dangers and no cause should be acceptable for undertaking a terrorist action, political, economic and administrative initiatives which could reduce genuine grievances of the community must be initiated. How the societies get alienated and at what level alienation leads to exercise of violent options makes an interesting study. If terrorism has to be denied the vital human resource component, and imaginative response to tackle the potential recruits at psychological level would be necessary.
(f) Finding substitute ideology to express dissent: large number of issues on which the Muslims are agitated, actually are not religious issues but political issues. Radicals make an attempt to mobilized the dissent giving a religious context. This should be countered by providing non-religious contexts like nationalism, economic interests, social needs etc. to express themselves. The problems cannot be wished away and their resolutions always to the satisfaction of agitating party can also not be ensured. However, the politics of agitation can have a non-religious expressiuon. This will also help the process of conflict resolutions through negotiations and peaceful methods- an option for which the terrorists leave very little scope.
Al Qaida is expanding its influence at a dangerously rapid pace in different parts of the world. Sunni extremism is likely to continue at a major source of instability in Islamic regimes and high potential threat to the non-Islamic world. Commercial availability of advanced technology and financial prowess of the terrorists is likely to bring about sharp accretion in their striking capabilities. The world has to respond fast and decisively lest it degenerates into a serious civilisational threat.
1. Memo to EU: ‘We call it Islamic terrorism because it is terror inspired by Islam’ by Nick Cohen in ‘The Observer’ May 14, 2006.
2. “Has Religion made useful contribution to Civilisation? By Bertrand Russell.
3. Is Terrorism Tied to Christian Sect by Alan Cooperman, Washington Post June 2, 2003
4. Martin Luther King – ‘Beyond Vietnam – A time to Break Silence’ – Speech.
5. On Crusades’ by Tyerman 2006; Wikipedia- Christian Terrorism
6. Daily Mail 2nd July 2007, a feature by Hassan Butt.
7. Religious Terrorism – http: faculty.ncwc.edu/TOCONNOR/429/429 lect B.htm.
8. A Brief History of India – By Alian Danielore.
9. The Ethics of War in Asian Civilisation – A Comparative Perspective by Torkel Berkke.
10. Pain but not harm’. Some classical resources towards a Hindu just war theory’ Francis Coolney.
11. Statistics on terrorism by Johnston’s Archive under Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, and unconventional warfare.
12. Islamic Terrorism: From Retrenchment to Resentment and Beyond – by Lauren Langman and Douglas Morris, Loyola University of Chicago.
13. The growth of Islamic terrorism by Tusitala.
14. The growth of Islamic terrorism.
15. Fighting the war of ideas by Zeyno Baran: Foreign Affairs – Nov-Dec 2005
16. Ref: Abdullah, Azzam, The Lofty Mountain (London: Azzam publications, 2003
17. Taarn by, “Recruitment of Islamist Terrorists in Europe”, p.38
18. See “From Dawa to Jehad,” pp. 33-34
19. Bin Laden: ‘Serman for the Feast of sacrifice
20. Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate - Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States - Dated April 2006
21. The Nest Attack by Deniel Benjamin
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Religious Terrorism: Civilisational Context and Contemporary Manifestations
Religious Terrorism: Civilisational Context and Contemporary Manifestations