Global Terrorism has emerged as the most serious problem confronting the world in the present times. Statista –The Statistics Portal indicates that there have been about 130,000 terrorism related deaths in the world between 2006 and 2013, arising out of about 90,000 terrorist attacks.
These days, most of the attacks are carried out by so called ‘suicide bombers’ the new ‘kamikaze’ of the modern age.
In order to understand the true nature of terrorism, it may perhaps be useful to study the profile of terrorists – those who actually carry out the attacks.
Mastermind of 9-11 attack, Mohammad Atta studied architecture in Egypt, he continued his studies in Hamburg Technical University, Germany. Atta’s co-conspirator, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad received a Bachelor of Science (BS) in mechanical engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 1986.
Jehadi John or Mohammed Emwazi was born in West London. He graduated from University of Westminster, studying Information Systems with Business Management. The Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Sarnaev, studied in Bunker Hill College, Boston. He had American girlfriends.
Paris attacks of 2015 were carried out by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was born in Anderlecht, a suburb of Brussels, Belgium. He attended the select Collège Saint-Pierre in Uccle from 1999 to 2000. His accomplice, Salah Abdeslam, the Belgian born French National of Moroccan descent, operated a bar Lers Beguines in Molenbeek Brussels.
In the most recent attack in Dhaka which left 30 people dead, was carried out by six well educated youth belonging to well-to-do families of Bangladesh.
All these terrorists were well educated with adequate exposure to modern life. They had great prospects of leading a comfortable life in the developed world, which may appear like a dream to millions around the world.
It is important to understand, what is it that makes these terrorists fight the modernity, or life itself?
The will to live and survive is the natural driving force in the world, which has led to the creation and continuation of all life on the planet. It is apparent that there is something so drastic and attractive, that overpowers “the natural will to live and survive”, of these terrorists, and makes them behave in the way they do.
Key to understanding the motivation lies in the correct identification of that ‘something’, which attracts these terrorists to commit such barbaric acts of violence, which are rarely encountered in the natural world.
That ‘something’ seems to be an ideal or a rosy picture – real or imagined, about Islam. That something appears to be an ‘illusion’, which is turning these well-educated persons into dreaded terrorists.
This illusion acts in two ways. One is that it acts towards the past – conjuring up false images of some imaginary glorious period of history. Second is that this illusion promises some glorious future – albeit after death, of some imaginary paradise. There is also the added prospect of becoming a hero, or a saviour of Islam.
So far, the various governments of the world have addressed the problem of terrorism largely as a ‘security’ issue. Unfortunately, not much attention seems to have been paid to studying and analysing the ideological and spiritual basis of terrorist’s motivations.
In order to win the war against terror, the world will have to unite and fight this ‘illusion’. The question is, how this could be achieved? Since the roots of the Islamic terrorism lie in the Islamic Fundamentalist ideology, it is important to see what exactly it means?
Islamic fundamentalism or “al-oṣooleyyah al-eslaameyya” has been defined variously as a movement of Muslims who harken back to earlier times and seek to return to the fundamentals of the Islam.
Fundamentalist ideology ordains that a person live similarly to how the Prophet Muhammad and his companions lived. Islamic fundamentalists favour “a literal and originalist interpretation” of the primary sources of Islam (the Quran, Hadith and Sunnah), and seek to eliminate (what they perceive to be) “corrupting” non-Islamic influences, from every part of their lives.
Statistics indicate that almost 95% of victims of terrorist related violence were Muslims. An analysis of the period 2006 to 2014 shows that roughly 8763 deaths were attributed to Taliban related attacks, 8085 to Al-Qaeda, 3440 to Boko Haram and 3111 deaths were on account of ISIL related terrorist attacks.
The fact that Muslims are at the receiving end of terrorist’s war also seems to be suggested by the statistics that in the year 2014, on account of terrorist related violence Iraq accounted for 3370 deaths, Pakistan 1821, Afghanistan 1591and Northern Africa 763 deaths.
These important and overwhelming facts seem to show that much of the anger of the terrorists is directed towards their own fellow Muslims, rather than towards other communities.
The celebrated media personality, Fareed Zakaria came to similar conclusion, in a programme aired on CNN recently. Fareed suggests that the fundamentalists seem to at war with their own religion, i.e. Islam, rather than other religions.
It therefore appears that Islam is more at war with itself, rather than with other religions. There does not seem to be a ‘Clash of Civilizations”, rather there seems to be a war within the Islamic civilization. Others are merely collateral damage.
Thus the Islamic terrorists, following the fundamentalist Islamic ideology, seem to be waging the ‘holy war’ or ‘Jehad’ on two fronts. One is against their own fellow Muslims, who are trying to adjust to modern times and against the modern times itself. The other is upon the corrupting influence of ‘other societies’.
Author Olivier Roy describes “….’neo-fundamentalists’, (i.e. contemporary fundamentalists) as more passionate than earlier Islamists in their opposition to the perceived “corrupting influence of Western culture,” avoiding Western dress, neckties, laughter, the use of Western forms of salutation, handshakes, applause,” discouraging but not forbidding other activities such as sports…”.
The fact “….fundamentalist ideology ordains that a person live similarly to how the Prophet Muhammad and his companions lived…” implies that the fundamentalists wish to turn the clock back to the middle ages.
The Muslim fundamentalists wish to take the entire Muslim society back to the medieval times. Moreover, they also dream to forcibly make all the peoples of the world, conform to this view, howsoever ridiculous it may sound.
In reality, thus the world of Islamic fundamentalists seems to be at war with the ‘flow of time’, and the dynamics of time itself.
Islam seems to be at crossroads, as beliefs and tenets of Islam appear to come in direct conflict with modern and scientific values. Whereas other religious communities have adapted and evolved, Islam has not been able to do so.
In the light of above facts, it becomes imperative that the conflict of Islam with modernity is resolved directly and comprehensively.
At this point, one comes across a minor problem. In the name of secularism, the intellectual class, as well as governments around the world refrain from indulging in the deep analysis of any religion, let alone Islam, lest it be perceived as ‘interference in religious matters’. Therefore, governments and civil society seems to wash their hands off, by not addressing the problem arising out of ideology of fundamentalism.
This attitude needs to be corrected. The dire situation arising out of global Islamic terrorism demands a more pro-active approach from the governments as well as the civil society around the globe.
The modern world cannot wash its hands off the problems arising out of Islamic Fundamentalism, but it will have to sit up and confront the problem directly. The problem has to be identified clearly and correctly.
If the problem is identified as a psychological crisis, it has to be addressed psycho-analytically. If on the other hand, the problem is identified as a spiritual one, it must be addressed spiritually.
It may however be clear that the obscurantist and medieval views must be identified and confronted directly.
The problem also seems to be that overwhelming majority of Muslims seems to agree silently with the fundamentalist views. This is very apparent in almost all societies.
It has been seen that though it is the vast majority of ordinary Muslims who seem to be bearing the brunt of terrorist violence, they remain mute spectators in the crisis. They do not oppose the fundamentalist preachers and silently acquiesce with the fundamentalist view.
This fact is corroborated in the excessively large turnouts at the funerals of important terrorist leaders.
Thus the important thing is that while it may be a little difficult for non-Muslim organizations around the world to take a lead in pointing out and bringing about change in Islamic ideology, the miniscule minority of Muslims, who are not fighting the flow of time and modernity to take a lead in bringing about change.
The handful of well-educated Muslims, who are adjusted in the modern way of life will have to take up the fight against the menace of global terror. They will have to suffer and sacrifice. They will have to stand up and face the consequences. It is certainly not going to be an easy task.
The rest of the world can only support these modern Muslims from the side-lines. In order to rid the world of Islamic terrorism, the modern Muslims will have to become the “Real Jehadis”.