Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Engendering Terrorism


Maryam Sakeenah

The chain of events following September Eleven “divided the Sons of Adam into the ‘civilized’ who obeyed the US orders, and the ‘barbarians’ who did not”, writes Safar Al Hawali in his vociferous Open Letter to the US President. Lines and distinctions blurred, black and white turned indistinguishable. The ‘terrorist’ as pictured by the generality of men came to be seen as a bearded, turbaned, dark-skinned fanatic of invariably Arab origin. And the Global Enemy, not very surprisingly, came to be assimilated with Islam itself. So much so that any terrorist attack around the world inevitably results in ‘Islamic terrorists’ being singled out as the real perpetrators, in most cases without so much as a shred of evidence. And the myth goes universally accepted, unquestioned. Ordinary practising Muslims too have to bear the brunt of this widespread misperception. And now we hear of painters representing the devil in characteristically Muslim attire on Cathedral walls. Unfortunately, it has come to be believed by many that extremism is somehow inherent within the Islamic doctrine.

They do not understand, however, that extremism, more than being a religious phenomenon, is a psychological one. A more judicious observation reveals that most people described as ‘religious fanatics’ are not motivated by religion at all. Because religion, particularly Islam, would never condone the activities that the so-called ‘Islamic terrorists’ indulge in. Unlike the ideology practised by the War-on-Terror frontrunners, Islam does not justify taking innocent civilian lives as ‘collateral damage.’ The oft-used expression ‘Islamic terrorist’ is erroneous through and through. The very word ‘Islam’ means peace, wholehearted submission and wilful surrender to Allah. It is disgusting to couple it with terrorism. Surrendering to the fundamentals of this great religion never creates terrorists. It creates ‘Muslims’__ those who entrust themselves, heart and soul, to their Lord who is Merciful and Just. As a result of this submission, the ‘Muslim’ rises to a higher station of existence where the essential faith within expresses itself in all its splendour in every aspect of life_ individually, socially, politically.

Violent religious fanaticism takes root due to a desperate inner urge for venting out the outrage you feel at the injustice your people suffered for their religious identity. This outrage, fuelled by frustration, fears, insecurity and anxiety, turns overwhelming enough to make the fanatic commit acts that manifest a disregard of the spirit of the very same religion that he claims, in his misdirected enthusiasm, to defend. Fanaticism, therefore, originates in minds and not in religious doctrines.

A quick glance at the history of religions indicates that in their respective periods of crisis, each religion has experienced rising trends of fanaticism in its ranks. This was at its ugliest in during the Crusades, when the Christian Papacy threw up the most hideous form of religious fanaticism and bigotry. An interesting example that comes to mind is that the use of water for cleaning was declared a crime punishable with death for the reason that it resembled the Islamic ritual of ablution before every prayer. Infact, Christianity, with its tenets of ‘forgive thine enemy’ and ‘turn the other cheek to thy oppressor’, began to glorify militarism and valour in the field. The institution of Knighthood became a holy order, and the Knight, with his sword, lance and armour, became the epitome of the ideal Christian virtues. Fanaticism infused an element of ruthlessness in the Church’s penal system. The Crusades brought about a gradual deterioration of the Church as a gruesome fundamentalism began to seep in. ‘Heresy’ became looser and wider in definition as untried, alleged ‘heretics’ were burnt at the stake in Rome. This bigotry that lodged itself in the Church’s system after the Crusades, finally brought about its own fall through the birth of the cult of ‘Rationalism’ during the Renaissance years in reaction to the fixity in the Church’s religion. We find similar examples in Jewish history too. The Zionism that has entrenched itself into the power-wielding centres all over the world is an institutionalized form of the xenophobia which was an outgrowth of the frustration and deprivation that the Semites felt throughout the course of their tumultuous history. Infact, since Herzl’s foundation of the World Zionist Organization, this freemasonic ideology, with its fanatical power, has permanently sidelined the real true Judaism that was. The Jewish religion has dwindled into an unholy religiosity. This is how fundamentalism undermines true religion. Through the ages, it has destroyed the true spirit of religions, races, nations and civilizations.

Terrorism, therefore, is engendered by deprivation, injustice, defeat, crisis and turmoil. The West has been fighting its so-called ‘War on terrorism’ for years now, yet a true understanding and judicious identification of ‘terrorism’ remains elusive. It is actually Islam which has suffered most since the ‘anti-terror’ onslaught.

And it really smells foul. All oppressed, tyrannized, exploited, subjugated nations in the world happen to be Muslims. You cannot call it a coincidence. The Muslim world is going through one of its darkest phases in history. Throughout its length and breadth oppression reigns supreme in various forms_ direct foreign occupation justified by lies; undemocratic puppet-rulers perpetuating remote-control occupation, and the weeping sores of Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir. The indifference to these very real issues shown by the ‘civilized world’, and in fact the many evidences of complicity that a dispassionate observer can see for himself is disquieting. The ‘collateral deaths’ of Afghan and Iraqi civilians during the so-called ‘War on Terror’ remained unlamented, unsung. This silence of unconcern rang loud through the ‘minutes of silence’ observed for the London bombing victims. It is very telling that the death of more than one and a half million Iraqi children was termed by US diplomats as “a number we’re not terribly interested in.”

Western analysts erroneously believe that 9/11 which triggered off the War on Terror was the cause of the West's policy-shift against Terrorism rather than an effect of some of their policies that have directly affected Muslims. Turmoil in the Middle-East_ Palestine, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kashmir and numerous other modern-day crises have been simmering since decades. In fact, the origins of Muslims' suffering go far back since the rising of Western imperialism that swept Muslim lands, subjugating them, trading in their destinies. This phenomenon coincided with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, that sowed the seeds of resentment and deprivation that we see now. What has made this grow to a maddening degree of late is that since the end of Colonialism, Muslim lands have been oppressed under dictatorial homegrown neo-colonists whose policies reflect an outright disconnection with Muslim public opinion, a lack of sympathy for the Muslim cause and a ruthless imposition of agendas dictated from abroad. The internal disunity and the lack of a leadership truly reflective of the aspirations of the Muslims has made things worse.

In the face of all this, those who do not have a sound grasp of the essence of religion (and there is always a good round sum of such people everywhere), seek desperate means to avenge these wrongs that have a direct impact on their lives. It is then that terrorists are born. The hurt of injustice is poignant, maddening. It turns victims into perpetrators. It turns the sinned-against into sinning. It creates desperately fraught people, driven, out of their distress, into recklessness. It devastates lives, distorting precious human beings into ugly fanatics, brandishing weapons, hungering to forcibly win back what was snatched away from them, thinking themselves to be the pious devotees of a noble cause, with a God-given license to seek revenge in any irreligious, immoral way.

An outraged fanatic trying to defeat the system that made him what he is, is a mere symptom of a greater malaise that ails our planet. Terrorism is an outcome of an unjust World Order spearheaded by xenophobia, arrogance and megalomania. The following extract from Kahlil Gibran seems extremely quotable here: ‘And if anyone of you would punish and lay the axe on the evil tree, let him see to its roots. What judgement would you pronounce on him who slays in the flesh and yet is slain in the spirit? And how persecute you him who is a deceiver and oppressor and yet in himself is aggrieved and outraged?’

Western writers and analysts would do better to face the issue squarely, looking at the ground realities, rather than burying their head in the sand.

The West has played well with words, carefully drilling into the public that the ‘terrorists’ hate the West for its freedom and democracy. This twisted logic has duped most of their public who deem their maniacal ‘War on Terror’ as morally justified. But it is not these ideals that are hated. Instead, the painful lack of these same values in the West’s international policies is what the sinned-against of this world resent. And this is what creates terrorists.

Ironical that the world focuses its enthusiasm on fighting an enemy that it engendered itself through the ruthless imposition of an unjust world order. Terrorism is born out of deprivation and distress which stem from the injustice in this world. The rotten tree grows and branches out of the fears and insecurity felt by the victimized. And that tree will only fall if the axe is laid at the very roots. If the leaders of the ‘war on terrorism’ sincerely wish to pursue their professed aims, they must first revoke their own unjust policies that create terrorism. The wrongs that create terrorists and suicide bombers must be redressed in all sincerity or the poison tree will keep yielding more of its rotten fruit. The lack of sincere effort towards addressing the grievances of the outdistanced world of Islam only shows an insidious complicity of the anti-terror Coalition in engendering terrorism as a part of this ‘Great Game.’ ‘A single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent assent of the whole tree. So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong but with the secret will of you all.’ (Kahlil Gibran)