In today’s context when we talk of international terrorism, we invariably refer to Islamic/jehadi terrorism. Unfortunately, the response to this, described as the global war on terror, is neither global, nor is it against terror. It seems restricted to handling the problem in only one part of the globe against targets that are unevenly defined. The war either in Afghanistan or in Iraq, is not about defeating terror because both have created more terrorists than it destroyed. An over-militarised response has given it the wrong description of a war on terror whereas one should be thinking in terms of counter-terrorism.
The battle has become globalised capitalism versus global Islam. One is affluent, powerful, politically empowered mainly Christian but running out of resources; the other is poor, politically un-empowered and Muslim, and resource rich. Both find nationalistic politics an impediment to their progress because nationalism impedes economic domination and theological control. The former wants unhindered access to finance, markets and resources required to retain its primacy while the other strives for Islamic Caliphates, which practice a puritan Islam and return to former glory.
Suicide terrorism is the latest weapon in the armoury of the terrorists. Although non-Muslims, like the LTTE in Sri Lanka, had used this weapon even before the jehadis did, the incidence of suicide terrorism has been on the rise since 2001.
To the Muslim world, Osama bin Laden is not necessarily the devil incarnate that is perceived in the rest of the world. Osama had promised to deliver his followers from centuries of oppression and humiliation by the West and by their own rulers. Western media and propaganda to demonise Osama have made him into a cult figure. Many believe in him and his ideals and are willing to die for them. And there is no way you can kill a man who is willing to die.
Suicide terrorism is the latest weapon in the armoury of the terrorists. Although non-Muslims, like the LTTE in Sri Lanka, had used this weapon even before the jehadis did, the incidence of suicide terrorism has been on the rise since 2001. Tackling this is the most difficult aspect of counter-terrorism because it is the most acute form of asymmetrical warfare and there is no effective military response to it.
There may be Muslim anger at the West, but there has also been considerable state assistance to Islamic terrorism. Saudi Arabia has funneled billions of dollars into West Asia, Pakistan and the rest of the world for over three decades for the propagation of puritan Islam in madarssas. This has made it easier for young minds to accept the cult of violence and be prepared and ready to kill in the name of religion. The other sponsor of jehadi terrorism has been Pakistan. This in fact has been the main weakness of the so-called global war on terror for it accepts the two main sponsors of Sunni Islamic terrorism as partners in the war on terror. Both the countries remain reluctant partners, or even duplicitous partners, yet continue to receive certificates of good behaviour from the US.
There has been a lethal mix of Saudi money and Pakistani manpower supplies to jehad. Saudi funding through various trusts like the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and the Al Rashid Trust, have helped finance madarssas and mosques. Saudi financial contribution to the making of the Pakistani nuclear bomb and contribution to the Afghan jehad has emboldened Pakistani adventurism as well as obduracy.
In Europe, the problem is that socio-economic factors lead to political-religious manifestations. In India, externally inspired political factors threaten Indias socio-economic fabric.
It is becoming apparent that after being asked to lie low for some months after September 11, 2001 and December 13, 2001, Pakistani jehadis have again become active. They surfaced in style after the October 8, 2005 earthquake. It is easy for the jehadis to operate in Pakistan because of the jehadi inclinations of the Pak Army and whatever Musharraf may claim, the motto of the Pak Army is still – jehad fi’isbillla – jehad in the name of Allah. Pakistan remains the base for the Taliban, for the al Qaeda elements and the Waziristan problem is a result of these indulgences.
From being the region’s nursery for terrorism, Pakistan has “progressed” to becoming the globe’s university of terrorism. Arrangements for their training, supply of arms, ammunition and logistics remain intact. Operating either on the eastern front or the western front, Pakistan-based jehad’s foot soldiers operate with ease. It is pressure from these groups that make Musharraf anxious to have a deal with India and paradoxically, so long as these groups provide the jehadi mindset to the Pakistani establishment, no deal is likely to stick.
Years of education in religious madarssas and even in mainstream schools where jehad and hatred for other religions is taught, has spawned jehad’s foot soldiers required to do duty in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Chechnya and beyond. The thousands of Taliban have been the alumni of these madarssas that are spread all over the western border of Pakistan. Aided and abetted by the army and the intelligence, leaders of these jehadi organisations cannot afford to keep them unemployed in Pakistan.
Even if there is de-escalation in Kashmir, they will be diverted elsewhere – West Asia or Europe. Add to this the spectre of a failing state armed with nuclear weapons, a highly organised terrorist infrastructure primarily aimed against India but available for other theatres and mentally equipped with a jehadi mindset that seeks the destruction of its neighbour, makes it a very uncertain neighbourhood.
In Pakistan, for instance, despite the often repeated claims by Gen Musharraf, the main jehadi groups – Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen (HuM) – remain active as new incarnations. Their leaders – Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar and Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil – roam around freely preaching hatred and jehad and ready to do battle in Jammu and Kashmir or even in the rest of India. Their publications – Ausaf, Taqbeer, Ghazwa Times, Al Haq, Majalla-tul-Dawa, Zarb-e-Taiba, Shamsheer, Zarb-e-Momin and others have a circulation of millions and some of them are distributed free of cost. Despite all the so-called anti-jehadi crackdowns none of the main leaders have been arrested. Just a few months ago in March, Hafeez Saeed held a massive rally at the Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore where he preached jehad. The sectarian Sunni mafia grouping, Sipaha Sahaba also remains active distributing anti-Shia literature and was allowed to take out a rally in Islamabad last April.
The Taliban, resurgent in Afghanistan from sanctuaries in the turbulent Waziristan of Pakistan, have been sending their volunteers to Iraq for training in suicide terrorism and arms.
The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba that operates in India and other parts of the world like Australia, (a French national involved in a plan to carry out an attack in Australia had stayed at an LET camp in Pakistan) has also set up branches in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. The LET had been trying to recruit Indian Muslims in the Gulf for their anti-American activities but without success. But it would seem that at least some Indian Muslims have succumbed to help the LET in its campaigns in India after the two bomb explosions in Mumbai in August 2003. However, the response of the Indian Muslims to the Danish cartoon issue would indicate that some Indian Muslims have begun to take part in pan-Islamism.
In Europe, the problem is that socio-economic factors lead to political-religious manifestations. In India, externally inspired political factors threaten India’s socio-economic fabric. In Europe, the Muslim population is a result of immigrations after the Second World War and their succeeding generations. In India, the Muslims are indigenous. In fact, it is Pakistan where its Muslim immigrants from India – the Mohajirs -after independence, have had difficulty being accepted by the Punjabi-dominated society. In Europe, the original population and the host governments have had difficulty in accepting outsiders who are extremely aggressive about preserving their way of life. The challenge in Europe is how to amalgamate; the challenge in India is how to preserve the amalgam.