International Terrorism: A Perspective to Current Scenarios
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Issue Vol 22.3 Jul-Sep2007 | Date : 27 Dec , 2010

Some tenets, which could receive an enlightened scrutiny, could be the following:

  • Sovereignty of Allah. The Muslim recognises Allah to be the supreme entity under whose grace all phenomena operate. This raises two important questions; first, how can the will of an abstract entity be judged, and second, how to reconcile this tenet with the will of the people, which in a democracy, stands for the supreme law. Attributing sovereignty to Allah implies that no independent human interpretation can stand on its own. The Islamist terrorist claims divine sanction for his actions and is not dissuaded by temporal laws.
  • Concept of Ummah.This is interpreted as giving a license to a Muslim to operate in any country and, thus, identifies unofficially the whole world as a stage for what is considered legitimate terrorism by its perpetrator.
  • Violence as a permissible activity.Quran approves of violence only in defence of faith or justified rights but only under approved authority. In today’s world only the state constitutes such authority. All acts of terrorism thus become illegal under Quranic injunctions. Violence against women and children is not justified even in Quran.
  • Desirability of martyrdom. This is the desired objective of the committed terrorist, who sees his sacrifice as a service to Allah. In today’s world, however, martyrdom is an anachronism and ensures no recompensation to the individual, staking his life.
  • Blasphemy. There is a heavy punishment in Quran for blasphemy or apostasy and the fear of such punishment silences those who may be ready for reforms or alternatives. Thus, freedom of expression, now a recognised human right in all the enlightened world stands denied.
  • Gender Equality. Women need to be given equal rights with men under Islam. They seem more outspoken against misinterpretations of Islam.

The leadership, which delights in such activity, will not hesitate to plan more such incidents. They will have no inhibition in using a weapon of mass destruction, panic or disorder if they can build one or contrive to get one.

9/11 was a major act in a drama, which is still being played out. Its most significant message was what a few committed can achieve in a devastating manner against the mightiest power on earth. From the IIF perspective it was an inspiring act of faith and conviction. That faith and conviction continue to live in the heart of many in the Islamic world because others link them to the body of their beliefs, to the structure of their religious cultural heritage and to the agony of an historical experience of domination. That explains the absence of widespread outrage in the Muslim countries against 9/11 or other incidents of Muslim terrorism elsewhere. The leadership, which delights in such activity, will not hesitate to plan more such incidents. They will have no inhibition in using a weapon of mass destruction, panic or disorder if they can build one or contrive to get one.

A state like Pakistan can be a willing collaborator, considering that it parted with nuclear weapon technology in favour of North Korea against established norms or that its nuclear scientists have been privately in touch with terrorists like Bin Laden. Leakage from Pakistan of WMD material into the hands of a would be terrorist is considered to be a plausible scenario by many experts on terrorism worldwide and has been causing considerable anxiety to the national security establishments the world over.

Combating Terrorism

Today’s terrorism has to be combated at the ideological level. The combat will extend to decades, may be a century or two even, because the battle will be for the minds of the people. End of one Bin Laden will not end the war because the adversary in this war is just not an individual or the band of his close supporters. If they are exterminated, many more will rise in their places unless the hatred, which motivates them, and the belief system that sustains them, gets altered. The real challenge lies in recognising that the real enemy does not exist in a concrete shape but in the abstract, in the dogmas and strains, subject to easy misinterpretations and manipulations. This calls for a strategic campaign. A tactical onslaught will prove totally inadequate.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Anand K Verma

Former Chief of R&AW and author of Reassessing Pakistan.

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