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Paris Attacks: Islamic terrorism, Islam and the usual denial

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By Nithin Sridhar

In the last few years, a misleading trend can be observed in the discourse on terrorism that follows any major terrorist attack across the world. Whenever such an attack takes place; be it in India, the UK, or anywhere else, almost immediately claims like ‘terrorism has no religion’ or ‘ISIS has nothing to do with Islam’ are propagated by the media and intellectuals across the world.

The same trend can be observed in the Paris attack that took place on Friday as well. What is shocking is how the discourse on terrorism was diverted being concerned about assessing the causes and effects of the present attack to trending in twitter the hashtag: #MuslimsAreNotTerorist.

Of course, all Muslims are not terrorists, nor is Islam as such is a religion of terrorism and barbarism. But, this does not mean terrorism, as practiced by ISIS or terror groups like LeT or Al-Qaida, has no connection with Islam. The fact is that each of these groups is well versed in Islamic scriptures and history and they, not only take inspiration from Islam but also try to strictly adhere to their understanding of the tenets of Islam.

There can be debates and discussions within the Muslim community regarding the validity of such interpretations of the Islamic scriptures, but it is undeniable that there are as many Islamic scholars who provide support for the violent interpretation of the Islamic scriptures, as there are scholars who are against it.

What is also undeniable is that Islam has been invariably associated with violence in one or the other forms throughout the history. Whether it is the wars fought by Prophet Mohammed himself for establishing Islam in Arabia, or the wars fought by various Caliphs and their armies be it in Persia, or India. Highlighting this, Taslima Nasreen, the famous Bangladeshi author tweeted:

 

 

Therefore, every such argument that tries to dilute and whitewash the relationship that the Islamic terrorism shares with Islam by saying the terrorists are ‘misguided’ people, or that they have ‘misinterpreted’ the scriptures, or that they have been brainwashed in false interpretation of Islam holds no ground.

In fact, these arguments are actually preventing a genuine discourse about the root causes of terrorism from taking place. What the Islamist apologists don’t realize is that the fact that by vehemently trying to portray terrorism as not being rooted in Islam whenever a terrorist attack happens, they are showing how deep down even they realize that there is indeed a connection between terrorism and Islam and hence, the need for them to dilute it or whitewash it every time.

Unless and until the governments, as well as people, do not discuss and debate the root causes, no effective and long-term solution to terrorism can be arrived at. This was highlighted by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, activist and author of books like Heretic as well:

 

Therefore, the very first step towards resolving the issue of terrorism is to recognize that terrorism is indeed rooted in religion. More specifically, the terrorism carried out by Islamic terrorist organizations are indeed rooted in Islam.

Shadi Hamid, who recognizes that such a connection indeed exists between terrorism and Islam, asks: “ISIS’s rise to prominence has something to do with Islam, but what is that something?” In answer to his own question, he writes: “ISIS draws on, and draws strength from, ideas that have broad resonance among Muslim-majority populations. They may not agree with ISIS’s interpretation of the caliphate, but the notion of a caliphate—the historical political entity governed by Islamic law and tradition—is a powerful one, even among more secular-minded Muslims.

Thus, Islamic history and religion do have notions, beliefs, and institutions on which ISIS or terror organizations further build up their ideology. In fact, ISIS is rooted in Jihadi-Salafism movement within Sunni Islam. This Salafism movement was started many centuries ago for purifying Islamic faith by purging the faith of its non-Islamic elements.

The second step should be the recognition of the fact ISIS is not a terrorist organization. It is an Islamic Caliphate that derives its political and religious legitimacy from Islam and which calls for the allegiance of every Muslim irrespective of their geographical location. This understanding that ISIS is a Caliphate is most crucial in dealing with ISIS. The world leaders at present appear to be ignoring or at least downplaying this aspect. As a result, their response to the threat of ISIS has had a limited and short-term impact.

It is high time that, the world boldly recognize this intricate relationship between Islamic terrorism and Islam, so that a credible solution to the threat posed by ISIS and other radical Islamists can be arrived at. India should also properly assess the threats posed by ISIS to India and should take proper countermeasures accordingly.

Also Read:

Jihadi-Salafism: The Islamic ideology of ISIS

Why India should not ignore IS threat

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Emergence of Radical Political Groups Raises Concern in Pakistan

Concerns are being voiced about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.

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Rising concerns in Pakistan regarding radical terrorist groups establishing themselves as political parties. VOA
Rising concerns in Pakistan regarding radical terrorist groups establishing themselves as political parties. VOA
  • Tension in Pakistan increasing due to emergence of Radical Political Groups.
  • Extremist groups are gaining a footing in Country’s politics.
  • According to reports, goverment’s efforts are not enough to stop the emerging radicalism in Pakistan.

Concerns are being voiced in Pakistan about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.

Taj Haider, one of the prominent and founding members of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has been in power five times since 1970, told VOA the country is again seeing the trend of extremist groups camouflaging themselves to enter into politics.

“Religion and politics cannot go hand in hand, but unfortunately this is our new reality. We have seen the recent by-elections in Lahore and Peshawar where militant-turned-political parties were able to mobilize people and gather votes,” Haider said. “And these so-called new political parties, with proven terror records, look determined to contest the upcoming elections in 2018.”

In a recent high-level party meeting presided by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Pakistan’s slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the government was sharply criticized on its inability to forcefully implement the National Action Plan and bar proscribed groups from entering the political sphere.

The National Action Plan is a 20-point strategy devised to combat extremism in 2015 that clearly states no banned groups can operate in the country by changing their names or identity.

Analysts say many other political parties are also agitated and wary about the recent political dynamic that has allowed radicalized groups to enter the political arena.

“The government has repeatedly said it will not allow the hardliners to enter into politics, but the reality is different, these parties are going into masses,” Rasul Baksh Raees, a prominent analyst from Pakistan told VOA.

“As long as these proscribed groups stick to their extreme ideologies and violence, they will be a danger to the society and democracy itself.”

Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistani religious party. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

PPP’s acute criticism came as Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), inaugurated the office of his newly launched political party Milli Muslim League (MML) in the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan’s Election Commission rejected MML’s party registration application in October, citing its link to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a U.S. designated terror-sponsoring organization.

But MML looks determined to contest the upcoming state and provincial elections. The party has several offices, has launched a website, and has a social media team spreading its messages through Facebook and Twitter.

Pakistan’s government has repeatedly emphasized it will not tolerate any political party with a proven record of promoting violence and terrorism to use democracy and political means to spread their extreme ideologies.

But critics still say the government is not doing enough to stop radical groups from entering politics.

“Look what happened in Lahore’s recent by-election and who can forget the power show by extremists on the roads of Islamabad. The government was totally helpless,” Raees said.

During the Lahore election in September, a MML backed independent candidate secured the fourth position in the race. The by-election was also contested by Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TeL), another extremist religious party created to carry-on Mumtaz Qadri’s mission, the bodyguard who killed Punjab’s Governor Salman Taseer in 2011 after he had demanded reforms in the controversial blasphemy law. Mumtaz Qadri was later sentenced to death.

Islamic Extremists
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik party (VOA)

In November, thousands of followers of the Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik blocked Islamabad roads for weeks and demanded the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid, after accusing him of blasphemy. The government eventually surrendered to hardliners’ demands after Pakistan’s military played the role of mediator.

The experts say the emerging trend of politicizing militancy is a danger to democracy. They also point out the sectarian and hardline rationale will further complicate the situation in the country that has been trying to combat terrorism for more than a decade.

“Imagine when these hardliners, through political parties, will spread their extreme views on the grassroots level. What will be the future of this country?” Raees said.

But some politicians dismiss the blending of radicalized groups into politics. Haider believes the people of Pakistan can differentiate between politicians and extremists and will not allow militant-turned-politicians to thrive.

“If you look at the past, the religious parties including the Jamaat-i-Islami [an old religious party], despite having a huge following, were never able to clean sweep or get majority in the electoral process of the country,” said Haider.

“Even now, with all these efforts, I believe Milli Muslim League or Tehreek-e-Labaik will not be able to pull large numbers during the general elections. Religious or sectarian votes are scattered in the country and can’t be unified and will not help these newly established political parties to win a prominent number of seats.” VOA