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:
How long the apologists for Islam would say Islamic terrorists are created by the West? The truth is, Islam creates Islamic terrorists.
— taslima nasreen (@taslimanasreen) November 14, 2015
Terrorists shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ while killing. Terrorists have no religion? Actually they have only one thing, that’s religion. — taslima nasreen (@taslimanasreen) November 14, 2015
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:
As long as Muslims say IS has nothing to with Islam or talk of Islamophobia they are not ready to reform their faith.
— Ayaan Hirsi Ali (@Ayaan) November 15, 2015
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.
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