Contemporary terrorism is a very difficult proposition to define as scholars, experts and critics have offered no fewer than one hundred definitions. On a global level, both democratic and authoritarian regimes on both sides of the Atlantic and radical organisations such as ISIS hold divergent views on the very definition of terrorism.
For an ordinary Palestinian or a Syrian, the Israeli or Syrian regimes are to all intents and purposes brutally engaged in acts of terrorism. Paradoxically, for these governments, those elements viewed as terrorists indeed form part of the resistance and more crucially they have been deprived of challenging the government on all fronts.
Somehow, it seems that terrorism has emerged as an industry that profits those in the arms trade, the elite power brokers and members of radical groups. Another problem is that many ill-informed, self-styled and self-proclaimed so-called- scholars of religion and terrorism frequently appear on TV screens, radio shows and in the newspapers professing to be experts when in fact they are mere amateurs who in turn misinform viewers, audiences and readers in the long run.
Perhaps for these reasons, a prefix ‘Islamic’ work wonders within the western media and policy discourse on terrorism. To an extent, most sections of the world media report terrorism as if the suffix ‘ism’ attached to it display that perhaps all forms of contemporary terrorism have a deep attachment to the Islamic tradition. It is a well-documented tradition now that a few politicians and their associates in the media create fake terror events to blame Islam and Muslims. An example of such fake news we can call upon centres upon Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor of Donald Trump who was exposed for lying. In this sense, one can say that Islam is arguably a victim of those who comment upon it without reading and understanding it and those who target innocent civilians without obeying the true teachings of the faith yet calling themselves Muslims in the process.
Certainly, Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir brilliantly sums the argument up in a neat fashion and argues that “ISIS is a much Islamic as the KKK is Christian” As we have already entered into the New Year we must be collectively resolute in fighting the menace of terrorism. No bomb or the explosion has ever differentiated between a Muslim and a non-Muslims, be it in the heart of London’s Arab heartland of Edgware Road or Paris busiest malls.
If contemporary terrorists are serving their Allah (God) then for sure they would never have attacked, slaughtered, butchered and raped their fellow Muslims in mosques, shrines, hospital and in markets. Take for instance, the notorious ISIS, or any other extremist and fanatic group, Muslims are always a prime target be they in Iraq or Pakistan, attending obligatory prayers in a mosque or paying a visit to Sufi shrines.
So far, terrorism has caused more damage to Muslims across the world than to non-Muslims. Best research surveys conducted in the West indicate that from al-Qaeda to ISIS and non-Muslim fanatics and extremist organisations, groups and even a few State sponsored terrorism regimes like the one in Syria, Myanmar, and Israel have brutality killed, wounded and permanently disabled hundreds of thousands of Muslim civilians including children, women and non-combatant men.
Both the American President George W. Bush and Tony Blair used religion to justify their attacks on Iraq but no one dared to call their inhuman actions as a “Christian terrorism” even though the perpetrators were admittedly of a Christian faith? Tony Blair and the London bombers have been accused of being inspired by religious schools that have in turn become sources of human tragedy on both side of the Atlantic mainly because both have misrepresented the fine values of their faiths. Past historic records reflects that most section of the media, policy and even the public bodies in the West have been less inclined to describe terror attacks of Oklahoma City Bombings in 1995 and the Norway attacks in 2011, were never labelled as “Christian terrorism” even though no one can deny the fact that those perpetrators were happened to be Christians.
Let’s refresh our memories, of the British media and policy that did not persuade to coin a phrase “Jewish terrorism” in the wake of King David Hotel Bombings 22 July 1946, as they rushed to call the 7 July 2005 attacks on London as an act of “Islamic terrorism” suggesting to ignorant public that it is Islam that is responsible for the attacks.
Even the British quality broadsheets, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph continued to use “Islamic terrorism” in their reporting of the 7/7, in all form of journalism including in their editorials during 2005 and 2006, whilst at the same time embraced the fact the London bombers were more westernised than being inclined towards the manifestation of traditional Islam.
Investigative journalist and anchor, Mehdi Hasan, defied the increasingly “common view” of all terrorists whether it is ISIS or al-Qaeda members “religious” and “devout Muslims” as being misleading and factually incorrect.
Surely, from the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the slow genocide of Kashmiri Muslims to the barbaric attacks on unarmed Muslims in Indian Gujarat in 2002, in Israel and India to the tales of Srebrenica massacre and beyond, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists cannot be painted as a violent communities nor the followers of these religion and neither any sensible person could suggest to portrays these violent and brutal acts as a “Jewish Terrorism”, “Hindu Terrorism” or “Christian Terrorism”.
Reliable research finds tell us that whether it is America or in Europe, most terror attacks in the past few years have been carried out by non-Muslims. Likewise, frequent shootings in America are commonly presented as act of mentally-ill disfranchised individuals and not the “terrorists”.
So far, the number of American people died in gun violence are far higher in number than those that become victims of terrorist atrocities. But as soon any perpetrator of a terror attack happens to be a Muslim, the media’s language and tone suddenly changes and describes the attack as “Islamic”, for instance, the shootings of San Bernardino in South California that was described as an act of “Islamic terrorism”.
Of course, by all means terrorism is an ugly and highly condemnable act but has anyone in the authority ever suggested that those acts of shootings should be classed as act of “terrorism” and moreover these must be attached to the belief of perpetrators. Thanks to all those in high-ranking positions whether it be religious or in political authority both in the West and East who have condemned terrorism in all forms be it Muslims scholars and Imams or the non-Muslim prominent figures and peers. Throughout Europe, amongst the influential political, religious and media circles, a sensible and timely consensus is developing that is a loud call to separate religion from the contemporary terrorism.
A long awaited step has taken some shape as Europe’s most influential religious authority the Pope and a few of its prominent political figures have come forward to publicly deprecate the overwhelming use of “Islamic terrorism” and rather supported the belief that terrorists have no religious affiliation.
Yet, another powerful religious figure, Dalai Lama, upon his visit to the European Parliament and Council of Europe in Strasbourg, distanced himself from those Burmese Buddhists inhuman treatment of Muslims. The Dalai Lama, who supported and launched a campaign, #NoHateNoFear in France, said that, It is wrong to refer to Muslim terrorists or Buddhist terrorists because once they engage in violent terrorism these people have ceased to be proper Muslims or Buddhists and it’s wrong to blame a whole community for the mischief of a few.
On political spectrum, Europe’s most powerful women, Angela Merkel, recent statement that “Islam itself is not the source of terrorism” maybe a policy shift, that would serve as a bond between Muslims and non-Muslims to fight terrorism. In this regard, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan logical wish to drop the use of a controversial and unpopular phrase “Islamist terrorism” is justified because there is no such phrase in the dictionary for other religious communities.
In post-modern Britain, The Guardian, well-known for its secular ideology challenged the growing misconception that modern-day terrorism has anything to do with religion. Its recent editorial argued that, Terrorism is a tactic, not a religion, and it has been employed in the past 150 years by Muslims, Jews, anarchists, communists, Christians and Buddhists, all of whom were to some extent motivated by their beliefs. Yet there is a persistent belief in the west today that Islam has some unique and visceral connection to violence and intolerance that no other faith approaches. This is wrong in theory and untruthful as to the facts.
Somehow, Europe needs to be willing to accept that there is no such thing as “Islamic terrorism” and therefore it is the time that Muslim governments like Pakistan must also acknowledge that Mullahs (mosque imams) have little to do with it in comparison to those proven guilty radicals and terrorists sponsored by the political parties like Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and Pakistan People Party (PPP) that openly claimed to be secular and liberal at best.