Terrorism’s real nature

Saleem Safi

The basic faults in the strategy against terrorism will make success in the war against terror irrelevant at best. While devising a strategy both the US and Pakistan have missed the point: it is a multi-dimensional problem. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are fighting this war professionally and cover all fronts of the war, while the US and Pakistan are fixated on a single point of armed response to the threat. They ignore the ideological, social, political, economic and strategic aspects of the problem.

Terrorism in the region sprouts from ideological and religious sentiments. Al-Qaeda and affiliates believe in a certain interpretation of the Islamic concepts of jihad, state, crusades, non-Muslims and killings of Muslims who support non-Muslims in this conflict. The Afghan war ended but the ideology survived for more than 30 years and a whole generation was brought up on this theology. Al-Qaeda has now shouldered the burden of propagating this ideology through mosque leaders, the internet, CDs and all other means of communications, not only in the region but in the whole world.

Contrary to the ideology of Al-Qaeda and others, the traditional Islamic interpretations eulogise love for humankind, sympathy, peace, respect for life and property of every man and a belief in peaceful means of preaching and propagating Islam. The US and Pakistan needed to counter the Al-Qaeda through promotion of this true interpretations of the concepts of jihad, state, crusades and Muslim-non Muslim relations shared by an overwhelming majority of ulema. The majority of people who oppose Al-Qaeda’s interpretation of Islamic concepts are either terrorised into silence or are indirectly used for promotion of that ideology. Only a few, though at the cost of huge threats to their lives, are fighting the Al-Qaeda ideology.

This specific interpretation of jihad and state has formed the basis of Al-Qaeda’s ideology. For instance, this ideology preaches that state authority or approval is not needed in waging jihad against infidels. Similarly, it advises its adherents that helping Muslims in trouble in any part of the world is not only necessary but an act of faith. Such thinking effectively negates the sanctity of nation-state boundaries. It is precisely in accordance with this thinking that the borders of Pakistan were opened for Afghans who were allowed to carry out their activities inside Pakistan. All mosques leaders faithfully played the role of advancing the Afghan cause. The arrival was facilitated for fighters from all over the world, including Osama Bin Laden and his top leadership, to come here with the financial and technical support of the US. Pakistan not only welcomed them as state guests, but also hailed them as heroes.

This ideology also stipulates, as an act of faith, that evil should be put down with force. This thinking has permeated mainstream religious political parties attacks, which results in attacks on New Year’s Eve parties, the defacing of signboards in Peshawar and many other incidents. This interpretation is still current among the majority of Muslims youths and in the general masses. They are convinced of its correctness. The same political and religious leaders who oppose Al-Qaeda and its affiliates at public platforms privately adhere to the same narrow interpretations of jihad, state and Islam. Resultantly, an overwhelming majority of people in Afghanistan and Pakistan support Al-Qaeda’s struggle against the US and allies.

In Pakistan, the mainstream political parties are not only convinced of this interpretation, but also propagate and preach this ideology. The faith and Islamic knowledge of those who disagree with this ideology are questioned even by mainstream religious elements. So here a dilemma, unanswered to-date, arises as to why the preachers and propagators of this ideology are not targeted while those who practice it are chased till death or incarceration in this “crime”? In this situation, how could these militants be defeated?

When it comes to the US, not only the religious parties but also the mainstream secular political parties are propagating the view (which is true to some extent) that the US and allies are the worst enemies of Islam. The intentions of the US and its allies towards Pakistan are also not good. In the Islamic world, not only the common man but the majority of the elite holds this view. In the Arab world, the elites in government hail the US as an ally, but after retirement or in private conversations they would call the US an enemy of Islam. This line of thinking gives rise to sentiments of hate and revenge against the US and its allies, which are exploited by the militants for their own purposes.

For the last nine years, the US ignored all calls for improving its image in the Muslim world and reconsideration of the repercussions of its policies that strengthen these views. On the other hand, Al-Qaeda and the militants are skilfully exploiting this environment against the US and its allies through all possible means.

In Pakistan, the sentiments against the US are running high. Therefore, any government seen close to the US cause as a frontline state is least expected to get public support in the campaign against Al-Qaeda and the militants. And as the latter groups, in the public view, is leading a campaign against the US and its allies, the majority of people are least interested in helping the Pakistani security forces and the government in this fight against militants.

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem.safi @janggroup.com.pk


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