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Targeting Symptom: Ignoring Disease
07/24/2007
By Ram Puniyani

The terror attack in Glasgow (July 06, 07) has once again, brought to the fore the debate about the nature, the problem of terrorism and how to deal with it. There are multiple responses starting from Prime minister, Dr. Singh saying that we should not label terrorists. Further adding that as a Sikh, he knows the pain of being labeled. The section of liberal, progressive thinkers felt they can no longer counter the immense pressure of associating terrorism with religion, a particular religion, i.e. Islam. Right wingers reasserted that it is OK that individual Muslims are put under scanner, and also that noose has to be further tightened around the probable suspects from that community to prevent acts of terror.

While there are multiple dimensions of the debate, some of points arising from the debate need to be understood in depth. First, let's note that in the whole of this debate the historical context is missing. Why is it that this phenomenon has become more painful in last two decades? As to how do we see the difference in the nature of expression, of these insane acts, the acts of terror, coming from the likes of ULFA, LTTE currently and Khalistanis and Irish Republican Army in yesteryears? Some observers point that it is only with Muslim terrorists that they can draw something from their religion to legitimize violence, while this is not the case with others. Is it true? Let's recall that the Khalistanis also resorted to religious identity in a very strong manner.

Since the debate is not put in the historical context we don't realize that when certain Muslims as part of Palestinian resistance in the aftermath of their being thrown out from their own land, resorted to terror, they did not invoke Islam Also the Kashmiri terrorists never invoked Islamic identity till the decade of 1980, before the Al Qaeda infiltrated into their ranks and used Islamic identity for their political actions.

As such not much attention is being to the fact that the phenomenon of terrorism is just a symptom of a disease lying deep in the belly of the contemporary global politics, the politics aiming to control the oil wells at global level. This global political agenda has the local associates in the form of politics, resorting to use of Hindu religious identity, Hindutva, whose ascendance has transformed the communal violence in to more systematic anti Muslim pogroms as witnessed in Mumbai and Gujarat. The global actions of attacking the Iraq, Afghanistan and then again Iraq, have resulted in the feeling of insecurity, persecution and intimidation by large section of Muslims. The local pogroms have added up to the process of some of Muslims falling victim to the traps of well laid out terrorist outfits.

To trace bit of this trajectory, with coming of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, US encouraged Saudi Arabia and its version of Wahabi Islam, which in a superficial way uses the concepts of Jihad, Kafir and violence to achieve its political goals. It is a version of Islam, followed by miniscule Muslim minority in the World, and this formed the base of Madrassas set up to train Al Qaeda in Pakistan, duly sponsored and than supported by US with its puppet Pakistani military regime in toe.

The Mujahidin trained in these Madrassas are being projected as the Muslims, the representatives of Islam . The fact is not only are they small minority amongst the whole Muslim community, they were deliberately promoted, and propped up to fight Russian army which had invaded Afghanistan at that point of time. It is the same Lal Masjid which Mian Musharaff lately realized is a den of terror, which was the darling of military rulers of Pakistan till a while ago. It is this Al Qaeda which after throwing out Russian armies from Afghanistan turned its guns against its mentor in the White House, World Trade Center attack, now against the military rulers of Pakistan. It also infiltrated Kashmir and communalized the militancy, and the Kashmiriyat which was the base of the alienated Kashmiri militancy, was replaced by Islam. As a matter of fact, even Khalistani terrorism had a subtle encouragement from the powers that be and it also invoked religion as the base of their actions.

The points are also raised that the nature of Islam is such that it can be used for terrorism. Most of the religious tomes have been interpreted in multiple ways. The same books have been used for promoting peace and the same ones' have been misused for spreading violence. It pertains not just to one particular Holy book. Whole Mahabharata, the massive war between two set of cousins derives its legitimacy from Gita, the holy book of Hindus. The same religion is used for peace the way Gandhi did, and the same religion is invoked while undertaking the pogroms, one's which we have witnessed in Mumbai and Gujarat not very long ago.

There is also an argument that while dalits have been oppressed they never retaliated by violence, while Muslim in the face of violence resort to violence. Here the nature of two types of attacks/oppressions is very different. The oppression of dalits was/is a case where social norm was given the religious sanction by Brahminical texts and dalits were made to internalize it themselves over a period of centuries. This is more of a case of religious indoctrination associated with the concept of reincarnation, paap-punyaa (sin-reward for noble act), a long process, by no way comparable to the present attacks on section of Muslim countries and communities which has got mixed up. Also the demise of bipolar World has given rise to the identity politics and in current times politics is wearing the garb of religion.

There is an intense discussion about methods of preventing terrorism. By its very nature terror acts are unpredictable. Preventing them is marginally possible at a very heavy price, but due to the scattered nature of this phenomenon it is not realistic to prevent it. You tighten one hole, the other will come up, and that's what has been the case so far. Can you keep over 1500 million people under scanner? On one hand the Clash of Civilizations is made to be the ruling ideology in the world politics, on the other insane variety of religious traditions are consciously promoted for the goal of political agenda. In such a scenario how does one address the issue? Surly no symptom of a disease can be controlled unless the underlying disease is also addressed.

Globally what is being done to undo the aggressions on Afghanistan, Iraq? What has happened to United Nations? What has happened to the report of International Jury's repots on US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq? What justice has been meted out to the victims of Mumbai riots, or Gujarat riots? Have we been able to create a situation where Muslims in India can feel equal? Everywhere there is an active propaganda that they are terrorists? The victims of Afghanistan and Iraq, what ever their religion, will they not incite reaction amongst a section of people, who will think of these insane methods of retaliation as the path to avenge the wrongs done to 'them'. There cannot be anything more foolish than this but what does one do to the psychological processes unleashed in the aftermath of aggressions and genocides?

It should be in the fitness of things that global human community starts thinking of reversing the processes unleashed during last two decades in particular. The attacks on weak countries by mighty empires, the bypassing of United Nations, the organized pogroms against minorities and all such massive violations of human rights, that's where the real disease is and that's what needs to be addressed. The dream of peaceful society, global and local, democratic rights and values, projecting the humane aspects of religion and strengthening the peace movement should mitigate the problem of terror in the times to come. Else, demonization of a particular religion, further alienating a religious community will only worsen their plight. A good physician does not just think of symptoms, but focuses more on the underlying disease in a holistic manner and treats the symptom accordingly!