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Terrorism: Origins, Objectives,Outcomes and Antidotes

Terrorism is the use of violence to intimidate and to obtain submission by the victims thereof. The perpetrators tend to be committed to their cause and devoid of peaceful means to attain them. In most cases their grievances are somewhat legitimate and the means to achieve them invariably devoid of compassion, deliberative thought and legitimacy. It is important to understand the circumstances that alter the usual benignly selfish psyche of all human beings to this violently monomaniacal state.

First, they must passionately feel the injustice and oppression of those with whom they identify. Secondly they must feel totally alienated from the so-called oppressors. They must feel completely powerless to use legitimate means to correct or redress the inequities and come to believe that the indiscriminate violent means are proper for and proportional to the goal they wish to achieve. Depending on their fanaticism, they may or may not be willing to die and even more importantly kill for their cause and beliefs. This is why the world is unlikely to see Jain terrorists. The former type seek refuge within the community and follows Mao's definition of a guerrilla being like a fish in the sea camouflaged in a shoal. The evolutionary basis of fish moving in shoals is the anonymity of being in a group and the statistical protection that it offers from predators. The latter, called suicide bombers are the most difficult to restrain, combat or control. They almost always have a deep religious faith and belief in afterlife.

In the past Christianity in the Crusades and The Thirty Years War has indulged in gratuitous indiscriminate violence, but with the advancement of the enlightenment and science education and modern nation states, Christians think of themselves as British, Russians, French or Americans first. Islam and its concept of Ummah still makes Muslims think of themselves as Muslims first and British, French, Americans or Indians second, if at all. The orthodox nature of their religion, that there cannot be any newer or greater prophet or modification of behavior contrary to the Koran, which is the word of God, stagnates them in a rut. The example of Indian Muslim agitation in India after WW1 against the abolishment of defeated Turkish Khilafat while sheepishly acquiescing to their own British rule, shows their allegiance to Islam is greater than to the nation. Similarly in India and the West, a large majority of immigrants from diverse Muslim areas ranging from Asia to North Africa have failed to acquire marketable skills and education and even in the second generation are concentrated in the lower socioeconomic strata. European racism and xenophobia are not without blame and such prejudices are overtly manifested and police and other discrimination is easy to practice due to differential pigmentation. What is somewhat psychologically understandable but ultimately self-defeating is, the resentment that is bred prompts many not to greater efforts and education, but withdrawing deeper into the cocoon of religion, nostalgia for the glorious past of Islam and a closed minded community of alienated fanatics rationalizing their failures by transference of hate.

The current large minorities of Muslims in Western Europe stem from the secular orientation prevalent there as proven by marginal church attendance and the newer humanism with atonement for past colonization by liberal immigration and asylum policies, together with the drastic need for low paid workers for menial jobs rejected by the more educated natives. The last was based on the assumption that economic betterment and education will bring enlightened thought and would wean the new immigrants from their constricted and fundamental beliefs. This premise has proved false, leaving the EU with a large population of disenchanted Muslims that serve as a refuge for their smaller radical fifth columnists. There is an unmentioned strategy of Jihadi terrorists, like the century old violent anarchists and the present Afghan and Iraqi insurgents, that the unfocused indiscriminate violent retaliation by the establishment will further disillusion the minorities and increase recruitment in the terrorist factions. This fear of Muslims with the economic fears of globalized Polish plumbers spelled the outcomes of the recent EU referenda and more importantly sounded the death knell of Turkey's entry to the EU. The ostracization of Iran and Syria will add further fuel to the Muslim fire, kindled by the oppression of Palestinians.

The best domestic strategy to combat the growth of terrorism is for countries with large Muslim minorities to emphasize scientific education, which will throw a spanner into afterlife, religion and Jihad. It is equally important to monitor the Islamic religious schools and shut off their hate propaganda. This is easier for advanced countries with good compulsory schools and prevalent secular humanism, but more difficult for India with strong religious beliefs and paltry funding for free schools. It is equally important to improve and facilitate economic integration and use active measures to prevent alienation by state policy or enforcement action.

It is also paramount to refrain from short-sighted mis-adventurism like funding fanatic Mujahedeen against the former Soviet Union that has led to the current blowback and the foolhardy invasion of Iraq that has increased terrorism. This would require restraints on cowboy chicken hawks and a leash on their lapdog.


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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06-Sep-2012 12:10 PM

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