Whenever there is a terrorist attack, the most comfortable thing to say is “Terrorism has no religion”. And in most discussions about Islam the stereotype is that “Islam is a religion of peace”. But it is no secret that more than half the violence on the planet has been inflicted for religious reasons. The irony is that, it is the perpetrators of terror who claim that what they have done are religious duties while it is mostly the people from the victim communities that insist that the act has no religiosity in it.
This attitude to absolve religion as the cause of violence is very much understandable in India. Indians are not attuned to think that religion can motivate its followers to indulge in violence. This thought is alien to Indian religions. After all, those religions that incite violent actions have an altogether different theology than the Vedic religions of India. The fundamental goal of a Vedic religionist is freedom from the sense of limitation that comes along with body-mind-intellect complex. While this goal of human life for a Vedic religionist is accomplished with or without allegiance to any of the millions of Gods available; for the religionists of the other kind, there is no such possibility of either opting for a personal God or not developing affinity to any of them.
The fundamental dogma in the religion of books is that, God is looked upon as a judgemental person located in a place yonder where the lights are shining bright. Reaching that place and living with him is the goal of their religion. Fundamentally, there is one and only God who has mercifully showered his compulsive blessings only through a one and only prophet. It is this very merciful God in these religions who order His followers to fight men until they testify that there is no God other than him. It is part of the doctrine to wage war against other religions and bring them under submission to Islam.
Hit by intense desire to remain politically correct or by virtue of being sponsored by vested interests, the ‘intelligentsia’ tries desperately to project some reason or the other to blame as motivation for terrorism in order to avoid blaming religion. Even before the involved outfit claims any responsibility for the terror attack, certain sections of media and ‘intellectuals’ start stuffing the opinion space with reminders about Babri Masjid demolition and the Gujarat ‘progrom’. When the attack happens in any western country, fingers are immediately pointed to American intervention in internal affairs of certain countries. Whether India or abroad, the popular opinion gets build in the lines of how Hliary Clinton tweeted after the Brussels attack: “Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism”. So as per the ‘comfortable truth’, we are trained to and thereby supposed to believe that neither Islam nor Muslims is responsible for terrorism. Conspicuously, what will remain missing from the public discourse is who then is responsible. They insist that the villains are “Misguided Muslims”. While enacting this campaign, they smartly keep the people whom they ‘inform’ muted from asking the other pertinent questions – “What are those people who are supposed to ‘guide’ Muslims doing?”, “Why are the ‘misguided’ allowed to become more powerful than the ‘guided’ ones?”, “Do the patrons of the ‘misguided’ ones need ‘guidance’ too?”
There may be political, social, economic and national reasons that might have contributed to the growth of each terror establishment. All these reasons may contribute to raise funds, control resources, manufacturing and supplying of arms among several other factors. It may even determine targets of attack that suit the cause of their growth story. But it will be unwise to lose track of what actually is the basic cell that makes a terror establishment and how it is developed. The answer is not very complex. The basic unit that forms the big terror outfit is a “recruit”. It is by understanding the common intentions and collective motivations of every single recruit that terror psyche can be understood. It is by answering these fundamental and simple questions that terrorism can be countered. “Why a youth does get motivated to join a terrorist outfit?”, “Why are his parents not a greater influence on him than the recruiter?”, “Why does his teacher, school and education not lead him to take better informed decisions?”, “Why does his religion not allow him to get ‘misguided’ and remain committed to the set of moral values that it proposes to teach?”.
The motivated campaigners rush to the debate scene holding a placard written in capital letters alerting the masses of a phenomenon called Islamophobia. They pre-empt the saner ones who prefer not to mince words and tell it like it is. So when they actually tell it like it is, they sound communal. Just as they would not ask those pertinent questions about the ‘misguided youth’, they also would also not answer a very basic question. Is ISIS the first Islamic terror organisation? Is this a new phenomenon emerging from the Islamic world recently, within the past two or three decades? Before each radical outfit that we can name today, there has been some other evident force that was actively radicalising youth earlier. Preceding those outfits, there was some other. Jihad has been central to Islam since the time of their prophet. The war against terror as administered by many countries may come to an end with killing down of the ace leadership of the radicalising avatars that exist today. But war against radicalisation may perhaps never come to an end unless the root cause of radical thinking is addressed.
This is why there is a lot of difference when someone says “terror has no religion” and someone wiser says “delink terror from religion”. Asking those custodians of religion to delink terror from their teachings, is like tactfully saying now your religion is linked with terror; and we can leave a better place for our children by throwing out from religious teachings those aspects of hatred and incitement of violence. The calls to moderate Muslims to raise their voice against misrepresentation of their religion by the radicals are repeatedly almost falling in deaf ears. With no sincere efforts on the part of the world Muslim community to challenge the ever increasing radicalisation, the rest of the world is slowly getting to believe that the ‘misrepresentation’ that is intended, is perhaps a wishful thinking about what Islam could have been. A system of self-introspection is virtually non-existent in the Islamic societies because such a pursuit would be deemed un-Islamic and would elicit death penalty. The possibility of forsaking one’s religion also gets ruled out because of the same reason. If at all something can be termed as Islamophbia, it is coming face to face of this bleak situation and being helpless about it; but not the recognition of the inherent problem of violence in Islam. Let it be clear that it is ordained in the scriptures to be violent against those who not only have different value systems but even against those who does a different interpretation of the same text. It is for this reason that we often see sectarian clashes and people killing each other within the Islamic societies as well. Those who recognise this inherent problem in religion, are the ones that insist that certain rules be laid down before allowing immigrant Muslims to settle down in a land. Most such demands are not unreasonable, particularly when they insist that those who come into the land should adapt to the culture of the land so that people can co-exist with modern values forgoing the medieval superstitions that they bring along. Now that co-existence is inevitable, if this inherent conflicting nature of Islam is simply brushed aside as Islamophobia, what will ensue in the event of living together is medieval barbarism prevailing at the cost of modernity. It may be uncomfortable. But truth is often far from being comfortable.