By Karmanye Thadani:
The concept of jihad in its true form in Islam has already been touched upon in the third article in this series and will not be delved into in this one, but will explore other dimensions of this rampant prejudice.
Those prejudiced against Muslims assert that while all Muslims may not be terrorists, all terrorists or at least all terrorists claiming to be acting on religious lines are Muslims. Many people who are not at all overall anti-Muslim have also fallen for this totally false propaganda; even though there are numerous examples of non-Muslim terrorists in India and abroad, including those who act in the name of religion, from the Christian, Jewish and Sikh communities, and even among the Hindus, anti-Dalit terrorist organizations like the Ranvir Sena (mentioned earlier in this series) and Sunlight Sena may be cited.
Among Christians, the Catholic fundamentalists bombing abortion clinics in the United States, those responsible for the 1996 Olympics blasts, the Ku Klux Klan members (who went about publicly lynching African-Americans at a certain point of time in American history and were involved in terrorism as late as in 1998) and neo-Nazis who give a Biblical basis to their racist ideologies. The Irish Republicans who have killed several innocent civilians in the name of Catholicism and closer home in India, secessionists in Tripura from the Baptist sect of Protestant Christianity who have forcibly converted Hindus may be mentioned.
Among Jews, mention may be made of the Zionist terror groups that bombed King David Hotel in Jerusalem and killed hundreds of innocent people in the village of Deir Yassin way back in 1948 and they targeted not only Muslims but also British officers and even anti-Zionist Jews. These instances of terrorism took place much before the terms ‘jihad’ and ‘Islamic terrorism’ became common in every household across the globe, and even today, there are Zionist terrorist groups acknowledged as such by the government of Israel that bomb mosques and there are Jews forcibly settling down in the occupied Palestinian territories.
As regarding Sikhs, mention may be made of the Khalistan Movement, which was justified on a religious basis, citing the example of the secessionist struggles of the Sikh gurus against the Mughal regime, and the Khalistanis killed innocent Punjabi Hindu civilians in large numbers, identifying Hindus in general as enemies of the Sikhs, besides even sects of Sikhs like the Namdharis who they considered heretics, and even Sikhs of their own Khalsa sect outspoken in favour of India (even in Kashmir, Kashmiri Muslims outspoken in favour of India were killed by the militants). Also, though the ISI had a role to play in backing this movement, just as RAW had in backing the movement for the creation of Bangladesh, the fact remains that such movements cannot gain mass momentum without basic fault-lines, which in the case of the Khalistan Movement were the annoyance of fanatic Sikhs at what they perceived to be the dilution of their faith owing to intermarriage with Hindus and there being no separate body of personal law for the Sikhs as distinct from that of the Hindus, and it may be noted that Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale started off under Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s patronage.
As for terrorists not giving a religious justification for their actions, there are numerous across the globe, examples from our subcontinent being secessionist insurgents like the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka (they bombed civilians in marketplaces and even killed several moderate Tamil leaders) and in the north-east of India, besides even left-wing extremists the world over like the Naxalites in India (and by the way, the Naxalites have killed more people than Islamist terrorists, the usage of the term ‘Islamist’ instead of ‘Islamic’ being deliberate, and the Naxalites are a much more grave threat to the Indian Republic (as this article which featured in the Hindustan Times says) who have attacked civilians (the Naxalites have a history of bombing election booths, killing innocent voters, because they themselves are opposed to democracy, and they have also burnt down entire villages, owing to some people in those villages, in their eyes, being police informers; the ULFA too indeed killed many immigrant Biharis in Assam) in addition to security personnel.
Talking of Europe, interestingly, a report by Europol, the criminal intelligence agency of the Council of Europe, pointed out in a report that only 3 of the 249 terrorist attacks (less than 2%) that took place in Europe in 2010 were carried out by Islamists (the report can be accessed here ). Some of the worst genocides perpetrated in modern history, such as of the Jews during the Second World War or even the one in Rwanda (and both had religious undertones too, though the motivations were primarily not based on religion), were not carried out by Muslims; so, killing innocents is certainly not something exclusive to Muslims. On the other hand, the man who voluntarily assisted the Indian Army in the rescue operation to save the girl Mahi whom he didn’t even know, was a Muslim, Sorab Khan, bearing testimony to his humanity.Terrorism by Muslims usually attracts more attention generally owing to the significant global urban centers it takes place in, besides biased reporting by some elements in the Western media sometimes omitting significant acts of terrorism by others, as has been discussed in the first article in this series . Nor do the prejudiced Hindus even try to understand the developments in international politics that have sparked off the Islamic radicalism in the last few decades, like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (the resistance to which was US-backed, and it was a US folly owing to a myopic outlook to back the religious hardliners as against the traditional, heterodox, pro-monarchy Afghan freedom fighters; interestingly, the liberal Pakistani music band Laal demonizes terrorism as basically being something that was backed by the neo-imperial US in this song , the creation of Israel with Jews coming from all over the world and claiming the land of Palestine as theirs based on centuries’ old claims impinging on the sovereignty of the already existing country, the invasion of Xingjiang by China, Kashmiris being deprived of their legitimate right to self-determination by India and Pakistan as mandated by UN resolutions (as mentioned earlier, the victims of terrorism in Kashmir have not only been Kashmiri Hindus but even pro-India Kashmiri Muslims and to get a deeper insight into the history of the Kashmir issue, please have a look at this article by me on this very portal ; though given the current circumstances, I don’t support independence for Kashmir, as you can see from the following articles – 1 , 2, 3 and 4.
The fact that the United States government deliberately gave economic and military aid to Pakistan, which they very well knew would be used to sponsor terrorism, only because India was a Soviet ally, besides several others.
If we were to discuss the issue in the context of India (other than Kashmir), Indian Muslims have resorted to terrorism to avenge the killings of their co-religionists first after the 1993 Mumbai riots and then the 2002 Gujarat riots, and these riots have their roots in the controversy surrounding the demolition of the Babri Masjid (the matter, if at all, could be handled in a manner so that it would be a win-win situation for everyone, as Sardar Patel did with the Somnath temple by relocating the mosque which was on the temple site with the consent of the local Muslims since Islam doesn’t prohibit relocating mosques and the Quran encourages even compromises on practice of faith for the cause of peace and goodwill in verse 2:224, and Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, a very progressive Muslim cleric, has suggested the same formula for this issue as well in this article ; however, the saffron brigade never made any attempt to put forward such a proposal by negotiating with Muslims but instead went about chanting offensive slogans, such as referring to all Muslims as Babar kee santan, which understandably made them inflexible in their stand) driven by vote-driven politics of certain political parties (this is not to say that I am soft on Islamist political parties or political parties that appease Muslims and I criticize them as well; for reference, please see the following unambiguous statement in my article ‘Lessons from the UP Electoral Battle for The Impending War in 2014’ on this very portal - “The culprit for introducing religion-based politics this time was the Congress…” and I have elaborated on the same in that very article).
Terrorism is undoubtedly inhuman, but as mentioned earlier, it is by no means a Muslim monopoly (the popular statement – “All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims” is the biggest lie) and several injustices against Muslims in different parts of the world or geopolitical strategies of big powers like the United States of America have led to terrorism by Muslims and it has not been just out of general intolerance of other religious communities. This interview of the world-renowned scholar of theology, Karen Armstrong , would be relevant in this context.
And many Muslim clerics across the globe (including India) have given religious decrees declaring terrorism to be antithetical to Islam. Particularly in our Indian context, the Muslims of Mumbai, by refusing to bury the dead bodies of nine terrorists responsible for the 26/11 terrorist attacks, won international appreciation, and they carried out a massive demonstration against terrorism, declaring it to be antithetical to Islam (here’s a video of the demonstration ). The Muslims of Ahmadabad donated bottles of blood for the victims of the blasts carried out by the Indian Mujaheddin in their city in 2008 (for reference, please see this media report ) and many of them even helped the police in finding the perpetrators.
In the next article in this series, we shall examine whether only Muslims get outraged at what they perceive to be a denigration of their faith and whether or not they are open to other belief systems, besides examining what a madrasa and a fatwa is all about.