The Other Side of the River

Terrorists have no religion’. Most political parties, particularly the left parties, believe in this hypothesis while refusing to respond to the hideous truth. The fact is that terrorists have religious backing and they are not without political aims. If a tiny minority has been able to carry on their horrendous activities without being condemned by the civic society at large, it is because they have religious sanction. It’s a nice way to nurse an illusion and evade responsibility if some politicians say jihadists in Kashmir fighting the security forces for a political cause have no religion. They are utilising religion to pacify ‘god fearing’ people and translate their political agenda into reality. If some people say the Bajrang Dal, the dubious mass front of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has no religious programme, it will simply be the denial of ground reality. Even during the anti-British freedom struggle the British defined ‘terrorists’ were not totally isolated from religion. At least they were not atheists like socialist revolutionaries. And not for nothing the Hindu holy scripture ‘Geeta’ was utilised by the ‘terrorist’ groups to motivate the youths.

Recently deadly terroristic attacks in Dhaka, Istanbul, Baghdad and Medina, particularly in the month of ‘holy Ramdan’ in Islamic calendar—all have religious overtones. They are terrorising ordinary people with a political goat to reach.

America sponsored ‘War on Terror’ across the world, mainly in the Middle East and South Asian region, has virtually created a global network of terrorism that cannot be explained away as aberrations by downplaying their religious roots and religion-based political enterprises. Terrorism is now a way of life for thousands of youth in South Asia and Middle East. One may dismiss them as mercenaries, not going to last for long but to many people they are revolutionaries embracing the death of martyrs. In other words not that they are totally isolated from masses. Over the years the politics of terrorism has itself undergone many changes and complexities. Pakistan exports terror to destabilise Indian economy but itself is now being targeted by sectarian violence, having religious sanction. The serial attacks on Medina, the US consulate in Jeddah and largely shiite Muslim city of Qatif, were somewhat unprecedented, if not unexpected, in Saudi Arabia’s history. Now Saudi Arabia, being the main supporting base of America, cannot avoid the responsibility of spreading ‘terror virus’ even in otherwise peaceful regions. And its nefarious ploy is just getting boomeranged. Saudi-linked terror outfits that indulge in mayhem across the world, use religion and politics as well for regime change in a number of countries. Religious cry is the easiest route to mobilise public opinion. That even ‘sensible’ persons support religion-based communal politics of the saffron brigade is a case in point.

Sectarian violence, not always directed against the persons in power, as it frequently erupts in Iraq and Syria, has its roots in religion. Not that the Iraqi army is singlehandedly combating the IS fighters. The government sponsored Shiite militias actively participate alongside the army to regain what they have lost—control over a large chunk of territory.

A week after Fallujah was declared ‘‘fully liberated’’ from the Islamic state, a massive suicide truck bombing claimed by IS created horror in downtown Baghdad killing at least 142 people, the single deadliest bombing in Baghdad in years. In truth after the US-led invasion of Iraq, Fallujah became the centre of an insurgency against US forces and the militant opposition to the Shiite-dominated central government. But the conflict today is more like a continuing war between Shiite militants and Sunni jihadis. So religion is very much there even when the target is not a foreign power.

‘Terrorists’, are mostly dubbed by America as non-state actors which they are not. Today they are stateless but they are actually fighting for state power. The point at issue is why political parties don’t try to isolate ‘terrorists’ politically. They don’t organise rallies against ‘terrorism’. Condemning terror attacks through harmless press statements makes little sense. All parties irrespective of their political colour, leave it to the security establishment to finish the job through military means. Not that there are no liberals and democrats in Pakistan. But they are unable to summon courage to openly condemn terroristic acts and participate in public opinion making against terrorism. No party, ruling or opposition, in all South Asian countries, is interested in political campaign against ‘terrorism’. Unless they are isolated politically, it is next to impossible to defeat them by fire power alone. Afghanistan, where America is losing a war for all practical purposes demonstrates why military cannot win all wars. Little attention is paid to civilian protest as if the media, politicians and state leaders are comfortable with military solution than human solidarity.

Absence of civil protest against ‘terror’ and ‘terrorism’ means increasing militarisation of polity and narrowing of democratic space for dissenters. Inaction of civil society has really paved the for creating proxy fighters of many regional powers. Factions in Yemen that once demonstrated side by side in Change Square now find themselves ‘‘represented’’ by Saudi and Iranian troops that have devastated the country killing thousands along with a growing al-Qaeda presence, to make the country a living hell for ordinary people.

Vol. 49, No.2, Jul 17 - 23, 2016