Mainstream, VOL LII, No 42, October 11, 2014
Brutal Jihadi Terrorism, now a Fashion among Youth; US Blunders; Wahabism; Pakistan
Saturday 11 October 2014, by
So it’s out in the open: Terrorism is the issue of our times. It was a central theme in Narendra Modi’s discussion with Israel’s Netanyahu, a veteran on the subject. It was the main focus of attention during the Modi-Obama talks. The US President went to the extent of agreeing to make efforts to dismantle safe havens for terror and to disrupt financial and tactical support to terror outfits, naming some based in Pakistan.
Honourable intentions. If even half of it became real, the world could heave a sigh of relief. The problem is that both Israel and the US see the issue in terms of good terrorism and bad terrorism, a differentiation that makes a mockery of the fight against terrorism. Remember how America agreed with Pakistan that the “good Taliban” must be accepted? As for Israel, the first recorded terrorist putsch was by a Jewish political movement called Zealots in 66-70. As good terrorists resenting the occupation of their homeland by foreign forces, they organised a mass insurrection against the Romans. It failed and the Zealots committed mass suicide. The modern state of Israel is still engaged in eradicating bad terrorism, this time represented by the Palestinians. In the latest flare-up a few weeks ago, it was merciless in bombing civilians in the Gaza Strip ignoring worldwide protests, including by Israelis. How sad that the job of good terrorists is often thankless.
The American record has hurt the world even more grievously. Its policies have repeatedly produced the contrary effect. Three years ago it started a “humanitarian war” to achieve a regime change in Libya. The goal was achieved leading to Muammar Gaddafi’s murder. But the situation in Libya went from bad to worse with daily deaths becoming part of the political chaos. America built up Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda in order to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan. The goal was achieved but the Al-Qaeda became a Frankenstein’s monster targeting America. America started the Iraqi war to eliminate Saddam Hussain. The goal was achieved but Iraq turned into a mess, culminating in the birth of the cruelest terrorist outfit in history, the Islamic State, the self-proclaimed Caliphate. Obama was forced to admit openly that American intelligence had underestimated the rise of the Islamic State (IS).
To say that it was underestimated is an understatement. More frenzied than the Zealots of old, the IS jihadists are unlike anything the world has ever seen before. US airstrikes have been destroying some lifelines of the IS such as gas plants and grain silos. But the jihadists keep advancing. A Sunni group, they give no quarter even to other Muslims; Shias, as well as non-Muslims, must either convert or die. This has alarmed even countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who were suppliers of funds and weapons in the early days. Many Muslim authorities have gone public with statements that the IS is not representative of true Islam.
That has not stopped the IS from becoming a fashion among young men, however small in numbers. The hooded killer who beheaded Westerners in Syria recently was a British citizen. There is a Sharia4Belgium group in that small country.
According to Western estimates, 300 Belgians, 400 Germans, 800 Russians, 80 Swedes, 70 Danes, 50 Norwegians and 60 Australians are among 30,000 IS fighters. Dozens of young Western women are joining their ranks to bear children for jihadists. A small group of ultracon-servative Salafists, wearing vests with the words “Sharia Police”, have been telling people in the German town of Wuppertal not to drink or listen to music. German media and official circles are outraged.
Fanaticism of this kind is irrational and therefore difficult to check. Yet, if the IS is not checked, much of the world’s population may be beheaded. What the West can do is to learn from its blunders. It must know that concent-ration on military action alone will make matters worse. The US must recognise that its “allies” have been actively contributing to the growth of radicalism and, through it, the rise of terrorism. Saudi Arabia began the process some decades ago by providing funds to spread its version of intolerance, Wahabism. Pakistan, obsessed with India, has directly nurtured terrorist groups with American funds and equipment. Saudi evangelism and Pakistani adventurism provided outlets to a young gener-ation disillusioned by the crass materialism of the West and by poverty in Asia. Corrective action can be meaningful only when the roots of the problem are pulled out. Pruning some branches will fool nobody.