Fighting Islamic terror

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New Delhi – France is at war. So says the French President François Hollande, following one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on Paris. He is right. Almost all the major powers of the world are with France in its hour of tragedy. And many of them, including the United States and Russia, are now fighting along with him against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. Hopefully, this war will end, once and for all the debate between “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists” and the consequent double standards shown by the countries against countries that sponsor terrorism in various forms.

However, ISIS’ fundamentalism cannot be defeated on battle fields. Any comprehensive victory over it must involve genuine reforms within the world’s second largest religion, Islam, which, according to Pew Research Center, will nearly equal Christianity by 2050 before eclipsing it around 2070, if current trends continue. At the risk of being branded “communal” by my “secular friends”, I do believe that violence is inherent in Islam, the way it has been practiced. I do not know whether one could describe these “secularists” to be suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome” vis-à-vis the Islamic terrorists, but I can summarise that their sympathy or empathy is based mainly on three points:

One, there must be a distinction between the terrorists as individuals and their religion, Islam, which, all told, is a great religion of peace. Two, these terrorists are only reacting to the grave injustice to the Muslims perpetrated by the Western countries and their allies (and friends like India) in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Kashmir. Three, these terrorists also happen to be the “victims” of so-called democracy and capitalism in non-Muslim-majority countries in the sense that they are badly nurtured and remain deprived and depraved; the result being that the fundamentalists allure the likes of them by employing starkly religious language and invoking religious texts that promise “other-worldly” rewards as compensation for “this-worldly” sacrifice, including “the guarantee of eternal Paradise, and most famously, the lascivious offering of seventy-two heavenly virgins”.

Well, these are the standard sympathetic and empathetic arguments that one comes across whenever any terrorist attack takes place in the West, particularly in Europe. The main point here is to make a clear distinction between Islam as a religion and “the Muslim attackers”, who are mostly immigrants from the former colonies (in fact, some of them are also new converts from other religions, Christianity in particular) leading a life that is ‘a heady mix of unemployment, crime, drugs, institutional racism and endemic cycles of poverty and disenfranchisement.”

I have a problem with this school of thought. I am of the considered opinion that despite what they preach, each religion in the world has been associated with violence in some form or the other. Therefore, a religion committed to peace should be seen in terms of how it has handled violence and co-existed with others over the years. And here, the record of Islam is abysmal, indeed. Forget about the derelict Muslim youth; apostasy and blasphemy are the serious offences, leading eventually to death sentences in a brutal manner, are the official policies in countries in North Africa, West Asia and Pakistan. And all of them are “Islamic” countries. Therefore, to say that Islam does not have an issue with violent actions and that many of the fundamental tenets of Islamic faith do not authorise and even encourage violence is evading the truth. No religion, other than Islam in today’s world, uses the sword to kill and convert its enemies.

Any lingering doubt on this score can be further dispelled from the Muslims’ attitude towards secularism. Let it be admitted that secularism as an idea took birth in the Christian—West. It made a clear distinction between public and private life, in which religion was relegated to the private sphere with no hold over public life. In fact, it is the secular politics that explains why the immigrant communities, including Muslims, do receive in Western Europe (certainly in France) some of the most generous benefits such as free education, free health, subsidised housing, and multiple other handouts from the State. There are many charms in secularism, in particular the freedom to believe what you will do in private. But this is something many Muslims, including those even in India, will not agree with. For them, the very distinction between private and public is either meaningless or unacceptable. It is highly unlikely that the Islamic world will embrace secularism even if peace comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, Muslims occupy Kashmir or Israel is destroyed.

As Dr. Peter Hammond argues in his book “Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat”, Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components, but religious component is a beard for all of the other components.  Hammond says that Islamisation begins when there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate for their religious privileges. “When politically correct, tolerant, and culturally diverse societies agree to Muslim demands for their religious privileges, some of the other components tend to creep in as well”, he says. And then he gives examples by citing many countries. His thesis is that once the Muslims reach the figure around 10 percent of a country’s population, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population by demanding the introduction of halal, hijab and Sharia law for themselves.