by Parvez Ahmed
American Reporter Correspondent
May 11, 2007
CHANGE COURSE TO ELIMINATE TERRORISM
WASHINGTON -- Five years into President Geroge W. Bush's declaration of the global war on terrorism, the latest State Department report shows terrorism on the rise. Terrorism is an abominable tactic, not an ideology. Thus, declaring 'war' against it, while politically expeditious, is ineffective, as it attacks the symptom without addressing the cause.
Global patterns show that terrorism is not exclusive to any one group. According the Terrorism">http://www.tkb.org">Terrorism Knowledge Base, between 1968 and 2007 the largest purveyors of terrorism have been those affiliated with communist/socialist or nationalist/separatist groups. Despite this, Islam continues to be conflated with terrorism.
The intertwining of political rhetoric with religious imagery by groups like al-Qaeda certainly precipitates the notion of a link between Islam and terrorism. Such perceptions are also assisted by a veritable cottage industry of agenda-driven experts who profit from their pontificating. Such mischaracterizations are at odds with the reality that Islam unequivocally condemns terrorism and advocates the preservation of life, honor and dignity o f all human life as a supreme endeavor.
Douglas Streusand and Harry Tunnell of the National Defense University argue that characterizing terrorism committed by Muslims as "Islamic" alienates millions of peace-loving Muslims worldwide. Calling terrorists "jihadist" misrepresents the Islamic canonical concept of jihad, which to most Muslims implies striving for good. It also legitimizes the un-Islamic activity of terrorism in the eyes of disenfranchised Muslims, thus aiding enemy recruitment. Developing an alternative vocabulary is a necessary, although not a sufficient, step towards overcoming terrorism.
The State Department report cites continued instability in Iraq as one of the major reasons for the increases in terrorist acts. Terrorism also has historic links to other wars such as the Cold War.
During the Cold War, U.S. financing, recruitment and arming of foreign fighters to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan lead not only to Soviet retreat but also its demise. However, the enabling of a culture of drugs to finance the war and the deliberate injection of religious rhetoric to motivate recruits had unintended consequences.
Compounding the problem, unlike post-World War II Europe, no Marshall Plan was enacted to rebuild Afghanistan. In a political and social vacuum, with the country littered in drugs and guns, violence became law enabling terrorists to carve out safe havens.
Suicide bombings are generally an implacable reaction to the callous socio-political conditions fostered by occupations. They are most often used by groups when there is an ongoing occupation with no apparent political solution to solve it, the occupying power has vastly superior military power and where there is a belief that the occupying power is susceptible to coercive force.
To contain terrorism, if not eliminate it, the way forward is to engage in common sense methods of intelligence gathering without criminalizing entire groups of people, military strategies without resorting to indiscriminate bombings and enabling the emergence of democratic and civic societies by eliminating foreign occupations.
In a recent Washington Post article, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser, called on moderates, including Muslims, to from a global alliance "to terminate the political conflicts that spawn terrorism."
This alliance is only possible when American foreign policy changes course to reflect America's values of liberty and justice for all people, with an unwavering commitment to dialogue and diplomacy.
Parvez Ahmed, Ph.D., is Chairman of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), America's largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy group. This article is adapted from his paper 'Terror in the Name of Islam - Unholy War not Jihad' presented at the Case Western Reserve University's School of Law conference on Sacred Violence: Religion and Terrorism.