Fight terrorism at its roots

There will be no end to bloodshed if we don’t properly understand the causes.

NO words can describe the barbarity of the terrorist attack on 84 innocent revellers in Nice, France, on Bastille Day last week. This was the third major terrorist strike in France since the start of 2015. And it came in the wake of similar perfidies in July in 16 countries, including Bangladesh, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Syria, Thailand, Venezuela and Turkey.

I am reminded of the words of poet Warsan Shire: “I held an atlas in my lap. Ran my fingers across the whole world. And whispered. Where does it hurt? It answered. Everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere”.

Inciting terror in the hearts of defenceless citizens, showing wanton disregard for life and property, maiming innocent people and destroying civilian properties are acts of savagery that cannot be justified on any ground whatsoever.

False attribution: The expected reaction of the Western world to the act of barbarity in France is to attribute the wrongs of a deranged Muslim to his religion. But faith must be distinguished from the faithful. That is why Christianity was not blamed, and rightly so, when in 2011 one Enders Behring Breivik, a right-wing Norwegian extremist, killed 77 people and injured 319 by exploding a car bomb and opening fire at participants at a summer camp.

The holocaust in Germany; the perfidies of World Wars I and II; the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the 68-year old genocide in occupied Palestine; the pulverisation of Indo-China, first by the French and then the United States; and the illegal invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were not attributed to the religion of the perpetrators. Why then should Islam bear the sin of its rogue followers?

No monopoly: Terrorism is not unique to the Muslim community if we view the aberration in all its manifestations. There is ‘state terrorism’ by countries like the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel, which resort to illegal wars of aggression, regime changes, targeted killings and economic strangulation of entire societies. The US has bombed 28 countries since World War II.

At the time of writing, the West is waging proxy wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen by exploiting the Sunni-Shia distrust and paying for the mercenaries. America’s allies have destroyed Libya and conspired to overthrow elected leaders in Egypt and Ukraine.

Sometime ago in the village of Dumah, right-wing Israeli settlers burnt a Palestinian family to death in their home. No bells toll for victims of terrorist perfidies if the victims are Muslims. Their slaughter is recorded as collateral damage in the war against terrorism.

A historical perspective will indicate that the majority of terrorism’s perpetrators are from Europe and America. Those being slaughtered are mostly Muslims. For example the Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq killed half a million people and was the worst terrorist perfidy after the German holocaust.

Stereotyping: Some right-wing politicians in the West are asking for the expulsion of all Muslims or a total halt to all Muslim migration. Both possibilities exist. We know how thousands of innocent Japanese were herded into detention camps after the Pearl Harbour attack.

Soul-searching: Though terrorism must be condemned in the strongest terms, all of us need to indulge in soul searching. We need to look into the mirror. Should France expect no reaction from the Arab region while its armed forces butcher people in Syria, Libya and Yemen?

Proxy wars, drone attacks, regime changes and destruction of many Muslim economies are creating a spiral of hatred as well as forced emigration. Tariq Ramadan has observed that the real enemies are not the migrants but those creating the migration.

Israeli and American embargoes in Gaza have pushed life beyond the limit of tolerance. Would European and American governments have allowed the perfidies in Palestine, if the victims were white Christians?

Last century, France butchered 700,000 people in the eight-year war of independence in Algeria. On October 17, 1961, during demonstrations by pro-Independence Algerians in Paris, French police killed 200 people, throwing many bodies off bridges into the River Seine. Oh, how the chickens come home to roost, sometimes so tragically!

Causes: We must try to understand terrorism at its roots. Violence in one place breeds violence in another. Terrorism can no longer be contained in one country or in one region. The European-American crackdown on terrorism must include attempts to alleviate the Western inspired suffering that pushes people to carry out deadly attacks.

The factors that push potential terrorists over the edge need to be studied. We need to do more work on why some people feel this degree of hatred towards the US and its allies.

US military presence in many Muslim citadels is unacceptable to most Muslims. European abuse of free speech to blaspheme religions and selectively prosecute hate speech is another irritant. Western support for genocide in Palestine has radicalised millions of Muslims.

Cures: The West has put causes aside and has focused exclusively on counter-terrorism. It searches for evil empires and scapegoats. Instead, it should adopt a holistic approach to cover geo-political and economic perspectives on terrorism.

One basic problem that spurs terrorism is misdistribution of wealth around the world. The US and other wealthy nations must support development efforts in the Third World instead of fomenting discord and benefitting from the murderous trade in weapons of destruction.

American and European societies must draw minority populations into the mainstream of their social and business life. France must look into its urban ghettos as possible incubators of terrorism.

The call for a military solution to terrorist perfidies will only aggravate the spiral. The problem cannot be solved by military might alone.

The horrendous violations of human rights in occupied Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Syria must be halted. The unnecessary hostility towards Iran and the unprincipled support for Third World dictators in client states exposes the hypocrisy of Western democracy and human rights.

Only when causes are understood can cures be found.

Shad Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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