(Un-edited Preface to the upcoming book by Mirza Ashraf)
Throughout history human beings have more often employed fear and brandished power through terror. Almost all societies in the past as well as totalitarian regimes in the present age have been founded on fear and terror practicing top-down oppression. History does not account top-down oppression as terrorism while retaliation to such oppression from bottom-up is described as terrorism. Religion-inspired terrorism appeared on the fringes of all major and some minor religions. Today it is more frequent than other religions among Islamic groups from the Far East to Central Asia and West Africa. Is this mere accident or could a pattern be detected? In Terrorism and Islam, I have attempted to break the stranglehold from within illustrating that in Islam, though there is no such term as terrorism but the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were perpetrated by some non-state Muslim actors. Targeting the West reflected the religious passions of the followers of Islam, displaying a mortal threat to the Western civilization. Since religion in Islam is a way of life, a bottom-up struggle for justice by the Muslims has always been a rational crux pursuing political objectives under the mantle of religion.
Whereas Islam claims to be a faith of peace, its movements are being suspected today as dangerously hostile to world peace. This has plunged the Western Society into a phobia of Islam anxiety. Terrorism and Islam demonstrates that war and terrorism will continue in society as long as sacred and secular remains confused in the minds of so many. The evolutionists believe that the cosmos is godless and is ruled by chance and violence. For them human beings are alone in a meaningless world rather than being in a benevolent and progressive universe. This substantiates terrorism as an echo of Darwinian ideology that man is a warring animal struggling for the survival of the fittest. The view that only the strongest can survive encourages violence. Therefore, the secular tradition legitimizes the use of violence when it is employed by the state. For the terrorists, legitimacy of their acts lies in the gravity of their cause asserting that “the end justifies the means” of actions. In the eyes of the Muslims, be it direct war, guerrilla tactics or terrorist attack, it is the significance of the cause for which they willingly sacrifice their lives rather than the manner of action. With this conviction, not only in the eighteenth century period of French Revolution, but also during the struggle for liberation from colonial rulers in 1950s and 1960s, the terrorist activities were viewed justified and helpful in the liberation of oppressed societies. Thus the agents of terrorism were acclaimed as heroes.
In Terrorism and Islam, pursuing the pathology of terrorism, I have attempted to explain, do the Muslims justifying their violent struggle as jihad, denominate into the definition of terrorists? In this attempt, analyzing their actions within their religious, psychological, and sociopolitical campus, I have provided a profile to help understand the phenomenon of the violent Muslims willing to die for a cause that seems to them of greater value than life itself. Generally violence and terrorism is discussed in cultural, political and theological terms. However, in the case of Islam which is termed as a deen or a complete way of life, cultural, political and religious phenomenon has to be discussed as all in one.
Terrorism and Islam explains that the monopolized use of force by a totalitarian ruler or even a democratic majority of a state, when applies oppression, a reaction of unrest emerges giving birth to an uprising which perverts into terrorism. In such cases, under the cover of religion, it becomes a struggle against the foreign occupier or its agent, an oppressing ruler, a weak political institution, an alien ideology or a religious society the terrorists strive to overthrow or destabilize. Since the Qur’an authorizes the use of force to fight with the oppressor that “Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged,” it becomes easy for the bereaved Muslims to justify taking up arms in the light of religious sanction. But history reveals that every state or indeed every community has been and is having opponents, sometimes, in the form of enemies attempting to eliminate one another. Such conflicts often become violent and thus each party in its attempt to subvert the reputation of the other ascribes to it revolting epithets, denouncing as anarchist, criminal, outlaw, inhuman, and terrorist. Each of the two parties, thus, ascribes such allegations to vilify and deprive the other of its rights on the pretext of acting against lawful interests.
In Terrorism and Islam I have constructed a topical approach to the phenomenon of terrorism, that although the use of force or violence by non-state actors or behind the curtain state sponsored actors might be considered unjustified, there exists a support to the conviction that “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” I believe that terrorism, being as old as war, has throughout the ages played a dual role in mankind’s history. It is both unjustified and justified. Generally it is an unjustified tactic, an erratic and criminal act of violence, intended to threaten a state by unjust means for political or any other gains even if it is provoked by social, religious, ideological, and political injustice. But it is justified when it is a struggle against foreign oppression or against the inability of a state to ensure justice, liberty, and security of its people. Within this duality of its role, terrorism falls under the adage of “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” Four men in history, Sean McBride, Menachem Begin, Yasser Arafat, and Nelson Mandela, who were formerly terrorists, were declared heroes and winners of Nobel Peace Prize. This shows that the label “terrorist” does sometimes shift in the opposite direction.
In Islam the term “terrorist” or an act defined as “terrorism,” has never been adopted by an individual or a group. It has always been applied to them by others, either by the governments of the states they target or by the societies practicing oppression. The word “terror” or “terrorism” is not to be found in the scriptural lexicon of Islam. This proposes that the term “terrorism” is of a secular nature and is often a prerogative of a state making it more a political category than a classification to better understand the acts of atrocities. Most researchers agree that extremist actions, whether conducted through religious or secular doctrines are intensified by opposing group dynamics.
Terrorism and Islam substantiates that terrorism is a great threat to global peace, but it is also distinguished from the fact developed in the French Revolution as an indispensable tool to establish justice. Since then, political violence and terrorism have been viewed necessary to historical progress. Violence is the midwife of history and it is through violence and revolution that the latent forces of the development of human productivity come to light. It is in the violent periods of mankind that history shows its true face and dispels the cloud of mere ideological and hypocritical talk. For the revolutionists terrorism prompts justice for those who are oppressed and is an emanation of virtue. Since the concept of prompt and ready justice is at the core of Islamic Shari’ah, such justifications further embolden the religiously zealous jihadists. They are further inspired by the argument of Sergius Stepniak, a Russian-born fighter for democracy that “the terrorist … is noble, terrible, irresistibly fascinating, for he combines in himself the two sublimities of human grandeur: the martyr and the hero.”1 Within these contexts, whereas the revolutionary Europeans authenticated the use of terrorism as a struggle for the restoration of liberties and provided it a justification almost parallel to just war theory, the Muslims under colonial rules assumed it a form of a new technique of revolutionary struggle wherever it showed a dysfunctional relation between the state and society. For the Muslims it came close to the definition of jihad for war and just war theory. Just as the political sensibility of the French Revolution justified violence as an important avenue leading towards a political progression, Terrorism and Islam: The Terrorist Mind and Path to Violence propounds that violence today, whether conducted with a religious commitment or an ideological determination, is “a politics by violent means.”
Generally it is maintained that war is what governments of the states conduct, and terrorism is the recourse of the oppressed weak who cannot oppose the mighty force of the states in open combat. War is the overt combat of direct collision of two legitimately organized forces whereas terrorism is the covert combat of an illegitimate force with the legitimate authority. “Terrorism is justified as a last resort. In the real world, the weak have no other weapon against the strong. Many movements that later became legitimate have used it. As for states, the monopolists of legal violence, they are designed and duty-bound to defend themselves.”2 Such views have divided terrorism into official and unofficial terrorism. The official terrorism is more dangerous than the unofficial one, since resistance to the former gives birth to the later.
Terrorism and Islam reflects that human beings have an inherent tendency for aggression as well as for peace and tranquility. Terror in secular as well as religious societies is a recurring historical phenomenon. Islam fully recognizes the reality of war in human affairs, but it clearly distinguishes terrorism from its concept of jihad as just war. Islam, with its concept of din-wa-dunya presents a complete way of life in which religion and politics cannot be separated. For Islam, religion as a biological phenomenon is a continuum of human beings cognitive processes that have deep roots in their evolutionary past. Therefore, to separate religion from their sociopolitical as well as all other everyday activities is incomprehensible for the Muslims. In Terrorism and Islam, I have projected the Islamic point of view with reference to Qur’anic injunctions and the precepts of the Prophet of Islam relating to the subject of terrorism in its literal sense comparable to general principles, concepts, and judgments. In Islam terrorism is repugnant to the process of the human being’s perfection determined by God for the whole mankind, with no discrimination between the believers and non believers, through human nature and prescribed through revelation.
1. Reiss, 35.
2. Chaliand and Blin, 10, 2007.