These days, terrorists are striking and extinguishing the lives of innocent civilians almost on a daily basis. Hardly a day goes by without reading terror related news. The behavior of the terrorists is akin to that of the monstrous character, Grendel, in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, Beowulf. Grendel does not like music. The moment he would hear music from the mead hall in his vicinity, he would attack it and kill the Danes who were reveling inside it. It took a mighty warrior called Beowulf to slay the monster and give respite to the Danes. The behavior of the terrorists is no different. It appears that they don’t like people celebrating. They can’t tolerate people being happy and prosperous. They are driven by extreme bigotry and vengefulness. The way the world is trying to tackle the problem, there appears to be no end to the mayhem perpetrated by the terrorists.
There are signs that terrorists are getting increasingly tech savvy and innovative. They are exploiting the cyber space to radicalize and recruit the youngsters from all the four corners of the world. They are even using innovative methods to kill people, such as driving trucks to maim unsuspecting people who gather in large numbers to celebrate an occasion. Lone wolf attacks have become very common. The law enforcement authorities appear to be clueless as to which direction the threat is emerging and therefore, are not able to take any preemptive action.
After every successful terror attack that snuffs out the precious lives of innocent civilians, we find the world divided. The people who claim themselves as liberals try to disassociate Islam from terrorism and opine that Islam has nothing to do with the terror-related violence. They say that only a miniscule percentage of misguided youth are participating in terrorist activities and an overwhelming majority of Muslims are against violence. It may be true, but the fact of the matter is there is a problem and the problem is too intense and deadly to be ignored or overlooked. Certainly, we can’t blame the entire community for the faults of a small percentage of misguided youth. However, it is also a fact that Islam and Muslims have a problem. Otherwise, the entire Islamic world would not have turned into a sea of chaos. Denying this fact is no longer in the interest of the humanity’s future.
When a person or a community has a problem, it invariably requires reforming itself and the first step towards reformation is introspection. Introspection happens only when we encourage dissent and open debate. However, the Muslim world appears to be averse to any debate. The reason could be lack of democratic traditions in Muslim societies and their disinclination to promote free thinking and tolerate dissent. The dissenters in the Muslims world, who try to kindle introspective thoughts among their fellow Muslims, are being branded as apostates. Their voices are suppressed and they are thoroughly marginalized. And in some countries like Bangladesh, they are butchered mercilessly. Even the media and the liberals, fearing a backlash from Muslims, are not ready to give any credence to the reformatory and dissenting voices that emerge from within Islam.
When someone makes an insane comment against either Islam or Muslims, a large number of Muslims get enraged, take to the streets and resort to violence. But at the same time, we don’t find to see an equally strong response against terrorism that is carried out in the name of Islam.
The moderate Muslims indeed denounce terrorism, but while doing so, they make a futile attempt to subtly justify the mindless acts of violence committed by the terrorists by referring to the so-called injustices done to Muslims in various Muslim lands by non-Muslims, especially the Jews and Christians. So the thing that is widely perceived is, Muslims are unable to or rather not unwilling to denounce Islamic terror as strongly and wholeheartedly as it is required of them.
There is also an attempt made by many commentators to divert the attention from the real issue and link the socio-economic status of Muslims to the rising trend of radicalization. However, the facts prove otherwise. Many Muslim youth who are joining ISIS are well-off and highly educated professionals. Therefore, the attempt to subtly justify the acts of terror by linking them to the socio-economic conditions of the perpetrators is not only mischievous but also has the potential to embolden the terrorists and thereby aggravate the problem.
The ceaseless terror attacks have made people to arrive at certain assumptions by default. The moment a violent act which results in a large number of fatalities is reported, believe it or not, people invariably come to a conclusion that Islamic terrorists must have committed the act. So the Islamic terror has become the standard default assumption for all the violent acts intended to eliminate innocent civilians.
In the aftermath of every terror act, many people criticize religion-inspired terrorism. It is perfectly natural and unavoidable. However, those who are critical of religion inspired terror are branded as racists, Islamophobes or xenophobes, and an effort is being made to stigmatize those who question terror. This is a dangerous trend and clearly an attempt to thwart free expression. Obviously, the world can’t be run as per the ‘Sharia’ and it is very surprising to see even the west, which is considered to be an epitome of liberalism, democracy and free thinking, has jumped on the bandwagon. Promoting the voices of dissent especially from within Islam is the need of the hour and is in the best interest of both Muslims and the wider humanity, though the people who try to instigate blind hatred against Muslims much not be spared.
All the freethinkers who are concerned about freedom of expression must denounce the attempts to stigmatize those who question religion inspired terror. The strategy is unsustainable in the long run and will only breed the right-wing forces who exploit the situation to fan anti-Muslim sentiments on a large scale. The best examples are Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. The mainstream media, which is led by the liberals, went overboard to attack Modi and Trump and made every effort to trivialize and stigmatize them. However, they miserably failed to realize the fact that they both are smart and astute politicians and have the capability to exploit the situation in their favor. They know how to build stairs by using the stones thrown at them to ascend to the highest offices. The liberals indirectly aided Modi to become the Prime Minister of India and if we go by the indications, they may even end up pushing Trump into the White House very soon.
The fact is the left liberals, through their statements and actions breed and strengthen the rightist forces. In every post-terror attack scenario, we find an intense debate that is highly polarizing. We can avoid this polarizing atmosphere in the aftermath of every terror attack, which has the potential to further enrage people. The fact is the terror apologists, who make banal statements such as “Islam is a religion of peace, there is no link between religion and terror, Islam has nothing to do with terror, and terrorists are just a bunch of misguided youth”, are as dangerous as the people who fan anti-Muslim sentiments. The answer to ‘Islamic Terror’ doesn’t lie in removing the word ‘Islam’ from the phrase. It lies in realizing the fact that the Islamic world has indeed a problem and therefore, requires reformation from within so that lasting peace could be established on the mother earth to secure the lives of the future generations.