Understanding Terrorism

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I was deeply troubled by the recent suicide bombings of the innocents in the Kohat refugee camps. I was not surprised by the reaction of the Pakistan military and continuous shelling in response. I know I was not alone in this. The entire nation felt the pain of these refugees who were the victims of an extremist mindset. How cruel does one have to be to attack some people who are already homeless and helpless? Does one really have a second thought before killing himself and many others? These are some questions that occupy my mind before. Where are these terrorist organizations taking this war to? They have introduced an indiscriminate nature of attacks in the country. We all saw how two suicide bombers dressed in burqas struck a crowd of displaced people collecting aid handouts, killing at least 41 people. What bothers me more is where does one get all this courage from? Did these terrorist not see the faces of the people collecting aid? What in the world makes these men choose this path and why do they Pakistan so much?

The country is doing all it takes to put a stop to these terrorist activities. Along with the high intensity of military action, many think tanks have once again begun to explore whether a retort utilizing the tools of dialogue and negotiation might produce a better outcome. The prolonged war on terrorism keeps giving continuous hits to the financial standing of the country. Every morning I wake up and realize that the situation seems to keep getting worse. Terrorism must be stopped with whatever tool it takes before it is too late and the economy of the country cripples.

However, my perspective is poles apart from the others. My deep thoughts about terrorism stem from long inquiry into what creates conflict and violence between the Pakistanis. More importantly what keeps the terrorist going? What fuels the courage to the terrorist for going into mosques and shattering into pieces of flesh?

Extremism is a mental disability. To my knowledge the best answer can be given by someone who has spent many years working in the mental health arena. Taliban is more of a mindset than a label. I naturally bring a psychological perspective to these questions. Many are not pleased with the progress of a prolonged global war on terrorism and the casualties caused by it.

What would it take, I keep asking myself, to end terrorism, to put a seize to all this misery faced by Pakistan? I would categorize most of it unnecessary.

If we go back to the basics before exploring options for dealing with terrorism, I think it is important to understand the reason why people become terrorists in the first place. Surely, a man is not a terrorist from the womb of the mother. It must take something for a person to choose this path and the system might have a contribution in this as well. I curse the terrorist but my conscious questions me, why they choose this method as a last resort?

Let us try to analyze this problem in a psychological perspective. When a human is deprived of connection in the society, he feels extraordinarily alone and frightened. Being neglected in the society influences the mental position of the individual. After some time he will go to any lengths, to feel connected back to other humans.

This is true of those who are recruited by the terrorist organizations. My gut feeling is that terrorists are people who feel very powerless inside, who are extremely frustrated at not being seen, heard and honored for their uniqueness.

If you feel so lost and empty from inside the easiest way to feel commanding is to create terror in others. This is the reason why terrorist are making Pakistan suffer as they themselves are suffering. With the spread of Western culture and products in the country, we should understand that these people feel are threatened their way of life will soon disappear.

This is the reason why they discourage education and development in their regions. So many schools have been burnt in the recent years. Many universities have been attacked. Education for women is like a sin in the Taliban regime. A recent example is of the women professor who was shot dead in Quetta. Mrs. Nazima Talib was shot dead while she was travelling from one point to the other. These are extremist elements which prove that they do not want the education to spread. This will surely bring awareness amongst people and will threaten their regime. The recruitment of extremist is relatively less in the developed cities of Pakistan. The reason for this is education of course. The misfits of society who turn into terrorist cannot accept Pakistan as a successful piece of land. Their visions are strictly limited to the ideology they are following.

This is a frightening viewpoint and hence Pakistan is on the top of their target list. Being a terrorist also gives one importance and an identity, one which is very difficult to let go. If peace prevailed, who would you be? What aim would you have in life? Thus it is better to keep fighting and following what your corrupt religious leaders have to say.

So how is it possible that we come around and try to solve this problem? Once we know the root cause it is important that we work hard on removing these elements from our society for once and for all. To really improve the current situation in Pakistan it might make more sense for the higher officials to pursue a bilateral strategy. This would find the perpetrators and put them on trial while at the same time engaging in extensive dialogue with their community.

On the other hand a positive approach is that no damage will be done if thousands of ordinary American citizens came to Muslim countries and took part in structured dialogues with Islamic citizens, asking them “What is this extremism all about?”. The response would be interesting to study as a piece and helpful in extensive communication to guide the misled.

If a handful of these misfits have chosen this path due to harassment and injustices, we ought to clarify them. As we do this a room might open in which we might be able to share our grief at the losses from over five hundred blasts last year.

The citizens of Pakistan have witnessed this ongoing war on terrorism for almost more than five years now. This year has been not much better despite the great efforts from the security forces. Dialog with the terrorist in most cases in the past have been resulted as a failure. However, this does not mean that in future things will remain the same. Extensive dialog to some extent and minimizing the communication gap is the solution to restore peace.

To sum up, I am sure the misfits of the society can be won back. People are so scared of being abused or violated again in the resolution process that they hesitate from it. This is due to the doubtful past Pakistan has had with the terrorist organizations in negotiations. Our resistance to opening ourselves has greatly increased over the recent years which at times work against us. Yet we must realize that if we want to heal and put an end to this conflict, we must take these measures in time. People as well as societies need to reach a bottom level and on the same wavelength of others before they go ahead with trying different ways to win back peace.



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11 responses to “Understanding Terrorism”

  1. Nadir El-Edroos Avatar

    Great piece! I agree with your analysis, but there is a slight risk with viewing terrorists as psychological deviants. If one was to say that they are in some way. neither rational or lacking complete psychological facility, that in some arenas may be interpreted that they are not 100% to blame for their actions and give them excuses for what they do.

    Second, the need is not just to tackle those who take up arms. They are many people who sympathise with their ideals, but do not agree with the way they are going about it.

    At the recently concluded Deobandi conference, the participants failed to condemn terrorism, and somewhat seemed to justify it by claiming that their behaviour is acceptable given American presence in the region.

    While identifying the causes that drive people towards violence is definitely a start, I am abit sceptical about whether such an approach would tackle not only those who take up arms, but those who provide the intellectual arguments to sustain and recruit the next generation of terrorists.

    In many ways, we will never reach a similar wavelength, society never has, and never should be uniform – what is required however is to have an enabling environment for discourse and debate where differences can be resolved without violence. Reaching that point would be a major achievement!

  2. Ted Daniels Avatar

    What feeds terrorism is success. As long as the attack occurs, the terrorist has succeeded. His aim is to get attention, and an attack will never fail to do that. Terrorism is the cheapest form of PR, a tantrum on a national scale. When a toddler throws a tantrum dissuasion is easy: isolate him. When it's a full-grown citizen, the solution may be the same but the process much harder.

    Talking to terrorists might give them the attention they crave, but the tactic will remain.

  3. Aamir Mughal Avatar

    “What’s New on the Iran 1953 Coup in the New York Times Article (April 16, 2000, front page) and the Documents Posted on the Web” By Professor Mark Gasiorowski

    19 April 2000 http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/

  4. Rashid Saleem Avatar
    Rashid Saleem

    An excellent analysis I must say. The writer rightly points out to the multi-dimensional scope of terrorism and how it has affected us in so many different ways. We cannot get rid of this menace by following the same mind-set which helped creating it. Change in mind-set will be the first step towards controlling this. An open and a liberal man would never indulge in such activities. Kudos to the writer.

  5. Idrees Zafran Avatar
    Idrees Zafran

    Dear brothers for yours info:

    and see also International media courage this FATWA (www.minhaj.org) and post yours opinion

    Dated: 11 March 2010

    Aljazeera : Influential cleric issues fatwa against terrorism

    By John L. Esposito

    An influential Pakistani cleric issued a 600-page fatwa on March 2, described as an "absolute" condemnation of terrorism without "any excuses or pretexts." Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri declared that terrorists and suicide bombers were unbelievers and that "terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts."

    While domestic politics in Muslim countries, the presence of foreign troops and the impact of Western foreign policies remain primary drivers in radicalization, a major, comprehensive fatwa like this — along with less-sweeping fatwas issued by other religious authorities — does constitute a major challenge to the legitimacy of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

    Qadri's fatwa is an exhaustive, systematic theological and legal study of the Islamic tradition's teachings on the use of force and armed resistance to support an absolute condemnation of any form of terrorism for any cause. Its significance will be felt in Pakistan, where Qadri over several decades has become a prominent scholar and religious leader as well as a religious media star. It will also have an impact in the West young Muslims in Britain, Scandinavia and Canada, many of whom are of Pakistani backgrounds.

    Qadri is a Barelvi Muslim scholar (Barelvi and Deobandis, who claim to follow a more pristine version of Islam, are the two major Sunni Muslim groups or schools of thought in the Indian subcontinent). The Barelvi are estimated to be the largest Muslim group in Pakistan, India and Great Britain. Qadri, noted for his liberal and tolerant views, promotes greater unity among Muslims and inter and intra faith dialogue, reaching out to other theological schools like the Deobandi and to Shiah Muslims and Pakistani Christians. He emphasizes religious, social, and cultural teachings of Islam.

    Trained both in traditional madrasas and at Punjab University where in 1972 he earned an MA and PhD in Islamic Studies, Qadri appeals to a broad audience of traditionalists and those that appreciate his integration of traditional Islamic sciences with modern disciplines. Qadri's career took off in the mid-1980s with a popular national television program Fahm-e-Quran (Understanding the Qur'an), speaking in down to earth popular idioms and using analogies from everyday life.

    Qadri is among a handful of prominent popular preachers in Pakistan (as elsewhere in the Muslim world) whose primary medium for propagating their messages is the electronic technology (cassettes, videos, CDs, DVDs, and television channels). Qadri's media career has been unprecedented in the modern religious history of Pakistan. Founder of Minhaj-ul-Quran International, based in Lahore, an Islamic movement with centers in 90 countries, its publication house carries thousands of Qadri's CDs and DVDs Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic and English, delivered in Pakistan, India, the Middle East, Europe, the United States, and Canada.

    Qadri already has an established track record in his denunciation of terrorism in the name of Islam. One of the few religious leaders in Pakistan who unequivocally condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks, Qadri has challenged the Islamic legitimacy of those who approved the use of violence for religious or political ends. He has condemned al-Qaeda and the Taliban, denouncing al-Qaeda a "lethal threat to Islam and Muslims," whose actions are antithetical to Islam's message of peace.

    In a December 5, 2009 press conference, drawing extensively on Islamic texts, Qadri declared: "Islam does not permit, under any circumstances, the massacre of innocent citizens, terrorist explosions and suicide bombings" which according to Islamic law are unacceptable violations of human rights and constitute kufr, (unbelief). At the same time, Qadri has also been a strong critic of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

    — John L. Esposito is University Professor and Founding Director of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He is co-author of Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, and author of the newly released book The Future of Islam (2010).

    Source : http://www.aljazeera.com/news/articles/39/Influen


  6. ali hamdani Avatar

    yea I would agree with all the above comments. It’s a good analysis I must say. Extremism in our country has ruined a lot and we must take steps to stop all this. The author righlty mentions the Kohat incident. Nuthin could have been a better example.

  7. Amna Zaman Avatar

    good one I must say. But try to give a solution to all this as well. We must all unite and fight against the terrorist rather than pinning this war on others like America and India guys!

  8. Sher Zaman Avatar
    Sher Zaman

    An excellent analysis of the ground realities in Pakistan; we need to focus on fighting this ideological war by means other than war.

  9. Muhammad Ziad Puri Avatar

    May ALLAH be pleased with you . You have pondered so much on the thought of 'what motivates a terrorist to do what he does' or rather how do they become what they are.

    Don't you think one liner is enough to explain the cause??? Army moved in , terrorists were created – the end.

    Pakistani army are not liberators but rather threat to the existence of the tribal ways. Yes we can see the killings that are reported while ignoring the fact that every missile destroys a family. Indeed the Trauma is enough for one to justify his struggle for revenge even if it is in the name of religion.

    Prior to Waziristan movement (army 'invasion') we had peace in our lands and the tribal areas. Then one must ponder here the reason for what really creates a terrorist.

    Perhaps , you may chose to call them terrorists. For them Pak army are worse than that. There has been not a single investigation in Pakistan over any suicide bombing. The Civilians are targeted but no investigation takes place. The first word that pops up is 'taliban'.

    Did anyone bother taking Political Sciences here in Pakistan? is the concept of Utilitarian too Naive for one to understand?

    The ISI is an Utilitarian organization, So are every other intelligence agenncies of the world. To explain in brief , they will kill their own kin for the benefit of the majority (the concept of utility , whichever yields greater benefit). That is to say , if killing 50 pakistanis save the threat of danger to the lives of 1 million Pakistanis, the ISI or any other intelligence organization will not hesitate to get over with 50 of those however innocent they might be.

    In short, every attack on the military comes from the taliban – no matter how many civilians they take with them. That is another argument. The point being 'taliban' were oppressed by the army , their ideology will be revenge and any civilian casualty is not their burden to carry as for they have not been the target. I'm not justifying the deaths of innocent , i'm just explaining the concept of both sides.

    Shock and Awe, whatever brings the most damage regardless of the mode utilized. Example = Rawalpindi Mosque.

    Any attack on the Civilians (where they are targetted) are deliberate. Comes from the Army itself. They will deceit , because the support of locals and the tribes is what mattrs more to them.

    Thus we see there will never be an investigation . No links will be established and some suspects will be apprehended who will later be released by the court. We are still unable to find Benazir's killers? is that not enough to admit that we do not investigate???

    1. Zainab Avatar

      True! your ideology is very deep indeed. We are the culprits within ourselves. That makes each of us a terrorist because we are the ones behind it. Why Pakistan? what are talibans?? just students. How can talibans be terrorist. Who are the targets? Poor innocent people. What a disgrace? Is this justification to humanity? Not to mention what our religioon teaches us. Pity.

  10. Sadia Hussain Avatar
    Sadia Hussain

    Terrorism is a complex subject that offers no definite answers. It is different from other insurgencies as it cease of exists as long as the ideology is intact. It derives power from social injustices and if we were to fight terrorism then we must also fight the ideology that propagates terrorism