How the world should deal with radical Islam
Okay, before you jump on me with a “being a non-Muslim it’s none of your business how radicalized or liberalized Islam becomes” I would like to say that it is very much my business, because when radical Islamists attack, anybody can be a victim. Tomorrow if there is a Fidayeen attack on our neighbourhood mall and my family and I happen to be there, it becomes very serious business for me.
You may also say that greater dangers are imposed by the Western countries like America that constantly play the games of war and intrigue and wreck havoc with people’s lives and hence, they are terrorists too. To a great extent I agree (not exactly being the terrorist part, but definitely muddying the waters and then keeping them muddied) — if America didn’t support Pakistan materially and financially India would be a much safer and better place. In fact, even the Taliban was propped up by the Americans (remember in the various Rambo movies the Talabanis were the good guys helping Rambo fight the evil Russians?), so yes, countries like America are a big problem. For oil and strategic advantage America will support any despotic regime or barbaric culture. But despite this information at hand, I can easily say that the world around me is made more dangerous by Islamic radicals rather than by America.
In fact, I’m publishing this blog post on Medium which, if I’m not wrong, is an American company (am I wrong?). The iPhone or the iPad that you use is brought to you by an American company. Much of my work comes from America. The client with whom I have worked the most so far is an American. The software that you are using in all probability comes from an American company. Look around you, is there any product or service that you are currently using that comes from an Islamic country? Though I’m not writing this blog post to bitch about Islam or Islamic countries. I want to talk about how the world should deal with radical Islam.
Has this idea come to me after the barbaric attack on Charlie Hebdo? The incident might be an instigator, but today I was watching with my wife a movie on the life of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel called Sardar, and in one of the scenes he is shown to be arguing with Jawaharlal Nehru about what to do with the properties left behind by the Muslims who had gone to Pakistan immediately after the partition. Here is the portion I’m talking about:
Whereas Sardar Patel wanted those properties to be given to the Hindus and Sikhs refugees who had come from Pakistan, Nehru insisted that either the properties be given to the Muslims or they should be kept vacant in case the Muslims who had gone to Pakistan decided to come back. A heated discussion follows and Sardar Patel who was the Home Minister warns Jawaharlal Nehru that the biggest threat to secularism would be segregating communities like this. He believed that people of different religions must be settled together rather than separately. Of course Nehru’s decision prevailed and we are bearing the brunt of the lopsided secularism that he and his successors practiced. Alarmingly, the same sort of misplaced secularism is being practiced all over the world and instead of making Muslims happy, such secularism makes them believe that the rest of the world is theirs for the taking.
Contrary to what some Muslim intellectuals and misguided liberals claim, Muslims do prefer to live in concentrated areas, creating ghettos wherever possible. In most of the countries the situation is so grave that even law enforcement agencies are scared of entering these ghettos in case there is some problem. So the first step towards de-radicalising Islam would be discouraging the buildup of ghettos and encouraging Muslims to live with other communities and become tolerant towards them. I know this cannot be achieved in a hurry and it may take 5–10 years but the process must be started as soon as possible. When they start living with other communities they will understand that the world doesn’t just revolve around their religion and there are other religions and beliefs in the world that have equal claim if not more, to the world.
A dedicated international body on the scale of United Nations must be formed to tackle countries that abet and encourage radical Islamic groups. This task cannot be left to individual countries because then economic and strategic interests take precedence over what’s good for the world in the long run.
Take for example the case of America. On one hand it wants Pakistan to rein in extremist groups that work towards mounting attacks on America but on the other hand, it isn’t bothered much about Pakistan sustaining extremist groups that regularly mount attacks on India. Hundreds of millions of dollars of aid is routinely given to Pakistan and most of this money is used to sustain terror activities against India, and America knows that. This selective approach towards dealing with the radicals, no matter how smart the American strategists think they are, isn’t going to work. A fire doesn’t distinguish between the various inflammable objects. If there is a fire in the jungle, everything burns. The same is true with terrorists, especially Islamic terrorists. They are nobody’s allies. They aren’t even the allies of a country like Pakistan that acts like a haven for them — they massacred 132 schoolchildren in Peshawar on 16 December 2014. Islamic organizations like Boko Haram in Africa go on killing Muslims themselves. They’re simply loyal to their cause and it hardly matters to them whether they have to carry out terrorist activities on Indian soil, American soil or inside the crater of Eyjafjallajökull.
The dedicated international body must have its own force so that it can act unilaterally whenever there is a need. If this is too extreme, at least it should have enough teeth to force other countries to act collectively to rein in despotic regimes that support terrorists or the terrorist organizations themselves.
Tufail Ahmad in this well-written article on somewhat similar topic rightly says that there are many countries that wage a war against their own citizens. He writes:
The Pakistani nation-state crushes its people in Balochistan. The Sunni nation-state of Bahrain tramples upon its Shia majority. The Chinese nation-state suppresses its Muslim population in Xinjiang.
Iraq suppresses the Kurds and Sunnis while Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan allow persecution of their Shia minorities. (Kashmir is not good example because the people elect their government, can openly challenge the power of the Indian nation state and are about to overcome jihadist insurgency commissioned from outside.) The argument here is this: the international state system anchored to the United Nations since the Second World War is failing to address emerging problems caused by its member-states, notably the rise of global jihadism. The UN is paralysed. There are two urgent needs: dismantle the UN and seed a new international state system; and evolve an international strategy to undermine the global jihadism from within and without.
A global strategy must take into account the suppression by nation-states of people within their own borders as well as the state support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Pakistan to jihadist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Canadian-Pakistani writer Tarek Fatah has suggested that global extremism can be undermined from within by addressing the issues of Balochistan, Kurdistan, Turkey’s support of Muslim Brotherhood, among others.
The attitude that no matter what happens in these countries we should mind our own business and take care of our own interests ends harming everybody. There needs to be some global mechanism to counter such state-sponsored terrorism because once it begins to germinate, like a poisonous weed, it quickly spreads over other areas and by the time you realize, it has dug its roots and you find yourself wringing your hands in helplessness.
Liberals, leftists seculars and armchair intellectuals pepped up by opportunistic politicians cause lots of confusion about terrorism. You must have come across the usual refrain “your terrorist is someone’s freedom fighter”. In fact the confusion is so great that even the actual freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh (see this Wikipedia entry if you don’t know who he was) are sometimes called terrorists by this cabal of misinformation and propaganda mongers. So there is a desperate need to clearly define what is terrorism.
Terrorists are those people who target civilian areas in order to kill unarmed civilians. If you plant a bomb in a temple or a church or mosque or a synagogue or a market, anywhere where people get killed or maimed if the bomb goes off, you are a terrorist. If you take civilians postage in order to make a political statement or in order to get other terrorists released from jail, you are a terrorist. Obviously if you hijack a plane or train or bus, you are a terrorist. Since you are not respecting the human rights of your victims, you don’t deserve the privilege of the same human rights. You immediately lose all the rights available in the civilized world. A terrorist shouldn’t be treated like a common criminal and he or she shouldn’t also be treated like a soldier because this is not a war, it is a hideous act of violence and barbarity. The world quickly needs to arrive at a consensus on defining terrorism and then penalizing those who try to cause confusion and sympathies with terrorists instead of their victims.
Although you cannot control what goes on in Muslim-majority countries at least in the countries where Muslims are not in a majority, governments should take care that they are not able to form ghettos. This was what Sardar Patel was trying to convey to Jawaharlal Nehru — don’t encourage Muslims to live in concentrated areas and if that was allowed to happen, it would only encourage sectarian ideologies. Governments should actively encourage people from other communities to buy properties in Muslim majority areas and then make sure that these people from other communities feel safe. Obviously in a town where there are thousands of Muslims a few Hindu families for instance would feel unsafe, and this is where the government has to step in and make sure that they are not threatened or victimized. In many western countries like France Muslims are allowed to create their own Muslim townships and most of the problem is coming from there. The Kashmir problem would have been solved decades ago and many lives would have been saved if the government had started settling people from other parts of the country in the Valley. A known problem with Muslims is that they cannot tolerate other religions when they are in a majority and they will only learn if they are forced to live with other people for a prolonged period, maybe a couple of generations.
Another good suggestion by Tufail in his article is that the curriculum in the madrassas (orthodox schools of Islamic learning) should be revamped and modern educational concepts must be introduced. If I’m not wrong the Narendra Modi government is already introducing modern education in madrassas. Lots of government grant is given to these Muslim institutions of education so it would be easier for the government to attach a condition that certain educational norms must be met with before these funds can be availed.
In conclusion, the main problem with Muslims is that somehow they end up living in concentrated areas. Even influential and educate Muslims most of the time prefer to live in Muslim-majority areas. This is something that must be discouraged, either voluntarily or by force. Of course this cannot be achieved without a sense of safety and justice for all communities. Nothing can be achieved unless Muslims feel safe living with other communities and other communities feel safe living with Muslims. So this is a precondition that the situation must be conducive to such cohabitation.
As a first step, the world should accept that there is a problem with radical Islam or its interpretation and this problem needs to be urgently dealt with otherwise it is going to engulf the entire world within a century. Our grandchildren are going to curse us one day for unleashing upon them such an evil force.
What can Muslims to?
Even they need to recognize that there is some problem or at least some sort of communication gap. Whenever there is a major terrorist strike anywhere in the world people from other communities expect Muslims to condemn the attack and Muslims begin to resent that why should they condemn when they are not involved. By doing so they fail to realize that their silence is often taken as acknowledgement by radical groups.
Thomas Friedman has rightly said in this New York Times article that organizing a million-person march in Paris is all very fine, but unless there is a similar march against such terrorist attack in the Muslim world, nothing significant can be achieved. He says:
Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, one of the most respected Arab journalists, wrote Monday in his column in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: “Protests against the recent terrorist attacks in France should have been held in Muslim capitals, rather than Paris, because, in this case, it is Muslims who are involved in this crisis and stand accused. … The story of extremism begins in Muslim societies, and it is with their support and silence that extremism has grown into terrorism that is harming people. It is of no value that the French people, who are the victims here, take to the streets. … What is required here is for Muslim communities to disown the Paris crime and Islamic extremism in general.”
When they speak up against their misguided brothers and sisters they send a message to them that no, being a Muslim does not mean being a fanatic and it definitely does not mean hating other religions and forcing the world your way. Piece-loving and tolerant Muslims must convey to radical Muslims that it’s not the radical version of Islam that rules the roost but the moderate, inclusive version. This is a reason why people want them to speak up. The real change will come when Muslims start speaking up against radical Islamists without being compelled to do so. It’s like, if someone is misrepresenting the philosophy that you revere so much, isn’t it your responsibility to set the record straight?