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Volume 3, No. 6 - November 2003

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Reaching the Roots of Terrorism
K. N. Pandita

For last two years the US is actively engaged in combating Islamic terror. Big and small powers in the European, Asian and African continents are also activated against terrorism. Even the isolated Australia is as much pro-active in fighting it out.

Muslim leaders and governments are unhappy to call it Islamic terrorism. They argue Islam is a religion of peace and that Islamic faith is not the cause of terrorism. There are some takers of this theory, some at personal and others on official level, whether out of exigency of situation or by conviction.

Whatever the case, generally Muslims are involved in major terrorist acts, be it the US, South Africa, South, Central or South East Asia. Reports coming from many European countries where there is a sizeable population of emigrants Muslims like, France, Belgium, UK and Germany, indicate involvement of Islamic clerics, Islamic seminaries and Islamic places of worship, congregations or shrines.

While affected governments are taking stringent preventive measures, more and more alarming details of active involvement of Islamic radicals are forthcoming. At the end of the day, a grand global network of Islamic radicalism with two main features becomes crystal clear. One is intensive and rather coercive indoctrination of the Muslim youth in and outside the seminaries with Islamic radicalism. The other is providing it with powerful military muscle in the shape of Islamic militias variously called like mujahideen, fidayeen and invariably “freedom fighters” (hurriyat pasand).

The objective is to fulfill the word of the scripture and the assurance of the Holy Prophet that Islamic faith shall prevail. It means that all temporal and spiritual power over the world has to rest in the hands of Islam. And when we say Islam, the meaning is the Islamic theocratic structure sometimes called Islamic Caliphate. Since the believers are promised that Islam’s power shall prevail, this provides the rationale for supreme sacrifices including the suicidal sacrifice of the fidayeen.

This concept of global supremacy is strengthened by the presumption that Muslims having sizeable presence in many big countries in the world, especially the west, must strike now, as it is the right time to act. This view is reinforced by the fact that maximum portion of the world’s hydrocarbon wealth remains within the territorial boundaries and control of the Islamic countries. Oil is the real power in contemporary world.

The formation of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) nearly two decades ago, might have initially drawn inspiration from the EU. But in essence. carries the undertones of the concept of Islamic supremacy. Pakistan, with strategic advantage to play the resistance role in face of growing ideological intrusion of the erstwhile Soviet Union, was prompted by the imperialists to be more vociferous than others in the OIC in championing the cause of Islam were. Orientation of her bureaucracy in the British model was an effective tool in her hands to carve out a conspicuous place for her. And then the Kashmir issue comes handy – the winning chip. In the speeches of Pakistani delegates to the OIC all these years, one finds more focus on Kashmir rather than on Palestine. Indeed Pakistan tried for the centrality of Kashmir issue in OIC deliberations. In a moment of excitement, All Party Hurriyat hailed Pakistan’s initiative of nominating it for observer’s status in the organization unmindful of the consequences of getting discredited at home. Thus with the Saudis and Pakistanis keeping the reins of the OIC in their hands, the US remained comfortable with the idea of Islamic Caliphate and radicalism having their sway over the Muslim world.

Up to 1998, non-possession of nuclear deterrent by the Islamic bloc was a serious loophole in the theory. But once Pakistan exploded the bomb in 1998 and christened it “Islamic Bomb”, she was only giving out the basics of the Qur’anic injunction and the assurance of the Holy Prophet. With oil and natural gas energy at its command, with the largest mass of human resource to run the errand, and now with the weapon of mass destruction at its command, Muslims began to nurse the vision of the caliphate.

The decisive turn came in 1979 when the anti-monarchy and anti-American mass movement in Iran led by the Ayatollahs changed the history of the region and of the world by throwing out the Americans not through force of arms but through the force of determined general will of the people. This historic event brought an awakening among the Muslims world over and also among the policy planners in the White House. Unlike its reaction to the anti-monarchy movement of Dr. Mossadegh in 1950s, Washington chose to quietly withdraw from Iran. She had two strong reasons to do so. One was that any retaliatory measure would have drawn the revolutionists to Moscow making things very difficult for the Americans. The second reason was that perpetuation of the regime of Ayatollahs of Iran would bring them into direct confrontation with the Saudis on the question of leadership of the Islamic world. This scenario actually developed and became a reality. Iranian pilgrims to Mecca created a row within the precincts of sanctum sanctorum with dire reprisals from the Saudi security establishment.

Khumeini announced from the pulpit that monarchy was alien to Islam and that all monarchs from the times of Pharaoh down to the Shah of Iran were illegal. With that, tension between the Iran of Ayatollahs and the Saudi Arabia of her monarchs intensified. Islamic terror, as we see it today, is partially the fallout of Iran-Saudi rivalry for seizing the leadership of the Muslims of the world. In this neck to neck fight, Iran lost the race. This is one of the reasons why Iran is struggling to go nuclear. If she can, she will wrest the initiative from the hands of the Saudis as well as the Pakistanis because the Shias are gall to the Sunni Wahhabi fanatics world over. This is also the reason why the US has been doing anti-Iran saber rattling.

The US is facing mounting resistance in Afghanistan and in Iraq. It is now dawning on her that low intensity warfare is perhaps more damaging than an open war. There is no doubt that she will have to change her strategy of fighting Islamic terror globally. One of the options is to mend fences with them. That would entail heavy price like withdrawing outright support to the Saudi monarchy and Israel. That would also mean withdrawing the favours to Pakistan. Such measures would spell doom to her foreign policy.

The other option before her is to reach the core of terrorist Islam and that is Pakistan. Had Washington seriously viewed that option and discarded both Afghan and Iraq adventure, she would have met with startling success. And taking on Pakistan means taking on her nuclear capability. As days roll by and Washington demonstrates reluctance to go in for this option, things will become more and more grim for her. By Pakistan we mean Pakistan’s powerful and highly organized network of fundamentalist-terrorist organizations, which are no more in General Musharraf’s control.

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