The way to fight terrorism is to eliminate the violent ideology behind it
How can one forget the mindless massacre that took place on July 1, 2016 in the Artisan Bakery in Gulshan? Innocent lives were lost, including Bangladeshis and foreigners, and violence reigned supreme. It also resulted in the death of two police officials and injury to a few others.
Religion was used to explain actions that were in total violation of international norms and human rights.
This evolving dynamic, most unfortunately, has now spread not only across frontiers but also religious faiths and beliefs. It is affecting personal security, individual and collective socio-economic rights.
This has included the use of guns or daggers or motor vehicles with the intention of fatally injuring individuals. The idea is to spread terror among ordinary citizens.
The latest in this series of unwanted incidents has been the effort undertaken by a man, of Armenian origin, trying to drive his vehicle into a crowd outside a mosque in the suburb of Creteil, Paris in the last week of June.
The police was able to arrest him after he was apparently thwarted by barriers put up to protect the mosque. It was later reported that the suspect, a non-Muslim had wanted to avenge attacks on the Bataclan theatre and Champs-Élysées, both linked to so-called Islamic State.
France has remained under a state of emergency since attacks on the capital in November 2015.
This trend of vehicle ramming terrorist attacks on innocent civilians has gained in frequency in Europe over the last year.
On July 14, 2016 a man drove a lorry for more than one mile through a large crowd gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, France.
86 people were killed, and more than 300 injured.
The hits and misses
On December 19, 2016 a man drove a lorry through the crowded Breitscheidplatz Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, killing 12 people and injuring 49. IS later claimed it had carried out the attack.
On March 22 this year six people died and at least 50 were injured in London, UK, when a car mounted the pavement on London’s Westminster Bridge and drove at high speed through pedestrians.
On April 7, four people were killed in Stockholm, Sweden when a lorry crashed into the front of a department store. The Uzbek driver was arrested and confessed to the “terrorist crime.”
On June 3, eight people were killed when three attackers drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge, UK and launched a knife attack in Borough Market. The attackers were subsequently shot dead.
Another attack took place on June 19 in London when a non-Muslim man drove a van into a group of worshippers close to a mosque in north London during the month of Ramadan.
Is India safe?
The unfortunate dimension of such unwanted violence has now started to expand because of fundamentalism, populism, and communalism. To such occurrences has now been added a growing number of violent incidents in India, being carried out in the name of the protection of cows.
On June 29, Modi told a gathering in his home state Gujarat that killing people in the name of cow protection was “not in keeping with the principles of India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi.” He also added that “as a society, there is no place for violence,” and that “no person has the right to take the law in his or her own hands.”
The intensity of communal terrorism in India has been reflected in an AFP report that since 2010, in 63 attacks, 28 Indians (24 of them Muslims) have been killed and 124 injured in cow-related violence. Targets are often picked based on rumours and Muslims have been attacked for even transporting cows for milk.
One must admit that the response from Indian civil society towards this growing orbit of violence has been laudable. In the last week of June, protests under the banner #NotInMyName were held in several Indian cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Lucknow, and Allahabad, as well as in London.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government has come under increasing pressure from Hindu hardliners who unfortunately seem to forget that although the majority of India’s estimated 1.2 billion people is Hindu, the country is also home to large Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist minorities.
The most effective way to limit the growth and stop the expansion of violent terrorism is to eliminate factors that encourage such activity and belief
The Arab world
We need to turn now to what is happening in the Middle East. Violence emanating from this arena is polluting the calm waters in different parts of the world — in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America.
The sectarian divide juxtaposed with political ambitions is creating instability and lack of accountability. We have seen examples of this also in Bangladesh. Many have consequently welcomed the prospect of IS finally crumbling in Iraq.
Farah Najjar of Al Jazeera has however made an interesting observation: “As IS’s ‘caliphate’ crumbles, its ideology remains.” That is something which needs to be understood by those carrying out the campaign against terrorism-prone organisations.
Currently, the battle against IS, now in its final stages, is centered on the group’s last two urban strongholds: Mosul in Iraq, and Raqqa, the group’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria.
IS is expected to be militarily defeated by the end of the year, according to Strack. Its territory will then be reduced to a number of “small isolated pockets” in Iraq and to “a narrow strip of towns and villages” in Syria’s Deir Az Zor.
Despite this expected evolution, Professor Ranj Alaaldin has made an interesting observation: “The end of the so-called caliphate does not mean the end of IS. It could splinter into different groups or align themselves with other extremist groups.”
That would create a real challenge against security forces. It has also been mentioned that currently, there is no “political and humanitarian strategy or framework for the day after IS.”
In this context, regional powers, the US, the EU, and Russia need to understand that without the resources to rebuild the destruction in Iraq and Syria, it might be challenging to restore stability and implement good governance initiatives that will give people jobs and basic services.
Khouri has consequently correctly mentioned that unless underlying regional issues such as unemployment, human rights abuses, and political repression are addressed, IS’s ideology will continue to attract the disenfranchised and politically excluded. Therein lies the danger.
I believe that the most effective way to limit the growth and stop the expansion of violent terrorism is to eliminate factors that encourage such activity and belief. This will require that all of us focus on eradicating obstacles that breed mismanagement, corruption, and lack of political participation.
One way to this destination would be to follow John Milton’s observation: “Discussion is knowledge in the making.” Perpetrators of such indiscriminate violence also need to remember that the Creator does not distinguish between His creations. Instead, He has always directed that we need to help and support each other and ensure that we do not harm others.
Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador and Chief Information Commissioner of the Information Commission, is an analyst specialised in foreign affairs, right to information, and good governance. He can be reached at [email protected]