The dominant topic on the minds of many over the week needs little introduction. On the whole, people have shown admirable gestures of peace and support in times of destruction, hatred and violence – but the integrity of these gestures is short lived in some, with some people discrediting the feelings of solidarity by closemindedly evaluating the causes of last weekend’s attacks and others like it, in a way that doesn’t bode well for the success of counter-terrorism.
As the public becomes more familiar to frequent terrorist attacks, there are signs that it is becoming gradually less socially acceptable to blame Islam. A step in the right direction, yes – but it only amounts to a step up the ladder of scapegoating, with many people still referring to the issue less specifically as a religious phenomenon. People spouting edicts against the religious world are misplacing their skills of analysis. Ask them if they have heard of groups like the Baader Meinhof Gang, the SPK, Combat 18, the Weathermen and the Aum Shinrikyo, and they will most likely say no.
Anyone familiar with these groups is likely to concede that horrific terrorism is not constrained by the precepts of religious dogma by itself. Nationalism, Separatism and socialism are examples of political ideologies and movements that fuelled the terrorism of the 18th, 19th, 20th and still the 21st century, yet many claim that the issue is still a religious issue. The lack of a common denominator amongst all acts of terrorism other than the species of those committing them goes to some depth in displaying its intrinsically political nature. Despite being a common facilitator, religion is not an essential feature of terrorism, in so far that it is not inevitable that a religious community will exhibit the fanaticism associated with terror, despite what Fox news, the Daily Mail and Britain First to name a few will tell you.
religion is not an essential feature of terrorism
It is the situation of events that determine what will be used to rally interest and participation in a cause, and it so happens to be that the ever worsening crisis in the Middle-East has led to the use of a geographically present Abrahamic religion, which has remained beyond peaceful and on many occasions historically and socially essential in the past, being used to justify and manifest support for political violence as a means of gaining concessions from an uncompromising and globalising political system ultimately upheld by our social values. It is no accident that people are so quick to attribute the problem of terrorism to the terrorist’s supposed irrationality, mental state and their religion, as this is what they ultimately want.
Though we have developed a lot since the times of rigid culturally homogeneity, the same principles of prejudice dictate much of our perception. We confuse commonality with causality, and enact insufficient norms that only serve to worsen the problem further. The fact that the majority of large terrorist attacks picked up by the media in the past decade or so have been committed by Islamic groups is by no means evidence that Islam is inherently violent, or that terrorism is an intrinsic feature of Muslim practice.
Nevertheless, huge amounts of people act within their prescribed cognitive formats, and exert a lot of energy convincing themselves and those around them that we are in a clash of civilisations. The problem of terrorism is far more complicated and troubling than a lot of people would like to understand. The power of a terrorist’s cause does not dissolve once they are killed or when they are denied access to a country, and it would appear that most if not all western foreign policy has completely overlooked this fact.
Basic short-sighted and populist rhetoric calling for closed borders and forced religious moderation is exactly what modern terrorists want. Their political, not primarily religious opposition to the entire notion of liberal globalisation, a movement which since its conception has subjugated and disenfranchised many of the nations from which our terrorist ‘enemies’ come from, aims to destabilise western states from the inside and instigate the kind of social hostility that makes them vulnerable and weak. The first step of this process is made when an individual looks at the kinds of abhorrent violence they see on the news, and ascribes the violence of what they see to obvious features of the people committing them, such as their skin colour, nationality or the insignia they wear around their neck, with no regard for their goals and values.
The rest seems to come naturally, and what is in danger of occurring is the kind of social xenophobia that forces ethnic and religious minorities sharing the obvious features of the terrorists to isolate themselves. The kind if political agenda mandated by the nation’s sentiments of fear and aversion then start to be over scrupulous and cautious of such cultural and religious practices in a way that installs resentment to established government, and therefore a drive toward the kind of militant and radical thinking/behaviour that got people so scared in the first place. The west is radicalising its own citizens and making its own terrorists.