Last month, the US Treasury Department has added two individuals and seven organisations of six countries connected to Islamic State (IS) to its sanctions list for global terrorism. All those organisations are named after five Muslim majority countries except the Philippines.
We do not know whether the organisation named ISIS-Bangladesh has any connection/base in Bangladesh or it has been organised by someone (may be Bangladeshi/US) living in the US. Though the concerned Bangladesh authority has, at first hand, denied the existence of such an organisation in Bangladesh, but it might demand further investigation.
We do not know whether any religion in the world supports terrorism or violent activities. All religions speak of peace. No religion allows its followers to take up arms unless it is attacked. It is true, however, that there were religious wars and killings caused for the protection or propagation of religion. We are not sure whether those could be termed as terrorist activities. How many of the violence occurring today in the world are for religious cause? Whereas religion is being dragged on the pretext of a terrorist’s religious identity. People often take the extreme path of protest due to the discrimination of world’s political or economic system. For whatever reason this violence is taking place, the blame goes to the religious identity of the persons involved. And that information spreads immediately all over the world. As a result, the innocent followers of that religion have to face the consequences. Their suffering knows no bound.
Terrorism is nothing new in the world. The Sicarii Zealots (the dagger-men) of the first century, the eleventh century’s Al-Hashshashin or the Fénian Brotherhood and Narodnaya Volya of the 19th century, might be the examples in the history of terrorism. But there had been many such killings in the world that took place to gain political supremacy or power. Nobody can deny the killings for religious cause in those days.
In the first century, the Jewish community was found engaged in terrorist activities against the Roman rule. In the eleventh century, the massacre of Hashshashin group (led by Hassan-i-Sabbah) took place between two groups of Muslims. During the French Revolution, about 40,000 people were killed during the Reign of Terror (1793-1794). Guillotine was a strategy to kill people. The origin of ‘terrorism’ or its practice might have started from that period. The killings for political reasons did not happen in Asia only; examples of terrorist activities could also be found in Europe, America and Africa. There were significant cases of terrorism or murder for religious reasons.
About 2,500 years ago, Gautam Buddha declared the killing of animals as a great sin. But later Buddhist monks were seen to commit or indulge in violent activities. We know, in the 20th and 21st centuries, Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese Buddhists attacked local Christians and Tamils. However, it is believed that the political motives were more prominent behind those incidents than the religious sentiments. Most of the people of Bhutan are Buddhists. There, nobody usually kill any creature, whether it is a small insect or fish, chicken, cow, goat or human being. They take fish or meat as food after someone kills that or found it dead. But in the 1990s, they overthrew the Nepalese living in Bhutan for political reasons, and nobody knows how many Nepalese were killed at that time. That is, there was deviation from the rule of religion. However, it happened not because of religion, but for political reasons.
Christianity, like other religions, speaks of love and peace. Christians think the resurrection of Jesus Christ would provide salvation for the whole mankind. We see an early form of terrorism in the 15th century Spanish inquisition. The church-sanctioned tribunals, through inhuman torture, were involved in rooting out those who disagreed to accept Catholicism.
Non-violence is a quality or belief in Hinduism. But the religion does not restrict to stand against injustice. Violence had occurred among the Hindus, thousands of examples can be found. In 1948, a Hindu killed Mahatma Gandhi, the symbol of non-violence. Nobody knows how many communal riots have occurred between Hindus and Muslims in India and how many people were killed. But, has anyone termed those as the Hindu terrorism?
Islam is the religion of peace. But it is not true that there were no violence at different times. Many killings had taken place to gain power or property. The 21st Century’s ‘Al Qaeda’ has hit many installations in Europe and America. On 11 September 2001, Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attack in the United States has changed the pace of world history. Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group nurtured in Pakistan, launched an attack in Mumbai in November 2008. That attack killed hundreds of innocent people. Though born in Muslim families, but they were derailed from the ideals of Islam and turned into terrorists.
While speaking of respecting the sanctity of life, Judaism does not deny violence. In the first century, the Sicarii terrorists used dagger to kill people to protest Roman rule. In the 1940s, Zionist militants carried out terrorist attacks against the British in Palestine.
Terrorists and extremists justify violence misinterpreting religion, whether they are Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Sikh. Their aim is to convince simple religious people in the name of religion to be involved in violence activities. In fact, they are convinced to believe that they are doing these things only to protect religion. Defining it a war for religion, they prepare the new recruits mentally to attack the people of other religions. Even they believe that if they die during the attack, they will be granted heaven. In this case, exploiting the weak side of the religious sentiment, these terrorists are not only hurting the beliefs of religion, but also destroying the society, the state and the religion through various terrorist activities. All the people of that religion have to pay the utmost price due to the adverse effects of their activities on religion.
In fact, it would be wrong if we judge terrorists on their religious identity. It might be justified if the terrorists are defined according to their citizenship or name of their organisation, but not their religion. They might be identified as Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Afghan terrorists, Iraqi terrorists, Syrian terrorists, etc, not as Islamic, Jewish or Christian terrorists. No religion in the world approves terrorist activities.
In the present world, every Muslim, irrespective of country, colour and position, has to pay the price for the terrorist activities of certain members of the Muslim community. Islam is not only the world’s best religion; Islam is the religion of peace, the religion of tolerance, the religion of respect to other religions. Today, the Muslims of the world have to take the responsibility of others’ bad impression on Islam due to these terrorists. Muslims are being humiliated in different ways, facing assault and bullying, and suffering disruption in normal living. If these terrorists would have little faith in religion, they could not terrorise and seduce others in that way. False remains false forever, it never turns to be true. Their deviation from the ideals of Islam is not necessarily for religious cause, there might be economic or political reasons behind. But, that issue could not be solved through violence.
There is no religious war in the present world. And war, generally, is not a terrorist act; it follows certain rules. Therefore, the terrorism that is obstructing world peace in the name of religion has to be prevented. And it has to be done collectively, regardless of state, race and ethnicity. We must keep in mind that terrorists have no religion, terrorists are terrorists. And it will be injustice if believers of the same religion are made sufferer for their acts.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary