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Understanding Genesis of Terrorism, its link with Religion, Socio-Cultural , Economic aspects, Power Politics and Counter Narrative

Products of targeted violence, terrorists are not criminals or psychopaths:
by Angshuman Choudhury,
Editor's Note: This three part series looks at the complexity of 'Islamist terrorism' in the context of the recent terror attacks by the Islamic State, targeting Dhaka, Baghdad, Istanbul and Saudi Arabia. The series explores the dangers of defining terrorism in terms of either 'religious' violence or 'political' violence; terrorism is more complicated than we think it is.

In this part one, read about why labelling terrorists as psychopaths or criminals is an untenable argument.
This year, the Holy Month of Ramzan saw an apocalyptic display of what terrorism is capable of.
On 28 June, three gunmen armed with automatic weapons and explosive belts launched a coordinated attack on Istanbul's Kemal Ataturk International Airport, killing 45 civilians and injuring 238 others. Three days later, terror struck at a separate corner of the world when gunmen stormed into a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh and killed 20 civilians after taking them hostage. Two days later, Iraq saw its deadliest single bomb blast since 2007 when a massive truck bomb exploded in a busy commercial district of Baghdad killing more than 200 and injuring 225 others.
Two days hence, a triple suicide bombing attack hit three different Saudi cities, including the burial place of Prophet Mohammad in the holy city Medina, killing four. Four days later, on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, another bomb exploded outside a large congregation in Dhaka, injuring more than five people. While the first four attacks have been linked, directly or by conjecture, to the Islamic State (IS), the perpetrator of the fifth one remains yet uncertain. The radical Sunni extremist group straightaway claimed responsibility for the assaults in the Dhaka Café and Baghdad, not doing so directly for Istanbul and Saudi Arabia. But, all rationally-collated evidence points towards IS' involvement in the latter two instances too.
This recent tirade of radical 'Islamist violence' (which I define as a hybrid between theological and political aggression by Islamic entities) against a predominantly Muslim target pool, as opposed to 'culturally diametric' Western societies, has baffled many. As always, the counter-narrative on social media has been fierce and relentless, and quite diversified in the least. The last week saw Facebook and Twitter feeds turn into sordid carousels of tummy-tickling memes about fused-out politicians and gut wrenching images of bloodied bodies at the same time.
Unsurprisingly, the dramatic show of violence against innocents has regurgitated two interlinked pop-culture narratives (or perhaps 'counter-narratives') that have found strong currency in the past as 'valid counters to Islamophobia' – "terrorism has no religion”; and "these are not Muslims, they are psychopaths/criminals”. While they serve to immediately offset wholesale, irrational hatred against the global Muslim community after attacks by Islamist aggressors, the arguments are massively untenable in their own right.
Islamophobic monologues are generally premised upon a superficial understanding of terrorism, but what worries me is that the above counter-narrative too is a rabbit in rhino's skin. Is this 'pop culture' discourse against Islamist terrorism (and the resultant cultural hatred) a propagation of the same old reductive public discourse that is devoid of nuance and heavy on emotions?

If the Kalashnikov-toting, vest-wearing, dagger-donning men who blew themselves up in Istanbul or butchered innocent civilians in cold blood in Dhaka 'were not Muslims', then we must legitimately inquire as to what they really were, or even better 'who' they really were. Three popular answers that I have personally come across are – 'they are terrorists', 'they are criminals', and 'they are psychopaths'. Well, they are most certainly 'terrorists'. But, they are neither criminals nor psychopaths. Terrorism is an intricate recipe for targeted violence that is composed of a whole range of ingredients, and 'criminality' or 'psychosis' aren't one of them.
Terrorists are not psychopaths or mental retards for a very unsophisticated reason. Extensive studies and interviews of militant recruits/leaders have validated that terrorist groups would never hire a psychopath, simply because a mentally unstable individual is an unpredictable unit of operation. She or he is not expected to think rationally under pressure, judiciously follow (or remember) orders, commiserate with a certain ideological cause, or inflict calculated and targeted destruction – all of which are absolutely vital for a blueprint of terror.
Psychopathology is intrinsically linked to a sense of apathy or cognitive dissonance, and hence, could be counterproductive for terrorist groups who are way more rationally-thinking than we would like to believe. No militant outfit would ever risk an inadvertent exposure of their networks or tactics by sending out a volatile, uncontrollable recruit into secured territories. If we were to completely disengage from the emotional narratives of anger, we would realise that terrorism isn't madness. It is, in fact, the very opposite of insanity – a meticulous process of tactical decision-making and strategic action.
Secondly, terrorists are not criminals. No study has ever ensconced 'criminality' as a common trait of terrorist groups. Let us not veer too far to understand this, and stick to the common perpetrator (or alleged perpetrator) of all the recent attacks: the Islamic State (IS). This Middle East-based extremist group that invented and lucratively sold a cross-cultural 'imaginative discourse' of a Caliphate to many is anything but a 'criminal gang'. It is not a non-ideological force or a purely utilitarian mercenary group in its operational policy.

In fact, it has a solid and distinctly identifiable religious-cultural locus – Wahhabi-Salafi doctrine, an ultraorthodox variant within Sunni Islam that also happens to be the state doctrine of Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, criminal gangs completely lack any sense of 'ideology', are purely utilitarian in their approach, and are (generally) devoid of theosophical, doctrinaire motivations. While profit-making is usually the prime prerogative for criminal gangs, it is only a complementary element in the matrix of motivations for terrorist groups.
Terror attacks and perils of emotive criticism: Why we must not delink religion and terror

In part two, find out how 'Islamic terrorism' is the result of a dynamic flux of 'politics and theology'.

How fair is it to delink religion and terrorism, especially 'Islamist terrorism'?
People stand by an explosion site in Medina, Saudi Arabia this month. AP
'Terrorism' hardly exists in isolation, and is a compounded manifestation of a motley set of push-pull factors that contribute towards forming a terrorist's identity. The argument, "they (attackers) are not Muslims, they are terrorists” is fundamentally flawed and rather, unwise. The 'terrorist' is not a distinctive entity based on a disassociated plane, but rather a by-product of an earthly concoction of selective religious interpretation, socioeconomic deprivation, political disenfranchisement, and psychological manipulation. It would only be callous of us to oversimplify a violent act performed 'in the name of God' without going into where such a powerful invocation might be coming from. In delinking religion and terrorist violence, we only end up imprudently erasing a very important component of militant identity-formation that is theological indoctrination.

Not many outside academic circles have heard of Bader Abdalrahmanalaraj, Assaf Moghadam, or Robert Pape. Renowned experts in security and terrorism studies, all three of them have worked extensively on suicide terrorism, focusing mostly on Palestinian militant groups like Hamas. They have relied on first-hand narratives from Islamic militant leaders and functionaries, often spending months in high-intensity conflict zones like Gaza, to argue that suicide terrorism is neither secular nor religious but rather a mix of both, depending on what 'level' of analysis we are at – micro (individual), meso (organisational), or macro (socio-political). Their conclusions are, at the least, downright and important myth-busters - a common thread in their extremely detailed deconstruction of 'Islamic terrorism' is the dynamic flux of 'politics and theology' that, in lethal combination, amounts to a certain kind of violent outburst.
In his stellar PhD thesis at the University of Toronto, titled Harsh State Repression and Suicide Bombing: The Second Palestinian Intifada (Uprising), Dr Abdalrahmanalaraj argues that Palestinian suicide bombers are more of militant 'nationalists' than purely 'religious fanatics'. But, he is cautious to not discount the powerful effect of doctrinaire preaching or cultural indoctrination on militant recruits, wherein 'culture' is contextually synonymous to the religious dimension of existence. He says, "One cannot entirely dismiss the effects of culture on a suicide bombing, if only because suicide attacks must be legitimised by societal leaders and become an accepted part of the cultural backdrop before they can be undertaken on a wide scale.”

Dr Moghadam, while talking about strictly religious motivations for suicide attacks, argues: "According to Islamists, the military fight against the nonbelievers is the real "Greater Jihad”. To support their claims, they invoke only those Quranic sections that equate warfare with the duty of the faithful Muslim.” He quotes the mufti of Jerusalem Ikrama Sabri, who once gave the following statement:
"The Muslim embraces death … look at the society of the Israelis. It is a selfish society that loves life. These are not people who are eager to die for their country and their God. The Jews will leave this land rather than die, but the Muslim is happy to die.”
This crucial narrative embodies the core of Palestinian Islamist terrorism, that is, nationalist politics veiled under the garb of a 'religious crusade'. This bewildering mix is common to most terrorist doctrines around the world. Hence, although 'religion' is a facade, it exists nonetheless and enjoys autonomous agency in the spectrum of radical mobilisation.
Many casual commentators, particularly those who source their opinions from popular narratives or tend to draw quick judgments, vehemently argue that the version of Islam that extremists propound isn't "true Islam”. This they do without attempting to even define "true Islam”. But, those who have actually spent time with radicalised militant recruits provide a more bluntly objective view. Dr Moghadam argues, while talking about 'personal motives' of fidayeens paradise seems to offer the martyrs pleasures and benefits that he can only dream of in real life (referred to in the hadiths - sayings of the Prophet to supplement the Quran) - if the shaheed, therefore, is convinced that he will enjoy these benefits in the afterlife, then candidates for martyrdom are confronted with a powerful incentive to swap the little they possess for the luxuries they are promised.” This, however, must not be seen in absolute isolation because there are several other personal motives at play – like monetary and social benefits for the families of fidayeens.
The point here is that theological indoctrination is real, and plays an integral role in the process of radicalisation. In fact, most doctrinaire texts – like that of the Quran – are vulnerable to manipulation and misdirection by vested elites......
. There is no prudence in denying that the Quran has been routinely exploited to unleash mindless violence against innocents. Contrarily, it has also been utilised to promote interfaith dialogues and innumerable peacemaking/peace-building initiatives. One could say that the former is an "immoral” or "destructive” application of Quranic thought. But how much of it is not "true Islam” is doubtful, depending on how one defines "true”.
It is indeed a double-edged sword, and it seems like an evil bunch of power-hungry men are in control of the sharper edge today. What we must do to counter the "us versus them” cultural antagonism coming from conservative (or ultra-liberal) non-Muslims, rather than denying the widely interpretive nature of the Quran, is to highlight the peace-building abilities and avenues of this ancient text. Today, we are in desperate need for interfaith harmony. The Quran, through its rich repertoires of peace, love, and syncretism, could serve as a highly appealing instrument to achieve that.

Many scholars, observers, analysts, commentators, journalists, and politicians have attempted to understand the enigma of 'religious violence'. But, I do not think anyone else has been able to recapitulate the role of religion in radical terrorism better than Italian sociologist Luca Ricolfi:
"Religious beliefs do not mould individuals, forcing them to become martyrs; they are sets of ideas that 'are there', as on the shelves of a supermarket, waiting for someone to make them their own. The question we should ask ourselves, then, is under what conditions individuals involved in a political cause discover the symbolic resources that religion, or perhaps certain religions more than others has to offer.”
In part three, read about why Islamic State is not just a religious force.
To get a wholesome view of modern Islamist terrorism, focusing only on the religious angle is not enough. In this context, Robert Pape's pioneering research on suicide terrorism comes to handy. A Professor of International Politics at University of Chicago, Pape conducted a landmark study of suicide terrorism from 1980-2003 and put down his findings in two period-defining books Dying to Win (2005) and Cutting the Fuse (2010). What Pape found, after scrupulously deconstructing 462 cases of suicide attacks was that most of them were 'secular' in nature and products of 'rational choice', driven by politico-strategic motives. The tactic was employed as a well-contrived counter to Israel's continued military occupation. That, however, is also what renowned experts in security and terrorism studies Bader Araj and Assaf Moghadam also conclude. Evidently, while theological indoctrination is an inseparable part of the 'radicalisation arc' that shapes a terrorist, it is not the only pull factor.
Nonetheless, focusing exclusively on Israel-Palestine, as Bader Araj, Assaf Moghadam, and Robert Pape do, to understand the interplay of religion and politics within Islamist terrorism is inadequate, given the specific circumstances of Israeli military occupation and state repression. Radical jihad is a much more cross-cultural phenomenon, and thus, operates on a complex geopolitical plane across different social and political setups. There is no better medium to comprehend this all-encompassing phenomenon of ruthless aggression than looking at the key perpetrator of the recent attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Saudi Arabia – the Islamic State (IS).
The Islamic State is hardly a purely ideological or religious force. It cannot be straight-jacketed as a puritan 'Islamic army', although it draws cultural legitimacy from a certain strand of radical Sunni Islam. The IS is a much more internally-variegated and diverse organisation than we would like to believe, and carries a confounding matrix of motivations. In 2014, while in the United Kingdom for my higher studies, I got the opportunity to interview Emile Nakhleh, the former Director of CIA's Political Islam Program. Born in Palestine, Nakhleh commands unmatched knowledge of the Middle East, and was one of the select few in the Bush administration who had advised the President to reconsider his decision to invade Iraq.
When I asked him if the Islamic State (IS) was a "religious organisation with political undertones” or a "political organisation with religious overtones”, he chose the latter. He argued that ultimately, what IS aims to achieve is access to political and economic power structures in the territories they have captured by force, and 'religion' is a very effective galvanising medium to achieve that. Simply put, here, religion is the means, not the end. It is a time-tested 'cultural wrench' that is being conveniently instrumentalised to tighten the screw of political control. Al-Raqqa, the self-declared 'capital' of the 'Islamic Caliphate' in Syria, is a disturbing example of how Islam (or a certain strand of any religion for that matter) can be efficiently utilised to exercise strict territorial control over a particular population.
Even a cursory look at the composition of IS' top leadership reveals plenty about the complex organisation that it really is. As pointed out by Robert Pape, the top leadership of the group is composed of three distinct groups of people, in equal proportions: hardliner Sunni Muslims, secular ex-Baathists, and Sunni tribal leaders. The existence of such a flecked pool of decision-making elites warns us to not place the "IS brand of terror” into neat boxes of either religion or politics. While it is impossible to know what each sub-group vies for today, one could make rational guesstimates by looking at their socio-political profiles.
The hardliner Sunni section might be aiming for a radical jihad against Shias and Sunni kufirs (traitors) to set up a puritan, theocratic regime. The ex-Baathists, logically speaking, could be aiming for a total seizure of all political and economic assets and structures that they lost during the American Invasion, and later to fundamentalist sectarianism.
Notably, one of the first offensives launched by the IS was not against any cultural or political institution but rather the largest oil refinery in Iraq, the Baiji Oil Refinery. Finally, the Sunni tribal leaders are expected to focus on recapturing and/or defending historically-claimed territories or 'ancient, Biblical lands'. To the misfortune for the rest of us, these three sets of motivations intersect on a tactical level, ensuring continued proliferation and survival of the group.
As we see, the 'IS brand of terror', like most other variants is a dynamic flux of religion and politics. In fact, we do not need to look beyond the overall target profiles of the recent spate of violence in order to realise that Islamist terrorism can be quite varied within itself. It need not be an 'East vs West' civilisational clash, as Samuel Huntington would argue, but rather a purely sectarian conflict between the myriad different schools of applied Islamic thought. All four countries – Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia – have different social demographics within one main religious umbrella, yet were seemingly attacked by a single, sub-sectarian (Wahhabi-Salafi) group. Why so?
The bombing in Baghdad was, in all possibility, a menacing retort to Iraq's Shia-appeasing political establishment that the IS so dearly abhors. Last month, IS lost the strategic stronghold of Fallujah to an aggressive military onslaught propped by Iraqi forces and Shiite militia groups like the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs). The attack was perhaps a resounding attestation by IS of its indomitable strength. The attack in Turkey, a Sunni-dominated country, comes during a time when the country is proposing to collaborate with Russia to destroy IS – just like it had previously allowed American fighter jets to use the Incirlik Air Base for air strikes against the group.
The bombings in Saudi Arabia, surprisingly the ideological fountainhead of IS, follow a signature pattern of anti-Shia attacks in the country by jihadist groups. The IS detests the royalty for its closeness to Western regimes, and is at a constant tussle with the Saudi clerical establishment over which version of Sunni Islam is 'purer'. Bangladesh is a distinctive case in itself. Nowhere else in the world has 'politicised Islam' so deeply pervaded mainstream socio-political dispositions as in Bangladesh, thanks to years of explicitly anti-secular rule by military strongmen. The country already had an extensive network of radical Sunni jihadists, most of which fell back to the 'Islamic Caliphate' creed to regain their lost credibility.
Hence, reiterating that the attack was "homegrown terror” is redundant and futile. Bangladesh is marked by a very nationalistic, ruthless, and primitive kind of jihadist terror that completely lacks any religious sanctity. This is proved by the shocking tirade of machete attacks against secularists and non-fundamentalists in the past three years – most of the victims being Muslims. Hence, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her emotional post-attack speech asked, "What kind of Muslims kill other Muslims on Ramzan?”, she sounded rather ignorant and oblivious of her own country's politics and history.
From America to Britain to Syria to Myanmar – today, the world is under attack from a slew of powerful men and women who are extensively relying on the 'politics of homogenisation' to achieve preconceived ends. Oversimplified narratives are being packaged and sold in boxes of emotive jargon and anachronistic ideas. Some of it manifests in structural violence and discrimination, others in real physical terror. Some place it in misdirected referendums, others in nitroglycerin cans.
In such times, we could really do away with more oversimplification. The narratives of arbitrary cultural antagonism do not serve to build any positive social capital, but rather result in intense fissures within and between societies. It is crucial to counter them appropriately, with rationality and nuance. Only debate can trump monologic hatred. Hence, we must remain cautious of how we counter something so complex as 'radical Jihadist terrorism', lest we end up giving carte blanche to those greedy individuals who would not bat an eyelid before butchering innocents with the sharp tip of their blades of faith. The worst is, these men, more often than not, are convincing enough for a much larger horde of vulnerable women and men to shut their thinking faculties and board the wagon of mindless violence.

Quran urges humanity to think,  ponder,  reason, using intellect. Quran repeatedly exhorts the humanity to; Ponder [ يَتَدَبَّرُ] over Signs [āyat  ءَايَة], Albāb  أَلْبَٰب understand, Think [فَكَّرَ ], seek Proof [بُرْهَانٌ] seek and employ Knowledge  [il'm  عِلْم] and Wisdom [Hik'mat حِكْمَة] to be guided to true path for salvation. Those who reject the guidance are Ignorant جَاهِل. . Here are some exaples:
“Verily, the vilest of all creatures in the sight of God are those deaf, those dumb ones who do not use their intellect.” (Quran; 8:22)
“..he who perished might perish by a clear proof and he who survived might survive by a clear proof “(Quran; 8:42)

The real War against Terror is the war of Ideology & Counter Narrative:

The closer you want to get to eradicating the menace of terrorism, the bigger this menace 
seems to get. After the attack in Peshawar, our leaders,  deliberated and deliberated. But this
piece is not about them and the solutions they might come up with. It is about the sociology of 
the mindset that either justifies or rationalises terrorism, or impedes tangible action against it. It is about the failure of the state and the society to come up with a narrative that can defeat the terrorists.
Terrorists of all hues — ISIS, [Daesh] Al Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its 
countless affiliates, Afghan Taliban and its affiliates. India-focused terror groups like
 Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and sectarian terror groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — use two 
weapons: incredible hatred towards their victims and a narrative to convince and recruit
 new supporters to the cause. Keep Reading >>>>>>

ISIS, Daesh, Boko Haram, Taliban - Illogical Logic of Terrorists to kill innocent people on name of Islam - Refuted

Takfiri Terrorists try to justify their immoral, illogical and un-Islamic rebellion against the Muslim states on the pretext of establishing Islamic State or Khilafah. They have killed thousands in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and other countries. Surprisingly their primary target is Muslims while they kill minorities as well. This article though referring to Takfiri Taliban of Pakistan (TTP) being destroyed by Pakistan Army through Operation Zarb-e-Azib, relates to ideology of all Takfiri Terrorists operating in Middle East, Africa and world over using Islam to malign it using titles like Islamic Khalafah, IS (Islamic State) which be called Un-Islamic State, Boko Haram etc. Keep reading >>>>
Read more:
  1. The Dreadful Doctrine of Terror : Takfeer 
  2. Refutation of Takfirirs form Quran & Hadiths
  3. Khawarji Fitnah & Takfiri Taliban Pakistan
  5. Rebellion Against Rulers
  7. The Root Cause of Terrorism: By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan 
  8. A 30 year war in the Middle East 
  9. Isis: In a borderless world, the days when we could fight foreign wars and be safe at home may be long gone  
  10. What is Daesh up to ? 
  11. Zionism is blocking the path to peace 
  12. Terror Attacks and Imperialism  
  13. The Empire of Chaos: An Interview With Noam Chomsky  
  14. Tragedy of Muslim Youth مسلمان نوجوانوں کی مایوسی  
  15. ISIS Daesh : neither Islamic nor state terrorists recruited, funded trained by imperialists implement their agenda.   
  16. Frankenstein the CIA created - From Mujahideen to Al-Qaida , Takfiri Taliban .. Daesh, ISIS...  
  17. Great deception Peal Harbour now Attack in Paris...  
  18. Paris Attack like 911 & Pearl Harbour to seduce France in to war against Muslims: Several writers, including...  
  19. Bernard Lewis Plan to Carve up Middle East . Paris attack & Daesh could be part of Anti Muslim agenda.......
  20. ISIS, Vanguard of the Global Elite & Plan to Redraw the Middle East
  21. ISIS funding rooted by CIA
  22. ISIS funding rooted in West, says UK analyst
  23. How Does ISIS Fund Its Reign of Terror?
  24. ISIS Leader Admits to Being Funded by the US
  25. Operation Zarb-e-Azb (Urdu: آپریشن ضربِ عضب ALA-LC: Āpres̱ẖan Ẓarb-i ʿAẓb pronounced [ɑːpreːʃən zərb-e əzb]) is a...
  26. 50,000 killed, $80 billion loss incurred in war on terror, in Pakistan world apathy
  27. Islam rejects terrorism: 
  28. ISIS, Daesh, Boko Haram, Taliban - Illogical Logic of Terrorists to kill innocent people on name of Islam -...
  29. Jihad or terrorism. ..
  30. THE SPIRIT OF MUSLIM CULTURE: “Muhammad of Arabia ascended the highest Heaven and returned. I swear by God that...
  31. Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam: By Muhammad Iqbal:
  32. Preface: The Qur’ān is a book which emphasizes...
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