Terror Tenets Connect with Psyche Across Centuries

Published: 16th May 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th May 2015 10:42 PM   |  A+A-

The killing spree in the name of Islam continues unabated. A bus was ambushed in Karachi on Wednesday, killing at least 43 people and injuring scores of others. The victims belonged to Shia Islamic sect. In Bangladesh, the May 12 event described by a PTI correspondent from Dhaka should appear to be too barbaric to stomach. The report says: “Machete-wielding masked men hacked to death a 33-year-old secular blogger near his home in north-eastern Bangladesh today, the third such attack by suspected Islamists since February in the Muslim majority nation.” The report added that four armed attackers hit Ananta Bijoy Das from behind when he was moving in a rickshaw in his city of Sylhet. The victim was known for his writing on “materialism and logic”.

In the earlier incidents, too, Islamist assailants had killed other rationalists who dared to air their views in the social media—views that questioned the belief systems that orthodox leaders claim should be held as true and any slightest doubt would merit death sentence either from the state or from any faithful.

The Islamic mobs are applauding such killings in several countries. In Islamic Pakistan, it is set in the Constitution that anyone so much as uttering a word against the religion and the Prophet should be executed—in fact over 200 such accused are awaiting their fate in the death row in Pakistan.

When Pakistan Punjab’s courageous governor Salman Taseer was murdered by his own guard, the killer was hailed by mobs and the judge who found him guilty of killing was forced to seek protection. Salman’s crime: He pleaded for dilution of the draconian law against blasphemy.

Any thinking person would be tempted to ask why are the Islamists in Pakistan  killing not only non-Muslims but fellow Muslims who belong to rival sects within the same religion? Why are Sunnis throwing bombs at Shia mosques right when the congregation is praying?

And in Iran, why is it the Shia government that treats Sunnis as good prey for holy war to protect the religion, whose core, according to many, is “peace”? Why are the Islamists in Nigeria known as Boko Haram abducting Christian women and selling them to other Islamist forces in the name of their sacred faith?

Why are Sunni jihadists of self-styled caliphates indulging in mass butchery of  members of other religions in their captured territory? What is the explanation for the atrocities unfolding throughout the Muslim-dominated nations of Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt (till the army took over), Iraq and Syria?

The latest flashpoint is in Yemen. Here, why are two sects of Islam battling it out with each other claiming to be engaged in the holy war supposedly prescribed by their religion mandating the killing of all rival claimants to the same faith as well as others who are outside it?

Even in our country, despite the lynx-eyed vigilance maintained by security agencies death is rained on civilians on a mass scale by trained jihadists from Pakistan often supported by their co-jihadists locally. Mumbai 26/11 was the most bloody demonstration of this mass murder in the garb of a holy war. Who provides provocation for this senseless violence against the innocent? How have the Islamists found willing allies for killings, murders and bombings in Germany, France, Britain, the US, Spain, Australia etc. among Muslims, specifically among new converts to Islam? The emergence of a mindset across Muslim nations and among Muslims in other nations, where they are not a majority, that calls for killings of non-Muslims and even of Muslims who have differing views or belong to rival sects is the persisting evil threatening human civilisation. Why?

India has had a brush with this aspect of Islam for long. The destruction and mass murders committed by invading hordes under Muhammad Ghazni who destroyed the Somanath Temple and massacre of thousands of Hindus there is well documented.

The so-called “holy war” waged on non-Muslim people by the Sultanates, the early and later Mughals, the beheading of the Sikh Gurus and their adherents by Aurangzeb—all these events spread over centuries have a common thread running. They were motivated by the same mindset that triggers mayhem against kafirs (non-believers) even these days.

The mindset that prompted Mughal emperors to execute the Sikh gurus after inflicting tortures on them and destroy holiest of temples in Ayodhya, Mathura, Kasi etc. and construct mosques at the places is the same that justifies or silently endorses the current wave of jihadist killings—even the shoe bomber from Britain or the one man bomber who planted explosives in Times Square, New York.

Across several nations civilian aircraft are in constant danger of being blown off midair and recruits to do that are volunteering under the influence of their new religion they have converted to. Why is it that the same mindset does not influence or prevail among dedicated followers or recent converts to other religions?

Interestingly, in Muslim-majority Algeria, the military leadership that governs the nation that won freedom from colonial France after a bloodstained terror movement has turned to Islamist terror as its number one enemy and succeeded in suppressing it. In Turkey in the 1930s and in Egypt today the most effective guarantee against jihadism have been military officers who develop a secular mindset and are compelled to suppress Islamism without compromise.

On the other hand the movements for democracy in Libya, Tunisia, Iran and many others have produced crueller regimes with a religious garb than the ones they replaced. But in Pakistan it was military ruler Zia-ul-Haq who changed the constitution to enable anyone questioning Islamic orthodoxy as apostate fit for execution. In Egypt the first truly free election brought in Islamists who immediately went about suppressing all liberal civil society leadership.

History thus has lessons that connect the killers of bus passengers in Karachi and Ananta Bijoy Das in Sylhet with the mass murderers of ISIS and the butchers of Nigeria’s Boko Haram.

The mischief threatening the world for centuries has its origins in a psyche. To win the war against terror, the civil society will have to first identify the source that produces and nurses this mindset and then find ways to deal with it.


The author is national vice president, BJP. E-mail:


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