Saturday, 14 August 2010

Jihad and Terrorism: Are both synonymous?

Western media is more often than not, awash with the details of “jihadists” who commit atrocious acts in the name of religion. More and more, Islam is projected as a religion of violence, hatred and vengeance. However, Islam comes from the root word Salaam, which means peace. It also means submitting one’s will to Allah .The word Salaam is also an attribute of God. In this context, it means ‘The Giver of Peace’.

Two terms needs definition here. Jihad and Terrorism. Jihad is the Arabic for what can be variously translated as “struggle” or “to fight,” depending on the context. In the West, the word is generally understood to mean “holy war,” and denotes, inaccurately, to exclusively military connotations. The Quran does call for “jihad” as a military struggle on behalf of Islam. But the Quran also refers to jihad as an internal, individual, spiritual struggle toward self-improvement, moral cleansing and intellectual effort. It is said that Prophet Muhammad considered the armed-struggle version of holy war “the smaller jihad,” but considered the spiritual angle of holy war–the war within oneself–as “the great jihad.”

Terrorism, is a different concept altogether. According to Jason Burke, it may be defined as “the use or threat of serious violence” to advance some kind of “cause”.

But does Islam condone terrorism ? Is Terrorism and Jihad one and the same? Military conflict is to be directed only against fighting troops and not against civilians. As a matter of fact, all religions of “The Book”, promote peace and tolerance, not violence. Attacking innocent civilians, women, children, sick in hospitals, people going about their daily chores who are not at war with you is terrorism. If there is a threat to human life, property and honor, fighting for defending life, property and honor is deemed as Jihad. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution which is a part of the United States Bill of Rights, adopted in 1791, aimed to protect the right to keep and bear arms and may be deemed a concept on the same lines.

We need to examine if Terrorism is linked ONLY to Islamic militant outfits using gullible minds to serve their vested interests? This question has come more sharply in focus with the case of Faisal Shehzad.

Terrorism has it’s roots in cultures and religion other than Islam. We need t remember, Indra Gandhi was killed by her Sikh body guards, as she had ordered the massacre in the Golden Temple of Sikhs, her son Rajiv ,was killed by Tamils, the very same who have the honor of inventing the suicide jacket, in the first place, they are Hindu Extremists. We also need to remember the Babbar Khalsa, a Sikh terrorist group, blew up Air India’s Kanishka aircraft off the Irish coast on June 23, 1985, killing nearly 200 passengers and made an unsuccessful attempt the same day to blow up another Air India plane at Tokyo. In October 1992, suspected Sikh militants gunned down five civilians and a law enforcement officer in a heavily wooded area in Uttar Pradesh that had become a refuge for Sikh separatists fleeing a crackdown by Indian authorities in Punjab. The attack followed a massacre two months earlier of twenty-nine villagers in the same area. In that incident, villagers collecting wood in the forest were captured by suspected militants, bound, and killed by automatic gunfire .Then there are the “Christian Terrorists”, of all the religious wars in human history waged by any religion, at any place, and at any time, none have been bloodier, more genocidal, more barbaric, and more protracted than the 200-year “holy wars” by the Western Crusades against the Arabs and Islam.

“Islamic terrorism”, a term coined by the West, is itself a controversial phrase, although its usage is widespread throughout the English-speaking world. Muslims object to the term as it contradicts the spirit of Islam, which is a peaceful religion. What then, allows people from different religion, more especially Islam, to terrorism in the name of Jihad? The reasons are varied ranging from injustices suffered in the hands of a system that offers no relief, to lack of avenue to improve one’s lot, lack of education, lack of an understanding of the religion that is exploited by vested interests, and, a genuine thinking, that they are answering to a higher call. Terrorism is often conducted in the name of religion. More often than not, it evolves from the misuse of the term “jihad” by vested interests thus exploiting impressionable minds. We must also face the failure of our leadership of all shades and hues, of too many vested interests and agendas.

Besides the obvious need to evolve long term and short term strategy to address the lot of the common man who fights a war of survival, it is extremely important, that we address the question if Quran be taught as a mandatory part of our curriculum in both government and private educational institutions? Will self understanding of The Book disallow others from planting twisted ideas in minds? Can we overlook the role of a strong leadership in addressing peoples grievances?

Jacques Chirac, in his speech on September 24th, 1986 correctly said,” A “war against terrorism” is an impracticable conception if it means fighting terrorism with terrorism.”. Regrettably, the West is yet to pay heed to that sane advice. By: Yasmeen Ali (Ends)

The writer is a lawyer currently teaching in the Beacon House National University. She owns and operates her own blog. Yasmeen is a regular writer for Opinion Maker.

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