Terrorism, despite being branded as an international menace, is often misunderstood by civilians. Journalist Archita Mittra, reporting from the United Nations( UN) Conference demystifies some key issues as well as suggests steps to curb such inhuman violence against humanity.
Dan Brown in his bestselling thriller ‘Angels and Demons’ raises an important point. The main aim of the terrorist is simply, as the word suggests, ‘to cause widespread terror’. The killing, or the death of innocent civilians in the process is merely a ‘by-product’. Terrorism can thus be viewed as an extreme firm of kyriarchy or power politics, wherein the perpetrators exploit terror as a means to shove their twisted and rationally-unsound ideologies down the throats of unwilling victims and keep them in a state of perpetual subservience and suppression. Be it the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Orlando shootings or the ongoing violence in Syria, terrorism in the age of social media is an international challenge, and can only be eradicated by first understanding the complex power politics behind it and by taking responsibility for one’s actions in uncovering and thwarting the strategies employed by the terrorists.
One of the first steps in understanding the insidious way in which terrorism functions is of course to accept that the definition of terrorism is not limited to the violence perpetrated in the name of Islam. Most politicians, notably Donald Trump continue to take a myopic view of the matter, condemning the religion of the Muslims as the primary culprit and hounding several of its innocent practitioners for the same. What one must realize is that Islam isn’t a reason, it is pretext. People like Trump tend to forget that as per the FBI, over 94% of the terrorist activities carried out in USA were by Non-Muslims.
In fact, Hindu and Christian fundamentalism are also to blame. Other notable Non-Islamic terrorist groups include the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Japanese cult of Aum Shinrikyo, the Real Irish Republican Army and of course the New People’s Army from Philipines, to name a few. This goes onto prove that religion isn’t the source of terrorism. It is the conservative, backward, irrational and morally irreprehensible belief systems of such groups that are to blame.
If terrorism were a disease, the symptoms would be the following: trafficking, brutal rape and killing of women, using women and children as sex slaves, condemning homosexuality and denying the queer minority, while performing atrocious acts on unwilling victims, taking civilians as hostage, torture and murder of innocent civilians to prove a point, rampant but surprise shootings and bombings, destroying heritage buildings, promoting anarchy and supporting conspiracies to bring down an existing government, the refusal to recognize democracy, and so on. In other words, terrorism is the gross violation of each and every human right. Thus analyzing terrorism through the ideologies of a particular religion is a fool’s endeavour. What is needed instead is a rational outlook.
Furthermore, taking responsibility for one’s own actions is intrinsic to combating terrorism. Take for instance, USA who is both a victim and perpetrator of terrorism, although it is clever enough to deny the latter.
Throughout history, USA has been known to support covert terrorist militants. A particular example would be their active involvement in supporting the Contra rebels of Nicaragua . Upon being found guilty by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), USA used its veto power to block the enforcement of the ICJ judgement.
Similarly, USA has done little to curb the rampant and police violation against its own civilians. As per the BBC, there have been 372 mass shootings in USA in 2015 alone with 64 of them being school shootings with 13286 people being killed via firearms. Of all the murders in 2012, 60% of them were attributed to firearms. As per a Guardian study, young black men are nine times more likely to be killed by police officers than other Americans, even though the African American males form only 2% of the country’s population. These acts of violence are no different from terrorism, operating on the mistaken belief that power allows an individual to get away with literary anything and forcing societal members to conform to one’s predefined standards.
A good example of such a terrorist mindset can be examined in the Netflix show, ‘Jessica Jones’ wherein the antagonist Kilgrave exercises his powers of mind control to make people feel and do whatever he wants, be it stabbing oneself with a scissor, murdering someone or something as simple as shutting up. When he compels a woman to make love to him, he refuses to see it as ‘rape’, saying that he ‘hates the word’. He creates a traumatic and abusive past as an excuse to justify his wickedness and playing the victim. Terrorism too works in a similar way, brainwashing civilians to believe that their evil is in fact ‘good’ and justified.
In an age of social media, this has become relatively easy. Terrorist groups such as the Al-Qaida and ISIS regularly post threatening videos of their killings while others have amassed a considerable following on Twitter, thereby ensuring widespread broadcast of their message. The Chinese government mean while believes that by censoring social media, it can remain in power, leaving the citizens with no other option other than to navigate the dangerous dark web, the haven for child pornography and black market deals. Cyber attacks reached a climax in 2007, when the internet connectivity in Estonia was shut down for three weeks. Cyber terrorism is thus a rising threat that can only be curbed by strict surveillance and prompt action.
Ultimately one must realize that the success of a terrorist campaign lies not only in the planning and execution, but also in the unity of supporters. Thus, while steps must be taken in remaining vigilant and monitoring suspicious activities, one must also ensure that unsuspecting people do not fall prey and subscribe to twisted ideologies, be it hating Muslims or supporting the use of fire arms. Instead of paying back the terrorists in their own coin, attempts must be made to cut down their funding as well as cutting off ties with the powerful organisations that support them. Similarly instead of bombing a city or engaging in drone assassinations, negotiate for agreeable settlements. In other words, behave in a way a terrorist never would: be empathetic and rational, at all costs.
Written as part of the compulsory Op-Ed in the Jadavpur University Intra Mun 2016 where I won the Best Reporter Award.