What Has Religion to Do with Terrorist Violence?
There are always political motives behind acts of terror
After the ghastly tragedy of 9/11 2001, in which nearly three thousand innocent people died, the American state and media coined a new phrase, ‘Islamic Terrorism’.
This was perhaps the first time a that terrorist act and terrorists got the prefix of religion.
The global media picked it up and some communal elements pushed it forward with great gusto. Enthusiastically marketed, the phrase added to negative perceptions about Muslims and laid the foundation for global Islamophobia.
The latest impact of this was seen in the New Zealand tragedy in which nearly 50 Muslims lost their lives, shot mercilessly by a White nationalist terrorist.
In India the label played havoc as already the negative perceptions about Muslims were major propaganda tools in the hands of communal politicians. Medieval Muslims kings were falsely paraded as temple destroyers and those converting through the sword.
Such perceptions so dominated the scene that they came in the way of a professional handling of criminal investigation, and many a times innocent Muslim youth were incarcerated for acts of terror not committed by them, particularly in the cases of Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta Express and Malegaon blasts.
A people’s tribunal report titled ‘Scapegoats and Holy Cows’ from investigations held in Hyderabad showed how in a series of blasts the likes of Pragya Singh Thakur and Swami Aseemanand were involved, while large numbers of young Muslim men were arrested for these acts.
It was around this time that the popular perception ‘All terrorists are Muslims’ was guiding the investigating authorities. But with investigations conducted by the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad chief Hemant Karkare, many people belonging to organisations associated with the ideology of Hindu nationalism were put behind bars.
With the change in government at the centre in 2014, the direction of investigations took another turn, and now most of these people have been either granted bail or acquitted.
The judge acquitting Swami Assemanand, Jagdeep Singh, said he had to “conclude this judgment with deep pain and anguish, as a dastardly act of violence remained unpunished for want of credible and admissible evidence. There are gaping holes in the prosecution evidence and an act of terrorism has remained unsolved.”
On the other side, Arun Jaitley the union finance minister tried to target the Congress party, for trying when it was is government to implicate the likes of Pragya Thakur and Aseemanand. Jaitley wanted to suggest that Congress leaders regard Hindus as terrorists. This was a deliberate and gross generalisation, where the religion of terrorism is put at the centre of the phenomenon.
Aggravating this in his usual hyperbolic style Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that the Congress targeted Hindu in acts of terror for votebank politics, and that “Hindus are known for peace and brotherhood. Nowhere in history will you find they're involved in such terrorist activities...”
As is his wont, PM Modi tried to communalise the case, by saying that since Swami Aseemamand had been acquitted Rahul Gandhi must realise that Hindus hate him, and so he is choosing to contest from Wayanad where Hindus are a minority.
As such the prime minister’s total statement is based on falsehood.
Somehow the Twitter world with unusual sanity buzzed and critiqued PM Modi’s statement. A typical response was, “Terror has no religion. But since you asked, prime minister, do not forget the most heinous terrorist in independent India. The Telegraph reminds @narendramodi of Nathuram Godse after PM asks: ‘Is there a single incident in history of Hindus engaging in terrorism?’”
It was the major newspaper from Kolkata which came forward to remind PM Modi that the most heinous act of terror in independent India was committed by ex-RSS pracharak and Hindu Mahasabha worker Nathuram Godse.
So obsessed was Modi by this phrase Hindu terror that he used it 13 times in his speech in Wardha.
The ilk of Modi and Jaitley are trying to take advantage of the acquittal of Aseemanand by the special court. They see the things in a partial manner, as the same judge delivering the verdict pulls up the National Investigation Agency for not investigating the case properly, for its sloppy investigation.
One can say that judgments are not based only on the rules and the attitude of judges: one of the major determinants of the outcome is the administrative part, where the prosecution has to put the evidence in order and put it for consideration by the judge. Here is a case where judge is pulling up the administrative part for its failure to properly investigate the matter, which has led to Aseemanand’s acquittal.
The present perceptions and narratives built around religion and terrorism are signs of the times. After the eclipse of the Soviet Union, global imperialism has aimed to control West Asian oil wealth under the cover of combating ‘Islamic terrorism’.
This phrase coined by the US media and state is the most blatant act of misusing religion’s identity for its political agenda.
The world has seen terrorists coming from many different religions. The Irish Republican Army, the LTTE, Khalistanis, ULFA, the Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka Talduwe Somarama Thero killing Prime Minster Bandaranaike, and Anders Behring Breivik who killed 86 young people in Norway in 2011.
One can say terrorism comes from all religions but not due to religion. There are political motives behind acts of terror.
Today, globally Al Qaeda and the Islamic State dominate the scene of terror, but let’s realise it was American machinations which propped up Al Qaeda, which in turn is the fountainhead of major terrorist groups in West Asia. As it would later do with ‘ISIL’ or ‘ISIS’, the US government had funded this terrorism with 8 billion dollars and given seven tons of armaments for propping up Al Qaeda.
The bigger damage to the world has been through the perception created by the loyal and often ignorant American media by coining the term ‘Islamic Terrorism’. This phrase has become a buzz word all around.
The likes of Modi are using it for their political goals, and in the process undermining the truth: that no religion has anything to do with terrorism, which is a political phenomenon!