The Terror Bee Equation: How to sterilize the queen bee without being stung by the whole beehive?
By Kush Tandon
"Last year, originally I wrote this post on www.thesquare.com for a discussion on fighting terrorism, and radical Islam - but has anything changed since then. Maybe, Israel and Palestine, India and Pakistan are now talking face to face and responding. I guess we do have hope."
Terrorism depends on many factors, some of them are entirely is in the hands of the people who commit them, but with some, we can make things more complicated for us. I made this terror bee equation to describe many factors and show how some of them play havoc beyond control.
Terror Bee Equation = Poverty X Exponential (Sense of Being Disenfranchised or No Hope) + Lack of Progress + Lack of Democratic Institutions + Cultural Trappings + Lack of Visionary Leaders Today (Mandela, Gandhi, King in Middle East)
Note that the "sense of being disenfranchised or no hope" is an exponential factor. I intend to say that when a group of population feels their future is slipping away than that anger becomes the dominant reason for hatred. In this equation, most of the factors solely are governed by Islamic nations themselves who have been quite active in recent terrorism. However, USA/ UK/ India/ Israel can play a not so helpful role in causing "sense of being disenfranchised or no hope" being blown out of proportion by noise of Apache helicopters day in, day out in Middle East or senseless humiliation in Kashmir.
Therefore, one should choose battles wisely so that the exponential factor is kept to the minimum. Even on this point, the mother lode rests on lack of leaders and thinkers within Middle East who would understand the aspirations of their own populace today, and harness public discourse in a non-violent manner. Without this citizenry is left with little room for peaceful outcome of differences in politics, etc. In recent times, the role of Nelson Mandela as a healer in South Africa overcoming century of injustice comes to mind immediately.
One would argue that there are poor nations that do not embrace terrorism - but then how does "poverty, lack of hope, AK-47 culture" feeds the cycle of radical Islam? Simple, democracy and peace does not grow out of the barrel of the gun, be it their own, or others. Quite often, if the violence due to poverty does not show in the form of religious bigotry than it takes a purely political face with examples from South America but it does show its ugly head. It is the visible disparity of wealth side by side that acts as an explosive mix in one of the means of continual humiliation? Purely, the presence of poverty and hardships does not mean reverting to terrorism, as shown in post WW II Japan. Cultural shock absorber can also play a great role in rebuilding a society under seige, as was the role of Emperor Hirohito and civil infrastructure still intact in Japan after WW II.
I have known a lot of Pakistanis and Middle East immigrants/ visitors/ students/ scholars in USA and Muslims in India. They all (the ones I have met are quite engaged in their life, career and the well being of the society around them) are very appreciative of democratic, free way of life, and have same dreams like a Hindu or a Korean American or an Italian American. Sure, my sampling is limited but revealing though.
Dr. Marc Sageman (U. Penn) aptly puts: "Most Arab terrorists are well-educated, married men from middle- or upper-class families, in their mid-20s and psychologically stable". In "The Economist" sometime ago, it was also pointed out that high profile acts are committed by "elitist, richer" Arabs but most of their foot work is done by orphans in Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan. In an act like 9/ 11, Osama bin Laden trusted his own brothers and not the African and Asian brethren who do all the fighting in Afghanistan, Kashmir, etc. We can make recruiting efforts by elite radical Islam terrorist very difficult or easy in Asia and Africa - our choice. The only difference between radical Islam and radical versions of other religions is that they are finding recruitment very easy. Jessica Stern from Harvard is most succinct about Islamic terrorism that "If you're humiliated, you want to blame somebody and try to fix it". Why go on rampage (verbal and physical) and get stung by the whole beehive?
In September 14-24th (2004) issue of "The Economist", they had a telling article "The Muslim World: Liberals try to save their faith". A question why the Middle East moderates are not generally raising hell in condemning acts like Beslan and others is addressed by an interesting sentence: "Seeing the world through a lens of victim hood has grown into a comfortable habit". Why should we want to create conditions that perpetuates victim hood? It is nectar for a terror bee. Another interesting observation was "Scandals at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo have made it difficult to maintain that there exist universal notions of human rights, rather than particularist and discriminatory ones".
The slogan "War on Radical Islam" is originally from Salman Rushdie's bold article in New York Times, a few weeks just after 9/ 11 not from any politician from your home town. He made a point that active encouragement from West to build moderates in Islam is badly needed, if we want to wage a battle against radicalism. No intellectual knows radical Islam up close than him.
Nobody should ever advocate a passive approach to combat terrorism but an imaginative one. Also, remember they are no silver bullets.
The sense of alienation is definitely not limited to non-democratic societies but can also come from people within democratic and free societies, as recent London Bombings seems to indicate. I also think that this malaise is not related to a religion, it could happen to any of them over time.
Recently, I read quite a sensitive article "Being a Muslim in Britain.." by Huda Jawad. She is not a front line spokesperson for Islamic culture. Her voice says it all. Here are the closing arguments that are not only powerful but show anguish too:
"It seems that no one is willing to talk about the issues that matter to people like me, who are, amongst other things, devout Muslims wanting to live in a way that pleases Allah without causing harm or alienation to others. Thousands of British Muslims feel caught between the ignorant and reactive policies of the establishment and Islamist groups who seem to find issues affecting Muslims in the Muslim world more worthy of their time and energy. Will anyone ever speak for them?"
These are the ones that will bring the change from within.