DECONSTRUCTING TERRORISM AND RELIGION
I am still on holidays at Las Vegas in the United States and the argument all around me is the plan to build a mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero – the place where Muslim extremists struck on September 11, 2001, killing over three thousand innocent souls. I began to think of the connection between religion and terrorism and I immediately dug into my archives to unearth what I wrote on July 17, 2005, a few days after the London bombings, and to relate it to the debate.
I have often wondered what goes on in the mind of the terrorist daily, the hours, the minutes and even the seconds leading to zero hour when he closes the final chapter on his own life (expecting and knowing it) and ultimately on the lives of thousands of others. I wonder what still drives him on when he sees the smiling faces of happy people around him in the bus, in the train or in the airplane or even on the street - anywhere he chooses as target. What are those factors that can make the terrorist still reach for the pin or the button or anything to detonate the bomb when he sees the target crowd and realizes that they have completely no grudge against him or his cause? Maybe I am assuming too much. Maybe he does not realize this.
So what can make a man take his own life and thousands of others without flinching? Whatever the reason is, it is clear that we cannot wish it away. We must unearth it, decode it, then analyze it and see how it can be neutralized. The mistake will be to ignore the rationale and the impetus for this kind of warped mind and merely concentrate on the ways and means to hound the terrorist.
One basic premise from which we must proceed in this analysis of the quintessential terrorist is that the terrorist is not an insane person. He is not also a man frustrated in life and looking for an easy way out. The terrorist, in most cases, is a regular person, a regular neighbour and a regular friend. At least, all the associates of the various suspects of many terrorist acts have testified to this. So we cannot wave them off as a young maniacs. Another angle to the analysis is that their dare-devilry is not the product of some moment of inspiration or some unplanned moment of bravery or some other instinctive action. It is always a deliberate, carefully planned and carefully executed plot. In many cases, it takes years or months to plan it. It cannot also be the lure of financial reward that propels the terrorist, because the terrorist fully knows he will not be around after the bombing to enjoy any reward.
In many of the footages we have seen on the terrorists just before their deadly acts, either entering a station or an aircraft, they never look fidgety or agitated. They are always single-mindedly calm, coldly stoic and even polite. Only their eyes at times betray them with the quiet fire that burns in them, and those eyes can only be product of a mind that has been brainwashed with doctrines. And whatever those doctrines are, they can only be geared towards fulfilling a cause.
That of course, brings us to the cause of the terrorist. For the terrorist to be a regular person, a normal person and go through months planning to die and kill others in the process - when he is not mad - then he must have a cause. This so-called cause of the terrorist cannot be a cause he considers ordinary. It must be a cause he considers spiritual enough or divine enough to be above the human lives that he takes or even his own life. Therein lies the explanation for his unflinching attitude towards the happy, joyful and smiling faces he sees and still bombs. As he reaches for the detonator, I guess he whispers to himself, 'Sorry all you people, but I've got to do this because it is for a reason above your lives'. The only deduction from this angle of our analysis is that the only thing that is greater than human life is a divine cause. And a divine cause comes from God. So, the terrorist believes he is working for God, not for man.
Which brings us to religion as a factor in terrorism. The terrorist must believe he is working to fulfill some religious injunction and some divine calling. In the process, he feels no affection for earthly things. His mission is not propelled by anger or hate or frustration. Just a higher form of determination to fulfil a duty - a religious duty.
However, this is where the profile of the terrorist begins to fall apart again. Because, it simply does not make sense to zero in on religion since all religions preach peace and love. The Bible and the Koran, the two major instruments of two most powerful world religions, preach peace. So what the hell is the terrorist telling us about some religious injunction?
Now, since we have identified religion as a vehicle for peace, why should it have a correlation with terrorism? The simple answer is the wrong interpretation of religion. In deconstructing the terrorist, we must then look at those who interpret religion to them. In order for them to buy this way of life as the right interpretation of religion, the terrorist must be young and inexperienced. You will bear me out that suicide bombers are in their early twenties. The interpreters of religion are the ones to blame since they capitalize on the minds of the young and inexperienced to wreak havoc on the world. So the masterminds of these bombings are the real terrorists.
But if religion is manipulated to commit havoc, it only means that there must be a real reason for the havoc. And this brings us to world politics. It only follows from the above that the masterminds use religion only as an excuse to unleash violence on others when there are other reasons for their actions. My take on this is that though violence is very condemnable and I condemn it, the fact remains that it is the only quick and effective means to push the demands of a weaker side. After every riot in a school, people are punished and expelled, but conditions always improve. And in most cases, a resort to violence is the consequence of the inability to ventilate ones grievances in the face of injustice. If you, as an adult, try to take a toy from a child and the child keeps quiet, you will surely succeed. But if the child screams and throws a tantrum, the child will attract attention to his or her cause and will get the toy back. And if the child has learnt the politics of this violence, the child will always employ it to get things.
So also, the masterminds of terrorism are those whose demands have not been met or who have been deprived of certain claims and demand attention or justice. The only way to effectively stave-off violence is to take every grievance in the world seriously and attend to it and in attending to it, we must ensure justice and fairplay . In Nigeria, the various regions are all feeling cheated and unsatisfied. Some parts of the country care less about how the other parts feel. That is not good enough. Those in other parts of the world who have learnt the politics of violence and terrorism would act otherwise.