How to TackleTerrorism

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (tr. Yoginder Sikand)

How to TackleTerrorism

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (tr. Yoginder Sikand)

Terrorism is an international menace. Everyone condemns it but the question is: How to cope with terrorism?

I would like to give the answer to this question in brief.

First of all, we have to define what is terrorism. In Islam, only one kind of war is permissible, that is defensive war. This holds true only when the war becomes a necessity. In Islam, war is justified only by the law of necessity and not under normal laws.When there is an armed aggression from outside, the state is allowed to go to war in its defense – that too with some conditions. As far as non-government agencies are concerned, they are not allowed to go to war. No excuse whatsoever is permissible in this regard.

It does not mean that non-governmental individuals or organizations have no contribution to make. They have a lot of work to do in the fields other than the political field. But they will strictly have to adhere to peaceful means. For example, they can educate people, in both formal and informal aspects. They can inculcate the spirit of harmonious living among people. They can inculcate the spirit of constructive work etc.

The Genesis of Violence

Violence begins from the mind. So is the case of terrorism. Terrorism begins from the mind. Terrorism is nothing but the culmination of negative thinking. Hence, any effort to remove terrorism must begin from the minds of people. We have to re-engineer people’s minds on positive lines. We have to make them understand that peaceful action is far more effective than violent action.

Turning Negativity into Positivity

Our society is based on the principle of free competition – it is this competitive state of affairs that creates what are called problems. There are clashes of interest between different segments of society. But this situation is not an unwanted situation. This situation is good for society provided people learn the art of management of differences, rather than the art of eliminating differences. Failure of people management of differences leads to violence and war. Instead of this, when people are able to successfully manage differences; it results in peace in the society.

It is this formula that is given in the Quran in these words:  ‘Peace is the best’. (4:128)

It means that in the face of differences, the conciliatory approach is better than the confrontational approach. Muslim Sufis have adopted this formula, which they call: Sulh-e-kul. It means ‘Peace with all’. This is the only successful formula for establishing a better society.

No Extremism

There is a verse in the Quran: ‘Don’t be extremist in your religion’. (4: 171) The Prophet of Islam has said: ‘Refrain yourself from extremism, it is highly disastrous for you’.  Extremism leads to negative thinking, negative thinking leads to violence and violence leads to armed confrontation.

So-Called ‘Islamization’ of Terrorism

Some Muslim extremists justify their violent actions by saying that ‘Yes, we are involved in terrorism but we terrorize unjust people, just like the police. The police terrorizes criminals and we terrorize those people who are enemies of truth’.
These kinds of statements are nothing but so-called ‘Islamization’ of terrorism by uttering some seemingly beautiful words. This argument is based on a fallacy, that is, a wrong comparison. The police are an authorized body of a state. What the police are doing it is doing by legal authority. But these extremists or their self-styled organizations are not an authoritative body in this sense. As a matter of principle, these elements have no right to use arms; no excuse whatsoever gives them the justification to terrorize people. They have only one option: that is to persuade people by peaceful means, without using any arms or causing anyone harm.

Terror Attacks at Mumbai

The terror attack at Mumbai on November 26, 2008 should serve as an eye-opener for us all. It is a general belief that such terror attacks by Muslim youths are directly inspired by the teachings of the Quran. But the Muslim terrorist, who was captured alive at the time of the Mumbai attacks, had a different story to tell. He told in detail how they were prepared for that task. He explained to the interrogators that they were trained in some special camps for a long period of time. During this training period, apart from being trained on the use of arms, they were given ideological lessons constantly. They never said that they were advised to study the Quran. Instead, he told the interrogators that they were shown video films. In these films, they were made to watch bloody communal riots and to hear the speeches of some extremist Hindu leaders. What were these films? These films were based on selective news items or some exceptional items. In these films, the makers tried to generalize the exception. These youths underwent a brainwashing process by these sensitive video films.

For example, they were shown the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. This single incident greatly provoked their sentiments. But the fact is that apart from the Babri Mosque, there are numerous other mosques that are fully under Muslim control in India. According to one estimate, there are more than half a million mosques in India. Approximately the same number of Islamic, madrassas – big and small – also exist throughout the country. But these mosques and madrassas were not included in the video films that were shown to those Muslims terrorists. If these Muslim youths were also shown these functional mosques and madrasas, then certainly they would have had a different mindset. This kind of training was quite against the spirit of Islam.

The tragedy of the Babri Mosque and the communal riots shown to them was not a one-sided act. It was the result of an action and reaction process and Hindus and Muslims were both involved in this unwanted process. The blame for these bloody incidents goes to both the communities — Muslims and Non-Muslims. These video films showed only one side of the story and not the complete picture of the incident.

Unaware of Quranic Teachings

If these Muslim youths were asked to read the Quran at the time of their training, then surely they would have found this verse of the Quran which forbids killings of innocent people. This Quranic verse says that: ‘Whoever killed one single innocent human being should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind (5:32).  If these Muslim youths were aware of these Quranic teachings, it would not have been possible for them to kill innocent men and women in terror attacks.

Then there is a very relevant tradition of the Prophet of Islam. He said:  God grants to rifq (peace) what he does not grant to unf (violence).  (Abu Dawud, Sunan, 4/255) This Prophetic teaching tells us that the better way to achieve all objectives is the peaceful method and not the violent method.  If these Muslim youths would have been aware of this Prophetic teaching, they would certainly have adopted this peaceful method instead of the violent gun-culture to achieve their objective.

The Target of these Muslim Terrorists

Recently it was disclosed in an article written by the Pakistani ambassador to the USA, Mr. Hussain Haqqani, that Muslim terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba have a dangerous political plan in mind. Their thinking is that all the areas on the globe that were once under the Muslim rule, like the Ottoman empire or the Mughal empire or the Moorish empire, are Muslims by right. According to them, Non-Muslim nations have unjustly captured these areas. They are usurpers. It is now their right to re-capture all these Muslim areas and establish Muslim rule over these lands once again.

According to them, the recent terrorism is a justified war, aimed at achieving what they regard as their rightful objectives.

This kind of ideology is very dangerous. It is a permanent threat to world peace. Simply condemnation or counter-attack is not enough to eliminate this ideology. It requires a counter-ideology. We have to convince these people that political rule is not a hereditary right of any community or nation. Moreover, now we are living in the age of democracy. Democracy means a power-sharing system. Now every group has the right to share power in a democratic way. The hereditary concept mentioned above is nothing but a kind of anachronism, which is not tenable at all. Now we are living under the United Nations Organizations. All the nations of the world are members of this International body. Only that kind of political norm is acceptable that is just according to the United Nations’ Charter and the above kind of hereditary concept is certainly quite against the UNO’s accepted principles.

What Can be Done?

Now the question is what can be done in such an alarming situation? What is the practical solution to the present state of affairs? I think that there are two parts to this solution. In every country, there are stern laws to curb violence and terrorism. Governmental agencies must enforce all these laws. They must punish all those elements who are involved in such heinous acts. But another part of the solution pertains to the re-engineering of peoples’ minds. This task must be undertaken by the agencies that are non-governmental in their operations. It is completely a peaceful task. Re-engineering of people’s minds can be achieved only through education and positive training. This includes what I call as counter-ideology. The required peaceful result can be achieved only through the combined efforts of these two agencies — Governments and social reformers and activists.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is a Delhi-based Islamic scholar.  For more details, see

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