TERRORISM is a despicable activity that has tormented the world for many decades with the purpose of spreading panic and violence in the society. It also compels people thinking that the ongoing system has failed to protect the fundamental rights of people. So, they opt to revolt and agitate through their unlawful activities. As a political violence, terrorism targets Government officials, civilians including men, women, children and old people indiscriminately. To accomplish their political objectives, these extremists and terrorists impede democracy and thwart government endeavours for political and economic reforms.
But unfortunately, there is not even a specific definition of terrorism. Due to problem of definition, there are nearly 5000 definitions and every state has coined its own definition on the basis of its national interests. Emergence of ISIS, TTP, Boko Haram and other insurgent groups is not a new phenomenon but terrorism is deeply rooted in history and as old as human history. The zealots were a Jewish group which emerged in AD 6, and targeted government officials to spread panic in the society and to push Romans out of Palestine. The struggle failed and nearly 2000 Zealots were executed, their struggle turned over to guerrilla war but finally, crushed.
A series of brutal and bloodiest attacks which recently jolted Paris is also not a new event after the WW-II. Many such attempts have been made in Europe. Christian Europe had to taste terrorism with its particular forms during the 15th century. The French Revolution of 1789 introduced the term “Terrorism” and at the time, it was linked with the states that were declared as “Enemies of the state”. More developed pattern of state terrorism was used in Nazi Germany of Hitler and Soviet Union in 1930s and 1940s. Europe and North America had to face both destructive and creative impacts of the industrial and scientific revolutions in 1800s. President of France and Italy, the king of Portugal and Italy, the Prime Ministers of Spain and the Empress of Austria fell victims to terrorist attacks in 1890.
Anarchists also tried to kill German Kaiser and Chancellor. But actions of terrorist or anarchist groups differed from the modern day terrorists as they targeted only government officials and rulers rather than civilians. For example, Russiananarchist group known as the ‘peoples’ will’ never planted bomb on public places, never kidnapped civilians and never used public as shield to pursue their objectives. After WW-I (1814-1818), major monarchies and world powers like Hungry, Austria, Germany and Russia gave way to ethnic, factional violence and terrorist actions. In the name of national self-determination, Eastern and Central Europe came under the terrorist violence.
1940s to 1980s, the cold war between the USA and Soviet Union and their allies painted terrorism with an ideology. Marxist Leninists also advocated terrorism in different manners for the justification of revolutionary movements. In short, the victory of subjugated and oppressed people is the cause of violence in third world countries while leg-pulling between international powers and their allies has become a driving force in the disturbance of law and order situation in the progressed states.
In current scenario, nearly 130 people were killed in Paris massacre on Nov 14 and ISIS had taken its responsibility. Now the question arises, what are the main reasons behind the attacks? And how can such attacks be avoided in future? An important factor appears to me, is Western foreign policy towards Middle East and their political and moral support to inhuman acts of different states on oppressed people who have been fighting for their basic right of liberty for many decades.
In historical perspective, West faced severe reaction of the fundamentalist Muslims and heterodox Muslim militancy because of its policies towards the Middle East. 9/11 incident was also an aggression against those policies. The rise of ISIS and its anti-western attitude depict the consequences of those policies, still going-on. Another major factor that has been boosting terrorism in different shapes on different levels for many decades is international power support to barbarous, atrocious and brutal policies of different states on particular issues like support to India and Israel on Kashmir and Palestine issues etc. Paris incident may not have occurred if West felt pains of Kashmiris and Palestinian people who are also created human by God; whatever one may call them, does not matter.
I would not postulate any solution to get rid of the new wave of militancy because alliances, meetings and conferences on the issue are dramas to satisfy public showing seriousness. If international powers want to wipe terrorism out, they will have to bereft their aggressive attitude of their policies towards the Muslim world and major conflicts etc. West can only abolish terrorism with the help of Muslim world. So, they must reduce grievances of the Muslim world through normalizing their policies towards them and realizing that they are not perceived as inferior and terrorist and all of us have to combat the challenge together. When West changes its mentality, the Muslim world will also and when West feels sorrows and pains of the Muslims, definitely, they will also feel like that.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Lahore.