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Terrorism: An underemphasized problem

Terrorism: An underemphasized problem

(Abstract of a talk  by Dr. Benoy B. Paul at the Rotary Club District 7950,
Quincy, MA, USA, August 27, 2002.)

I. Making of the terrorist

Millions of Muslim boys, five years of age and older, are indoctrinated in Islamic religious schools for a large part of their child- and young- adulthoods. The intolerance towards non-Muslims that is taught to them develops deep roots in these early and crucial years.  Tens of thousands of these Islamic religious schools are present and functional in most countries that have a Muslim population, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Sudan, and the sub-Saharan countries.

The curriculum and agenda in these schools are extremely militant. Muslims schools in Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, and Toronto have Pakistani Taliban-type curricula.  The bulk of financial backing and support for these religious schools come from Saudi Arabia.  Funds are also collected and sent from practically every corner of the world.  Training in jihad (Islamic holy war) against non-Muslims takes place in many countries of the world, Pakistan being most prominent, after the demise of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The al- Qaeda terrorist outfit received most of their professional training from the military intelligence, ISI, of Pakistan.  Militants trained in countries like Pakistan are dispatched to India, Palestine, Europe, the United States, and practically all over the world.

In the holy book of Islam, The Qur'an, the verses are profuse with ideas of intolerance toward those who do not believe in Allah, and further promotes killing and war against non-believers. Additionally, The Koran glorifies the act of dying in the name of Allah, for those who die fighting for Allah will be given a great reward.

As Ibn al-Rawandi states in his article, "It's not difficult to see how those who regard the Qur'an as God's own speech can find in verses such as these the justification for practically any act of terrorism imaginable" From Free Inquiry, Spring 2002, vol. 22 (2), pg. 37.

What we experience as senseless acts of terror, these militants see as rational and calculated acts in the name of Allah.

II.   The victims of terrorism
All of humankind is directly and indirectly victimized by militancy and acts of terror.  Although the West, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Indian sub- continent are the primary targets, we as citizens of the world are all affected by acts of terror.  For example, my country of birth, Bangladesh, has been a fertile ground for hatred, discrimination, and brutal atrocities against non- Muslims.  The non-Muslim population of East Bengal has gone down from 38% in 1947 to less 21 % in 1971 (when the territory changed name from East Pakistan to Bangladesh). The trend has continued in Bangladesh, and the non-Muslims constitute less than 10% of the total population now. The non-Muslim population of Pakistan, which was West Pakistan until 1971, is less than 2% now. It was 20% in 1947.

III. What the experts have to say

According to experts in these areas, such as Dr. Daniel Pipes, Founder and Director of the Middle East Forum, Philadelphia, PA at least 80% of Muslims in any organization or community, and most of the Muslim majority countries support and sympathize with terrorists and their extreme militant thinking.

Dr. Magnus Sanstrop, Professor, London states that Al Qaeda is present and active in every continent of the world, and in at least 60 countries. He believes that it will take multi-country cooperation and commitment, not years but probably decades, to fight terrorism.

Dr. Bernard Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, came to similar conclusions as the experts previously discussed. He is the author of "What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response"

The Gallup Poll, as well as CNN and Jogby International found that in nine Muslim countries only a very small percentage of people (5-18%) believe that the Al Qaeda was involved in the Sept 11 massacre. Far East Economic Review and the Wall Street Journal report: Be aware of Bangladesh: a cocoon of terror. 251 tapes obtained by CNN and CBS news show that the terrorists have elaborate plans for hurting non-Muslims, practically in every region of the world.

IV. What should we do? What can we do?

We can try to get the facts. While we should be fair to everyone, we do not need to appease anyone. We should ask for accountability and solutions regarding terrorism from Muslim religious and political leaders, for example Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. If we ignore the problem today, we and our children will suffer for a long long time.  We cannot afford to stand by.  Like the fascists and communists, the militants must not be ignored.

Additionally, we have a responsibility to ourselves to increase our knowledge of the world around us.  In order to begin to understand what creates and maintains terrorism, and how we can find a solution, we must first be able to look beyond just our country, our culture, and ourselves. The only way evil will prevail is if good people do nothing.

V. For further reading

For further discussion on these topics, please see Free Inquiry, published by The Council for Secular Humanism. In particular, the Spring 2002 issue (Vol 22, no. 2) contains a section dedicated to discourse about Islam, Sept. 11, and terrorism, Islam: Voice of dissent. There are articles from notable Western and Islamic scholars, including Muslims and the West after September 11, by Professor Pervez Hoodboy of Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

You can also find them on the web at: http://www.secularhumanism.org

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