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Indian PM’s Statement in Brussels: “Terrorism Must Be Disassociated from Religion” is Welcome, but How Can It Be Accomplished?

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi 7 April 2016 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent address to the Indian Diaspora in Brussels contained five signifi

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi

7 April 2016

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent address to the Indian Diaspora in Brussels contained five significant points:

•        “Terrorism must be delinked from religion; no religion teaches terrorism, a strong message that resonated from the World Sufi Forum recently held in Delhi”.

•        “Terrorism is a challenge to humanity. The entire world must unite to combat it….UN should define “terrorism” in a clear way”.

•        “India has not given in to terrorism, and there is no instance of surrendering to terror outfits…. India is the lone light of hope amidst the global crisis”.

•        “India has been battling terrorism for decades. But the rest of the world recognized the danger only after 9/11”.

•        “We cannot tackle terrorism with only bombs and guns. Misfortune of the world is that the UN does not know how to tackle terrorism”.

A critical appreciation of the above statements and their implications is a must for a serious deliberation to find concrete counterpoints to global terrorism. Of course, this line of thinking is not new in the Indian political history. Even Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru envisioned the same pluralistic, harmonious and terror-free India.

More notably, the fervent dialogue advocates like Swami Vivekananda championed the same synergetic legacy: “I see in my mind a glorious future India, rising and invincible, with Vedanta’s mind and Islam’s body”, Vivekananda asserted it in his address to the parliament of religions in Chicago. 

Walking into the footsteps of the Indian visionaries, the present Indian PM also celebrated religious pluralism, compositeness of culture and its diversity in Brussels, to the extent that he praised liberal Islam and its offshoot Sufism referring to the recently held World Sufi Forum in Delhi in March. He affirmed: “In recent days in India, liberal Islamic scholars held a big meeting, linked to Sufism… They said those who speak of terror are un-Islamic. The more such voices rise, the faster the radicalisation of youth can be prevented”.

It seems that the PM has developed good expectations from the moderate Islamic thinkers who recently brainstormed at the World Sufi Forum ways to curb growing radicalisation. His message to the rest of the world suffering the menace of radicalism was that the non-violent Sufi thoughts can be endorsed to combat global terrorism. Most Indian theorists inspired by the Rishi-Sufi tradition of the country also echoed the same view, having approved of the epoch-making Sufi declaration of peace, moderation and plurality.

The PM has rightly pointed out in his speech that “terror is un-Islamic and no religion preaches violence”. But while underlying the need for the UN and all world governments to effectively deal with terrorism emanating from their territories, there should be clear identification and cessation of the ideological roots of terror. Those who reiterate zero tolerance for all terrorist activities should not overlook the faith-inspired acts of violence perpetrated by the misguided zealots. The baffling challenge is that they cannot be tackled with only bombs and guns, but rather by rooting out their exclusivist and xenophobic foundations that are on the rampage in Europe now. Regrettably, even the well-informed terrorism experts of the UN have miserably failed to fight terrorism on an ideological level.

‘De-linking terror from religion’ will definitely usher in a new era of universal peace and non-violence. All religions are imbued in the essential messages and universal values that categorically and unequivocally delegitimize extremist thoughts and actions. But we cannot wash off our hands of the atrocities being perpetrated day in and day out, which are fomented by the religious motivations and misinterpretations. 

Radical Islamist movements the world over, most particularly in the Middle East, have become a serious threat to the survival of world states. While the essential Islamic values and doctrines are peaceful and non-conformist, the extremist and radical Muslim fringes claim to engage in acts of violence with an inspiration emanating from their religious beliefs. The recruitment of the Daesh or ISIS in Belgium serves as alive example.

Going by an official estimate of the Belgian government, nearly 120 of the 500 Daesh recruits have now returned to Belgium with an aim to indulge in wanton acts of violent jihad. These Belgian murderers are associated with an extremist jihadist cult known as “Sharia4Belgium”, which calls for the imposition of domestic Sharia law. It is based in Antwerp and is luring the young European Muslims to wage war against non-Muslims across the world. Be it Daesh, al-Qaeda, Jabhat ul Nasra, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram or any other jihadist outfit, the most impacting jihadist influence comes from ideological underpinnings peddling hatred, xenophobia, exclusivism, religio-fascism and Islam-supremacism in the name of Islamic Shariah.

The reason why terrorism is being associated with religion is that the religious zealots—jihadists, for instance— misinterpret the verses of Holy Quran to justify their acts. Much damage is being done by the common Muslims, who are silent onlookers and are not explaining the context and actual meanings of these verses. Merely denouncing acts of terror in the harshest words, as repeatedly and fervently done by the Indian clergy today, cannot help in dissociating religion with terrorism. Leaders of the religious communities and their clergy must unravel the truth behind all exclusivist, extremist and xenophobic references that the religious zealots find out in scriptures in their nefarious bid to play havoc across the world.  Without clarifying their position on this critical question, no reformation or amelioration can be expected in the present situation.

That the UN was born out of war and, therefore, fails to look beyond all this ideological implication could be a plain reason behind its inability to tackle terrorism. But it sounds bizarre, because an overwhelming number of terrorism experts well-versed in both geopolitical and ideological groundings are associated with different UN fronts and speak out at UNHRC panels. Given this, Indian PM’s apprehension at the ‘prevailing conditions facing the danger of becoming irrelevant’ causes utter amazement to us.

Regrettably, the rulers of the world governments have miserably failed in their futile exercise of disassociating religious ideologies with terrorism. Except for well-spirited and strongly worded claims to tackle terrorism that do not stand up to scrutiny, they have produced no concrete solution to this baffling problem so far. In fact, the world politicians don’t seem to accept the reality that the radical thoughts do exist and they cannot be rooted out until an intellectual de-radicalisation is evolved in a coherent and cogent manner, rebutting the theoretical underpinnings of the global violent extremism.