With the right approach, terrorism can be stopped

photo

Police and security operatives lead hostages out of Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi during a terrorist attack in 2013. Net

Editor,

RE: “Democracy trumps terrorism” (The New Times, May 28).

The writer is correct to call these mass murders in terror incidents ‘wicked acts.’ And they should be condemned with equal force by all right-thinking people the world over, no matter where these terror acts are perpetrated, whether in London, Paris, Kampala, Nairobi, Bamako, Baghdad, Damascus, Mosul, etc, and no matter by whom.

But his claim that these ‘wicked acts’ stem ‘from a distorted interpretation of a great religion’, is the biggest straw-man I have ever encountered. Terror, especially in today’s world, is the means of war mainly—though not solely—of the weak against powerful adversaries.

It is the weapon of those without fighter jets, cruise missiles and powerful armies against those who have them.

It is also used by the powerful clandestinely to destabilise often weaker target countries and to soften them up for the final frontal assault to overthrow their governments and replace them with what they hope to be more obedient ones (which is not always the case—in fact the new regime might end up causing the regime-changer(s) even more headache than the one they had helped to overthrow—see Qaddafi’s post-Libya situation, for example).

Such asymmetrical warfare is as old as interstate conflict or the struggle of the colonised or the dominated against colonial armies and colonial quislings and collaborators (see, for example, the use of terror and guerrilla tactics by the biblical Maccabees’ to overthrow the Hellenistic Seleucid rule over their land and to found the Kingdom of Judea. Terror was a very effective weapon against the more powerful Seleucid forces and their local collaborators).

Religion was as much a factor in the Maccabees revolt as it is in today’s terror by those who feel outgunned and under assault in their own lands. What is different today, is that a globalised world and mass migration makes it easier than ever before in history to spread such asymmetrical tactics even onto the very territory of the powerful adversary, by recruiting and weaponising those who feel their fellow co-religionists or compatriots-relatives-family members are under sustained aggression in their own homelands by more powerful nations-forces.

In these kinds of tactics, religion is merely a means of mobilising potential ‘soldiers’ ready to sacrifice their own lives and those of multitudes of innocents for what they consider a higher end. I very much doubt that those who utilise it for these purposes believe as we are told they do. Religion for them is just another means to an end—nothing more and nothing less.

Unless we understand this clearly, we shall be blind to the real reasons of the increase in terror and what needs to be done to stem or end it.

Mwene Kalinda