Not Just Terrorism, Violence needs to be tackled as a Whole

Focus merely on Religion-based violence is motivated

Within about 40 days in between, the attack on Mosques in New Zealand and the attack on Churches in Sri Lanka gave yet another “opportunity” to the international community to discuss and debate the role of religion in violence. The images of the attack on Muslims in Christchurch mosques were dramatic enough to generate fear in the minds of the people about reprisal attacks somewhere. Surprisingly, these attacks were carried out at the most unlikely place. While Sri Lanka had a long history of Tamil violence, Muslims and Christians in that country were not known for any major clashes.

The world media is again busy debating the religious extremism. Such stories provide them “reasons” to portray religion in dark colours and put the religious leaders and organisations on the back foot. The protagonists of religions give the usual apologetic and defensive arguments blaming the few “fringe” elements within the communities. The truth however is that the so-called religious violence forms only a minuscule part of the total violence that engulfs human beings on a regular basis.  But the international media highlights only those kinds of violence that suit its interests. Day-today violence due to abysmal failure of Western legal system and the deaths due to indulgence in social evils hardly if ever get any attention. Political violence too is debated only if Western governments have any interest in it. In the month of April, for example, several hundred people have died in the violence in and around Tripoli; the violence in Libya has killed more than one hundred thousand in last 5 years. But these hardly find any mention in BBC or CNN news.

The world has been made to understand as if Muslims are the perpetrators of the majority of violence. The truth on the other hand is that the numbers of Muslims killed at the hands of Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus are hundreds of times higher than the numbers of those communities killed by Muslims. Moreover, in the overwhelming majority of violent clashes, including terrorism, communal riots and civil wars, it is not the religion but the political ambitions of the rival groups that cause them.

West believes that its set of political, social and economic ideologies, what I call Westernism, is the only correct ideology for the world, and it alone has the right to define various concepts and parameters, and it alone has the right to endeavour through all possible ways, for the propagation and implementation of its ideology. Of course, they have made the world believe, even against their inner beliefs, that religion, individually or collectively, has no role to play in the modern “civilized” world. If the proponents of any other ideology, religious or non-religious, challenge the concepts of Westernism and try to prove the superiority of their ideas, they are mocked, ridiculed and rejected. They are described as “uncivilized”, “radicalized” and “extremist” forces.

The most notable form of the radicalization of West is its theory of violence and its involvement in violent conflicts. It is working on a well-planned categorization of violence to suit its political and economic ends. Instead of reacting on the basis of the magnitude of violence, its reaction is based on the political considerations. Any violence, which is linked or can be made to appear linked to religion, especially Islam, is worthy of highest condemnation, but any violence, which is related to the effects of West’s ideological or political positions is either not talked about or becomes “collateral damage”.

In recent years, Western role has been prominently there in all the conflicts in the Middle East. But again, it can be seen that their weapons go to the side, which toes their lines, and against those which have refused to surrender to their diktats. And always, the media would blame the loss of lives on the forces that are not pro-West.

As discussed before, the categorization of violence has been on political rather than humanitarian lines. If magnitude of the loss of lives due to man-made causes is taken as the criterion of categorization, the following categories will emerge:

  1. Violence caused by human actions: abortions killing more than 50 million humans before birth every year
  2. Diseases like AIDS which has consumed 40 millions in last 2 decades (owing to uninhibited sexuality)
  3. Alcohol related deaths: around 2 million every year
  4. Murders: again around 2 million every year
  5. Wars which have consumed 180 million lives in last century and about 2 million since the beginning of this century;
  6. Civil wars which might have consumed around 0.3-0.5 million since the year 2000
  7. Terrorism, which may have killed around 0.3 million in last 25 years (including Al-Qaeda, LTTE, Indian terrorist organisations like Naxalites)  (These are broad estimates only.)

Most of these are the results of the concepts of “freedom” promoted by West and political ideologies aimed at hegemonisation of the world by West, which they have pursued throughout the modern history. Terrorism forms only a small part. And if terrorism kills, the blame goes not only on the role of international political players but also on the total failure of the international legal system in preventing crimes of any kinds. When weapons, crimes, legal profession and prisons – all form huge industries, where is the need to reduce crimes? Only specific crimes receive attention. They forget that if terrorists are able to kill in big numbers, it is not just their radicalization but also the availability of sophisticated weapons which makes it easy for them to carry out their plans. They again forget that terrorism as a crime cannot be defeated in isolation. All forms of violence, political or nonpolitical will have to be tackled and all the factors that cause them will have to be removed.

What is troubling about New Zealand and Sri Lankan tragedies is that instead of communities or political groups, it appears to bring religions face to face. All the religions, especially Christianity and Islam, have to ensure that religion in itself does not become the ideological motive behind violence. Despite colossal destruction of lives in Western wars and West-led civil wars, Muslims have refrained from blaming Christianity and have focused only on Western policies. Muslims have also not resorted to campaigns against Christianity despite the Islamophobic campaigns run by many Christian organisations. Hopefully Christian organisations will realize the importance of coming together on the ground of religious morality rather than hating on the ground of identity. The same is true for all other religions. Religions have to realize that the challenge to them in this world does not come from other religions but from the atheistic immoral ideologies based on economic and political interests that are dominating the world today.

I have always maintained that every single death of an innocent needs to be condemned, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator and the victim, irrespective of the motivating ideology, religious or non-religious and irrespective of the method used; and the condemnation and response should be proportionate to the magnitude of violence rather than the identities of those involved. Sri Lanka violence is of course much more horrible than New Zealand one; and there should be no reason why it should not be condemned with the intensity it demands.

Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books to his credit. This is writer’s personal opinion and has nothing to do with the organisations he is associated with.