GLOBAL TERRORISM – AMENACE TO HUMANITY
THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM—THE NEED OF THE HOUR
The world is today witnessing a rise of terrorist activities in different parts of the world. A number of groups, owing allegiance to some political ideology or some particular religious beliefs, have chosen the path of violence and terror to achieve their objects. These vested interests are rabid fundamentalists or fanatics having no sanctity for life. The know no principles or values. They believe in the power of the gun and want to achieve their objects overnight.
While some of these groups are fighting for control over some pieces of land, others are fighting for spreading their own ideology or religious philosophies. They choose to defy public opinion and refuse to see reason. They think that their own view point or stand is the only right view point or stand, and that they have a right to convert other people to their thinking by force. For this avowed purpose they do not hesitate from committing the worst of crimes including murder of innocent citizens, looting or burning property, kidnapping people, hijacking planes and creating terror in one way or the other.
Some of the important terrorist organizations operating in different parts of the world have already been identified. The Al0Aaeda in Afghanistan, the Jaishe Mohmmad and the Lashker-e-Toiba based in Pakistan, the Palestine Liberation Organisation in the Middle East, the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the Maoists in Nepal, the Naxalite organization called People’s War Group (PWA) in parts of India, the Naga National Council, several pro—Pakistan groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir, the Irish Army in the U.K., etc. are already playing havoc in their respective areas. The number of these organizations is so large that it is difficult to list them out. They have their own training systems where they catch hold of young boys and indoctrinate them in subtle ways through guile, treachery, temptations or money. At several places they are running their own schools to ‘Catch them young’ and wash their brains. Some of the Madarsas being run by Muslim fundamentalists are allegedly involved in this type of activities.
It would on September 11, 2001 that the world woke up to the dangers of this terrible menace. A group of Al- Qaeda terrorists, guided and supported by the Taliban leader Osama Bin Laden based in Afghanistan, struck terror in the U.S.A. in a big way. They hijacked four US planes from some US civilian airports. While one of these planes hit against the US headquarters in Pentagon, another two planed brought down the towering World Trade Centre, killing at least 5000 innocent US citizens. The fourth, luckily, missed the target. It was, the reports say, scheduled to hit the White House, the residence of the US president.
George Bush, the President of the USA, swung into action and ordered US air force to attack Afghanistan and bring the terrorists to book. In a massive attack, the Talibans were defeated and destroyed and a new government came to control Afghanistan. Similarly America attacked Iraq as President Saddam himself appeared to be a big terror. Iraq was badly damaged. A group of terrorists trained in Pakistan attacked the Indian Parliament House on December 13, 2001 even when the Parliament was in session. The Indian security personnel killed all the five attackers on the spot but the incident shook whole of the country and the world. The war against terrorists is continuing and the world community has decided to continue to fight till terrorism is fully wiped out from the face of this earth.
The UNO has, in a resolution, called upon various nations to join hands and work as United Alliance to face this threat of terrorism anywhere at any time in the world.
Pak-trained terrorists continue to cross over to India and let loose a reign of terror in J & K. Terrorism has already taken a heavy toll of life and property. It is a shame that even as the human civilization is marching ahead, some people are bent upon pushing the world back to the age of barbarism and brutality full of chaos and indiscipline. The law of the jungle will take us nowhere. We can only pray for good sense of prevail so that the world is able to share and enjoy the blessings bestowed upon mankind by new leaps in the field of science and technology.
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Today, countries across the world are being terrorised and ravaged by extremism; both territory and minds conquered by a militant and ideological crusade. Right or wrong, the mere mention of the word “terrorism” conjures up images of bearded Muslim men - kalashnikovs in hand - intent on eradicating any thought, person or object which runs contrary to their narrow fundamentalist ideology.
Yet, despite the extensive legal and political debates, spanning decades, the question still remains: ''What is terrorism?'' With no common international legal definition, on what grounds do countries establish and pursue a terrorist entity? And could this void in definition provide a smokescreen for governments to orchestrate state sponsored terrorism by clamping down on legitimate political movements - both domestic and foreign?
“It is not only individual agencies within the same governmental apparatus that cannot agree on a single definition of terrorism. Experts and other long-established scholars in the field are equally incapable of reaching a consensus,” concludes Professor Bruce Hoffman, Director of the Centre for Security Studies at Georgetown University.
Anecdotally, there is no doubt in the minds of many as to the nature and the perpetrators of terrorism. Following the tragic murder of nearly 3,000 people on US soil in 2001, the then US President, George Bush, declared the infamous ‘war on terror’ to a joint session of Congress and to the American people. ''Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated,'' Bush announced.
Emile Lahoud, the then President of Lebanon, rightly pointed out that, ''It is not enough to declare war on what one deems terrorism without giving a precise and exact definition''. Lahoud perhaps missed that Bush was quite explicit in his synonymous use of the terms ‘terrorism’ and ‘Muslim terrorists’.
And let us be frank about this, many will look back at Bush’s speech as simply an acknowledgement of the truth; Muslim extremism is the problem. Even today we find his sentiments echoed across the global media, perpetuated by images of savages beheading kind-hearted western aid workers and journalists in Syria and in Iraq.
(Yesterday: Congress points at Qatar as sponsor of terrorism. Today: Qatar expels Muslim brotherhood leaders. Conclusion: MB is terrorist.)
While terrorism is a broad and complex topic, modern discussions are almost exclusively limited to insurgency terrorism - where ideological groups, such as Al-Qaeda, take up arms and rise against various domestic and foreign political actors. However, little mainstream discussion surrounds state sponsored terrorism, which refers to states or regimes that coerce, rather than to protect, the masses through force and fear. The general lack of popular interest in this area is odd given that it is the oldest and most costly form of terrorism.
The impact of state sponsored terrorism is unparalleled. In their book “Global Terrorism”, James Lutz and Brenda Lutz list the following examples of state sponsored terrorism:
East Timor (1975 - 1993), over 200,000 people killed
Guatemala (1965 - 1995), 200,000 people killed
El Salvador (1979 - 1992), 70,000 people killed
Iraq (1980 - 1990), 200,000 people killed
Algeria (1992 - until present), 100,000 people killed
(Former) Yugoslavia (1991 - 1995), 110,000 people killed
Chechnya (1994 - 2004), 100,000 people killed
Chile (1973 - 1985), 20,000 people killed
Argentina (1976 - 1982), 11,000 people killed
The University of Maryland hosts the online “Global Terrorism Database.” The website, said to be the “most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world,” keeps an in-depth record of global incidents of terrorism spanning the past 43 years (1970-2013). The database has registered a staggering 125,000 incidents of terrorism. Some of the top-line statistics for the past four decades include records of 58,000 bombings, 15,000 assassinations and 6,000 kidnappings. The majority of these crimes appear to have been state sponsored rather than the independent actions of insurgent groups.
Another prominent myth is that terrorism is a third-world problem. However, there are various recent examples of terrorism in western countries that tell a very different story. For example, a recent report found that on US soil, from 1990 to 2013 some 368 US citizens were killed by far-right groups on ideological grounds. This figure includes the murder of fifty law enforcement officers. To place that into context, it is just over half the number of British soldiers killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
The Troubles in Ireland claimed the lives of 3,600 people, a few hundred less than the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq. In Spain, during one of Europe’s longest violent conflicts, the Basque separatist group Eta claimed the lives of an estimated 829 people.
James and Brenda Lutz aptly sum up the universal problem posed to the world by terrorism:
“Terrorism did not begin with the attacks of September 11th, 2001 in New York City and Washington DC, or in April 1995 with the bombing in Oklahoma City, or with the hostage taking at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Nor did terrorism begin with the Cold War or the establishment of the Soviet Union after World War I. Nor has terrorism been restricted to activities by groups from the Middle East or those parts of the world with large Muslim populations. Terrorism has been a nearly universal phenomenon.”
And it is this phenomenon that needs to be more widely acknowledged and discussed. Modern conversations too often reduce terrorism to a Muslim problem. The concern with this has to be that such attitudes draw our attention away from broader, global terrorism and the role played by states, both in the developed and undeveloped worlds. It also prevents us from taking a step back and looking for more empirical answers to a cyclical problem that has touched every age, people and religion.
For example, serious questions need to be answered about the interplay between the West, underdeveloped states and insurgents in fanning the flames of terrorism. And do we find patterns of similar relationships in other regions of the world? Commenting specifically on the spread of terrorism and extremism in the Middle East, Owen Jones aptly describes the current dilemma:
'One element has been missing, and that is the west’s relationship with Middle Eastern dictatorships that have played a pernicious role in the rise of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism. And no wonder: the west is militarily, economically and diplomatically allied with these often brutal regimes, and our media all too often reflects the foreign policy objectives of our governments.'
There is no doubt that extremist Muslims are a driving force behind terrorism in the Middle East and South Asia, but the problem is clearly a much wider one. Ignoring this fact is to jeopardise our ability to comprehensively tackle the scourge that is terrorism. A good starting point would be for the international community to agree on a common definition of terrorism, which does not ignore the deadly phenomenon of state sponsored terrorism.
Adam Walker has published works on various issues related to the history, law and social affairs of the MENA region. He is also co-editor of the first western encyclopaedia on the Prophet Muhammad.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo credit: George W. Bush (AFP)
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.