Different narratives appear in the South Asian media every time there is an event that directly or indirectly impacts its people. Here is an opinion piece by Ameen Izzadeen, a columnist for Sri Lanka's leading newspaper Daily Mirror, on the recent attack on a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi by al-Shabbab's terrorists.
Whether the myriad Islamic extremist groups are the creation of the world’s most astute intelligence groups or whether they are the products of a warped interpretation of Islam, once again we have been reminded that it is high time that we dealt with them sternly and decisively before they slaughter more innocent people.
The Nairobi (Kenya) mall terror this week, the Peshawar (Pakistan) church attacks over the weekend and indiscriminate suicide bombs in mosques, market places and other civilian areas stress the need for concerted action against those who embrace extremist ideologies. On this score, the war on terror launched by the United States and its allies has failed miserably. This is because it has a political agenda based on the interests of the United States and its capitalist allies. Their ultimate aim is economic or to plunder the resources of the target nation, rather than to eliminate terror. As a result, the war on terror has lost its direction, if it ever had one.
Take for instance, the war in Syria. The United States and its allies have taken groups that are either allied with or sympathetic toward al-Qaeda as their friends. They are being trained, armed and financed by Washington and its allies in US bases in Jordan. They carry out suicide bomb attacks and show little or no respect for human rights and laws on warfare.
In this highly politically directed war on terror, there are good terrorists and bad terrorists. Terrorists fighting the US and its allies are bad terrorists, but those who fight US foes such as Syria and Iran and rivals such as Russia and China are good terrorists.
In other words, terrorists are evaluated and used to achieve national interest goals.
Such political double dealings apart, the two incidents this week won’t be the last acts of terror on planet Earth, where the shedding of blood runs through its timeline. But concerted efforts can isolate extremists and eventually defeat them. Such efforts will require the shedding of hypocrisy and political agendas, and the launching of large-scale awareness campaigns and programs to educate those who have no access to education or have been forcibly denied education by those with vested interests.
It also requires a commitment to justice. Perhaps, this gigantic task can be given to the United Nations with the creation of a new UN agency – the United Nations program for elimination of terrorism (UNPET). The organization should focus on terrorist breeding grounds — the remote areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries and improve school education and economic prospects so that the youth will not be misled by half-baked mullahs like Taliban chief Mullah Omar.
The rise of Mullah Omar is often linked to a supposed vision or dream he saw. In this vision, Prophet Muhammad is reported to have appeared and directed him to establish God’s law in his country. The vision, however, coincided with moves by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its Pakistani counterpart Inter-Services Intelligence to bring the Taliban into power in Afghanistan. The Taliban were not even heard of when the US-funded Mujahideen or jihadists were fighting the Soviet troops who were occupying Afghanistan. They came into being only after the Soviets left Afghanistan and various Mujahideen factions fought each other to take control of the country. During their four-year rule, the ISI, like puppet masters, controlled the Taliban. The Taliban shut down girls’ schools, stopped women from working and imposed harsh penalties in the name of Shariah, but there was little condemnation from the US.
The love affair between the Taliban and the US fell apart only when the Taliban chose an Argentinean company instead of the US oil giant UNACOL, to build a pipeline that would take oil from Central Asia to ports in Pakistan. It was only after this show of independence that President Bill Clinton decided to see all the human rights violations of the Taliban and, years later, his successor, George W. Bush, invaded Afghanistan and launched his war on terror. But his war on terror has only strengthened the hands of the Taliban. Today the Taliban are in control of not only much of Afghanistan but also Pakistan’s border regions. The Pakistan arm of the Taliban known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which is behind this weekend’s church bombs in Peshawar and many suicide bombs that go off in Shiite and Sufi mosques across Pakistan is a byproduct of Bush’s war on terror.
Following the Peshawar church attacks, the mood in Pakistan, especially among its educated populace is one of anger. They say enough is enough; the people should not surrender to the barbarity of a small but deadly group of uneducated extremists, who think even those Muslims who do not subscribe to their version of Islam as Kuffar or infidels.
Many in Pakistan believe that the government should not let the United States to deal with these extremists, because each time, a US drone strikes a target inside, it kills civilians also, thus helping the Taliban to recruit those who survived the attack or the angry relatives of the victims. Urging a home-made military response, the Pakistanis question the Nawaz Sharif government’s recent decision to go for a peace deal with the TTP, which refuses to give up its annihilating ideology, which is itself against the teachings of Islam.
In fact, groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia have sullied Islam and projected it as a religion of terror, hatred and violence – or as a religion that has little place for love and tolerance and sees non-violence as a deviation. The fact that God is love, mercy, full of kindness and oft-forgiving and the fact that the word Jihad means a struggle to conquer self or cleanse it of evil are lost on the extremists who have hijacked Islam.
Most of these extremists are uneducated or the products of madrasas, where they are taught how to read the Quran and a few basics on how to pray and practice other acts of worship. If only they had been taught the history of Islam and the rule of early Muslim caliphs, these murderers of Christian worshippers would surely have known how their prophet honored and protected the Christians of Najran and how a Christian ruler in Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia) provided refuge to early Muslims who fled persecution in Makkah.
How can they know their religion in the context of love, when they are brainwashed by holy idiots or hate-mongering half-baked Mullahs? History tells us about an old man of the mountain, a terror leader who lived in a fortress at Alamut in northwest Iran. Under the guise of holy war or jihad, he used his recruits to enhance his political power. The English lexicon got the word ‘assassin’ from the Hashhashin cult which he built around him. Hashhashin meant hashish. The so-called holy warriors were made hashish and sex addicts before they were sent on missions to assassinate enemies of Hassan al-Sabbah the old sheikh of the mountain.
Those who lead al-Shabaab, the group behind the Nairobi terror, are led by modern day Hassan al-Sabbahs. The Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen or the Movement for Mujahideen Youth was born in the political vacuum created by Somalia’s civil war in the late 1990s. By 2006, al-Shabaab was in control of much of Somalia. The group was prevented from capturing Somalia’s capital Mogadishu and ousting the transitional government only after Ethiopia, at the behest of the United States, invaded Somalia and pushed the marauding militia back to the countryside.
Since 2007, an African Union peace keeping force (AMISOM) has been policing Somalia and has brought a semblance of stability to the country, but not without charges that the peacekeepers themselves are killing innocent civilians.
Adding to the woes of Somalia, Kenya invaded the country in 2011 to assert its sovereignty over its northeastern region bordering Somalia. The territorial dispute was the creation of the British colonialists who, when leaving Africa, brought part of British Somaliland under Kenya. Today more than a million Somalis live in Kenya and the Somali brand of Jihad ideology has found recruits among Kenyan Muslims also. They are paid huge salaries, four times the average salary in Kenya. The money comes from Saudi Arabian groups which want to promote Salafi Islam, but al-Shabaab front groups which receive the money use it to carry out atrocities under the name of holy war or Jihad. An article in the January 10 issue of the academically independent Foreign Affairs magazine printed by the Council on Foreign Relations Inc. in the US describes how unemployed youths become easy prey of Jihadi vultures. (http://m.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138751/alexander-meleagrou-hitchens/jihad-comes-to-kenya) and how they are killed if they try to flee the movement.
If the Kenyan troops have committed excesses in Somalia, then al-Shabaab should fight them instead of, like cowards, killing unarmed civilians in a shopping mall in violation of Islamic laws on warfare.
These extremists groups while tarnishing the image of Islam serve the United States’ interests, knowingly or unknowingly. This is why one wonders whether the holy idiot project is a CIA scheme. The so-called Islamic terror in Africa only underscores the need for greater US military presence in the continent, where the growing influence of China through trade and project aid has posed a major headache to US policymakers — all the more reason for not leaving the war against terror in the hands of the US alone. It should be the responsibility of a depoliticized UN agency. Besides, it is a duty of every Muslim to deal with the so-called Islamic terror before the extremists bring dishonor to their religion.
This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, one of leading Sri Lankan newspapers. Click here to go to the original.