These two words are often used interchangeably. But they are not: terror is the action (and the effect), terrorism is the philosophy behind it, the justification.
It may sound banal, and to some extent it is. But it does not hurt to dig deeper into the problem, and to take a trip backward in time; Why do some consider terror a valid solution and to what problems? To do this it is important to distinguish between the two words.
When thinking about terrorism the automatic reaction is that Muslims are behind it: Islamic terror. Not strange, because that is the most prevalent. There is a widespread notion, that Islam in its ideology justifies terror against its opponents.
But that is not a true picture. To tear this picture into shreds it is necessary to take a deep dive back in history.
We, the perfect Western democracies, are not innocent of having generated the present reality, that is so dominated by terror. Our complicity dates back to the colonial era and all the way forward to the present, and it will continue into the future if we don’t start treating the world and its populations with a much higher degree of consideration and compassion.
Of course we are far from being the only guilty ones, but we do have a responsibility to change the way we treat the World and its peoples.
The Colonial Era.
This era was dominated by a behavior where Western countries treated especially Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and large parts of Asia as just means to make a few people incredibly rich. It was all about conquering land before someone else did. It was about monopolizing natural resources and man power. The people and the cultures living in those areas and the ethnic and other tensions, that may have existed, were null and void. These people were not even a human resource. They were just cogwheels in a machinery shoveling riches into the deep pockets of a little elite from these Western countries – the aristocracy (aristocrazy would be a more suitable word).
When many of these areas became politically independent (on paper) they did not have the time to develop a common identity as a nation. Lines on a map had already been drawn by the conquering aristocracy, and the people within these boundaries were now forced to function as a replica of the Western perfect reality, democracy. But the different tensions were still there; there was no culture and tradition that could support democracy with equal rights for all. Clans and ethnic group and religious differences still fought to obtain power at the expense of others. Tensions increased in many of these previous colonies.
Couldn’t they just start behaving as modern people do? Well, in Europe we haven’t learned it yet. There are still peoples not quite treated as equal members of a bigger society: the Basques and Catalonians of Spain and France, and the Flemings and Walloonians of Belgium. There are the Romas, primarily in some east European countries. In northern Scandinavia there are the Sami, who are not quite regarded as equal members of their nation. There many examples of countries that were first unified and later divided, often with violence, war and terror involved: former Yugoslavia, Czech Republic and Slovakia to mention a few.
Many more could be mentioned (source), but the important thing to admit is that many nations of Europe were formed without any consideration of ethnic and cultural realities. The only difference between us and former colonies, is that we have had much longer time to build our societies. But problems are still there, after several hundreds of years. Far from all Ethnic groups in Europe feel a national affiliation, and many are denied the opportunity to do so. Now every European are expected to develop an identity as a European above a national identity, which might not even exist.
How can we assume that countries expected to follow our example, can do it just as “well” as we have done, and in a much shorter time, especially with the starting point that our perverse colonial behavior forced upon them?
Besides, you could pop the question: is the colonial era really over? The lands and their people may not be directly controlled by their former colonial masters. But it happens indirectly, through globalized, neo-liberal trade: A reality where former colonial masters intentionally distort market mechanisms, so that trade surplus always ends up in the pockets of these colonial masters, while the former colonies deliver markets for foreign products, having markets for their own products outcompeted. Furthermore socio-economic inequality is as immense or worse as in rich countries. The elite in rich countries are still exploiting natural resources and man power to line their own pockets in close collaboration with the local elite.
Terror is far from only Islamic.
Jews committed terror against British soldiers and Arab civilians after World War 2. This terrorism behind it was revisionist Zionism, founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky with a clear violent ideology: “every Jew had the right to enter Palestine; only active retaliation would deter the Arab and the British; only Jewish armed force would ensure the Jewish state”.
Their goal was to seize land from Palestinian owners for their Jewish state. This goal could only be reached with violence and was clearly justified in Jewish religious thinking. Other Jewish groups did not and still do not agree with this interpretation of Jewish scriptures. A typical example of double-interpretation of religious scriptures, brought about by political goals. This is yet another proof that religion cannot be inherently violent; a religion cannot act. Only people can choose violence for whatever purpose they need, seeking justification from whatever source they can find, religion included.
Christianity ha also been used to justify terrorism; think of the IRA and now the new IRA. In the USA christianity is used to justify the claim taht the USA is good-given to be the dominant power i the world, with the rights to force submission, if needed, by military means.
Communism is an almost theist ideology with Marx and Lenin as prophets. Communist terrorism is well-known: Rote Armee Fraktion in Germany, the Japanese Red Army, Red Brigades in Italy and Sendero Luminoso in Peru.
On July 22. 2011 Anders Behring Breivik committed terror against several targets in Norway, substantiated by his hatred against Islam and not least people who chose not to hate Islam. A perverted reverse logic: Islam commits terror, therefore I will commit terror against those that do not support my hatred of Islam.
Even science has been used to justify atrocities: Hitler used Eugenics (racial hygiene) as part of his justification. This was established science in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Terror is not an inherent part of islam, as claimed by many of its opponents. Terror is a widespread political weapon to be used by anyone if only frustrations, cynicism and hatred is sufficiently dominant. Religion is misused to justify atrocities and generalized hatred, but that is the only connection between religion and terrorism.
This cynicism towards your victims is also widespread when it comes to military actions – a bomb-pilot way of thinking. Military attacks also lead to victims and traumatized families and friends. There is no difference. We should ask ourselves: are military actions also acts of terror? They have the same effect on those that are hit.
In this respect superpowers excel, especially the United States and its European Allies.
Muslims have committed terror several times in history, as many others. But it started to gain momentum when Taliban and Al-Qaeda were formed.
To understand why these two organizations appeared it is necessary to take a look at the historic background.
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan December 27. In 1979 (source). Their goal was to control the country thereby gaining influence on Middle Eastern countries; of course it was all about oil. The Russians pushed England (the former colonial master) out of Afghanistan.
The Russian were met by heavy resistance from the Mujadideen, which was supported, trained and armed by the United States.
The Russians gave up in 1989 after at least one millions Afghans had been killed and about five million had fled the country. All Afghans were more or less traumatized. Was this invasion an act of terror? Well, what do you think?
After the Russians were out, the USA grasped the opportunity to control the country for the same reason that the Russians wanted it.
In 1994 Taliban entered the scene. It started with pious muslim men reacting when certain Mujahideen attacked and raped women, or – more broadly speaking – the wish to have what they regarded as Islamic law and morality enforced in a country, that was dominated by American interests.
The Taliban succeeded in replacing the USA, and was in power in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. It developed into an extreme patriarchal regime, demeaning Islam to be about the right of men to control every aspect of society, not least women as serving genies for men. This view on women is contradictory to the Quran. The Quran preaches equal rights for men and women, although with a Muslim view on the virtuous family, a view not very different from the view presented by many fundamentalist Christians.
The precursor for Al-Qaeda emerged in 1984: Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), founded by Abdullah Yusuf Azzam and Osama bin Laden. It was supported by many muslim countries, and the CIA, wanting to weaken Soviet influence.
MAK developed into Al-Qaeda when Osama bin Laden took over control in 1989. Osama had his background in the Mujahideen movement, with the goal to eradicate all non-muslim influence, ultimately from every country appointed as being Muslim, with the Califate as the ultimate goal. Islam as defined in their interpretation of the Quran and in Sharia should be implemented as the patriarchal right of men to rule all aspects of society. CIA didn’t grasp this before it was too late.
The method was founded in Jihad distorted into a duty to fight all non-Muslim influence, by using terror if needed.
Basically the idea behind islamic terrorism is to make us hate muslims by committing terror, so that we retaliate with extreme military violence – this violence is not a deterrent against committing more terror; On the contrary; it is this revenge they want us to commit. They use this to argue for hating us more, to justify their terror. In their eyes their terror is just payback for the terror committed by the West in order to obtain military, economic and political control over Muslim countries.
The Bush government, in its extreme lack of intelligence, fell for it, and is to a great extent responsible for all present and future Islamic terror.
The Fatwa of Osama bin Laden gave three reasons for his hatred against The USA and the West:
- The Gulf War (1990 to 1991) when Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait, and especially the period after the war where the USA continued bombing Iraq to enforce the no-fly-zone. Many civilians were victims of these terror actions and the hunger that followed.
- In 1995 The UN estimated that 500.000 Iraqi children had been killed in the the US bomb raids and from hunger. The USA considered these death as being worth it, foreign minister Madeleine Albright said publicly.
- The conflict in Israel/Palestine, and the whole-hearted support of Israel by the USA.
Al-Qaeda were behind numerous terror action, until it culminated with the attack on the two towers and the Pentagon on 9-11 2001, where approximately 3000 American families lost family members, with all the persistent trauma this entails.
But in Osama’s world this was only payback – an-Eye-for-an-Eye.
The USA went to war with Iraq as a result. Hussein had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, but the USA conjured a claim from thin air, that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. This claim was presented for the Security Council with manipulated and mendacious evidence, succeeding in getting the OK to invade. According to US sources about 66.000 innocent Iraqi families lost family members, experiencing the same kind of trauma to which the 3000 American families were exposed. That is a lot more than an-Eye-for-an-Eye.
President Obama continued these bombing orgies. In 2016 alone he dropped 72 bombs and missiles every day over countries like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan plus innumerable bombs in other years – source. How many more families that have been traumatized is unknown.
If you do a simple count of victims and traumatized family members, Western militaries and their political wirepullers are far bigger and more efficient terror organizations than all the Islamic terror organizations put together.
We should remember the famous words of Gandhi: ”an Eye-for-and-Eye always ends up making the whole world blind”. That is exactly where we are: The bomb orgies of the West and its remote control of the economies of Muslim countries is the perfect tool for Islamists to convince young Muslims about the obvious justification of radicalization. The USA and their allies does not shoot only at Muslims. They shoot all of us in our feet.
It is a very sticky web we have allowed ourselves to be caught in. We are one of the spiders spinning this web, but other spiders are contributing, among them the Soviet Union/Russia, just about every Muslim country, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, and of course Islamic terror organizations.
It is about time to break free from this web. Generalized hatred and strategic cynicism can never be constructive. Let us admit, that terror is not only created by Muslims. There is a small but alas growing minority of self-appointed radical Islamists that have accumulated an extreme hatred against the West, especially the USA and their European allies, and our joint desire to be dominant economically and militarily; a doctrine that Donald Trump has expressed with his simplified words and lack of understanding.
This radicalization is founded in a very fundamentalist view of Islam, which is not supported by the majority of Muslims.
But Muslims also has a responsibility in fighting terrorism. They need to be much more aggressive in attacking their radical co-religionists publicly. These radicals are demeaning their holy scriptures: The Quran, The Sharia laws and concepts like Jihadism are becoming merely political weapons to further personal political battles and hatred. The radicals are in essence pissing all over the Quran and other scriptures. This should trigger anger towards these radicals from the great majority of Muslims, followed by direct action.
Now the Hate-Machine is running with the recent terror attack in Sri Lanka as the latest cogwheel, probably with Daesh/IS as the ideological and perhaps financial basis. It is about time we stop our contribution to this hate-machine. We should re-visit our politics towards Muslims in general, both domestically and foreign: Only a small minority of Muslims are potential terrorists. Most Muslims are just as peaceful as everyone else.
Movements like Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HUT) would have minimal impact if Muslims were treated and commented on as the fellow human beings they actually are – potential friends and neighbors. HUT is attacking democracy and our Western culture because we are attacking Muslims and their culture, and because we are actively working to impose our societal model on Muslim countries, to safeguard our oil-supply.
Let HUT run their campaign for the califate. They will be forced to recognize that the majority of Muslims want democracy, not dictatorship. The Arabian spring in Egypt and other countries proved than beyond doubt.
Let us work to convince the Americans that giving up the remote control of Muslims countries is a prerequisite to stop terror. Terror cannot be stopped with violence, on the contrary: violence fuel terror. Western military attacks create radicalism and therefore terror. It is the way towards the abyss, not away from it.