The world has read about yet another massacre of the innocents by a foot soldier of the self-styled Islamic State — this time again in the United States in an Orlando club. In Bangladesh, jihadists have murdered yet another Hindu priest and also several leading Muslim liberals. Reports are that the IS is preparing many such killings across several countries.
Every such event is followed by condemnation of the event-makers, assertions that it has nothing to do with religion, that Islam is a religion of peace, it does not mandate killing of innocents and so on — as if they are reading from a textbook of response. These textbook-like reactions make no dent or deter more such killings.
What inspires the unending flow of recruits to the massacring factories of the IS from Muslim families in non-Muslim countries including Europe, USA, India? Why is it that many of these recruits, well-educated, belonging often to affluent families, are so willing to lose life while themselves engaged in killing others, often as soon as they get converted into Islam or touched by the calls of the IS over the social media?
Several Muslim majority nations of West Asia, including the most influential, most wealthy of them all, Saudi Arabia, have combined with America and Europe to eradicate the IS. With America using its air power to take out the IS leaders one by one and the West Asian Islamic nations lending ground troops and intelligence inputs in the battle against the IS, a certain confidence is being created that the so-called Islamic State would be pulled out and eliminated sooner rather than later.
The much-publicised success of the US in tracking down and exterminating leaders of the Islamic State movement — the latest is the unconfirmed report that the Caliph of the IS, Mr Baghdadi himself has been killed in a US air strike, — seems to be dwarfed by the widening of the appeal of the organisation itself to the common Muslims.
There is a basic contradiction in the official US stand against jihadi terrorism and the political alignment Washington has with countries like Saudi Arabia against the Islamists. Riyadh is the largest financier of madrasas — the Muslim religious educational institutions. Innumerable treatises have exposed the type of religious education that these institutions provide.
These are funded by Saudi money among the poor Muslim communities across the world. What is taught in these institutions, staffed largely by a priesthood that takes it as a command from God through their holy book, is that their religion is what God wants and that God has instructed their founder on how the society should be shaped and run to reflect His will. So, they believe that any change in the rules and practices that constitute a society is defiance of God and cannot be allowed. Attempts to make these changes will have to be fought and such a war is a holy war, the ‘jihad.’ To fight such a war is a Muslim’s duty.
When this is inculcated from the age of five in these madrasas as the unchanging, unchangeable truth, the common Muslim begins to see any deviation from the set of prescribed practices and rules as an evil to be fought against and those who do take up this task constitute God’s army. What is happening in Pakistan is an object lesson. The constitution drafted by the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq had conceded to the clerics the right to veto government steps and had reintroduced capital penalty for deviation from a strict adherence to Islamic laws and whatever was defined as objectionable to God.
The conceding of civil power to the clerics enabled them to build a huge power base. The military and the state power nurtured the clerics to be used against perceived enemies among whom India stood at the top. The lesson for the world is that Pakistan as a state will not cooperate with its neighbours to eliminate terror though it might pretend it wants to eliminate terror from its soil. The message from the Orlando massacre is loud and clear: terror as a creed has the support of ‘faithfuls’ cutting across nationalities and geographical boundaries through a mindset largely shaped by the system of exclusivity interpretation of everything from religion to all other aspects of human existence .
Madrasas play a pivotal role in creating this exclusive mindset which in turn transforms several ordinary persons into suicide bombers. Even without formal ties, structure, communication and organisational networking , the ‘faithfuls’ are wired together and programmed by their shared theological mindset, to carry their ‘holy war ‘ i.e. jihad, against Kafirs to its logical end.
The international campaign led by America to eliminate terror will not succeed unless the mindset of the people in the Islamic world is sought to be changed. All other approaches would only give a limited and partial result.
Meanwhile, several analysts of the terror scene fear that the well-funded and well-armed terror outfits in Pakistan like JeM, LeT etc are planning to link up with the IS and truly create a worldwide “army of God.” Pakistan, it must be remembered, had always wanted to be at the head of an Islamic conquest of the world.
Balbir Punj is a former BJP MP and a Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues Email:firstname.lastname@example.org