JNU: Why should a course on terrorism be linked to religion?

JNU recommended a course on Islamic Terrorism. Putting together of such a course will boost the already prevalent Islamophobia. Terrorism needs to be studied objectively, away from prevalent biases 

PTI photo
PTI photo
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Ram Puniyani

The world as a whole; particularly West Asia and South Asia; has seen the terrible acts of terror, which killed scores of innocent persons. When 26/11 2008 terror attack occurred in Mumbai, the victims included Hindus as well as Muslims. Benazir Bhutto has been a victim of the same deadly violence, but overall the number of victims of this phenomenon has been more in Pakistan than in India. Victims have been more in West Asia than Europe or America for example. While Indonesia is the biggest Muslim majority country, such mass phenomenon is not seen there as much as in the countries in West Asia i.e. countries in the oil zone.

With rise of Al Qaeda and later ISIS, the world witnessed the ghastly phenomenon where Islam has been the mask of the underlying political processes, which are aimed more at ‘control of oil wealth’ in West Asia at its core. Still the popular understanding of relation of these dastardly acts with Muslims and Islam has been made part of social perceptions. This happened more so after the attack on twin towers of World Trade Center in 2001 (9/11). It was after this attack, which killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, belonging to practically all the countries and to all the religions, that US media in particular coined the phrase ‘Islamic Terrorism’ and this violence got a cover of religion.

All this comes to one’s mind once again as there are reports that Jawaharlal Nehru University has recommended an ‘Islamic terrorism’ course as a part of the National Security Studies Center. Once the news of this course filtered out, many an organisation, including Delhi Minority Commission, have written to the University to reconsider this step. Most of the commentators are pointing out that putting together of such a course will worsen the present perceptions against Muslims prevalent in society and boost the prevalent Islamophobia.

While even UN has not been able to come out with a specific definition of terrorism, broadly one can say that killing of innocent individuals or groups for political goals can be called terrorism. Political streams have focused on defining ‘act of terror’. We have seen in history that many individuals and groups have resorted to tactics of terror to achieve their political goals. The few of these which one recalls in recent history are Irish Republican Army, ULFA in North East, LTTE in Sri Lanka, and individual bomber of Oklahoma among others.

LTTE had been the biggest such organisation, one of whose activist killed Rajiv Gandhi. Prior to that we saw Indira Gandhi being killed by section of those supporting Khalistan movement. Not to forget we lost father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi also to the bullets of a Hindu assassin. One recalls that in one of the horrific killings in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik killed 86 youngsters in a matter of few hours.

Most of these had a political agenda for sure; religion has not been in any way on their mind when undertaking these dastardly acts. In case of prevalent IS-ISIS-Al Qaeda clones, let’s recall that the seeds of this type of terrorism lie in the indoctrination done in Pakistani madrasas. Faced with the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, US deliberately planned to use a version of Islam, from Saudi Arabia, the one promoted by the rulers of Saudi Kingdom. Few Pakistani madrasas were used to indoctrinate Muslim youth in distorted version of Islam and words like Kafir and Jihad were given intolerant, violent twist. US funded these groups with $ 8,000 million and 7,000 tonnes of armaments. These groups initially joined the anti Soviet forces occupying Afghanistan and later morphed into groups leading to formation of IS in particular. A section of these also entered Kashmir with the sectarian agenda and gave a twist of political Islam to the Kashmiriyat which was the base of dissent.

The regular acts of blasts in Pakistan mosques and other places reminds one of Frankenstein’s monsters, who after having been created is difficult to wipe out. The game of imperialist forces to control the oil wealth has been the underlying agenda of promoting these groups in the beginning and now these groups have got their own cancerous autonomy and are creating havoc.

Similarly, the word ‘Hindutva terrorism’ also came in to vogue once the terror attacks of Ajmer, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and Samjhauta Express came to surface. The painstaking investigation of Hemant Karkre showed the links of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt. Col. Purohit and Aseemanand with the motorcycle used in Malegaon blast. Now most of them have got bail, but two of RSS pracharkas have been given life sentence in case of Ajmer blasts. It was only because word Islamic terrorism was popularised all around that when the involvement of Hindutva groups came to surface many people used the words saffron terror or Hidnutva terror.

In universities there is a need to study the phenomenon of terrorism away from the popular perceptions created by media and dominant political powers. The very popularisation of word ‘Islamic terrorism’ has caused immense misery to the Muslim youth and the community as we recall that in all the cases of Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Ajmer Ajmer etc. while the majority of victims had been Muslims, the people who were arrested and tried in the first round were Muslim youth. Most of these lost their careers due to such actions guided by misconceptions. The starting of such course with title of ‘Islamic terrorism’ will intensify Islamophobia and increase the prevalent insecurity in Muslim community. This will act as a fuel to the hatred which is ruling our streets.

The representations of different groups opposing this academic course should be taken in a proper spirit. Terrorism as a political phenomenon needs a study in an objective, honest way, away from prevalent biases and stereotypes.

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