Expanding Specter of Terrorism

ISIS-K’s terror attack in Moscow underlines the global threat of religiously motivated terrorism. The unwarranted incident clearly signals the need to develop a united front against terrorism

By Pranay K Shome

Opinion

The 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai which claimed the lives of 165 people, was perhaps the worst possible terror attack that India faced. It was a moment of collective agony and mourning in Bharat. Sixteen years down the line, the wounds of that fateful day are still fresh, evoking a myriad of emotions among the victims in general and the collective mass of India in particular.

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The terror attack on March 22, 2024 is another black day. This time, it happened in Russia. 11 terrorists in plain clothes clandestinely invaded the Crocus Hall concert venue in Moscow, what followed was an absolute carnage. Armed with assault rifles and grenades, the terrorists fired at unarmed civilians and setting off explosives causing massive blasts in the premises. Reports have confirmed that over 130 people have been killed and over 200 people have been injured.

The Russian government has informed that 5 out of 11 terrorists have been arrested. President Vladimir Putin of Russia have declared March 24 as a day of ‘national mourning’. In the light of such an egregious incident, it has become necessary to understand the phenomenon of terrorism.

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Armed with assault rifles and grenades, the terrorists fired at unarmed civilians and setting off explosives causing massive blasts in the premises. Reports have confirmed that over 130 people have been killed and over 200 people have been injured

Terrorism’s nature

There is no globally accepted definition of terrorism. However, Ken Booth and Tim Dunne, have defined terrorism as, “Acts of violence that involve threatening, intimidating, coercing the civilian population in order to make them afraid of tomorrow, afraid of each other. The methods of terrorism include bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, mass shootings, executions etc.”

Terrorism originated in the aftermath of the French revolution of 1789, when the Maxmillian Robespierre carried out a reign of terror using the guillotine as a political symbol. He put to death any opponent that opposed the regime.

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Over the years, terrorism has evolved over time. Since the 1970s terrorism has come to be increasingly influenced by religious overtones. This manifested itself in Islamic terrorism which manifested itself in the dastardly terror attack on the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

This form of terrorism reached its high watermark in the 9/11 terror attack on American soil which saw the loss of over 3,000 lives. This attack was perpetrated by Al-Qaeda. With the eventual decline of Al-Qaeda as a terror organisation, its place was taken by the ISIS or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

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Over the years, terrorism has evolved over time. Since the 1970s terrorism has come to be increasingly influenced by religious overtones. This manifested itself in Islamic terrorism which manifested itself in the dastardly terror attack on the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Olympics

Religious nature of terrorism

At the outset it is necessary to clarify that no religion teaches its adherents to kill people in the name of religion. No religion sanctions violence on others who disagree with their worldview. Karen Armstrong’s book A History of God underlines this important message.

However, some of the defensive teachings of some religions which were preached at that time to establish a strict code of conduct for its followers have been deliberately distorted by religious preachers to suit their own needs. This has happened with the world’s second largest and fastest growing religion.

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Terrorism in its present form has acquired the form of Islamism. Islamism is a political doctrine which mandates the overthrow of the Western world order, i.e. Westphalian world order by the means of violence and replace it with an order governed by Shariat, Islamic personal law.

Henry Kissinger in his book World Order highlighted that Islamic terrorism in its present form around the world began with the export of the ideology of Wahabism, based on the teachings of the Saudi preacher Abdul Wahab in the 18th century. Its offshoot Salafism originated in Egypt.

Terrorism in its present form has acquired the form of Islamism. Islamism is a political doctrine which mandates the overthrow of the Western world order, i.e. Westphalian world order by the means of violence and replace it with an order governed by Shariat, Islamic personal law

Salafism was preached by the Sunni extremist and philosopher Sayid Al Qutb. In his book Milestones he highlighted the ideological and cultural incongruity between Islamism and Occidentalism and called for the consolidation of the Islamic world and restoration of Dar-Al-Islam.

The terror attack in Russia has been carried out by the ISIS-K or Islamic State of Iraq and Libya-Khorasan that has its main base in the Kandahar and seeks to establish an Islamic state in South and Central Asia. This terror organization preaches the Wahabi brand of Islam.

Organising a united front

The choice of Russia as a target highlights the truly global nature of terrorism. Nobody is safe. This clearly signals the need to develop a united front against terrorism. While governments need to deal ruthlessly with all terror organisations, it needs a nimble footed approach when it comes to those that seek to reform themselves.

The choice of Russia as a target highlights the truly global nature of terrorism. Nobody is safe. This clearly signals the need to develop a united front against terrorism. While governments need to deal ruthlessly with all terror organisations, it needs a nimble footed approach when it comes to those that seek to reform themselves

There is a need to mobilise unity among different societies and cultures for the promotion of a common front against all forms of terrorism. One such step is to spearhead a resolution at the United Nations that calls for condemnation of all forms of terrorism and religiously motivated phobia. Ram Madhav, one of Bharat’s most influential intellectuals highlighted this need in a recent essay.

The initial step must begin with adopting a common definition of terrorism. It is time that we set aside our differences and cynical considerations for the greater good of humankind.

–The writer is currently working as a Research Associate at Defence Research and Studies (dras.in) and is a columnist. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda