Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Thoughts on terrorism

A couple of memes have popped up quite frequently in my social media feeds regarding the recent atrocities. Both I feel I should share, but for different reasons.

First we have this, which I take issue with:

Here are the groups responsible for those attacks. I have gone for those attacks that most closely match the numbers of dead. Sadly, some of the above cities have been the victims of more than one attack.

Lahore27/03/2016Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
Maiduguri16/03/2016Boko Haram
Ankara13/03/2016Kurdistan Freedom Falcons
Grand Bassam13/03/2016AQIM

Some terrorism may have no religion, but three of these groups are overtly religious, and do what they do in the name of their religion:

  • Boko Haram - founded with the goal of establishing an Islamic state, and now allied with ISIS.
  • ISIS - Specifically set up to have a world wide Islamic caliphate.
  • Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan - an umbrella group for various Sunni Islamist militants, one of their goals being the enforcement of their interpretation of Sharia law.

I am not saying that all Muslims are terrorists, but to say that terrorism as a whole has no religion is to deny part of the problem. Some terrorism has religious motivation. As Sam Harris* has said:

"Many countries in Latin America have legitimate grievances against the U.S. Where are the Guatemalan suicide bombers? Where are the Cherokee suicide bombers, for that matter? If oppression were enough, the Tibetans should have been practicing suicidal terrorism against the Chinese for decades. Instead, they practice self-immolation, for reasons that are totally understandable within the context of their own religious beliefs. Again, specific beliefs matter, and we deny this at our peril. If the behavior of Muslim suicide bombers should tell us anything, it's that certain people really do believe in martyrdom. Let me be very clear about this: I'm not talking about all (or even most) Muslims - I'm talking about jihadists. But all jihadists are Muslim. If even one percent of the world's Muslims are potential jihadists, we have a terrible problem on our hands. I'm not sure how we deal with 16 million aspiring martyrs - but lying to ourselves about the nature of the problem doesn't seem like the best strategy."

Sam Harris's 1% is not that far fetched - this is from a Pew poll "The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society" that took a dispassionate look at the beliefs of Muslims around the world:

They may be in the minority, but many Muslims feel suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified.

The second meme deals with the issue of understanding ISIS specifically:

Firstly, yes, the meme has a number of mistakes - some of the details aren't quite correct, in terms of locations, dates etc. Also, two of the attacks were not by ISIS - Ankara on March 15th, and San Diego (I'm guessing it means San Bernardino). I'm also not sure if the statement that ISIS is killing more Muslims than any other group is true.

That said, the central point is important - our media is biased in its reporting. This is partly understandable, we feel more empathy to those closest to us. The Paris and Brussels attacks shook me far more than the other attacks mentioned in these memes, because I know people there, I've visited there. It resonates far more than places across the globe I've not visited, and don't know anyone that's from there. This in no way diminishes the grief, pain and sorrow of each of these attacks, but to feel equal empathy for all the world's ills is to leave one in such a well of pity and despair, I don't think there would be any way out.

Whilst the West's disproportionate reporting of terrorism is understandable, a consequence is that it very much seems that ISIS is out to get us in the West specifically. But they're not - they want to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate under their interpretations of Islamic Law, whether you identify as Muslim or not.

I haven't got the first clue how to bring world peace, but when it comes to dealing with terrorism, you have to identify the problem itself, and ignoring parts of it - in this case the motivations, and the atrocities occurring very far from our doorstep - we are prone to being duped by those who claim to offer solutions to our perceived problems, and not the actual issue at hand.

*Sam Harris seems to provoke a lot of controversy around what he says. If you have issue with some of Sam Harris' other views, that's cool, but please let's just focus on the quote I have used and nothing more.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...