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Chasing a Mirage: Linking Religion With Terrorism! 

Democratically speaking, each person has the right to express his/her opinion on controversial as well as non-controversial issues but within certain ethical limits. These include not being aggressive, abusive, provoking violence and exercising caution about not speaking on behalf of the entire world, any country, group and so forth. Well, let us accept it, no nation can claim to be home to people of only one religion, race, color, gender, class, political group or any other specific section.

These points are being made in context of recent terrorist incidents in France, their linkage with Islam and controversy over French President’s comments on Islam. Any individual, leader or authority at any level has his/her right to interpret his/her beliefs and also practice them as per his/her inclinations. But no person has the authority to impose his/her views on others of his/her or other religions. The recent controversy surfacing from incidents in France demands a clear understanding of this point. There is no guarantee that two, three or even hundred or more Christians, Muslims, Jews or persons of any sect interpret and practice their beliefs in a similar manner. Simply speaking, this is impossible given the regional and various ethnic divisions marking each religious group.

Of course, this does not justify violence and/or terrorist activity of any kind in the name of any religion. If and when a person tries and justifies his/her criminal activity in the name of religion, why should his/her claim be accepted as “religious?” After all, as suggested earlier, no person can claim to be representative of all the persons adhering to faith he/she practices. Besides, when a person’s activity is viewed as criminal, accepting his/her claim is equivalent to trusting him/her for his/her comments. This is simply going a little too far. If a lunatic fires in all directions killing dozens of place and claims that “God” has commanded him/her to do so, would it be sensible to accept his/her logic? No.

Seriously, if the lunatic’s religious identity happens to be linked with Islam, it wouldn’t take long for most to accept whatever claimed by him/her to justify his/her criminal actions. And herein lies the crux of the so-called crises that keeps re-surfacing. Majority have a tendency to hold a negative attitude against Islam and also Muslims. There isn’t much difference between this approach and that of racial discrimination. So it doesn’t take long for most to view Muslims and Blacks as terrorists even they may not really be.

There prevails the tendency to easily link their major/minor crimes with their race as well as religion, describe the same as terrorism and label them as terrorists. Why? Of course, there is nothing wrong in raising this question. Democratically speaking, this scribe has the right to do so. It would be, however, unethical and inappropriate, if in the name of democracy and freedom of expression, any individual, group and/religion is abused. Yes, it is pertinent to understand this clearly. Each criminal is not a terrorist.

And it seems illogical to view a criminal and/or even a terrorist’s claim as the ultimate truth. This is equivalent to taking his/her claims as the word of law. Think again. What else can a criminal or a terrorist expected to do but try and justify his/her acts of violence? And going by what he/she claims amounts to “justifying” his/her logic as desired by him/her. A crime is a crime. Targeting any religious group and/or property is a crime.  So is instantly accepting claims made by those indulging in such crimes, without any verification and/or investigation.

Paradoxically, there prevails a tendency even among “secular” individuals, particularly the Whites, to judge Muslims and Blacks’ crime by their religious and racial identity, respectively. Of course, the criminals remain at fault but the blame for what a few individuals do cannot be associated with the entire religious/racial community they may belong to.

Even the most powerful leader in the world cannot claim to represent religious views of all members of the religious community he belongs to. Nor does he have the right and authority to abuse or target any religious group or community. In fact, abuse of any kind, targeting any person or community is certainly not in adherence with the freedom of expression, any individual and/or authority may be entitled to democratically. Abuse amounts to exploiting and even abusing one’s own freedom of expression which seems diplomatically and democratically unethical as well as not in keeping with the cultural etiquette power-holding persons are expected to maintain.

Sadly, there prevails a tendency in some sections, including few power holders, in deriving a certain pleasure by linking criminals and terrorists with Islam and Blacks. They should think again.  A criminal is a criminal, a terrorist – a terrorist, whatever is his/her ethnic identity. But accepting and/or publicizing their “justification” for their crimes amounts to falling to their standards. This spells a “victory” for these criminals but not for democracy, secularism, and/or social justice at any level. If a few power-holders are guided by this spelling their “victory,” they are chasing a mirage. In this age of communication boom, their moves are being scrutinized across the world!

 

Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. Her latest book is Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019). Others include:– Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).

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