Terrorism should not be viewed through religious lenses

Terrorism should not be viewed through religious lenses
A man squatting by the river banks next to shanty houses in downtown Jakarta last year. It is the social conditions that cause people living in certain regions to interpret religious texts in a certain way. Photo: AFP
Published: 4:16 AM, January 15, 2016
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Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, has become the latest target of terror attacks, with several people killed in explosions in the city centre. The attacks come two days after a suicide bomber attack in Istanbul killed more than 10 people, mostly tourists.

Since last year, terrorists, believed to be either from the Islamic State (ISIS) or the Kurdish Workers Party, have attacked several sites in Turkey. In the most recent incident, Turkish authorities blamed ISIS for the attacks near the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) and Hagia Sophia.

There is a pattern in ISIS’ modus operandi lately: Targeting tourist attractions or urban centres that have many civilians. In November last year, ISIS militants launched similar attacks in Paris, albeit on a larger and more coordinated scale, killing more than 130 people.

The international community, including religious groups, is quick to condemn the attacks. Unfortunately, such attacks will always be viewed through a religious lens. This has created unnecessary tension between Muslims and non-Muslims, as well as hindered counter-terrorism solutions.

Some consider Muslims’ condemnation of such acts as not enough. Others tar all Muslims with the same brush. Mr Donald Trump, a presidential candidate for the United States Republican nomination, called for Muslim immigrants to be banned from entering America.

On the flipside, there are Muslims critical of those who apologise. They ask: “Why should Muslims apologise for crimes we have not committed?” The discourse post-9/11 shows that such contradicting responses are not new.

Condemnation of terrorism by religious groups is expected because no religion would condone violence. Islam, like the other faiths, maintains the sanctity of life. It certainly does not support taking someone’s life just for being at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

Nonetheless, it is erroneous to treat everyone who condemns terrorism as moderate, and those who do not as extremists. There are many so-called “moderates” in our midst who condemn ISIS but also feel that other religious minorities — such as Shias, Ahmadiyahs and Sufis — have no right to practise their beliefs.


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