What are we doing about it?
We’re in the midst of a war described by Pope Francis as a ‘piecemeal Third World War’ because it is so scattered over time and place. It is not always obvious in this war who the aggressors are. Are the so-called ‘Islamic’ extremists solely responsible for the aggression or does everyone share the blame, since these terrorists have been fostered by deprivation, and lack of education, by the atrocities committed by the Jewish state, the mad Western scramble for oil, the terrible governance in countries like Pakistan? The end result either way is death and destruction.
The First World War began in 1914. The German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman Empires fell. The League of Nations was created in 1920 specifically to maintain international peace and security and prevent another such war, but it failed. With its economy in tatters, burdened with legal and military sanctions, an embittered Germany became an easy prey to the National Socialist ideology, or Nazism. Nazism’s claim that the Germanic races were the purest of the Aryan race resonated with the recently humiliated Germans by instilling in them a sense of superiority. This contributed to the Jewish Holocaust, and Germany’s invasion of others’ territory.
Another war took place in 1939. East Germany came into being in 1949 and it is said that by the 1950s every fifth West German was a refugee from the East. In 1948 Israel was created followed by another refugee crisis.
The United Nations was founded with the Declaration of Human Rights as its charter. Perhaps the world needed to wash itself free of the large scale massacre of civilians, the Jewish Holocaust, use of biological and chemical weapons, and ultimately the two nuclear bombs dropped over teeming cities in Japan that ended the war in 1945.
Yet humans possess short memories. Every new generation that has not lived through the horrors of the one before is willing to resort to violence once again, producing its own Hitlers, Mussolinis and Trumans… the man who signed off on the atomic bombs. There is always a reason. That the nuclear bombs ended the war was Truman’s.
The German humiliation is reflected several times over in the poorer segment of society in Pakistan, one of the prime breeding grounds for extremism. Its people are marginalised, humiliated, economically subjugated and deprived. Their lives are unimportant, their grievances unheard. Extremism breeds best under these conditions as Nazism did following the First World War. With the better private schooling restricted to the wealthy, a majority of the population in Pakistan can only afford government schools where the standard of education is terrible. A large percentage of this poorer segmentof Pakistan’s population is educated in madrassas where their economically deprived background lays them open to extremist indoctrination, the teaching that Muslims are somehow superior to others. The idea meets with sympathy, as the idea of the Germans being best of the Aryan race found support at a time when the Germans were beaten. Graduates of madrassasspread their message of superiority and violence, and succeed in drawing in others, some of whom may not belong to the same background such as the brothers implicated in the attack on Paris. There can be many reasons for these affiliations including force, adventure, blackmail…
Javed Ghamidi, the Islamic scholar, says the reason groups like ISIS exist is the particular interpretation of religion being preached at madrassas and propagated via religio-political movements. According to their interpretation, he says, polytheism or apostasy is punishable by death, and every Muslim has the right to implement the punishment. The interpretation also considers all non-Muslim governments illegitimate and calls for overthrowing them because it says the modern nation state is a form of kufr. It prescribes a single Islamic government called the Caliphate.
Mr Ghamidi suggests educating Muslim civil society, teaching them the counter-narrative, stressing the need to abandon the system of madrassas because the religion centred teaching at madrassas violates the basic human rights of children by denying them the initial twelve years of broad based education. He also says that the Friday pulpit belongs to the state not to religious scholars and Muslim governments should reclaim it. Unless these measures are taken, says Mr Ghamidi, extremists will continue to emerge and the Middle East will become a living hell for the rest of the world.
As it has. The world is witness to another refugee crisis. Killing sprees by groups that are as Nazi as they come — the ISIS, the Taliban, Boko Haram, Daesh and others — have become commonplace. This is not a crisis that can be dealt with by means of war. It requires a concerted effort by the entire community of nations which must work for the uplift of all segments of society everywhere, and this includes the provision of education and other basic facilities to every single man, woman and child. That is the only way to combat extremism and take away its appeal. Meantime, for all the violence committed, terrorists are immediately responsible, yes, but not alone. We also share the blame. What are we doing about it?