Within a span of less than 12 months, Islamist terrorism has managed to strike the soul of Paris twice. Earlier this year, on January 7, two gunmen allied with the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda opened fire at the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo killing 12 people. On November 13, Paris witnessed yet another horrific terror attack in which Islamic State (ISIS) recruits launched coordinated assaults on innocent French people killing hundreds and injuring several others.
Whether the French government bans the custom of wearing face veils by Muslim women or Charlie Hebdo draws blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, it doesn't serve as a good enough excuse for Muslim terrorists to engage in the kind of murderous activities which they have been doing. There can be no justification for it. Absolutely none! However, one must add that issues like anti-Islamic cartoons and banning of veils are as significant to radical Islamists as their conception of political Islam which is premised on world domination by way of establishment of a global Islamic state after the elimination of non-Muslims through violent attacks or terrorism.
There are no easy solutions to this problem. As a response to the Paris terror attacks, French security forces have started targeting ISIS settlements in Syria following President Francois Hollande's vow to be "unforgiving with barbarians". So far so good, but as experience has taught us, such strikes usually result in collateral damage. The family members and friends of those who die in collateral damage often go on to become part of terror outfits like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
How does one stop this? The answer obviously has two sides. First is the complete and utter annihilation of terror outfits like the ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram so that there is no one left to further terrorism, indoctrinate young minds and carry out recruitments. The second involves making such surgical strikes that collateral damage becomes a thing of the past. This, of course, is a utopian argument but there is hardly any other alternative.
Prejudice or backlash against Muslims should also be contained in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Any form of discrimination or unwarranted arrest and detention of French Muslims would lead to radicalisation and provide ammunition to the terror groups. Treatment of immigrants would require careful consideration and any law made which impinges upon their liberties without due rationale would attract ire. As a citizen, if you don't like something, ignore it or condemn it. If it is too serious an issue then protest vigorously against it or take the matter to court, but for heaven's sake do not start emptying bullets at a crowded market place or undertake suicide bombing.
Governments across the world have to realise that terrorism is a battle in which there is no space for errors. Collateral damage, arbitrary arrests, torture and discrimination have to be shunned. If we are unable to prevent this from happening then never mind how much we may condemn terror attacks, people will continue to join and support terrorism on some plank or the other.
The war against terrorism is a collective battle. It cannot be projected as a fight between white liberals in the West and radical Muslims mainly concentrated in West Asia. Every day terror outfits are splashing Muslim blood in places like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The immediate victims of the beastly violence unleashed by the ISIS on a day-to-day basis are mostly Muslims stranded in Iraq. The brutality of the Taliban was faced chiefly by Muslims living under its rule in Afghanistan and not Europeans or Americans. It is true that Europeans and Americans have also suffered because of Islamist terror groups but so have Arabs, Asians and Africans.
If Muslims or Islam was the problem, as commentators easily remark in the wake of terror attacks, why is it that most of the victims of Islamist terrorism are Muslims? Most Muslims who take their religion seriously are only concerned with their faith and belief in the one and only god whom they call Allah, praying five times a day, giving charity or zakaat, fasting during Ramadan and undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage.
Not every Muslim possesses the tendency to commit genocide of non-Muslims and establish worldwide Islamic rule based on some divinely ordained law. It's only a tiny minority of Muslims running into a few thousands who comprise less than even one per cent of a community of over 1.5 billion. When speaking of the Quran, Muslims would cite verse 5:32 to state that their religion prohibits the killing of innocents. They would cite verses 2:256 and 109:6 to suggest that their religion stands for freedom of religion and religious pluralism.
True, Muslim terrorists use religion to justify their actions. They are most likely to quote verse 9:29 or 9:5 claiming that Islam advocates the killing of Jews, Christians and polytheists. That is a viewpoint shared by several radical clerics but as has been repeated innumerable times by innumerable scholars, such interpretation does not take into account the context of the Quranic verses. The Quran has a certain context and history which cannot be ignored.
Every word of that book is not to be read without understanding the circumstances under which it is believed to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad. There is bound to be confusion and misunderstanding if context is altogether erased. Very importantly, there are verses which might be problematic in many ways. The correct way to address them would be by holding debates and discussions with common Muslims. Let the people think about it and decide whether they agree with it or not as the Quran itself says, "It is a blessed book which we have revealed for you so that you will reflect upon its verses and so the people of understanding will take heed."
The issue of scriptural fundamentalism has to have a humane approach. You cannot expect to win the war against terrorism by telling peace-loving, moderate Muslims that the only thing that their religion preaches is violence and nothing else because it is simply not true. To tell Muslims that the only version of their faith which is correct is the one preached by terror outfits like al-Qaeda and ISIS is to empower terror groups themselves. We must support modern, moderate interpretations of the Quran. It is the ideology of radical Islam which must be targeted, made to disappear and not Islam per se.
Islamist terrorism is killing Muslims as also non-Muslims. It's about time that it is tackled cohesively without finger-pointing. Terrorism or any form of violence has no place in the 21st century. Yet it continues to be one of the biggest obstacles towards peace and prosperity. Terrorism has to be exterminated along with the reasons which cause its growth, be it a particular form of ideology or a set of unjust actions dictated by state or non-state actors. Injustice has to be stopped against all groups and people whether at home or abroad which is possible only with the realisation that every human life is equal and deserving of human rights and legal protection.