Understanding the phenomenon that is terrorism

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By P Sundramoorthy

The social phenomenon of violent acts of terrorism has an intellectual and behavioural context that needs to be objectively analysed without prejudice. Many would argue that the way to counter acts of terrorism is to address the supposed grievances that arise from deprivation of civil rights, human rights and democracy. Then is the deliberate targeting of civilians, to indiscriminately murder and maim innocent children, women and men, not the deprivation of such rights? If it were not, then national and international conflicts and struggles for civil rights, human rights and democracy by using violence may be justified by extremist and terror groups. This mindset is most dangerous.

Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for a free India and Martin Luther King’s campaign for equal rights for all Americans strongly denounced all forms of hatred and oppression especially violence. Besides military strategies to counter violence by communist insurgents, Sir Gerald Templer most notably succeeded in the nationwide campaign against these insurgents by “winning the hearts and minds of the people” especially the supporters during the emergency era in Malaysia.

Perhaps due to the lack of intellectual and objective reasoning by terror groups, thus, the only known strategy to gain support for its irrational cause is by utilising violence and imposing extreme fear on children, men and women. Put simply, that’s why they are terrorists and not champions of social order and justice. Champions of civil and human rights are proponents in the sanctity of each human life, are committed to the ideals of liberty, and the values of democracy.

Terrorists do not respect the basic rights of all fellow humans. In fact, they believe in the very opposite. Unfortunately, terror groups use religion as an anchor to champion their cause. They legitimise their unthinkable acts of violence in the name of religion and God. They operate on the principle of destroying anything that falls on their chosen path and their biggest obstruction is innocent civilians regardless of colour, creed or religion. They blatantly discard all moral code, social norms and values established since early civilisation. Not only do they rampantly and indiscriminately kill fellow humans but if possible, eliminate cultures that have existed for centuries. In their perspective, they are saviours and their doctrine totalitarianism. Maybe the doctrine of totalitarianism justifies the root causes of terrorism. They want to decide what is right and wrong, good and bad for all mankind. They do not want people who think, who question, who criticise and who analyse. Totalitarian governments will systemically brainwash its subjects. They will never allow the moral consciousness of people to exist or prevail. They will suppress and oppress all rational thinking processes and actions. Individuals will cease to exist. The concept of civil societies will be buried.

Those who identify themselves with terror groups and participate in terror acts will rule as terrorists. They will never protect freedom, liberty and human rights. Tyranny without any doubt will prevail through dictatorship when a terrorist group becomes the ruling government. Only in totalitarian governments under tyranny rule can the culture of terrorism flourish and expand.

Democratic nations must courageously take measures to eliminate all forms terrorism. We act for the sake of humanity, freedom and democratic rights. Pluralism must be respected. We must not allow terrorism to breed in our sovereign nations. Terrorism will never be able to flourish in nations where civil rights, human rights and democracy are strongly grounded and protected by the people and the government. The respect and dignity for fellow humans must be constantly observed and practised. Thus, we must without fear condemn all form of terrorist acts especially when such acts are carried out in the name of religion and God.

We live freely and we die freely and this must remain constant.

P Sundramoorthy in on the research team of Crime and Policing, School of Social Sciences at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

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