The inconvenient question of terrorism

June 5, 2017

Q: Many of regular readers are horrified by the recent London terror attacks that ISIS has claimed responsibility for. Let me come directly to the point, is there a logical end to this and if so what shape and form will it take?

A: This is not a new story. Or rather it should not be at all. In fact, there is a very sad deja vu feel to it all. As every time there is an Islamic inspired act of terrorism. The same counternarrative is invariably played out. The entire Muslim community is expected to bear the burden of repudiating the actions of these terrorist by reasserting this has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam and these criminals who mowed and stabbed innocent people identify themselves with the Islamic faith ignorantly. And to cap it off the entire sane and reasonable quadrant of Muslim community will undertake to share the collective responsibility for tackling terrorism by undertaking a pledge to wordsmith a counter narrative that promotes pluralistic, non violent values that is compatibility with the unadulterated Islamic way of life.

Don’t get me wrong – I agree with everything that has been said. All of it. 100%. But in the name of answering your question – how effective is this approach? Can this approach possibly be a logical response to countering terrorism if the same narrative is forwarded every time and yet things don’t ever seem to improve.

I think I would much prefer to keep it open ended and leave to the readers to decide.

Q: So what you’re saying is there is a pressing need to adopt a different approach to tackling terrorism?

A: I think there exist very real limits to what the Muslim community can actually do to prescribe a cure to terrorism and radicalisation. Since this is something that on the surface only involves Islam, but the root causes have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. I also think there are real limits to what the clandestine services can do as well to interdict terrorism. As they cannot be everywhere without running the risk of creating a police state.

These limits or constraints in my opinion are very real and they cannot be wished away – there is IMHO a very real and urgent need to go beyond just eavesdropping, detecting, filtering etc etc and all those back end catching the ball skill of arms and to address the real grievances that IMHO is the tap root of terrorism.

I believe this is a very serious omission on the part of western thinkers and the political hegemony that really accounts for why they seem quite clueless how to deal with this growing menace.

There is a need to drill deeper and to ask very honestly what is at the root of this problem – the problem as I see it. No one seems motivated to do this and so all this terrorist acts get thrown into that other big box labelled ‘everything to do with Islam.’ But you and I know that can’t be entirely true. There has to be a stronger undercurrent of discontentment at work to drive these malevolent forces. When I read about how these criminals go around slashing and mowing down people who they don’t even know, there is a lot of hatred, anger and resentment and it has to come from somewhere besides Islam.

Again what I have to share in this area is hardly new. Let me be very frank, there was this Palestinian born scholar his name is Edward Said. I think he once had a chair in Columbia university. A sublimely clever man. Many people call him the Noam Chomsky of orientalism – who I had the privilege to read all his published papers. I used to communicate with him on a regular basis. Though I must add he considered moir quite a light weight. He’s a wonderful writer with a poetic flair. And he said the same thing – I want to be ultra clear here. I have nothing original to contribute to this subject.

I give credit where it’s due.

Now the take away from what Said had to say about terrorism is – it is a problem that cannot be solved at just the level of religion alone. Understand this! Understand it clearly because this jugular to your learning outcome. Said did not say these terrorist were not motivated by faith. He never said they don’t identify their actions with the Islamic faith or that they might even draw on Islam as a means of justifying their means to achieve their contorted ends. They do according to his thesis. But what Said when on to mention is that is only a component of what really accounts for their motivation.

And if the nail of terrorism is going to be successfully hammered down then that other dimension of what really motivates the terrorist needs to be thoroughly understood as well.

Q: What is this other dimension?

A: I think if you want to know please go and read the works of Edward Said. I don’t feel it’s right for me to elaborate as this is after all a subject that can be very divisive and possibly incendiary if it is not approached with care, study and wisdom…so if you are intrested go and read what he has to say.

Q: What advise do you have for your readers on this subject?

A: I am just a simple autistic farmer. What can such a person give in the way of advice. If I have any it is simply how I choose to live my life. Without any pretensions or affectations of the false world.

You know it is the month of Ramadan for Muslims all over the world. Since I work in a plantation – I too find myself having to fast this time of the year. As I will lose moral authority if I eat and drink and yet bark orders at my workers. It is like an officer hiding behind a desk in an aircon room while the rank and file sweat it out. There is something wrong with the picture. So I fast.

In the Kampung it is quite normal for me this time of the year to visit the masjid after work and stand in line with the rubber tappers, lorry drivers, the others to wait to break fast. There is no class, prestige or you are higher I am lower and all those nonessentials…only the brotherhood of man.

You can do this even Singapore in some masjids. You don’t have to be a Muslim. The imam will not ask you for your IC or chase you away. He will not try to convert you. He will just smile and say to you come and break fast with us. My advice is go and eat. Because Ramadan is a great teacher just as the bible, Torah, sutra, bhavagad Gita or any faith….Islam not only for Muslims anyone can benefit from it….if you let it….you just need to experience it from the inside out that is all. And once you understand your imagined fears about Islam will melt away and respect will come very naturally where it goes beyond that point I don’t know.

And this is how it is with most things in life that always seem to come across as scary, mysterious and dark.

Q: What is your concern about the effect of all this terror attacks that we see in the world today?

A: Fear. There is a lot of unfounded fears concerning Islam these days. And fear can only lead to misunderstandings and that leads to mistrust and that in turn opens up the door to irrational hate and ultimately violence. I don’t particularly like to see people at each other’s necks. I don’t like it and it doesn’t matter what denomination, creed, race or faith they belong too. It’s not an Islam specific thing. If anything it probably has a lot to do with my own experience. I am autistic. I have witnessed first hand how some people fear me because they can sense I am different from them. I’ve always had this problem since the moment of my youth till even today. Trust me it’s no fun when everyone just sees you that way. I mean if I was just cleaning toilets or putting together stuff in some factory, they would probably feel more comfortable with me and say that I am a well behaved autistic man who is gainfully making full and productive use of my life. But the moment I start to dream of doing big things then my autism becomes a very hot issue. So I have always had to fight hypocrisy, lies and ignorance all my entire life.

I mean if a Muslim kid is all alone in the playground as none of the other kids want to play with him because of they all afraid. I just think that is very sad. As I know how that feels like.

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