Factors that drive people to take up arms

The poor and illiterate, it is said, are easy to radicalise. In photo: Armed members of Islamic Jihad Movement, Al-Quds Brigades, are seen during a training in Deir al-Balah city of Gaza. Photograph:( Getty )

WION New Delhi, India Jul 11, 2016, 08.33 AM (IST)
It was early afternoon when we made a quiet exit from our hotel in Islamabad from the back door.

We had an interview lined by with head of a Kashmiri terrorist group, Abdullah, whose real name is Ghulam Rasool. He had killed over a 100 people and was held in jail in Kashmir. But then he became unwell and was admitted in hospital from where he escaped.

It was almost lunch time and we saw him finish his prayer. In the meanwhile, our equipment was checked and we were frisked into this small home in a poor neighbourhood. Lunch was served, a full chicken in each plate. I asked him what his ultimate goal was. When will he stop? He said that the day the whole world turned Islamic he would. I knew Ghulam Rasool was going to be doing what he is doing for the rest of his life, killing more people in what he believed was his work for his God.

Impact of terrorism

The sharp rise in terrorism around the globe has put the countries on edge, and it seems the more the governments are doing to tackle the menace the more the terrorists are getting bolder. Terrorism continues to remain unbeatable, at least for now.

Terror claimed more than 32,600 lives in 2014, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2015. The index compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a global think tank, also showed a staggering 80 per cent increase in deaths caused by terrorism over the previous year. In the past one year, there have been 1,195 terrorist attacks across the globe, with Bangladesh cafe violence being the most recent one. From Pakistan to Nigeria, seven countries are locked in dangerous conflicts or full­scale wars involving terrorism.

What drives people to terror?

Terrorist organisations may receive massive fundings from vested interests but it is surprising how they are able to deploy human resources at such sustainable levels. A few reasons can be found in the social, economic and political factors. A country has been at war for so long that the people there know nothing but only war as a way of life.

Some terrorists come from poor economic backgrounds or in certain cases the would­ be terrorists are subjected to class differences or social discrimination leading them to join extremist organisations. The poor and illiterate, it is said, are easy to radicalise.

However, in the case of the Dhaka cafe attack, there were terrorists from affluent backgrounds with good education who had joined hands with terror organisations such as the ISIS. Closer home, Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Muzaffar Wani, who was killed by security forces in Kashmir on Friday, belonged to a relatively well­-off family. His father is a retired school principal, and Wani himself was a good student who secured 90 per cent in his class X examination in 2010.

Effects of radicalisation

The impact of radicalisation is so deep that it sometimes blurs blood ties. Twin brothers in Saudi Arabia recently killed their mother after she tried to stop them from joining Islamic State in Syria. The twins were arrested trying to flee across the border to Yemen.

Is education a factor?

Many people around the world have been surprised by the trend of educated people getting into terrorism. The question is what drives such educated individuals to extremist organisations? Is their religion playing a role in all this? Education, per se, has nothing to do with it. There is nothing to get surprised by the fact that most of the attackers in Bangladesh massacre were educated men. In the Nazi Germany, the perpetrators of holocaust were decently educated. In India also, there is the Godmen culture, especially among the Hindus. A large chunk of the so ­called godmen’s followers often comes from the upper middle class and educated families. They have complete faith in the godmen they follow. So much so that the followers of one of the godmen have preserved his body with the belief that one day he would come alive.

A psychologist’s perspective

Psychologist Dr Harish Shetty says: “Man’s search for meaning has been a perennial quest since mankind evolved. Many found meaning in harakiri, martyrdom and other culturally sanctioned ‘suicide homicide’ complex during the last few centuries. The terminologies change depending from which side one views the act. Freedom fighters or terrorists are the descriptive denominators.

In an era where peace and technology have overwhelmed religious doctrines, certain sections feel threatened and are rebelling against this sweeping change in the garb of religion.” Globalisation, Dr Shetty says, is viewed as a religious doctrine or an ideology that undermines the control of powerful religious heads. “A small section of people falls prey to this indoctrination and finds a new meaning in life. Freedom fighters kill the oppressor and the so­called terrorists today suffer from the same core belief — kill the perceived enemy or those who are the extensions.

So hit out at those who are enemies and die for the cause. Martyrdom is not new and death in war is the new intoxication, going down fighting is a new high by the dominant ideologies.” “Dying for such a cause may be viewed with disgust in the dominant ideologies. Meaning in life is a psychosocial pursuit and an altruistic desire...as Freud described...such killings may suffer from similar intrinsic psychosocial needs,” Dr Shetty adds.

Government’s role

Maybe the governments should spend more in researching and understanding the factors that attract the common citizens towards terrorism. They should take steps to reduce the number of people being influenced by extremist thoughts. Use of force or fighting a war, for that matter, may be required to ensure a nation’s security but it is also important to find ways to stop people from going astray.

Terrorists are just terrorists

Religion may not be the reason but could merely be an effective tool to turn individuals into terrorists. On another trip to Lahore, I met Syed Salahuddin, the head of Hizbul Mujahideen, a Kashmiri­ led terrorism outfit. He said he had become a terrorist after his family was killed after he challenged a political party in elections and the police did not protect him and his family.

Religion seems to be a common thread in many of the global wars today but we need to go past the usual paradigm and see how some individuals may be using Islam to kill people. For us, terrorists are just terrorists. And they have to be stopped.