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From owner-imap@chumbly.math.missouri.edu Thu Oct 25 06:05:20 2001
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 00:08:05 -0500 (CDT)
From: nkdatta8839@my-deja.com
Subject: Extremism, Terrorism & Fundamentalism
Organization: NewsOne.Net - Free Usenet News via the Web -
Article: 128968
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Extremism, terrorism and fundamentalism

By Anwar Syed, DAWN, 13 October 2001

Karachi—The late General Ziaul Haq likened Pakistani secularists to snakes in the grass that must be eliminated. Barry Goldwater, a celebrated American conservative and once a Republican candidate for president, held that extremism in defence of liberty was a great idea. President Ronald Reagan, justifying his administration's aid to the Contras' violence against a leftist government in Nicaragua, maintained that one man's terrorist was another man's freedom fighter.

We know also that yesterday's terrorists can be today's statesmen.

Not all terrorists are fundamentalists, but given the need and the opportunity, fundamentalists and extremists are likely to resort to terrorism if they think it will advance their goals.

In a presentation made some three years ago (reproduced in Dawn on October 5), a friend of mine, the late Professor Eqbal Ahmed, pointed out that those who denounced terrorism failed to define it. He suggested that the dictionary meaning of the term (violence intended to inspire intense fear among a targeted group or people at large) might be taken as adequate, since it remained the same regardless of who the perpetrator of the act had been.

Thus, state terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism were substantively no different from that perpetrated by non-state actors.

This is well taken. But one may go a step further and say that while acts of violence committed against the coercive capabilities of a state are acts of war, those directed against non-combatant civilians may be called acts of terror. While bombing an enemy's military personnel or establishments is war, bombing a bus carrying children to school or a bazaar where housewives are shopping is terrorism. In this context, the element of intention is critical.

Civilians get killed in conventional war also, but normally it is not the combatants' intention to kill them. On the other hand, killing them is central to the terrorist's intention.

Eqbal Ahmed was writing about international terrorism. My concerns today relate to fundamentalism and terrorism in our own midst.

Terrorism was not born yesterday. In our own part of the world, the first tightly disciplined and centrally directed terrorist organization, an extremist faction of the Ismaili sect, initially founded by Hasan bin Sabah and headquartered in Almut in northern Iran, operated for more than a hundred years during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Its members, known as the hashasheen

(Assassins in the West) killed many political and cultural notables - including Nizam al-Mulk, the famous vazir of the Seljuks in 1092 - in the hope of advancing an Ismaili revolution. Not unlike the suicide bombers of today, they were ready and willing to kill themselves upon completing their mission if escape appeared to be unlikely. I am not aware of another similar organization until our own time, but kings, invaders, and warlords have resorted to terrorism often enough.

Let us now turn to fundamentalism. Some of us are willing to concede that our notions of good and evil are partial in coverage; bound by time and place, they admit to a degree of tentativeness, and they are therefore open to reconsideration and revision. Others insist that their inherited notions of the good, preserved in their original and pure version, unblemished by indigenous and temporal influences, are eternally valid and cover all of human conduct, both private and social. Persons in this second group may be called fundamentalists. More often than not, and when they have the opportunity, they attempt to impose their version of the good upon others whom they regard as misguided.

The fundamentalist position is liable to produce conflict in Muslim polities, because many Muslims do not want an external agency, such as the state, to intrude upon their personal relationship with God and their prospect of attaining bliss in the Hereafter. Nor do they want the state to enforce all of the Sharia to regulate their social interaction. They find some of it to be insufficient or inapplicable for meeting the challenges of our time.

Persons of this persuasion may, for facility of reference, be called liberals.

The Islamic fundamentalist dismisses the liberal position as heresy or as something approaching apostasy. Let us consider this matter a little further.

Every law is meant to achieve an end, which may be the establishment of a desirable course of action, or it may be the eradication of something deemed to be undesirable. The fundamentalist and liberal Muslims could come together if they were to agree that while the ends of the Islamic law were eternal, the means of attaining them might vary with changes in the state of human knowledge, technology, and other relevant conditions. Thus, while theft and adultery are forever wrong, those guilty of them might receive penalties, or corrective treatment, different from that prescribed by the Sharia.

But the fundamentalist will reject this approach to the law, because he considers all words of the Sharia, used to specify both ends and means, equally sacrosanct and eternally binding. He also rejects the proposition that meanings of words may change with time.

The fundamentalist regards the liberal as someone who brings evil into society through the backdoor of sophistry. According to him, what is half true is not true, what is half good is not good; what is not true is false, what is not good is evil. He views his contest with the liberal as one between good and evil. There is nothing then to discuss; the issue between them is not amenable to negotiation or compromise. If you do not accept the fundamentalist's position, you are against him, and he must then treat you as an enemy. Evil cannot be defeated without destroying its agents. The liberal must be put out of commission, by force if necessary. That would be an act of service to God.

Fundamentalism and extremism tend to characterize all comprehensive ideologies that seek to regulate human conduct in all of its aspects-political, economic, social, and even personal. Marxism-Leninism is also such an ideology. Stalin's regime in Russia and that of Mao in China killed millions of persons, including many within their own ranks, who were thought to be in the way of their ideology's final victory. Liberation movements, fighting to overthrow their oppressor's yoke, are also capable of acting in this fashion.

Fundamentalism and tolerance of the dissident do not go together.

When fundamentalists and/or extremists have seized power, they will kill opponents without much regard to the niceties of the due process of law, and thus terrorize others into silent compliance.

This is state-sponsored terrorism.

When they are out of power but want it, they will use violence against government establishments and personnel and the public at large to show that those who do have power are not worthy of keeping it, for they can protect neither the public nor even themselves.

Looking at Pakistan, we see that the Islamic parties partake of a fundamentalist outlook, but until the advent of Ziaul Haq they were, for the most part, content with the modest influence they were able to exert on public policy. I think it is accurate to say also that none of them hoped, much less expected, to win control of government. But since then, and especially since the Taliban's rise to rulership in Afghanistan, they have come to believe that power may be within their reach, if not by winning elections, then by resorting to violence. Fundamentalist terrorism in pursuit of ruling authority and power may not be far from erupting in Pakistan.

A variety of fundamentalist terrorism has been going on in the form of a Sunni-Shia conflict for quite a few years. Until recently, tension between these two groups lurked at a fairly low level. In my view, it has become intense because of a desire among the leaders of each group to fortify their own position, and clear the ground of opponents as much as possible, in anticipation that power will fall to the ulema. Some of this violence may also be attributed to the simple fanatic hatred that some individuals in each group entertain for the other.

In discussions of terrorism many commentators advise that its causes should be addressed. Insofar as it arises from intolerance of the dissident, ingrained in our culture, proneness to violence will not disappear until this frame of mind changes. Second, those in charge of affairs in Pakistan should make it clear by word and deed that the ulema are not about to attain power, and that there is then no need for them to fight one another in anticipation of that unlikely development. Third, the perpetrators of hate crimes should be awarded exemplary punishment to deter others with a similar inclination.

In Sunni-Shia conflict there is another cause to be considered.

It is one particular Shia practice, more than any other, which causes the Sunnis grief and anger, that is denigrating the first three pious caliphs. If I remember correctly, Ayatollah Khomeini called upon his followers in Iran to stop this practice in order to promote Muslim unity. The Shia ulema in Pakistan might consider doing the same. The Sunnis, on their part, might do well to reconsider the necessity for having an organization such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba.

All of the Sahaba, regardless of their views on the subject of succession to rule, have been gone for fourteen hundred years.

Their preferences in the matter have no practical consequence in our day and age.

So why go to war against fellow-Muslims on the pretext of defending their honour. Their honour needs no defending.