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Terrorism, religion and global politics Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Andi, Indonesia Aug 29, 2005
Peace & Conflict , Human Rights   Opinions
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The suspects of the Bali bombings may indeed just be "dummy agents" sacrificed to protect greater powers, yet further investigation has reportedly led to an extreme religious group planning ruthless attacks on foreign targets in Indonesia. No matter how quick the completion of the investigation, the debates on whether terrorism in Indonesia derives from Islamic militants or "American conspiracy" will continue.

Two things have emerged from the debate. First, a belief that terrorism is connected to religion especially the radical followers of a particular religion. Secondly, a growing anti-American sentiment especially among Muslims following the war in Afghanistan and the growing tension in the Middle East. The U.S. policies in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq are seen as part of "a Jewish-Christian" conspiracy against the Muslim world. If terrorism is related to religion, what seems to have served as the root causes of radicalism that leads to terrorist attacks deserves more serious attention.

In the early 1990s at least 20 percent of 50 known active terrorist groups throughout the world can be described as having a dominant religious motivation. Religion and terrorism share a history. Indeed, the main references to terrorist acts are derived from the names of religious sects committing assaults to cause public disorder many centuries ago. The word "zealot" can be traced back to a millenarian religious sect who fought against the Roman occupation of what is now Israel between 66 AD and 73 AD. The zealots waged a ruthless campaign employing a primitive form of chemical warfare, poisoning wells and granaries used by the Romans going so far to even sabotaging water supply.

Terrorism assumes a transcendental dimension and its perpetrators are thus unconstrained by moral, ethical and normative constraints. The religious or "holy" terrors compared to purely “secular” terror have radically different value systems in terms of mechanisms of legitimization, justification, and the world view that they embrace. Whereas secular terrorists generally consider indiscriminate violence immoral and counter-productive for their struggle, religious terrorists regard such violence not only as morally justified, but as a necessary means to achieve their goals. Here religion serves as a legitimizing force. Consequently, religious terrorism faces no moral constraints.

Although terrorist groups emerge within particular religious context such as The Real IRA (of the Irish Catholic republicans), no religion has ever taught their followers to commit terrorist acts. "To blame Islam for what happened in New York on Sept. 11, 2001 is like blaming Christianity for the troubles in Northern Ireland!" wrote the British scientist Richard Dawkins (The Guardian, Sept. 15, 2001). The problem is not with the religion itself but within radicalism growing in a religion. The most common resort to violence occurs when a religious group feels threatened and thinks of itself as chosen. In extreme cases, militant leaders of groups can demand their members to slaughter others in the name of deity.
Here religion often provides a cloak of respectability of terrorism. There are at least two dangerous signs of religious radicalism. These include the charismatic leaders who dominate followers spiritually and emotionally and paranoia and demonization of outsiders, accompanied by intentional isolation within a cloistered community.

Sociologist Gustav Le Bon once argued that in every radical movement, there are always the "men of words" and "the men of actions". Using their charisma, the former convinces followers that their religion mandates acts of terror as sacred duty in an endless, cosmic struggle for the best way to please God. Nobody seems to care who or how many get killed in spiritual warfare. Terrorist acts may also emerge from alienation that generates paranoia, often leading to demonization of outsiders or enemies. This occurs when conflicts come to be seen as "holy" wars where one side is upholding the forces of light (goodness) against the forces of darkness (evil).

One of most prominent regional conflict is probably the war between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the Middle Eastern region. To many Muslims the superpower and its allies do too little to pressure Israel to end its atrocities against Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian settlers. They believe that the Western world has largely been unwilling to restore justice in the Middle East. It is this political setting which seems to have give birth to the Jewish-Christian conspiracy theory, to which many radical Muslims subscribe. Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, a Muslim cleric under police detention for his alleged involvement in a radical organization, argued: "Muslim clerics have agreed that both Jews and Christians are promoting a new Crusade" (Newsweek, Oct. 28).

The growing anti-American sentiment in most terrorist acts is also generated by the growing fear that the U.S. will lead the world into a scene of onrushing economic, technological and ecological forces that demand uniformity of values.

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Iam a one of Indonesian young peoples has always been worry about condition my country in face with globalization and poverty, Iam a former activist student 1998, when falling down President Soeharto because my activity with student movement made me drop out from university, iam only get a diploma college from trisakti university, Jakarta. my activity now is given a education and empowerment for peasent and poor peoples, interfaith dialogue and be a speakers at students training.

Abdillah Khomeni | Jul 12th, 2007

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