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O You who believe! Be upholders of justice, bearing witness for God alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, God is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth. If you twist or turn away, God is aware of what you do. (Qur'an, 4:135)

... You will never cease to come upon some act of treachery on their part, except for a few of them. Yet pardon them, and overlook. God loves good-doers. (Qur'an, 5:13)


As was concluded in the previous section, Islam categorically forbids terrorism. Why is there terrorism in the world in the name of Islam then? In this section, I investigate what motivates people especially those who call themselves Muslims, to commit such heinous crimes.

The following series of articles is an analysis of the causes of 9/11. However, it can be used as a good guide to motivations for terrorism in the name of Islam in general.

Muslim Militant Extremists?

Islam, as the article says, did play a role in the 9/11 attacks - it was used as a stimulus and a rallying cry. The Q & A begins by saying that al Qaeda terrorists believe in this "brand of Islam". However, the reality is, as pointed out by the Q & A itself later on, that no one smart enough to plan and execute such meticulous and coordinated attacks can believe in Islam advocating terrorism - Islam was merely used, in conjunction with anti-Americanism, poverty and the sense of unjustness and helplessness that pervades the Muslim world, as a means to arouse passion strong enough to drive someone to such acts. This is further accentuated by facts in following articles. 

US Support for Repressive Regimes?

In today's uni-polar world, America gets the blame for much of the bad in the world, some undeservedly, some  not so. In Muslim countries especially, with America being involved in most, if not all, disputes involving Muslims, America is not seen in a good light, particularly by the youth. This is reflected by the supposed reasons given by terrorists for their acts. Anti-Americanism is always, at, or close to, the top of the list. 

World Poverty?

World poverty did indeed play a big role. As an earlier analysis said, the typical terrorist comes from an impoverished background. Crime generally increases with an increase in poverty.

The article mentions madrassas, the much maligned mosque-school. However, madrassas are the best and most effective welfare institute in poor Muslim countries. No other institute, as widespread as madrassas (one in every neighbourhood in Pakistan, for example), in a poor country such as Pakistan, offers free education and boarding and lodging, regardless of factors such as background, social and economic standing or creed, with absolutely no government support. As pointed out, these are the only places of learning poor children have access to, and if they are taken away, these children are likely to fall into crime, and become an ideal terrorist recruit. 

At the same time, the fact that some madrassas (a minute percentage) are used by terrorists to gain recruits cannot be ignored. This minute percentage needs to change.

US Power and Arrogance?

During the Cold War, the US used Pakistan as a base for its activities against the Soviets in Afghanistan. However, when, when the USSR began readying its forces for an attack on Pakistan for that very reason, Pakistan found that this trusted friend was nowhere to be seen. Ironically, the US has been the biggest supporter of Saddam, and the people in Afghanistan now called terrorists for fighting against American occupation, were labelled as heroes and freedom fighters when they did the same against the Soviets, with none other than the US being the backbone of their resistance.

It is policies like that flame anti-Americanism which in turn is a motivational instrument, as described earlier. These policies must change if the supposed objectives of the so-called war on terror are to be attained.

A Clash of Civilisations?

The article says that "al Qaeda's extremist, politicised view of Islam represents only one strand in a diverse religion". Anyone who knows the alphabet of Islam knows that this is not true. Terrorism is no "strand" of Islam, period. It is not the contentious issue it is made out to be; it is a universal truth.

Jihad is indeed a struggle, literally. Of the nine stages of Jihad, armed conflict is the ninth. Muhammed  (PBUH) said "The greatest Jihad is the Jihad against oneself", referring to the day to day battle a Muslim fights against temptation to do wrong.

The war on terror is perceived as a war on Islam by some, particularly in light of the obtusely divergent standards applied. It is what drives some to the ninth stage of Jihad.

This perception clearly needs to change. As actions speak louder than words (which incidentally George W. Bush did not use wisely when he called the war of terror a crusade, a statement which unsurprisingly drew intense criticism and was later retracted), no amount of rhetoric will be successful in doing so. It is the actual foreign policy on ground that needs to change.

Arab Politics?

The Q & A points out that anti-Americanism has been widely used as a political tool in Arab politics. Considering the emotional leverage leaders have over followers, such propaganda could fuel terrorism.

The article also says that the Saudi Arabian government has played an active role in promoting terrorism in other Muslim countries. This matter must be investigated and dealt with if need be.

The media plays a big role as well. State-controlled media limits information available to citizens, and takes away their right to be heard. This could result in people resorting to other methods of attracting attention.

However, there is an associated risk. Footage of Palestinians and Kashmiris being killed, and Muslims being tortured in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib would perhaps be a terrorist's dream.

US Support for Israel?

 Yasir Arafat's statement about bin Laden and the Palestinian cause is very important. He clearly states that bin Laden has been working on his own, against Palestinian interests. However, now that he sees the emotional weight and leverage the issue has over Muslims (it being the biggest conflict involving Muslims), he has started championing that cause as well. The conclusion is inescapable - bin Laden and al Qaeda use Islam and Muslim causes as a recruiting gimmick. Islam and these issues having powerful emotional outreach, it gives him more, and more dedicated, followers than he could otherwise imagine. The issue does not matter - the bloodier the better to motivate. Hence him moving onto the Palestinian cause like a shark smelling blood is not surprising.

The US has been the biggest supporter of Israel. It has played the main role in making Israel what it is today. Israel is perhaps the worst villain in the Muslim world, accused of pillaging Muslim land and occupying territory. The "fence" (20 feet tall, ditches on each side, made of concrete, watchtowers with guards every 10 meters and electric wires along it) Israel is building, forcibly bringing significant Palestinian territory into Israel would not be in place today without US and British financial aid and support. Summarily, the US, and the UK to a (much) smaller extent, have allied themselves with Israel. The age old adage of "the friend of my enemy is my enemy" comes into play. All the venom previously directed at Israel only would now be directed at its supporters as well.

Iraq Prisoner Abuse (WARNING: Disconcerting Photos)

Some months ago, the Iraq prisoner abuse story took the world by storm. Al Qaeda, who had accused America of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, were vindicated.

Seeing these pictures, I am enraged. Terrorists are "bad apples" in a society, but this is the army of the "bastions of the free world" and the "citadels of democracy". This arouses feeling of Muslim brotherhood in me like no al Qaeda rhetoric can. I want to do something to stop this; these are my Muslim brothers in these pictures. How can I just twiddle my thumbs while this is happening?

Thankfully, I am educated and sensible enough to know that violence is not the answer; others might not be. These pictures are better rallying calls than al Qaeda's wildest dreams.

Terrorists are smart - carrying out such meticulous attacks requires a great deal of cunning. It is hard to believe that such smart people would not be able to understand that Islam forbids terrorism; that their acts are contrary to the very spirit of Islam (the word literally means "peace" or" submission").

From this, one can only conclude that in essence, al Qaeda's war is a power struggle. Islam is used as a tool to mobilise the masses, by playing on their beliefs and aspirations.

As Michael Doran points out "The primary goal of most of these Islamic radicals was to seize power at home, something they failed to do".

As Yasir Arafat himself pointed said "I'm telling him directly not to hide behind the Palestinian cause. Why is bin Laden talking about Palestine now? He never helped us.  He was working in another, completely different area against our interests".

The answer to Mr. Arafat's question is simple: Palestine is an issue most Muslims identify with and see as a gross injustice. In other words, it is a useful tool in arousing passion and feeling to rally Muslims to al Qaeda's cause.



There is no compulsion in religion. True guidance has become clearly distinct from error. (Qur'an, 2:256)

"A good action and a bad action are not the same. Repel the bad with something better and, if there is enmity between you and someone else, he will be like a bosom friend." (Qur'an 41:34)

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