By Ahmad Fuad Fanani
Aug 6, 2009
These days, terrorism is usually related to religion, more precisely Islam. Such perceptions are difficult to deny because terrorists like Osama bin Laden and Noordin M. Top cite verses of the Koran in justifying their acts.
Some experts also state that the misinterpretation of religious text can provide the background for terrorism. For example, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and his students at the Ngruki pesantren often say that their first obligation as Muslims is to preach and promote Islam to others.
On the other hand, Andrew Lacy stated in his article The Root Causes of Terrorism (The Bark Network, www.bark.net.au) that most terrorist activities today come from three main roots: imperialism, capitalism, and religious fanaticism.
Terrorism is the result of imperialism. We can see this in the fact that terrorists in Northern Ireland are former members of the army that fought against the British Empire. The rise of al-Qaeda is similarly the result of ideological war between the US and Russia, as it tried to colonize Afghanistan in 1979-1989.
Capitalism is too important to the rise of terrorism. Capitalism is the dominant ideology, which, like democracy, was exported by the West to developing countries. Capitalism systematically seizes the rights of minority and the poor groups.
Meanwhile, religious fanaticism is a crucial factor in many terrorist organizations today. Religion is not so important in the formation of terrorists groups, but in the justification of their violent acts. For example, Osama bin Laden relates the concept of jihad with martyrdom in his anti US sloganeering.
Mark Juergensmeyer states that in the post-cold war world, religion seems to be connected with violence. For example, the World Trade Centre bombings, the Bali bombings, suicide attacks by Hamas in Israel, just to name a few, were all related to religion.
Although religion is only a small part of the terrorist actions, Mark Juergensmeyer states that by spiritualizing violence, religion gives terrorism remarkable power. The reverse is also true: terrorism can give religion power. He found the relation between the religion and the radical movements.
Radical religious movements around the world have three common stances.
First, they reject compromising religion for liberal and secular values.
Second, they refuse secular society that restricts religion to private spaces.
Third, they try to create a new form of religiosity that rejects all forms of religion that they think damage their religion’s origins. To reduce religious fanaticism that supports violence and terror, we should consider pursuing three agendas. Firstly, we must promote interpretations of religion that support social justice, global peace and social harmony. Secondly, we need to enhance awareness of the grassroots society with campaigns that show terrorism is an enemy of all religions. Thirdly, we should emphasize that the best method of jihad is helping each other and keeping peace in the world.
The writer is a Muhammadiyah Youth Activist and Researcher at the Centre for Religion and Civilization Studies (PSAP)