By Malik M Ashraf
March 14, 2017
The ideological dimension of terrorism needs to be confronted and neutralised by a counter-narrative which reflects the true interpretation of Islamic teachings and injunctions regarding propaganda of the terrorists who are killing innocent people in the name of religion. Terrorism above all is a murder and Quran 6:151 says” do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct, save lawfully (the death penalty imposed by the state for a crime). Further, the Quran in 5.53 unequivocally says” whosoever kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind”.
As is evident, Islam is a religion of peace which abhors bloodshed and killing of innocent people. It aims at building a rift-free society which has no room for divisive ideologies. Islam also forbids armed groups and non-state entities to declare Jihad. According to Islam it can only be declared by a legitimately chosen leader of the state. Similarly rebellion against the state or taking up of arms against it is not permitted by Islam. These Islamic injunctions and teachings must be relied upon to develop a counter narrative against the ideology preached by the terrorists and proponents of religious extremism. That job can best be done by the religious scholars through the pulpit and the mosque.
The Prime Minister Nwaz Sharif while addressing the ‘Ittehadul Baine Muslameen’ Conference in Lahore the other day rightly urged the Ulema to give a narrative of Islam which effectively counters the misleading propaganda of the terrorists who are killing innocent people in the name of religion. One can hardly take an issue with his assertion that the role and help of ulema was very vital to cleanse the country of the menace of terrorism and that the ulema would be serving the national cause in a big way if they brought the Muslims out of the confusion spread by the monsters who were preaching terrorism in the guise of jihad.
Terrorism and religious extremism have not only brought a bad name to the religion of Islam but has also tarnished Pakistan’s image in the comity of nations. Therefore winning is the only option against the terrorists. It is indeed satisfying to note that the PML (N) government and the security establishment are unanimous in their resolve and determination to wipe out the scourge of terrorism at any cost, which has been amply demonstrated by our security forces and the law enforcing agencies through their unparalleled sacrifices.
There is also an impregnable national consensus on taking the fight against terrorism and religious extremism to its logical end. Operation Zarb-i-Azb, the National Action Plan and operation Raddul Fasad are clear indications of the fact that the state of Pakistan, the government, the security establishment, the law enforcing agencies and the masses are pursuing the fight against terrorism with an unflinching determination. Through these operations the state and the government undoubtedly have been able to break the backbone of the terrorists and the extremist elements which has created space for other initiatives.
But all these efforts need to be supplemented and reinforced through an ideological challenge to the narrative of the terrorists. That is where the role of the Ulemas becomes imperative. I think the media also has a very significant role in countering the narrative of the terrorists due to its country-wide outreach, particularly the electronic channels by arranging panel discussions on the Islamic teachings that repel the dogma of the terrorists on regular basis. It also underlines the need for regulating the religious seminaries to scuttle the ability of the ones who have been and are supporting the narrative of the terrorists. There are thousands of seminaries in the country and only a few of them are known to have links with the terrorists.
The rest of seminaries and their managements owe it to the state to lend their cooperation in dealing with the phenomenon by cooperating in firming up a regulatory mechanism for the seminaries. I personally feel that making the counter-narrative to terrorism a part of the curricula for education in schools and colleges can also help in eradicating terrorism and religious extremism from the society. The development of a uniform syllabus for the mainstream educational institutions and seminaries could be another option to tackle the religious aspect of terrorism.
Malik M Ashraf is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.