The meaning of terrorism
Sunday, 03 November 2013 | NS Rajaram | in Agenda
Terrorism should not be seen as a mere law-and-order problem, but as an unconventional warfare.
The goal of Islamic terrorists is to overthrow the government and replace it with a state ruled by shariah. To this end jihadis are carrying out terror attacks on both sides of the border with the goal of eventually reducing the country into a state of terror. Unlike other wars that are fought for material gains like territory, the goal of jihad is to induce terror. This is made clear in the book, The Quranic Concept of War,written by Pakistani Brigadier SK Malik and sponsored by the Gen Zia-ul-Haq. It is a serious error to see this as a law-and-order problem to be dealt with by the police.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, there was a workshop of security experts in Washington DC on how to fight terrorism. Among its conclusions, two things stood out: Terrorists are not lawbreakers but soldiers driven by an ideology who need to be seen as enemy soldiers in a war; and, we need to monitor how they think and move — this calls for high level of intelligence apparatus and constant vigil. Finally, as in every war there will be loss of innocent lives; terrorists target innocents, and security forces too may kill innocent people by mistake. We must accept such losses if we want to defeat the enemy. The point was and still is — don’t expect the regular police and other law enforcement agencies to fight and control terrorism, though their help is certainly needed. This also means, as in the case of any war, there will be casualties involving innocent people. We must avoid it to the extent possible and compensate the victims, but not demoralise those fighting terrorists because it is a tough job and also a thankless one. No one thanks you when you stop an attack, but people are ready to blame you if you cause a mishap.
At the same time, victims of terrorist attacks will always be innocent people. The idea of terrorists is that with such random killings at unexpected locations — at place and time of their choosing — they can create a climate of fear. Unfortunately, India does not take terrorism — or even national security — with the seriousness it deserves. Worse, there are people, including those in responsible positions, who engage in flight from reality and indulge in diversionary tactics. Who can forget Rahul Gandhi surreptitiously telling former US Ambassador Timothy Roemer that Hindu extremist organisations are a greater threat to security than Lashkar-e-Tayyeba?
A recent instance of such obfuscation was the statement by Defense Minister AK Antony following the Pakistani attack on Indian positions on the LoC. He claimed that some militants dressed in Pakistan military uniform attacked Indian positions. Why not just say Pakistani soldiers mounted a terror attack on Indian positions on the LoC? Did the minister fear that stating the truth might embarrass Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as he was about to meet Manmohan Singh? Obviously Sharif had no such scruples.
This is no way to fight terrorism. We need to understand how the enemy thinks. Fortunately, we have a lucid explanation of jihad and terrorism by Gen Zia-ul-Haq. He clearly said that jihad was an all-out war waged to create terror. He sponsored one Brig Malik to produce an authoritative military manual on jihad called The Quranic Concept of War. Here Brig Malik writes, “The Holy Prophet’s operations... are an integral and inseparable part of the divine message revealed to us in the Holy Quran... The war he planned and carried out was total to the infinite degree. It was waged on all fronts: Internal and external, political and diplomatic, spiritual and psychological, economic and military.”
Another point made by the author is that the war should be carried out in the opponent’s territory. “The aggressor was always met and destroyed in his own territory.” The ‘aggressor’ here is anyone who stands in the way of jihad, even when defending his own land! It doesn’t stop here, as Brig Malik assures us: “Terror struck into the hearts of the enemy is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved... Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him.”
That is to say that these attacks are meant to induce terror in the heart and minds of people — make them live in a state of perpetual terror. We should be grateful to Brig Malik and Gen Zia for spelling it out with such clarity.
Though little known in the West, The Quranic Concept of War is widely studied in Islamic countries. It has been translated into several languages, including Arabic and Urdu (the official language of Pakistan). Indian soldiers have recovered Urdu versions of the book from the bodies of slain militants in Jammu & Kashmir. It is no coincidence that the trail of terrorism today should lead to Gen Zia. By making jihad the centerpiece of Pakistan’s politics he ensured that jihadi thinking would dominate all aspects of Pakistani politics in both domestic and foreign affairs.