On 2nd Dec 2015, 14 people were killed in a deadly shooting in San Bernardino, California. When this news was put in the media, the first organization that condemned the shootings was the American Muslim Society. After that day, more than 5000+ incidents of gun violence resulting in deaths of 1500+ people have happened in US , not forgetting a siege that has now been on for the last 1 month in Oregon, with one of the militia’s alleged attack on civilians and the second openly supporting ISIS in a tweet. Has even a single religious / non-religious organization condemned these incidents? Imagine the cataclysm it would have brought if any one of these killings would have been carried out by a Muslim.
Let’s now go back in history and try to look if terrorism is in any way related to religion in general and Islam in particular. The data used for the below research has been taken from the National Consortium For the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START). This open source database is maintained by University of Maryland and US Department of Homeland Security. Few of the features of this database are as below:
Contains information on over 140,000 terrorist attacks. This count does not involve incidents of US gun violence which itself account to more 100,000 in just last 2 years2 .
Currently the most comprehensive unclassified database on terrorist events in the world
Includes information on more than 58,000 bombings, 15,000 assassinations, and 6,000 kidnappings since 1970
Supervised by an advisory panel of 12 terrorism research experts
Over 4,000,000 news articles and 25,000 news sources were reviewed to collect incident data from 1998 to 2014 alone
Below chart depicts the top 10 terrorist organizations and the casualties they caused since 1970:
1. It is worth noting here that almost 40% of terrorism cases remain unsolved to a level wherein even the extremist organization involved is not identified.
2. Of the terrorist attacks wherein the organizations involved were identified, the followers are from different backgrounds, sect and religion.
3. If we would have taken into consideration deaths owing to domestic gun violence within US and place them as an extremist organization, it would have occupied second position with 25000+ deaths in last 2 years alone.
Below chart depicts the top 10 countries who has suffered maximum casualties in the last 45 years:
1. The first point that needs to be emphasized here is that the belief being forced upon that west is in danger and is, a victim looks wrong from the stats above. All the top 10 victims of terrorism are the developing countries with Muslims, the biggest victims.
2. These numbers do not depict the civilian casualties caused by the so called War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan going on for last 14 years. If I quote a research “This investigation comes to the conclusion that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major NGOs. And this is only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely.” No need to mention where this stat will put NATO in the list of perpetrators above.
3. Now again if we include gun violence deaths in the list US will climb to number 4 with close to 30000 casualties
In the words of Robert Pipe, a terrorism expert from the University of Chicago in one of his talks says “There is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism or any of the world religions rather than what all suicide attacks have in common is a specific and strategic goal to compel modern democracy to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorist consider to be their homeland“.
In one of the research papers published in June 2015 by Dr. Stevan Weine4 and Dr. Heidi Ellis suggested that “To date, there are no known pathways, definitive set of risk factors, or reliable predictors that would indicate who is likely to commit violent acts driven by extremism”
In close to 20+ research papers published till date by different terrorism experts on the subject of Counter terrorism, religion has not been mentioned the cause in even single one of them. It is also worth mentioning that bombing civilians has also not been mentioned as a solution in any one of them.
It’s Time to Stop being Sorry:
Deradicalization has now become a science with hundreds of research papers published. One common theme that come out of them is radicalization can be prevented. Research book like “Resilience and resolve: Communities against extremism” written by Jolene Jerard and Salim Mohamed Nasir and “Terrorist Rehabilitation: A New Frontier in Counter-terrorism” edited by Rohan Gunaratna and Mohammad bin Ali offer a wealth of insights and suggestions on just these matters.
Secondly, it is also necessary to stop stereotyping individuals and communities as well as put efforts trying to bring marginalized people in the mainstream. Standard or Vocational education is a very good option.
Lastly, putting in effort to know the truth. To fight any evil it is necessary to know the root cause of the same but this requires perseverance and effort. This quality is not common and you definitely find idiocy along the way. No need to get disheartened!!
By Shazin Siddiqui
The charts are author’s self-contribution.
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