Treat Terrorism as War, not Law Enforcement
The goal of Islamic terrorists is to overthrow the government and replace it with a state ruled by Shariat. To this end Jihadists are carrying out terror attacks on both sides of the border, though the goal is eventually plunge 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 clearly explained in the book The Quranic Concept of War by the Pakistani Brigadier S.K. Malik sponsored by the late President General Zia ul Haq. It is a serious error to see this as a law-and-order problem. As in every war there will be loss of innocent life: terrorists target only innocents, and security forces will lose and kill innocent people by mistake. We must accept losses if we want to defeat the enemy.
War against terrorism is people’s war
Shortly after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, There was a workshop in Washington D.C. on how to fight terrorism. It was attended by scholars and intellectuals as well security experts from various wings of the U.S. security establishment including the military. Among the speakers was Dr. Daniel Pipes who went beyond the immediate catastrophe and pointed out how to anticipate and avoid large scale attacks like 9/11. As he (and other experts) saw it, two things stood out: (1) terrorists are not lawbreakers but soldiers driven by ideology and we need to treat them like enemy soldiers in a war; and (2) we need to monitor how they think and move which needs a high level of intelligence apparatus and activity. The point of his (and others’) message was and still is— don’t expect the regular police and related law enforcement people 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— due to mistakes and of people caught in the crossfire. We must avoid it to the extent possible and compensate the victims but not demoralize those fighting terrorists because it is a very tough job and also a thankless one. No one thanks you when you prevent an attack, but people are ready to blame you if you cause a mishap— from the near and dear ones of someone believed to be innocent. A sad but sobering fact is there will be mistakes and loss of innocent life even with the greatest care and the best of intentions. On the other hand the victims of terrorist attacks will always be innocent people. The idea of terrorists is that with such random killings at unexpected locations— at a place and time of their choosing, they can create a climate of fear. It is a fact of life that most parents and other relatives don’t know or don’t want to believe that their child or other relative is involved with terrorists. So there will always be cries of injustice— like charges of ‘fake encounter’ as in the case of Ishrat Jahan and a few others. All indications are Ishrat was a terrorist, and a high profile one, but as in any war some innocent people will be killed. These should be treated as war casualties, not victims of law enforcement. This calls for a major reorientation in the way we think. It is of paramount importance to recognize that a terrorist is not an ordinary lawbreaker. He (or she) has his own ideology, the goal of which is overthrow the government and in its place establish a state ruled according to their own law. In the case of Islamists only Shariat (based on the Quran) is legitimate: everything else from the constitution to the courts and law enforcement agencies are illegitimate that deserve to be overthrown and replaced by the rule of Shariat. Following the Washington workshop related earlier, the United States recognized the need for a fresh approach to dealing with the threat of terrorism in all its dimensions. It established a whole new Department of Homeland Security reporting directly to the president. The U.S. takes terrorist threats seriously and any suggestion of a potential terrorist is detained immediately. The public also supports it wholeheartedly in spite of the occasional inconvenience it causes. Unfortunately, India does not take terrorism and even national security on the whole with the seriousness it should as one the world’s worst victim of organized terror. Worse, people, including even those in responsible positions engage in flight from reality and indulge in diversionary tactics. Who can forget Rahul Gandhi surreptitiously telling the former U.S. ambassador that Hindu extremist organizations are a greater threat to security than outfits like Lashkar E Taiba? Or Sonia Gandhi (and Salman Kurshid) having the ban on SIMI lifted claiming it was not a terrorist organization? (The Supreme Court re-imposed the ban and SIMI is now the Indian Mujaheddin.) The most recent instance of such obfuscation was the statement by Defense Minister A.K. 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 honorable minister fear that stating the bare truth might embarrass the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif just as he was about to meet Sri Manmohan Singh? Obviously Sri Sharif had no such scruples— for he used a contemptuous term in referring to Dr. Singh and simultaneously launched an attack on Indian posts on the LOC which took the Indian Army fifteen days to turn back.
Know your enemy: all out war to create terror
From all this, one is forced to conclude that prominent members of the Indian establishment—from Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to Manmohan Singh and A.K Antony are scared of facing the reality about Pakistan-sponsored terror attacks. That is exactly the goal of terrorists: they want their adversaries to live in a state of fear. It is part of their ideology, in fact its central ideology. Jihad is the ideology that is driving terrorism. So called experts, and politicians in particular constantly tell us that Islam is a noble religion that stands for peace and compassion and abhors violence. They assure us that the terrorists are acting against the teachings of Islam. This is soon followed by a third act, an airing of Muslim grievances—the war in Iraq, the Palestinian problem, and of course the oppression of Muslims in non—Muslim countries like Britain. The talk is always about backlash and grievances, rarely about their own responsibility in allowing fanaticism to flourish in their midst. In all this there is an unstated assumption, almost a dogma, that the root causes of terrorism lie outside the teachings of Islam. If that is the case, how are we to explain the fact all the terrorist attacks—from New York to London to Mumbai to Bali—have one thing in common: that they were perpetrated by groups acting in the name of Islam? In this drama of denial and diversion, there is always a reluctance to mention the one word that goes a long way towards explaining terrorism: Jihad. When was the last time anyone heard Sonia or Rahul Gandhi, or even Manmohan Singh or A.K. Antony mention the word Jihad although terrorists always do? At this moment of crisis, what the world needs is clarity, not obfuscation. We need to understand how the enemy thinks. Fortunately, we have a lucid explanation of Jihad and terrorism by one of the founding fathers of modern terrorism, the late General Zia—ul—Haq, former president of Pakistan. He made it clear (see below) that Jihad is all out war waged to create terror. He sponsored Brigadier Malik to produce an authoritative military manual on Jihad called The Quranic Concept of War. In his laudatory foreword to the book, General Zia wrote:
JIHAD FI—SABILILLAH (Jihad in the path of Allah) is not the exclusive domain of the professional soldier, nor is it restricted to the application of military force alone. The book brings out with simplicity, clarity and precision the Quranic philosophy on the application of the military force, within the context of the totality that is JIHAD.
Indeed it does. Brigadier 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’ is anyone who stands in the way of Jihad, even when defending his own territory!
Where does terrorism come into the picture?
The Quranic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the heart of the enemy, known or hidden…
It doesn’t stop here, for Brigadier 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.” (Original emphasis.) That is to say, the enemy should be made to live in a state of perpetual terror. That is to say these attacks are meant to induce terror in the heart and minds of people.
We should be grateful to Brigadier Malik and the late General Zia for spelling it out with such clarity. We no longer need to grope in the dark to identify this ‘evil ideology of hate‘ in the former British PM Tony Blair’s picturesque phrase. This is a profoundly different kind of war from war as we understand it. Most wars are fought for material gains like territory. But a terrorist army like the Pakistani Army today, like Islamic armies of medieval times, have a different goal— to terrorize people. This is the meaning of the extraordinary phrase: “Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him.” So the goal is terror! And it recognizes no boundaries. 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 Kashmir. It is no coincidence that the trail of terrorism today should lead to General Zia. By making Jihad the centerpiece of Pakistan’s politics he ensured that Jihadist thinking would dominate all aspects of Pakistani politics in both domestic and foreign affairs. Of course we cannot blame innocent Muslims for the acts of terror of Jihadis. But Muslim leaders need to go beyond condemning violence and voicing grievances. They need to root out this evil from within their ranks. If they are really sincere about fighting terrorism, they should come out openly against the barbarism that is Jihad, and not hide behind vague statements about extremism and fanaticism. Mere lip service will not do. The first step is to recognize Jihad for the evil it is. It is a crime against humanity. What if it is found in some book considered sacred written more than a thousand years ago? The same can be said of widow burning and the Inquisition— also found in some old books. Hindus and Christians have come out of it. Should Islam alone be allowed to retain ancient barbarisms like Jihad?