I would like to begin this paper by highlighting a quotation of one of my beloved philosophers, the excommunicated Jew, Baruch Spinoza. He said, "Do not weep. Do not wax indignant. Understand." To understand Islamic Terrorism, these tips will take you to the heart of the issue. They try to break stereotypes and provide the reader, whether Muslim or non-Muslim with some key ideas for further study.
1. Terrorism is a modern phenomenon. The history of the word terrorism comes from the period of the Terror (1793-4) in the French Revolution. It was a necessary evil to achieve the greater good of the nation, and referred to a state policy which aimed to terrorize the enemies of the French Republic. It appeared again in the 19th century used by European nationalist groups through "propaganda by deed." These actions of terror continued into the 20th century as well. Thus projecting a modern phenomenon on an old religion, in this case Islam with fourteen century history, is anachronistic. Tracking terrorism in the old history of Islam is like tracking Hollywood movies in the ancient sport.
2. Terrorism is not a religious issue. In essence terrorism is a political phenomenon regardless of its agents, targets, and techniques. Terrorism is not an individual endeavor - it is a group or communal activity trying to gain power. Also, a large majority of Islamic communities and groups who do not care for politics or for old political institutions do not participate in these attacks and do not justify them. Even all political Islamists do not use terror. However, Islamic terrorism is fully bound with a political agenda; it came from the USA plans to win Cold War (e.g. the Taliban) or came from local political organizations. Political philosophy of Islam always denounces taking power, even from a corrupt ruler, through rebellion. The latest development in political philosophy of Islam up to twenty century illustrated how to cope with various political systems. Muslim militias are the product of a mixture of Islam with modern ideologies including Marxism and Anti-imperialism.
3. The major terrorists are partially educated and criminal. To get an idea about this background, many Islamist leaders including Sayyid Qutab, Abul Ala Maududi, and the terrorists they inspire including Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawaheri are graduated from secular institutions, not a Madrasah, and are self-educated in Islam. They are known among Madrasah-educated as ignorant of the occasions of the Quranic revelation which affect the interpretation of the Quran. Moreover, more often members of terrorist groups of Muslims are half-educated people with a background in crime or at least alienated. I personally learned in Afghanistan that suicide attacks happen by Talibs who does not know how to practice daily prayers (Salat).
4. Islamic terrorism occurs under name of Islam. I call it Islamic for two reasons: first, they use Islamic sources and second, they call for a return to original Islam. Of course, in my view, like the perspective of a great majority of Muslims, they misuse many verses of the Quran and some Prophetic Traditions (Sunnah). Because of them, the Islamic slogan Allah Akbar is known everywhere and unfortunately immediately creates fear. Only look at their propaganda, for example an ISIS journal, to see this great abuse. However, Muslims need to transform not reinvent Islam, a transformation based on a human understanding of Sharia and an updated Islamic theology (Kalam), Islamic philosophy and Sufism. Denying these verses and narratives they use will not solve the problem; we have to encounter them and reinterpret them in terms of both the objectives of Shariah and the modern achievements in hermeneutics.
5. Muslims are the majority of victims of Islamic terrorism. Only a statistic from CCN correctly highlighted the majority of victims of ISIS are Muslims living outside Western countries, despite their frequent calls for attacks in Europe and the United States. It refers to The Global Terrorism Index 2015, DATA 2000-2014 showing that the number of western victims is only 2.6% of the total number of terrorism victims. We need only to look at what has occurred recently and is going on everyday in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh. The honest and effective fight against terrorism must consider this sad reality and not discriminate between victims.
6. Islamic Terrorism appears as a saving force to Muslims. Most Muslim countries are under-developed, particularly with regards to humanities which constitute the foundations of modernity. They suffer from the problems of modernization. Look at the Persian Gulf countries; these oil-rich countries earn huge sums of money and are building a massive amount of infrastructure and buildings, they spend great sums of money on engineering and scientific education but ignore the humanities necessary for living the self-examined life. In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive and many graduated women disappear after school. Iran which is proud of the humanities and its republican system does not consider Afghani refugees to possess the same humanity. Developed buildings are filled with undeveloped minds. This creates a crisis which terrorist groups use to create crises in other lands. It must be added that both traditionalists and Islamist groups spread nostalgia for the Golden Age of Islam. All these directly or indirectly help terrorist Islamists to grow and inspire an Islamic renaissance which would deconstruct modernity rather than construct society. They inspire hate rather than hope for all humanity and for Muslims who do not agree with them.
7. Terrorism is reactionary and requires mutual responsibilities to combat. Many forms of modern terrorism happened and still happen as a reaction to colonization and appear in the process of decolonization to fight Western imperialism. Advocacy of "The Philosophy of the Bomb" and the explosion of a bomb under Viceroy Irwin's train in 1929 by the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and the apology for political violence by Franz Fanon are instances of that. Another example is Afghani Jihadists. At the same time, they enjoyed the support of the USA they spread hatred of the USA. However, colonialism is something historical for the Westerners but is a contemporary problem in Islamic societies. They still suffer from two Western policies: Western governments back corrupt governments in the region and the West applies their political agenda and interests under name of humanitarian objectives or great ideas like human rights. In the true fight against terrorism, the West needs to accept its role and take an honest part in solving the problem.
8. Both Muslims and Westerns suffer from essentialist perspectives. Many Muslims believe the nature of modern civilization in the West is atheism. They associate the West with a lack of moral values. Some even go further and equate it with an evangelical campaign of conversion. They believe these are the essential elements which shape the current West. On the contrary, many Westerners equate Islam with war and violent religion. Many consider Muslims to be fools who do not want to learn and change and who enjoy dictatorship. These essentialist views block the way for mutual dialogue and cooperation for the betterment of humanity and then reduce the connection to business and politics.
9. The majority of Muslims are silent on the topic of Islamic terrorism. Although many Islamic scholars speak out against terrorist attacks, it seems as if the majority of Muslims do not publically denounce the extremism of terrorism. We see few protests against ISIS and other terrorist groups. Even some positions taken by Islamic leaders against terrorist groups are viewed as political maneuvers rather than as true denunciations. Even though they do not support them, the masses of Islam do not denounce terrorists because of the memory and continuing problems of colonialism. Both Muslim leaders and the masses of Islam need to speak out against these Islamic terrorists. They need to tell others that terrorists are not achieving revenge but are destroying future generations. They must not ignore their responsibility to others due to the memory colonialism or out of fear of terrorists.
10. The fight against terrorism needs to pressure corrupt politicians instead of searching for an authentic faith. Western political leaders would do better to focus on corrupt and immoral leaders rather than try to reinterpret Islam. Western leaders need to change who they ally themselves with because many Middle Eastern leaders are skilled in using two faces. In public they agree with Western leaders on human rights and human dignity; however, they quickly forget those words when they rule their own lands. Working with corrupt politicians does not defeat terrorist Muslims but also embitters the future generations. How can a country which limits its political power to a single family be an advocate of human rights and democracy? How can a country which hosted Osama bin Laden and the Taliban be an authentic partner with the West in the fight against terrorism?