What is Religious Extremism?
Religious Terrorism is motivated by religious ideologies and grievances. It is particularly dangerous and effective due to the fanaticism of those who practice it and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the cause. Religious terrorists are more likely to use “Nothing to lose” tactics such as suicide bombings. This is made possible by twisting the religious teachings and using to justify and encourage this kind of self-killings.
What is Terrorism?
“The uses of violence to physically and psychologically terrorize a population by an individual or a group in order to draw attention to a cause, enact political change, or gain political power.” – A simple definition.
The types of terrorism include state terrorism, religious terrorism, right wing terrorism, left-wing terrorism, pathological terrorism, issue oriented terrorism, separatist terrorism, narco-terrorism. Among these, the most rampant form in Pakistan is religious terrorism such as sectarian extremism, Islamic or jihadist agenda, and nationalistic movements.
Ethnic and Sectarian Extremism
Sectarian violence implies a symmetrical confrontation between two or more non-state actors representing the different population and or religious groups. Sectarian violence may mean incidents involving two or more sects of a religion violently confronting one another with a probable result of a loss in life. In the Pakistan, the two main sects are the Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims. So, when a certain sect or ethnic group are gunned down or killed in a suicide attack, it is termed as “sectarian violence”.
But is there really sectarian violence and extremism in Pakistan? Does Shia or Sunnis or any other sect kill the members of another? Do we really kill people just because they are not from the same backgrounds as us? Or are we made to believe that this is the case?
No, there is not that big of a problem in sectarian violence in Pakistan but is rather casting a large shadow which if not addressed properly will take the size of its shadow and impossible by then to deal with.
*Data till October 9, 2016Sectarian Violence in Pakistan.
The “Islamist” and “Jihadist” Agenda
Jihadism states that jihad is an “individual obligation” incumbent upon all Muslims. This is conflicting with the beliefs of Muslims up until now that jihad is a “collective obligation” carried out upon and according to the orders of the legitimate leader (Khalifa) of the Muslim community. Jihadist insist all Muslims should participate because they believe today’s Muslim leaders are illegitimate and do not command the authority to ordain justified violence.
The “Islamist” agenda as stated is not really Islamic at all, as said above, it is a collective obligation, but this does not serve in accordance with the views of the extremists using religion to promote their own ideas, ideologies, and beliefs to carve out for themselves a following. They change the wordings and teachings ever so little and couple it with rewards of ‘Jannah’ for blowing oneself up, making it sound glamorous and calling it a ‘free ticket’ to heaven.
One would think that this sounds very ignorant and vacuous but the truth is that this is the case. And this type of extremism, this killing in the name of the religion of innocent civilian has gathered a cult following. And if one looks deeper into the matter, one would not in its entirety blame that said cult following. They may represent their goals as creating an Islamic Pakistan following the Sharia but the goals are not all that benign.
Nonetheless, these fanatics have and still try to destabilize Pakistan in all its fields. This extremism, not at all matched with the force required up until the start of the Zarb e Azb has crippled the governance, destroyed economic growth, and jeopardized our national integrity and security.
The Nationalistic and Separatist Movements
This is the main threat to the National integrity of Pakistan. These movements although do not seem religious in their motives and seem like the right of the people in the name of self-determination. But in reality, these movements are religious and not the voice of the people as portrayed by many in information media. Religious in the sense of extremism, that it is used to fuel the sentiments and grievances of the population. Telling them the lies of fulfilling their respective wishes when all in all destroying them from within in ideology, integrity, honor, and humanity.
Threats of Extremism to Pakistan
Extremism is like a cancerous disease, if not taken precautionary and preventive measures, the curative decisions will force you to cut yourself open and carve out the rotten portions that cannot be saved, and to begin anew, to progress.
When nonstate actors use and twist the ideology of a nation, the sovereignty of the nation is under attack. The factions like Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) are the most direct and critical threats to Pakistan and it being the sole power in the nation. These factions have plagued the country’s authorities in the North-Western side of this country for over a decade.
The Governance and Democracy
Every movement from civil disobedience to the attack of killing innocents in suicide blasts, killing them in their schools, in the hospitals, is a complete violation in every sense, no matter your cause, no matter your motives, no matter the benign reason you have cooked up in your mind is the government and the democratic voice of the people. These acts are in the complete sense and in every way against the will and the wishes of the people. People who make the government, people who choose how they want to rule themselves, people of choose democracy to ensure that the populace remains in power. It has deprived the people to extend their authority in the areas where this extremism is rampant through the chosen way of democracy.
The Economic Growth and Progress
This is one of the biggest and foremost problems in the progress of this country. In the economic growth to bring Pakistan as one of the leading emerging economies. These frequent attacks in the name of religion on the soil of Pakistan have barred this country from attracting any genuine foreign investment, despite the fact that the contemporary geopolitical and geo-economical scenarios of South Asia provide Pakistan with the opportunities to that come once every other half millennia. The fact that these prospects are available to Pakistan can be seen that despite there being a very unstable situation on the Western border, the Pakistan China Economic Corridor has still found feet to grow. And this project has intrigued the interest of all the neighboring nations that need a well-developed trade route.
The National Security and Integrity
The top most priority of a Nation State is to secure its national borders from the danger of any kind originating from within the country and outside. When the national security is breached, it should be considered an act of war if external factors have led to its collapse. If the internal factions of such forces of extremism try to violate national security, it is an act of treason, and the perpetrators should be trialed and put to death (or life time imprisonment). Nonetheless, people even aware of these penalties still opt for extremism. The main rationale behind this is the lack of understanding of the religious ideology of Pakistan. The extremist forces use the same ideology but only against the very nation to cripple its progress. When such forces take a hold in the country strong enough to ensure their own writ, then the national integrity is lost. A country without national security, integrity and shared sovereignty is a failed state.
Is Pakistan a failed state?
Recommendations to Eradicate Fanaticism
There are several ways explained by many well-educated scholars in depth about how to deal with this grave issue. The main and most urgent changes required and their rapid implementation is the foremost need of this country.
Education and Awareness
The educational systems and institutes are not on the same page in Pakistan. We have three types of educations that are being handed out to our youth. The Cambridge/Oxford, the matriculation, and the madrassa system. All these systems consider the other in one way or another, inferior and superior to the other. And what they all at every level fail to incorporate in the minds of the young students is the ability of critical thinking. We set out on our professional lives based upon the stereotypes already in place and blame the uncultured mullahs for any bombings. And these “uncultured mullahs” justify these bombings or violent acts as the truth being implemented on a satanic government that has unjustly taken control and are destroying our Islam and ideology.
What we all fail to understand is that none of these above mentioned “classes” have anything to do with the bombing or the satanic government.
The country requires a strong campaign and legal reforms in the education sector. We need to pass the bills that bring a unified education pattern and is implemented at all levels in the nation to bring the people to a unified understanding of the prevalent situation of the country. We need to incorporate the social sciences from the beginning of the learning of a child, it should be the core of our studies to understand the basic of these scientists to hold an educated and informed view about the workings of society and government. Along with this, the education of Islam is most needed in these times. Our ideology being Islamic, we cannot bridge the gaps between people of our core goals are different and we are adopting the policy of “agree to disagree”
The Correct Use of Media
The information media has the right to be free and independent. It should always remain free and report the events to their core as they have taken place without putting a certain perspective upon them.
But desperate time calls for desperate measures, one requires to put a leash on the media to make sure that it is doing its job without promoting a foreign agenda or promoting the ideals that are not true to the nation. The media should be given a certain direction, a greater access to promote the truth behind these factions and the ill roots of religious extremism and violence. To increase the understanding of the similarities between the different classes created in society. It should be focused on bringing the people of the nation to a unified stand against extremism.
The Utilization of Ulema
The Ulema of Pakistan have always held and will continue to hold a very influential position over the people of this country. Except for a very small portion, the majority have the belief that their word is finality on matters related to religion and a portion also believes that their word is also the final authority on the matters of government.
To eradicate the issue of extremism, the government must utilize this resource to change the perception of the people about the motive of these extremist tendencies in Pakistan. It should gather all the Ulema on the same perspective that requires being promoted to combat this issue in more of the sense mentality rather than the physical eradication.
Lasting Solution to the Afghan War
The neighboring country of Afghanistan has been in a state of war for the past three decades, the two countries share the same religion and with the North-Western border of Pakistan, Afghanistan even shares cultural and social similarities.
The people of Pakistan, in general, have shown from time to time sympathetic tendencies towards their Afghani ‘brothers’. This sentiment is strong on the basis of religion, Islam. As Islam is the ideology of Pakistan, it is impossible for us as a nation to cut our ties with the state of Afghanistan. Having fought in the Afghan War on all fronts, it is a moral duty of the Pakistan government to find a permanent solution to Afghanistan and for its people. We need to help install a government that opposes extremism in the truest sense and takes a practical approach to killing this menace.
The option of the closing of borders and providing foolproof security is impossible due to the geography of the place and the limitation of resource on both sides. This is coupled with the sentiments of the people and could provoke more support for extremism, in the worst case scenario.
Impartial and Swift Justice
Hazrat Ali (RA) said, “A society can function on kufar system but not without Justice”
The fourth rightly guided Caliph of Islam, Hazrat Ali R.A, said those words which are timeless in the truth they portray to the world. It is the core of any functional society that a strong judicial system is in place. Because without justice there can be no progress.
The judicial system in Pakistan is a weak one; it is neither swift nor impartial. It is at this moment politicized and not free. One such a system gives out a verdict; it is always in the favor of the powerful, it is always oppressing the week. When a person does not get justice and is cheated of his basic rights, he will go to all ends which provide a sliver of hope that it will help him attain justice. This is where the religious extremists exploit the people’s dilemmas and grievances and provide them false hope. And a person who has nothing to lose, one who has lost his son and not received justice for it will always fall prey to these proposals shown in the light of magnificence and glamor.
The only way to counter them on this front is to make a free and fair judicial system to provide the people the justice they deserve, regardless who is the getting incriminated. Only then can we become a system that can stand and prevail, that can pass the test of time.
Stanford Criminal Justice Center
All the stated above problems and their solutions stay in the hands of the government. The responsibility to ensure these measures prevail rest on the shoulder of the people in power. Once the correct ways are clarified to the masses they will become the undying source of power and dependence for the government to carry out the objective of making Pakistan a progressing and terror-free state. A state of tolerance. A nation of Justice. And a country that has stood true to its ideology and broken the chains of barring it from becoming the example for time to follow.
Featured Image Credits: Pakistan Ka KhudaHafiz