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The Science of Islam-Based Terror

By understanding the roots and motivations of jihad, we can begin crafting strategies to defeat it.

by
Moorthy Muthuswamy

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August 30, 2009 - 12:05 am
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A number of important advances made in the past decade are now helping us to put together a scientific model or theory of the phenomenon of religion-based terror. This has ranged from new studies on the contrasting evolution of India and Pakistan, to a recent statistical analysis of Islamic doctrines and an analysis of the impact of the propagation of Islam funded through Middle Eastern petrodollars. On the side of tackling terror, insights have been gained on the origin of terror and its propagation. We are also able to better understand how a broad coalition of people and nations could be mobilized to tackle terror. Some ideas have been developed on how, by advancing rational thinking, one might wean away educated Muslims from terrorist ideologies.

The context of studying the relative evolution of India and Pakistan is that although the majority religions in these two nations are different, they share language, culture, ethnicity, and culinary habits, and yet Hindu-majority India has managed to create wealth and focus on development but Islamic Pakistan has turned into a major fountainhead of religion-based terror.

Statistical analysis is a useful tool for deciphering the character of an entity or ideology that sends out mixed signals, perhaps to camouflage its true intent.

It is now increasingly realized that there are specific political objectives behind the religion-based terror war called jihad. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden outlined a condition for terror attacks against America to cease: “I invite you to embrace Islam.” During the past sixty years most non-Muslim minorities in all Muslim-majority regions of South Asia were terrorized into leaving for nearby non-Muslim-majority lands. Those who stayed behind were subjected to state-sponsored discrimination and exclusion, so that they would either convert to Islam or leave the country. All of this points to conquering — even during contemporary times — land and people for Islam.

If conquest is the ulterior motive then terror should be just one of the — albeit important — means of achieving the objective. Indeed, in Muslim-minority nations such as India, Islamists are seen to gain access to power through their control of the Muslim vote block and then promote or advocate policies that advance their agenda. This may be called a non-violent form of jihad.

From where does the passion to conquer come?

A recent groundbreaking statistical examination of Islamic doctrines appears to overwhelmingly identify the roots of the motivation to conquer with the doctrines themselves. About sixty-one percent of the contents of the Koran are found to speak ill of unbelievers or call for their violent conquest; at best only 2.6 percent of the verses of the Koran are noted to show goodwill toward humanity. While there might be some subjectivity to this analysis, the overwhelming thrust of the inferences should be taken note of. This new analysis sheds light on not only understanding the roots of terror, but also on how to address Islamic radicalism.

Even if conquest is emphasized in the doctrines, if the structure of a religion itself allows room for personal growth, the focus of its adherents will likely be oriented constructively inward.

What is now commonly known as Sharia or Islamic law deals with many aspects of day-to-day life. This “divine” law was formulated over a thousand years ago and reflects the customs and traditions of Arab tribes of a bygone era. Just about all communities in Muslim-majority nations find themselves under different degrees of the Sharia — and, as a result, are hard-pressed to embrace a modern way of life, including modern education. This is the likely reason that, despite oil wealth, in the Human Development Index (HDI) published each year by the United Nations — a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, and standards of living — of the 32 countries rated “high” in 2006, not one was a Muslim-majority country. However, of the 30 countries rated “low,” 16 were Muslim countries.

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