(Practice Question: Ideology when intertwined with religious extremism, it becomes an even more potent mixture. Comment. – 250 words)
(Note: The contents of this article can be used in answering the questions relating to religion-oriented terrorism/extremism, the role of intelligence agencies, rise of theocratic states, Islamic State and its destruction, radicalization in India.
The content can also be used in Essay paper for themes relating to terrorism or radicalization.)
Author: M.K. Narayanan
The failure of ‘intelligence’ to recognize relegion-oriented terrorism
Intelligence is often referred to as the ‘missing dimension’ when there is a failure to anticipate critical developments of a political and strategic nature. To this day, for instance, many still wonder how the West and its intelligence agencies failed to realise the dimensions of Iran’s religious revolution, leading to the establishment of a theocratic state under Ayatollah Khomeini. Thus, intelligence agencies and policy-makers are usually unable to recognise the potential of movements about which they know little or understand even less.
Intelligence analysts are better off when it comes to matters arising from more pedantic issues and events. For example, in the case of non-denominational terrorism, which has been around for a long time, intelligence is better placed to understand its dimensions than that of religious-oriented terrorism. Any number of instances can be cited, wherein agencies failed to understand the emerging dimensions of religious-oriented terrorism. It was only after al-Qaeda carried out its spectacular attack on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, that the world truly woke up to this reality. The failure or inability to piece together missing pieces of non-secular thought, leading to a lack of understanding of the expanding saga of revolutionary violence, mostly of the religious variety, constitutes one of the most spectacular failures of intelligence in modern times.
The combined affect of ideology and religion
What is apparent as one surveys the global scene today is that the number and variety of terror groups is larger and more widespread than at any time previously. Ideology remains the main source of violent extremism. When intertwined with religious extremism, it becomes an even more potent mixture. Behavioural patterns contribute to escalation, from grievance redress to mobilisation, and on to violent extremism.
Propaganda and Ideology of the IS
It is important to appreciate the fact that the strength of Islamist terror groups, and especially that of the IS, lies not only in their military capabilities but more in their ideology and propaganda. Jihad and martyrdom continue to influence young Muslims to join their fold. So-called polarisation and the plight of religious minorities present them opportunities as well as soft targets.
Has the Islamic State (IS) been truly destructed?
Any premature celebrations of the so-called destruction of the Islamic State (IS) ‘Caliphate’ would be uncalled for. IS stormtroopers have moved from strongholds in Syria and Iraq to countries across Europe, Asia and Africa. Many regional franchises linking individual IS and al-Qaeda groups are already in the works.
As the IS lost ground in Syria and Iraq, parts of Africa became the new battleground. More than a dozen African countries across two broad belts of Africa — from Somalia and Kenya in the east through Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal in the west — are facing a wave of Islamist terrorism. During the past two years, unverified reports indicate the deaths of more than 10,000 and the battle continues in unrelenting fashion.
Boko Haram, a one-time affiliate of the IS, has been even more sanguinary than the IS or al-Qaeda. Al-Shabab in Somalia, the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen in Mali, and several others continue to thrive in parts of Africa.
Afghanistan is the other main epicentre of radicalised Islamist terror. The years 2017 and 2018 have been particularly bad in terms of the number of terror attacks and casualties resulting from these attacks. Terrorist groups there have carried out four major terror attacks, killing over 160 people and there have been several similar indiscriminate attacks, leading to the deaths of many more civilians and soldiers.
The Challenge for India:
Given the climate of violence, and the determination of radical groups to wage war, India cannot afford to be oblivious to what is happening around us. It cannot afford the luxury of amnesia, given the kind of terror threats that we faced in the past.
Khalistan revival: Very recently, there have been attempts by Sikh extremist groups in quite a few western nations including Canada, USA and United Kingdom to revive the demand for Khalistan and of self-determination for Sikhs. A revitalised movement for a separate Sikh state can cause problems within India, sooner rather than later. India is currently preoccupied with terror attacks from Pakistan, and the role of organisations such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in sponsoring terror attacks from across the border. Notwithstanding this, India must not be oblivious to attacks from other radical Islamist sources. According to reports, both the IS and al-Qaeda are engaged in a fierce competition to enlarge their activities in India. There are also attempts being made to secure more recruits from India. The territorial demise of the IS in Syria and Iraq is likely to exacerbate insurgencies elsewhere, as was witnessed after the ‘Afghan Jihad’ in the 1980s and 1990s.
India must realise that some of the world’s top 10 most wanted terrorists are located in its vicinity (the Haqqani brothers, LeT Chief Hafiz Saeed, JeM leader Masood Azhar and Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi).
“Quote-worthy – Ideology remains the main source of violent extremism. When intertwined with religious extremism, it becomes an even more potent mixture.”
Read the full article at The Hindu.