Photograph of Anil Chawla

Moving Beyond Islamic Terrorism

Author - Anil Chawla

Islamic or Muslim Terrorism is a term that is often used, even though there are some who insist that terrorism has no religion. Terrorists who blew up the Twin Towers or the ones who attacked in Mumbai or Paris often use Islamic texts to justify their acts. I do not have significant knowledge of Islam to be able to decide whether terrorist acts are truly Islamic or not. However, I do know that terrorists believe that their acts are Islamic. And I am wise enough to never try to argue with a man holding a gun. So, I nod my head in agreement and concede that their acts are indeed Islamic.

Islam Will Dominate the World. Freedom can go to hell.

From a perspective of a Hindu observer trying to make sense out of the various developments across the globe, I feel that the label Islamic terrorism is grossly inadequate and is indeed misleading. Islam is not a monolithic structure. The divisions among the different sects of Islam are so sharp and bitter that it is worthwhile to look at Islam as many separate identities. The animosity among Shias, Sunnis, Bohras, Ahmedis and such other sects is so fiery that the label Islamic is practically meaningless and should be avoided.

Islamic Maddhabs Through the World Map

By Peaceworld111 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I most humbly propose that the labels for terrorism or for political expansionism be based on the sects - Sunni, Shia etc. For example, ISIS is clearly a Sunni organization believing in Sunni political expansionist ideology and using terror as a tool. My Shia friends in Lucknow have probably as much aversion to ISIS as any Christian or Hindu. Calling ISIS as Islamic terrorist organization inadvertently gives the absolutely wrong impression that Shias in Lucknow also support ISIS.

Iran is the leader and supporter of Shia organizations across the world. Iran may have its own political expansionist agenda which is distinctly Shia and anti-Sunni. One must not commit the mistake of bracketing Iranian political agenda with that of distinctly Sunni Saudi Arabia.

The divide between Shias and Sunnis (other sects of Islam are relatively small) is a historical reality that no one can deny. Developments of the past few weeks indicate that Russian leadership understands this divide very well. Russia's joining hands with Iran has clearly strengthened the Shias.

USA and most western countries have been friendly with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan posing that their relationship is based on economic, secular and strategic considerations. USA and her allies have in the past chosen to be blind to the religious aspect of their meddling in West Asia and Africa. It is high time that they realized that their intentional blindness has hurt them enormously. Al Qaeda as well as ISIS and Laskar-e-Taiba are Sunni political expansionist organizations who see USA and her NATO allies as their primary enemies.

Moving from an omnibus label like Islamic terrorism to sharply defined labels like Sunni or Shia organizations will bring higher level of clarity in strategic thinking in non-Muslim world. War on Terror cannot be won by muddled thinking.

29 November 2015

Please write to me your comments about the above article.

ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer and a lawyer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a legal and management consultant by profession.

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