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Genesis of Extremism and Terrorism

by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

“Terror destabilises, not constructs; and instability creates vacuum, filled, for more often than not, by those with a fascistic agenda, whether that fascism is sponsored by religious fundamentalism or multinational colonialism”, wrote Huck Gutman, professor of English in the University of Vermont, USA.

There is no denying the fact that terrorism thrives within the illegitimate borders of occupation and dictatorship; it festers behind security walls put up by imperial powers; it crosses those borders and climbs those fences to explode inside the countries responsible for, or complicit in, occupation and domination. The manifestations of this a priori can be observed both in Palestine and Kashmir.

In 1979, the USSR entered Afghanistan with its thousands of troops to prop up the newly established pro-Soviet regime which was near collapse due to lack of political and military support. But the truth was that the US began aiding the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahedeen six months before the Russians made their move. According to Zbigzeniew Brazezinski, the then security advisor to Jimmy Carter, this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

However, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan still raised alarm bells in Western capitals. It was feared that such a move by the Soviet was a serious threat to the vested interests of America in South Asia as well as in the Middle East and that the Russian’s old dream of controlling hot waters could come true. The USA was reluctant to engage in direct confrontation with the Soviets. Instead the Americans cajoled General Zia ul Haq, the sixth president of Pakistan, to launch offensive against Russians from within his country with arms and money supplied by them. Zia, with the help and guidance of his intelligence agency ISI, was responsible to train and arm the Mujahedeen in partnership with the CIA. Zia ul Haq, a self-acclaimed fervent Islamist, was determined to drive the “Godless, atheists and Communist menace” out of Afghanistan. Recruitment and training of volunteers from almost all over the world, particularly from the Muslim countries of Middle East and Africa as well as China, to take part in the war effort against the “evil “of Communism.

The bulk of Mujahedeen, who were readily willing to sacrifice their lives to defeat Soviet infidels, were Afghans and Pakistanis. It has been alleged that the Pak Army’s battalions in Mujahedeen outfits were also included in the fighters. Billions of dollars were poured into the war effort by the USA and Saudi Arabia. In fact, Saudis matched the USA’s contributions dollar-for-dollar for the purchasing of arms and paying the Mujahedeen. In addition, private donations to help Mujahedeen in their war efforts against the Soviets amounted to 20 million dollars per month at their peak. Osama bin Laden was one of the prominent fighters among Mujahedeen. He too contributed heavily in terms of finance to the Afghani Jihad.


 Meanwhile Gen Zia was killed in an air crash with the American Ambassador and a few military top officers. By this time, he was convinced that American policies toward the Muslim world were loathsome and designed to maintain its hegemony upon Muslims.

When the Soviets left Afghanistan, America too deserted that country leaving behind the Afghan war lords who continued to fight with one another for another decade while the Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI continued to manipulate them. At that period of time “interior depth” became a catch word in Pakistani politics. It was said that Pakistan is in dire need of “interior depth” in Afghanistan. During this period, hordes of Afghan young pupils studying in various seminaries of Pakistan, especially one in Akorra Khatak, were ready to take over power from the warring Afghan war lords. These were the Taliban, now well equipped, trained and reedy to fight for Mullah Umer’s victory.

As the Taliban were invading the war-torn country, on their way to Kabul, they swept away war lords like Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, a one-time hot favourite of Pakistan’s ISI. Their Chief or Amir was a one-eyed Mullah Omar who defeated his opponents and established the Taliban government in 1996. Afghanistan, thus, became a safe haven of Osama bin Laden, a rich Saudi national, who organised his terror group Al-Qaeda, now to revenge USA after having dealt with the Soviets.

The decision of the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan, was hailed as the humiliating defeat for the Soviets and a great victory for the Mujahedeen forces and the USA. The West celebrated the victory with a sigh of relief but without the realisation of this victory’s long-term consequences. America and its allies in the war were so much intoxicated with their victory that they failed to recognise they are leaving behind both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the rapidly growing monster of Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

It has to be understood that America and Saudi Arabia were the main culprits of creating and nourishing the monster of Al Qaeda and Taliban and Pakistan was used by them, as a front-line state, because of Zia’s belief in religious obscurantism. As a result, the country is still facing and suffering extremism and terrorism and ranked internationally as having witnessed the worst forms of violence and terrorism next to Iraq.

Then came the catastrophe of 9/11 when 19 terrorists, 17 of which were Saudi nationals, hit the twin towers and the Pentagon. The intelligence sources pointed out the involvement of Osama bin Laden in the attack. Mullah Omar adamantly refused to hand him over to the US and hence, the invasion of Afghanistan by US and its NATO allies, which continues till today.

Another illegal war was imposed on Iraq in 2003 in the name of democracy by Bush and Blair. In subsequent years Libya, Syria and Yemen were also invaded by American imperialists and their allies ostensibly under the guise of changing regimes and gifting freedoms and democracy to the peoples of these countries. Instead, all these nations and their wealth, national and cultural heritage and the infrastructure has been destroyed to unprecedented levels. Millions of innocent civilians have met their deaths in horrible ways and millions have been forced to leave their home lands to become unwanted refugees. The countries that were responsible for causing decimation and destruction of their countries are refusing to accept them as refugees.

All the panic, volatility, unrest and political instability and divisions deliberately created by the West in some Muslim countries is, in fact, the major contributory factor in the rise of extremism and terrorism. Any people would resort to violence if they are pushed to the wall.

In desperation, people can engage in activities which in normal circumstances they will avoid. The younger generation of Muslims globally are not willing to submit meekly to the powerful and to be subdued, dictated and controlled. Unlike their despotic rulers, they hate to be subservient to the powerful West. The rapid advancement in technology and the access to the internet coupled with social media are playing the most important role in disseminating all sorts of information in a matter of seconds even to the most remote areas of the world.

The extremist and terrorist groups like Daesh and Al Qaeda have come into being and have organised themselves only in those countries which have no effective governments and are engulfed in civil wars. They are just filling the vacuum. They DO NOT enjoy the popular support. The victims of their brutality and savagery are 99.9 per cent Muslims. If these war- torn countries are allowed by the imperialist power and its partners to restore normalcy in accordance with their political, cultural and religious values, the perpetrators of extremism and terrorism will die their natural deaths. They only flourish in areas where either there are no governments at all or are very weak and ineffective.

However, in Western Europe, the terrorism committed by a tiny number of Muslims is a direct reaction to state terrorism perpetrated by the USA and its allies in the Middle East and elsewhere and the biased and lopsided policy in relation to Palestine and Kashmir. To be quite explicit and honest, I will say without any fear of contradiction that the terrorist acts in Great Britain are intrinsically linked to our policy of intervention in the domestic politics of the countries under discussion.

In other words, we have to review our foreign policy. British Muslim communities have been consistently demonised and dehumanised by certain sections of our national press and media. Of course, any act of terror is abominable and unacceptable in any civilised and peaceful society and anyone who is found to be preaching and promoting such an obnoxious ideology must be brought to book and punished. But to paint the entire community with the same brush is not only unfair and unjust, it is also harmful for community cohesion. As a whole, the 3 million British Muslims are a law-abiding and peaceful community and have lived in Britain for longer than half a century.

The government and security agencies have been complacent in nipping the evil of extremism in the bud as it began to raise its ugly head in the nineties. I wrote a paper in 1999 warning the Labour government of the growing danger of extremism among a few Muslim organisations who had established links with the outfits who were already engaged in terrorist activities in Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Although my paper was discussed in a meeting of the National Executive Committee, nothing was heard of any action thereof.

These organisations in Britain were financed by Saudi Arabian individuals as well as government. It is ironical that Saudi Arabia, a country, which is well known for supporting, promoting and exporting terrorism, still remains a blue-eyed boy of the USA. Does it not expose the West for its double standards and hypocrisy?

The recent visit of Donald Trump to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia endorses the perpetuation, in that country, of the worst autocratic monarchy in the world. The speech he delivered in Riyadh should put an end to any hope of a rapprochement between the US and Iran. He called on Arab members of the recently formed defence alliance of 39 Muslim majority countries led by Saudi Arabia, to isolate Iran and held that country responsible for promoting global terrorism though Iran is vehemently opposed to Islamic State.

Trump openly took sides with religious, sectarian and political divisions of the Middle East and told the world that America would continue to be a part of the Saudi-led defence alliance which is fighting in Yemen. It is worth noting that Trump singled out Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organisations. Both of these are anti-Zionism and have long been opposed by the US and Israel. Trump knows that the growing conflict between Arab Sunnis and Shia Iran can become precursors to a future sectarian war in the region. America will ensure that they fall into such a folly. The American foreign policy makers have to learn fast that the era of unipolar world is over. Soon it has to face the challenges of new emerging powers with new alliances. As the present Leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, recently said Trump should build bridges and not walls. Trump should heed to his advice and work for the world and not for dividing the world and creating more divisions and hatred.

In Britain, since the 7/7 odious terrorist attacks in London, few more similar attacks have been carried out. In the space of twelve years, 85 innocent lives have been lost and more than two hundred injured. These horrific incidents are too many and even a loss of one life is too much. They have contributed to the increase of ISLAMOPHOBIA and divided our communities.

It is worth keeping in mind that militants are still capable of striking anywhere at any time. It is also worth noting that groups such as Daesh and the English Defence League are all the time on the lookout for sick and weak and individuals with a split personality to recruit them in their ranks and use them for a heinous motive of committing terror in our cities.

However, the overall impact of extremism and terrorism and the toll it is taking on our peoples’ lives is something that must be thoroughly examined at the widest level and this examination must have in its scrutiny the review of our Foreign Policy.


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