“Terror groups only kill non-Muslims”: 5 misconceptions about terror groups

Published: December 5, 2015

In reality, most of the terrorists have little to no knowledge of Islam and its teachings. PHOTO: REUTERS

Knowing your enemy is the very first step in fighting and defeating the threat it poses to your existence. Your enemy will always try to fool you with misinformation, so you never find out his actual motives and tactics.

The world, both in the West and the East, has been fighting terrorism for decades, even before America saw the brutality of 9/11. The 9/11 terror attacks shifted all the efforts toward growing terrorism in the name of Islam and it was named as the ‘war on terror’.

This war has been going on for 14 years now – with attacks around the world only increasing in recent times. Along with these attacks, the misconceptions surrounding these terror groups are also snowballing. Out of the many misconceptions floating around about terrorists, the following will, hopefully, make you change your views on Islam and terrorism:

1. They only kill non-Muslims

One of the most widespread misconceptions about terrorists is that they only carry out attacks on non-Muslims and keep their Muslim brethren unharmed. On the contrary, the statistics studied by Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the United States’ Military Academy suggest that more Muslims have lost their lives at the hands of different barbaric militias since 9/11, around the world, as compared to non-Muslims.

The streets of Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and other Muslim countries are flooded in the blood of innocent civilians. The self-proclaimed Islamic State has killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. Further evidence comes from the recent report published by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ISCR) which reveals that the terror group is primarily concerned with killing the co-religionists without any discrimination of Shia and Sunni. Hence, don’t ever assume that your Muslim neighbour has any sympathy towards such barbaric groups, s/he might have lost one of his/her loved ones back in his/her country of origin.

2. Recruitment takes place inside mosques

The irresponsible suggestion upon which right-wing politicians in the West urge the closure of mosques and madrassas, to dismantle terror networks, is also predominantly based upon the same myth that terror recruitment takes place inside mosques.

Secret agencies and different police departments have already tried infiltrating mosques to monitor such suspicions and always end up without any success, earning notoriety for illegitimate surveillance.

On the other hand, most investigations linked the recruitment to prisons that our states largely ignore. The same is true for the Charlie Hebdo attackers in Paris earlier this year, where culprits were radicalised during their imprisonment term. The architecture of ISIS was also inked in Guantanamo. I hope politicians and spies pay a little attention to their corrective detention facilities instead of blaming places of worship of any religion.

3. They are experts on or representatives of Islam

Terror groups like ISIS and al Qaeda fool the masses by appearing as Muslim visionaries (jihadists) and experts on Islamic jurisprudence and theology. Most of us, unfortunately, believe their camouflage and think that Islam teaches such barbarism.

In reality, most terrorists have little to no knowledge of Islam or its teachings. A French journalist who was held prisoner by ISIS described how the ideology his captors spoke of had little to do with religion. He said,

“It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran. We didn’t even have the Quran; they didn’t want even to give us a Quran.”

If they did truly follow Islam, they would know that Islam strongly discourages killing, so much so that the Holy Quran states that the ‘killing of one man is equivalent to killing all of humankind’. So let your kids study and gain knowledge of Islamic culture and history in their schools, as knowing the true teachings of it greatly reduces the chances of radicalisation.

4. They operate in utmost synergy

A strategic misconception that most have regarding terror groups is that they act in utmost synergy with other terror outfits operating under different names from different areas. But in reality, they consider other terror outfits as rivals and always prioritise in defeating them first. This can be seen in Afghanistan lately where Taliban groups are fighting the recent recruits of ISIS instead of collaborating with them in any manner. It clearly manifests the fact that the objective of such groups is not to have an Islamic emirate or to fulfil a religious obligation but only to seize more power, money and slaves.

5. Wahhabism inspires terrorism

Unarguably, terrorism has no religion, colour or boundaries, but we ignore to realise that it does not have any sect either when we associate militancy among Muslims with Wahhabism or Salafism. Hezbollah and Taliban are perfect examples supporting the fact that it is not Wahhabism that promotes terror but the geo-strategic and political realities.

The most eminent scholar of political Islam in the last century, Abul Ala Maududi, who later inspired various Islamists and jihadi groups around the world, was also not a Wahhabi (Patterson, 2010). We can blame Saudi Arabia for supporting proxies in the Middle East but attributing it to a belief is unjustifiable.

Studying terror groups in Russia, China, North Africa, Middle East and South Asia will simply make it clear that terrorism is not exclusive to Salafists. So never fall prey to any religious or sectarian bigotry while criticising terrorism.

Rashid Khan

Rashid Khan

The author is a web journalist and a peace activist. His work focuses on global conflicts and the role of religion in Muslim societies. He is also the co-founder of the "Council on the Protection of Worship Places, Pakistan" and tweets as @RashidGujjar (twitter.com/RashidGujjar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Swaadhin

    “They only kill non-Muslims”

    So, it is ok to be killed just because they are killing Muslims too? If the words “Infidel” or “Kuffar” has anything to do with Non Muslims going by the Islamic scholars themselves, the non Muslims need to be seriously concerned about these terrorists because they are going to spare Muslim lives provided they follow their version of the faith but non Muslims do not have the same luxury.

    ” Recruitment takes place inside mosques”

    I am sure it does not happen in most mosques but would you be able to tell me why does a congregation in a Mosque need to discuss America, Burma, Iraq and so on?

    “They are experts on or representatives of Islam”

    Don’t counter the non Muslims on it, you need to counter your own. I have never seen any of the enlightened folks like the author being able to prove any of the extremists wrong in a debate.

    “Wahhabism inspires terrorism”

    Your example of Taliban not being Wahabis is a joke, they might be called Deobandis but we all know how close the Deobandis are to the Wahabis. You just need to see the way a common Muslim has changed in the subcontinent in the last two decades since the Saudis started funnelling the mosques with their petro dollars.Recommend

  • charles

    “One of the most widespread misconceptions about terrorists is that they
    only carry out attacks on non-Muslims and keep their Muslim brethren
    That’s rubbish – I would argue that few (if any) believe that terrorist only attack non Muslims and the fact that this author thinks it’s “widespread” tells you that the entire article is shabby.Recommend

  • Sami

    I totally disagree with your assessment especially with your last paragraph. Comparing regional movements of violence with global religious violence does not make much sense to me. It is like comparing Apples with Oranges.
    Also how long we will deny that terrorists infact do not have any religious ideology. The same ideology in Islam that okays the killings on the name of Apostacy and Blasphemy do allow other types of killings with certain conditions. So if Islamic countries do follow these teachings then their masses can go a step further and can resort to violence using the same ideology.Recommend

  • PeacefulIslam

    The biggest misconception:

    Pakistanis thinks they are leaders of Ummah and has been given authority by other 1 billion+ peaceful Muslims to preach/complain on their behalf. Get real! Most of the non-Pakistani Muslims around the world, don’t want to associated with Pakistan as it brings nothing but bad reputation.

    Even during the recent California shooting, the first one to distance Muslims from Pakistan was the arab Muslim lawyer of CAIR, Hussam Ayloush! It was very obvious from his statements that CAIR was trying to distance Muslims Americans from PakistanisRecommend

  • Hassan

    I think we must unveil the truth. All terrorist groups relate to Wahhabi sect. Hezbollah only fight with Israel and USA dajjal and their machinery like DAESH. Please do not biased report.Recommend

  • vinsin

    1) Muslims those who die in terrorism are consider as non-Muslims by terrorists.

    2) Teaching of those certainly takes place inside Mosques.

    3) Well anywhere 8-10% of world Muslim do support them. Infact, they have perfect knowledge of Islam.

    4) Seizing seize more power, money and slaves is part of Islam.

    5) Maududi opposed Jihadi groups and said clearly only state had authority to launch Jihad. He opposed sending of tribesman to take Kashmir.Recommend

  • Bhimpole

    Sorry to burst your bubble. Terrorists are Wahabi Sunnis. And it
    includes, Khawariji Sunnis. Hezbullah? You used them as face saving.
    They are nothing like ISIS. You injected Hexbullah’s name in the blog
    just give the Sunnis a face saving exit, nothing more. Pathetic.
    Prime example, the Wahabi Ideology was exported to Pakistan
    over a thirty year period [and other countries, Muslim or otherwise]
    through guest worker programs [ another name for indentured, illiterate,
    workers, who are treated worse than animals.. That is true even today.
    Then the madrassas sprouted like cancer, everywhere.
    So yes, the terrorists subscribe to the Sunni brand of Islam.Recommend

  • Shanker

    “Terror groups only kill non-Muslims” if it is wrong, then there is severe problem with Muslim community and its government, which they have to sort out……Recommend

  • The Truth

    So you mean it would be more desirable ‘if they killed only non-muslims’ ?Recommend

  • Random

    This should actually be titled – “5 misconceptions about terrorists that muslims want to believe”Recommend

  • Amir

    This is a sorry article to justify what?
    The fact is that there is an abscence of justice to counter fundos, and protect their freedom of speach. If and when KKK did terrorized the people, law was there to counter it. When Salman Taseer murdered the governor, our lawyers were there to ornate with him garland of flowers. Most Muslim countries are or have been ruled by dictators who subjugated their people. Yes the west supported these dictators for their own self interest. And the Muslims do the same. Look at Afghnistan. Pakistan, KSA, and other muslim nations played their games and look at the result.

    As long as justice is missing from our system, this killing will go on.

    We are furious when Israel or India attacks Muslim (minority for them) and condemn their actions, protest against them…yet when we do the same to Ahmadis or other minorities, we cheer or stay silent.Recommend

  • Anshika

    “Terror groups only kill non-Sunnis”Recommend

  • Bhimpole

    Good comment. No doubt. clear concise. Calling a spade a spade.
    Let us be more specific. Only “Sunnis, Wahabi Sunnis and Khawariji Sunnis”
    [in whatever country], follow these Sharia Laws. Let us not generalize.
    Shias have nothing to do with this poisonous, toxic, virulent, sick ideology. Shias, do not wear suicide vests, and blow up
    women and children. Or do mass murder of unarmed civilians, going about
    their daily lives…. Muslims or otherwise.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    4. ex-Al Qaeda ISIL is a recent phenomenon that has tried to cannibalize other groups, except those that pledge allegiance like the Boko Haram. This is not the case with Al Qaeda with other rebel groups despite some differences, be it their branches in Syria, Yemen or North Africa. And even though the Taliban have internal rifts, they attempt to work it out and had partnership with Al Qaeda before then.

    5. Canada lists Sunni Islamist extremism particularly of the Wahhabi or Salafi kind as the top domestic and international terrorist threat. They don’t have to be necessarily Wahhabi or Salafi individual. While they’re all geo-political realities, there’s a difference in tactics by Shia Hezbollah and the Taliban, which the latter is still considered a Deoband group close to Wahhabism, particularly when it comes to suicide bombing or gunning civilians which the latter does. There is something called motive and reason. The Saudis support of proxies, be it the Afghan intervention or opposing Shia Iran maybe political, but them being a certain type of Sunni Islamists is born out of belief. Maybe not exclusive but unfortunately a large share.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    Interesting. By your point 1. You are saying that every living Muslims considers other a Muslim even if bad and full of hate. The moment that person dies while doing terror or is martyred he/she becomes a non-Muslims.

    Curious – What wash Maududi’s idea of a state?Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    What was this blog even?

    1. No one believes this.

    2. How can you say this without any evidence to support your arguments? There are numerous articles which prove this wrong. Recruitment often does take place in mosques at remote locations.

    3. Uhhh… it is how the interpret the meaning of the term ‘innocent’.

    5. This was your worst point. No evidence. Nothing. It is just a statement. I can say the sun is blue but it doesn’t make it true.

    For each of these points there are counterpoints backed by numerous documents, articles, and wikileaks pages. Again, what was this blog?Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    Point number 1 = false.
    Point number 2 = true.
    Point number 3 = Über false.
    Point number 4 = Ridiculously false
    Point number 5 = Not sure
    No point going into details really.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    Most of this article was apologetic, kind of saying nothing wrong, when there is a lot wrong. wake up and please finally try to smell the coffee. before it gets cold.Recommend


    : The recently concluded 972nd three
    days Urs of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore reminds us of the message of
    peace these Sufi Saints brought with them and preached. As a child in Pakistan I still remember these
    festivities. And today, just by observing the celebrations and number of
    attendees, it seems that the followers of these saints are still in large
    numbers even after 972 years.

    Today we see various terrorist organizations spreading the
    message of hatred and death. The results
    thus come in the shape of APS-Peshawar, Paris and San Bernardino massacres,
    where innocent lives are lost senselessly on pretext of false religious
    teachings. Terrorism is a common threat
    for both our nations, and our security forces are fighting these terrorists
    bravely every day to save the common citizens.

    President Obama in his Speech from the Oval Office said, “We
    cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war
    between America and Islam.” He further said, “That does not mean denying the
    fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. It’s
    a real problem that Muslims must confront without excuse.”

    Time has come for all to get together and reject the extreme
    ideology that targets innocent people and defeat those who perpetuate it any
    shape and form.

    Abdul Quddus
    DET – U.S. Central CommandRecommend

  • vinsin

    Muslims search for non-Muslims to prove their existence.

    Maududi idea was that only state has the authority to call for Jihad, individuals in a nation state cannot call for Jihad – state cannot function if Individuals keep declaring Jihad on state. Strangely that matches with Gandhi thinking – Only State can be violent not citizens.Recommend