Does terror have a religion?

Published: July 23, 2011

A Muslim family lost a son who was in his early twenties and had gotten married just a couple of months ago. PHOTO: AFP

Does the bomb have a religion?

Does the blast discriminate among victims?

In the recent serial blasts in Mumbai, a Muslim family lost a son who was in his early twenties and had gotten married just a couple of months ago.

Is the pain of this family any less acute than that of many others who lost their loved ones but, belonging to a different religion or community?

Terror has victims not a religion. The merchants of terror know no religion. When someone dies in a terror attack in India, it’s an Indian who loses his or her life, not a Hindu or a Muslim.

So I ask: How is it justified to give a religious tag to terror?

Had terror had a religious affiliation, then Muslims in Pakistan should not have lost their lives at the hands of various terror groups. In the last six years, more than 35,000 Pakistanis have been killed in incidents of terror.

No doubt terrorism has found a safe haven in Pakistan, due to several political reasons, and this is a threat not only to the host country, but the entire region.

But, can we say that Muslims in Pakistan are great votaries of the terrorists’ cause and actions?

In an article in Foreign Affairs magazine, titled “Pakistan’s middle class extremists,” based on a survey  in Pakistan, it said that people are:

“generally negatively inclined toward all four militant organizations… Pakistanis living in violent parts of the country, in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa in particular, strongly disliked these groups… poor Pakistanis nationwide disliked the militant groups about two times more than middle class Pakistanis… (and) this dislike is strongest among poor urban residents.”

The terrorist groups don’t find overwhelming support among the fellow followers of faith. So terror has its own version of Islam, disjointed from the religion that the masses follow.

And, it’s politics and not religion that guide militant groups.

So I ask again. How justified is it to stoke the danger of Islamic terror in India and incite the majority Hindu population to make Muslims second class citizens?

After the recent attacks Subramaniam Swamy, the chief of a the single man Janta Party, and undeclared spokesperson of the Hindu rightist groups, wrote a piece in which he hurled accusations at the Muslim community for killing Hindus in “halal fashion” and asked Hindus to retaliate.

In a time when people are getting increasingly frustrated and paranoid with continuous terror attacks in different parts of India, particularly Mumbai, Swamy is trying to exploit the raw sentiments of the people to create divisions in the society, in the name of religion. And by doing this Hindu Swamy and his patrons are pandering to the design of those so called Islamic forces who want to turn India’s diversity into divisiveness, who want to keep the country’s religious fault-lines wide open thereby attacking the very idea of India.

If Islamist militant groups abhor India’s cosmopolitanism, its socialism of religious traditions and existence, so do the Hindu rightist groups, who have for long been trying to turn the country into a theocratic state.

Hindu rightists have been thriving by exploiting religion and by polarising democracy in the name of faith. Many blood baths took place in the 1980s in the name of establishing Ram Rajya and they also managed to demolish Babri Masjid, which left a great psychological scar on India’s secular tradition.

Narendra Modi, a by-product this kind of politics, violating his duties as chief minister of Gujarat, did as no other rulers in modern India had done before – he allegedly allowed the genocide against Muslims in 2002, thereby creating a deep wedge among the two faiths who have been coexisting together for ages.

The same design was at work in Kandhamal violence against Christians in Orissa in 2008, attacks against Christians in Karnatka in 2009 and the continuous proselytization of the non-religious tribals in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states.

Then there were the alleged terror attacks perpetrated by the Hindutva brigades in the last few years -the terror attacks in Malegaon in Maharashtra (2006, 2008), the Samjhauta Express bombings (2007), a bomb blast at the Sufi shrine in Ajmer Sharif (2007), the Mecca Masjid bombing, and an attack in Modasa in Gujarat (2008).

If looked at from a certain perspective, both the Hindutva groups and Islamist terrorists are working in tandem to disturb the society in South Asia, to turn the clock back to a violent and a disturbed past which we have been trying to push out of our consciousness.

Though the Hindutva forces don’t adopt suicide attacks and extreme violent methods in their operations and they are not as spread out as the Islamist groups are, they are however, very consistent in their campaign and do not miss an opportunity to exploit the situation to their favour.

It is to the credit of the Indian state that the fundamentalist groups do not get the kind of patronage they enjoy elsewhere. They have always been at the margin in India and people understand the design of the Hindu rightist groups. That’s the reason why a person like Narendra Modi is a persona non grata in some of the states in his own country; he is at the receiving end of an enquiry constituted by the country’s highest court and people like him are always exposed by the media and masses.

People of India have understood the designs of internal and external terrorists. This is the reason that no matter how grave the provocation is, they stand up to the terrorists by remaining united; they know that this is an attack not on a particular religion but on the sovereignty of the country.

People understand that jingoistic salvo and communal fires stoked by the shallow nationalist forces like Swamy have to be rejected to keep the idea of India intact.

People in Pakistan also realise the danger of such forces who are keeping them hostage in the name of Islam. Voices against the obscurantist forces are getting stronger and stronger there and they know that if they can’t check the march of such forces now it will endanger their existence.

Obscurantist forces, therefore, are not the followers of Islam and Hinduism – the faithfuls and believers don’t attack humanity, they cherish the bonds. The terrorist groups who attack innocents and kill and maim humanity have only one religion – the religion of terror.


Sanjay Kumar

The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics.

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

  • M Ali Khan

    “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”

  • Taimoor

    Why are we still debating this? The number of times we’ve asked ourselves and established that ‘terror does not have a religion’ is ridiculous, to the point that it’s intellectually stifling. I see absolutely no point in this article. It is like a fart to me. Recommend

  • Malay

    “Does the bomb have a religion?”

    No, it doesn’t have one. But one who plants it, surely has. That’s where he gets his inspiration from, at least that’s what he believes. Recommend

  • Secrecy

    Thank God! you mentioned other sects involved in terrorism in India. Otherwise, it has always been one sided to induce hatred among the readers. I really appreciate the points you have pen down. Indeed the bomb doesn’t have any religion its just those fanatic trying to destabilise the region. Recommend

  • sumeet

    my dear indian liberal,why you are stuck in this debate till now?you have vent anger against all hindu groups typical liberal let me start.
    definitely terror has religion if it is inspired by religion.if u dont believe me,go and read the email sent by IM just before the terrorist blast in gujrat where they asked hindus to accept point is neither narendra modi nor aseemanand is convicted yet,so how much u whine,that does not change the fact that their involvement is not confirmed.coming to orissa and as i am native of it,you dont know the ground realities neither the secular media brigade.the tussle between missionary and hindu group is always present there.there is a report that some christian missionary influcing innocent tribals to change their religion and when they opposed,the christian misbehaved.this news was reported by odia media but not by sickular media.and last but not the least i am not going to support swamy,as i partially support his views.Recommend

  • Paras Vikmani

    Very well written article.
    It pained me to read Swamy’s article in DNA.
    But I am more shocked that a respected daily like DNA allowed such communal article in its paper.Recommend

  • sumeet

    for author and everyone else,read the article seema mustafa vs subramanian swamy @ m on mobile and cant give u link.Recommend

  • Mir Agha

    Terror doesn’t have a religion, but “terrorists” do. Even as a muslim i can’t run away from the fact that most “terrorists” profess themselves to be muslim. But ofcourse there are real reasons they react in the way they do. Some are responding to terror by either states or political entities. Looking at it pragmatically they’re just another political force taking on a more established force with the means available to them. Spewing incoherent anti-Islamic diatrabes will not do, and neither will chanting “Islam is a religion of peace”. Addressing the real issues that lead to certain reactions are the only way.Recommend

  • hariharmani

    Sanjay Kumar you are off base,I never ever reply to blue-eyed one sided liberals as they are always dishonest,if you could, you will drag bjp and rss in 9/11 and 26/11 also,since you could not,you equate all terror acts as even,they are not,.you, just ,case in point,took case of one mumbai died who was muslims,you should have sympathy for him,what about the rest of mumbai?,and you are all wrong about Orrisa hindu/missionary problem,just to be devils advocatacy,hindu’s supposed to be meek and change religion,then they are good guys?strenge logic.The reason India has terrorism,because it has been politised by power to be.In usa ,terrorist are dealt with seversly,life without parole,do you get it? ,tell how long will it for you to meet out punishment to convicted murderer and terrorist.?1993,1999,2002,2003,2009,does this dates ring bell?and july 2007 in London and MadridRecommend

  • parvez

    Nice write up. Everyone knows its not about religion but the gross misuse of religion for political ends. In Pakistan the immense almost irreparable damage that is being done and allowed to be done in the name of religion and consequently to religion is frightening.Recommend

  • Satya

    Dr. Subramanian Swamy’s Article. It takes courage to speak the truth. I completely agree with Dr. Swamy.

  • Dhananjay

    Yes, Terror has religion if the perpetrators claim inspiration from it or if religious authorities justify it.Recommend

  • Kazmis

    We are still discussing about religion of a terrorist. What is the religion of a soldier? but he still kills people on the order of his command. In the world people are not killing people due to religion it is the command, great command of different well famous agencies, to complete their agenda by exploiting different factions of the religion, faith, language etc.Recommend

  • Mark

    It’s a shame their main motivation is a rejection of beliefs outside their own. So, nothing anyone says will be seen as reasonable or given any consideration beyond taking the time to acknowledge the differing view and use it only as proof of deserving to be killed. That’s why they have to go. It really is an “us or them” scenario and they won’t have it any other way. After all, they believe in forcing their belief upon others. To them it’s only a matter of time until you submit and agree with the religious link, it doesn’t matter what you currently believe beyond acknowledging you as the enemy.Recommend

  • vickram

    If the minority community wants to hurt majority community, through violence, the majority community will retaliate with disproportionate response. This is universal law.

    This is not a Football match penalty shoot-out; one team scores 4 and other scores 5 and the match comes to an end.

    If the minority flexes it muscle, majority will flex its muscle too. World over, this happens again and again.

    In Godhra, muslims burnt 50 odd people alive in a train. Hindus retaliated immediately and there were riots for 3 days, before army was called in. This was not genocide, but, a disproportionate response.

    If a minority community does this in UK or France or in Denmark or in US, the same thing will happen. The majority community will respond with vengeance, with all the pent-up anger against the minority and the government that has been appeasing them.

    I am not supporting this action or justifying it; all I am saying is, this is how the real world works. This is how people will respond to a given situation. If a minority community kills 50 people, the majority will respond by killing 3000. This is what happened every where, from Sri Lanka to Rwanda to Israel to Serbia to Sudan.

    If Hindus or Christians burn 50 muslims alive in Pakistan, how do you think, the muslims will respond?Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    As the nobel prize winning physicist, Steven Weinberg said:

    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”Recommend

  • parvez

    @Loneliberal PK:
    This quotation is so simple and yet so profound. The message it gives has to be a cause for intelligent debate. Thanks for sharing this.Recommend

  • goggi

    Does terror have a religion?
    Terror is a religion!Recommend

  • Malay

    @Loneliberal PK

    Thanks for sharing this piece of profound wisdom.

    Wish you all the best.Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    @Taimoor We’re debating this because people still relate Islam to terrorism and they have to be reminded it’s not. Plus it is important to note that every society has its right wing extremists, which is also evident in India as per the author and also recently in Norway.Recommend

  • gp65

    Since Dr. Swamy’s article has prompted this blog, I would like to provide a link that gives you his article, a rebuttal to his article by Seema Mustafa and finally a review of both those articles by a 3rd party who has concluded that Seema Mustafa’s rebuttal did not have merit.

    Please read and cme to your own conclusions.

  • Abhi

    The question should be does terror have an agenda? If yes what should be done to fight it?
    And what should be done to those who pretend to fight the terror but support the agenda?Recommend

  • Sahrish

    No religion incite violence. It is when something divinely is misinterpreted, all hell ensues. Those, who misinterpret usually have a political agenda or want power. Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    It’s apt to say that not all Muslims are terrorists, and some are, in fact, incredibly devoted to bringing peace to the world.

    But that’s the same as arguing that not all cigarette smokers are cancer patients. Be that as it may, the incidence of lung cancer among smokers is high enough to confirm an association between smoking and development of cancer.Recommend

  • goggi

    Does the bomb have a religion?”
    The bomb belongs to the most wide-spread religion of the whole mankind´s history. The name of it´s religion is “Satanic indiscriminate destruction”. This bomb comes into existence only then, when all destructive, negative and satanic energies in the human are put together to assemble it. Whoever promotes the construction of bombs, whoever sells it or buys it, whosoever possesses it, whosoever uses it, they ALL belong to this SATANISM! “The Little Boy” and “The Fat Man” symbolize the highest manifestation of this Satanism. When we understand the horrible magnitude of this Satanic religion, how it has infiltrated in our minds and thinking as individuals or as State ideology, the heart stops beating of fear and disgust……..Recommend

  • pardesi

    Yes, Islam.Recommend

  • G. Din

    ““The Little Boy” and “The Fat Man” symbolize the highest manifestation of this Satanism. “
    Unmitigated garbage and balderdash!
    I am afraid you appear to be a jehadi of another hue!Recommend

  • goggi

    @G. Din:
    In the remembrance of the victims of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. May Peace and Humanity prevail…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    Who were THE LITTLE BOY and FAT MAN? Watch the following Unmitigated garbage and balderdash!….Kind regards to all Indians !………………………………………………………………………..

  • G. Din

    In the mathematics of wars, one takes decisions just as one would when taking a business decision. We talk about trade-offs. Today we are faced with the same kind of fanatically fascist enemy as we faced at the end of a six-year bruising, tiring world war when no amount of rational arguments about a sure defeat for him would make the enemy back down. Europe had capitulated, Japan would not even though knowing the end was near.
    It takes an intellect of a very high moral order to make a tough decision of whether to drop Little Boy and Fat Man on Nagasaki and Hiroshima and risk vast destruction of those two cities (it could have been any two cities) or to continue a stalemate where infinitely greater number of casualties, not to speak of collateral destruction, would have resulted. Japan would for sure have been literally obliterated at the end (Recall the bombing of Dresden). So, was it wiser to obliterate the two cities and stop the sure carnage to follow or go the whole hog? No easy choice, both bad choices but obviously one worse than the other to any rational man. Leaders rise to the occasion and a great man, without worrying about his legacy, bit the bullet. For that compassionate act, countless prospective widows and orphans, both Japanese and of the Allied forces, shall always be grateful!Recommend

  • hariharmani

    @G. Din: Mr Din,no American,not even Mr President Truman could have articulated an answer to psyido blue eyed liberral so insightful as you have done.It is easy for arm chair liberal to sit on judgement,as they do not have any responcibility
    . Very well doneRecommend

  • jai

    @G. Din:
    Your whole argument is based on japan would have, could have, should have and not facts. Japan was in the process of putting together a surrender “package”, the only main sticking point was that they wanted to keep their emperor, and America refused…Ironically, after the bombs were dropped, Japan unconditionally surrendered only to have the Americans allow them to keep Hirohito as head of state, though his official powers were drastically reduced.

    Read more:

    So personally i think the US just wanted to test their newly acquired nuclear bombs on real people regardless of peace offers and also intimidate Russia..Recommend