Poverty is not the root cause of terrorism

art.tutu.afp.gi-thumb.jpgArch­bish­op Desmond Tutu has gone on record in an inter­view with CNN to say:

“You can nev­er win a war against ter­ror as long as there are con­di­tions in the world that make peo­ple des­per­ate — pover­ty, dis­ease, igno­rance, et cetera.

He said the dis­par­i­ty between the rich and poor in parts of the world caus­es insta­bil­i­ty and inse­cu­ri­ty, but added that he was hope­ful the rela­tion­ship between the two was becom­ing clear.

In which world is Desmond Tutu liv­ing? There is pover­ty is many regions of the world from where ter­ror­ism doesn’t orig­i­nate. There are many ways in which impov­er­ished peo­ple have tack­led their pover­ty — by immi­grat­ing to for­eign shores or rais­ing the over­all eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment of their coun­tries.

Ter­ror­ism in our age has been fueled by Osama, who is wealthy, and per­pe­trat­ed by Islamists who are edu­cat­ed and well-to-do.

Africa is one of the poor­est con­ti­nents in the world — strife with pover­ty, dis­ease, and igno­rance. How many ter­ror­ists has it pro­duced?

For­get the fact that ter­ror­ism needs an inor­di­nate amount of wealth — those weapons and the edu­cat­ed sophis­ti­ca­tion can­not come with­out it — ter­ror­ism can­not thrive with­out an ide­ol­o­gy behind it.

It is the fun­da­men­tal­ist, extrem­ist, Islamist ide­ol­o­gy that is fuel­ing ter­ror­ism, not pover­ty. And Mr. Tutu, until lead­ers like you fail to rec­og­nize this, we will con­tin­ue to suf­fer from it.

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  • She­faly

    The dis­tinc­tion between “pover­ty” and “dis­par­i­ty” as con­trib­u­to­ry fac­tors to ter­ror­ism needs to be clear; they are not tau­to­log­i­cal.

    One has an absolute­ness to it, the oth­er is rel­a­tive. Rel­a­tive pover­ty or “dis­par­i­ty” cre­ates desire and dis­sat­is­fac­tion, and inspires actions — legal or oth­er­wise — to acquire, to pos­sess and to retain.

    Some­body, please get Bish­op Tutu — and oth­ers — a dic­tio­nary!

  • Per­haps you may be defin­ing ter­ror­ism in nar­row, and cur­rent terms. Would it be cor­rect to pro­pose that ter­ror­ism is real­ly a kind of war­fare that has its roots in guer­ril­la war­fare? It is used by a side when it is out-matched or does not have the infra-struc­ture to car­ry full scale con­ven­tion­al war­fare. In Africa, look at the # of civ­il wars over the years, and look at the tech­niques each side uses and per­haps you had “ter­ror­ism” all along.

    Today, Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists cer­tain­ly use ter­ror­ism — but does that mean ter­ror­ism nev­er exist­ed before extrem­ist Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism? And that from now on ter­ror­ism is sole­ly asso­ci­at­ed with it?

    But I do think you have a point. Bish­op Tutu (I think) is indeed refer­ring to ter­ror­ism today and from that angle, I also think his point is not entire­ly cor­rect. But I am not sure you can pooh-pooh his point like you have done. I do think pover­ty can pro­vide an “tur­bo-charge” for ter­ror­ism. But there is no ques­tion that it is still only “side-ingre­di­ent” to the main-ingre­di­ent that is nar­row ide­ol­o­gy (not JUST Islam­ic).

    But why/when does nar­row ide­ol­o­gy have so much trac­tion? What fuels it (besides pover­ty IMO)? Why? Under­stand­ing that would be the first step towards solu­tion IMO. I don’t think the “lev­el-head­ed”, “ratio­nal­is­tic” (dig intend­ed but as a friend­ly one!) west has any patience for all that. Sim­ply say­ing “It is nar­row Ide­ol­o­gy — sil­ly!” — seems naive and sim­plis­tic.

  • //Perhaps you may be defin­ing ter­ror­ism in nar­row, and cur­rent terms. Would it be cor­rect to pro­pose that ter­ror­ism is real­ly a kind of war­fare that has its roots in guer­ril­la war­fare? It is used by a side when it is out-matched or does not have the infra-struc­ture to car­ry full scale con­ven­tion­al warfare.//
    Ter­ror­ism dif­fers from gueril­la war­fare in the kind of vic­tims it tar­gets. Gueril­la war­fare tar­gets spe­cif­ic, region­al, oppo­nents, ter­ror­ism tar­gets any­one and every­one. If you think this is defin­ing ter­ror­ism in ‘nar­row’ terms, ask any of the civil­ians from New York to Hyder­abad whether this is a ‘nar­row’ def­i­n­i­tion. Gueril­la war­fare has a spe­cif­ic oppo­nent — what is the spe­cif­ic oppo­nent in ter­ror­ism? Please enlight­en me!

    //In Africa, look at the # of civ­il wars over the years, and look at the tech­niques each side uses and per­haps you had “ter­ror­ism” all along. //
    Region­al con­flicts are dis­tinct from ter­ror­ism. Civ­il wars are dis­tinct­ly dif­fer­ent from ter­ror­ism.

    //Today, Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists cer­tain­ly use ter­ror­ism — but does that mean ter­ror­ism nev­er exist­ed before extrem­ist Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism? And that from now on ter­ror­ism is sole­ly asso­ci­at­ed with it?//
    Give me one exam­ple of ter­ror­ism with­out Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism, then I can respond. And, I’m not say­ing ter­ror­ism is soley asso­ci­at­ed with it — did I say so?

    //But I do think you have a point. Bish­op Tutu (I think) is indeed refer­ring to ter­ror­ism today and from that angle, I also think his point is not entire­ly cor­rect. But I am not sure you can pooh-pooh his point like you have done.//
    I am indeed going to “pooh-pooh” his point, since I think that it is not only com­plete­ly irrel­e­vant, but it is side step­ping the real issue at hand. And more, for a world leader to com­plete­ly miss the point entire­ly is evil! If you want to focus on world pover­ty, don’t use ter­ror­ism as leverage…it is pathet­ic!

    //I do think pover­ty can pro­vide an “tur­bo-charge” for ter­ror­ism. But there is no ques­tion that it is still only “side-ingre­di­ent” to the main-ingre­di­ent that is nar­row ide­ol­o­gy (not JUST Islamic)./
    In a way, you’re agree­ing with me. Pover­ty can be used as an enabler for inspir­ing peo­ple to ter­ror­ism, but can­not be the root of it. That is what I mean. Yes, it can be used by clever rich folks to ide­o­log­i­cal­ly manip­u­late peo­ple. The ‘tur­bo-charge’ you men­tion can be used by rich and wealthy peo­ple to brain­wash oth­er peo­ple. It doesn’t mean that pover­ty is the root of ter­ror­ism. And that is what my post is about.

    //But why/when does nar­row ide­ol­o­gy have so much trac­tion? What fuels it (besides pover­ty IMO)? Why? Under­stand­ing that would be the first step towards solu­tion IMO. I don’t think the “lev­el-head­ed”, “ratio­nal­is­tic” (dig intend­ed but as a friend­ly one!) west has any patience for all that. Sim­ply say­ing “It is nar­row Ide­ol­o­gy — sil­ly!” — seems naive and simplistic.//
    It is not pover­ty that fuels such ide­ol­o­gy, it is fun­da­men­tal­is­tic reli­gion. It is not ‘besides pover­ty’, but com­plete­ly inde­pen­dent of it. You are right — under­stand­ing it would be the first step. How­ev­er, we fail to under­stand it. Why? It is not the fail­ure of the ‘lev­el-head­ed’, ‘ratio­nal­is­tic’, ‘west’, that has no patience. You are right — sim­ply say­ing “It is nar­row ide­ol­o­gy — sil­ly” is indeed naive and sim­plis­tic. The real­i­ty is that it is not sil­ly, nor sim­plis­tic. It is Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism. It is the root cause of ter­ror­ism!

  • mahen­dra — If ter­ror­ism is push­ing your agen­da even at the cost of sac­ri­fic­ing inno­cent-cit­i­zens (and thus ter­ror­iz­ing them), then region­al con­flicts have used those tech­niques for a long long time. To sim­ply sep­a­rate the two and say­ing “region­al con­flicts is sep­a­rate from ter­ror­ism” — I can­not agree with it as it sim­ply is ignor­ing facts.

    > Give me one exam­ple of ter­ror­ism with­out Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism
    1. Peru.
    2. Tamil Tigers.
    3. Nax­alites in Andra Pradesh.
    4. The Ku Klux Klan (dif­fer­ent form but still very much ter­ror­ism)
    5. Maoists in Nepal, North-east India
    6. (Ok — a bit con­tro­ver­sial) Some free­dom fight­ers. They did blow up police sta­tions, offi­cials in the “gov­ern­ment”. This has even hap­pened dur­ing our inde­pen­dence strug­gle. I don’t know if the term ter­ror­ism exist­ed then — but they would have been labeled as exact­ly that.

    I am sure there are many more in his­to­ry :). Ter­ror­ism is old and it will con­tin­ue even if Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism is some­how tamed. The fun­da­men­tal prob­lem is NOT Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism, it is fun­da­men­tal­ism itself — i.e. the basic idea that “your way” is the only way for all, and you are will­ing to do any­thing, and sac­ri­fice any­one to remove obsta­cles in your path.

    Btw, I am not dis­agree­ing with you. I think your point is valid — just not entire­ly valid. I think you are ignor­ing issues (too) and giv­en that the tone of your post and judg­ments gave me dis­com­fort.

  • You see a high­er crime rate stem­ming from the low­er class of a non exis­tent yet exis­tent cast sys­tem in the U.S. yet why no rad­i­cal riots? In their eyes they are pover­ty stuck, that don’t have a chance b/c whitey has the upper hand (This is still in their eyes) With that said i don’t believe that pover­ty is the back­bone of Rad­i­cal Islam­ic Out­rage. I read a superb arti­cle on Ter­ror­ism and the upcom­ing elec­tion http://www.2008presidentialpoll.com/political-article/terrorists-go-ga-ga-over-hillary-clinton/

  • Well Said Arunk.

  • Far­thel

    well, not only Islamism, but any type of fun­damet­al­ism will casue war.

  • Mahen­dra, would you con­sid­er US for­eign poli­cies and secre­tive CIA plots over the past 50 years in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca and South Amer­i­ca (to begin with — there’s plen­ty more) that caused deaths of thou­sands of inno­cents as ter­ror­ism? Check out Sep­tem­ber 11, 1973 in the his­to­ry books wrt Chile. The per­pe­tra­tors of those crimes were nev­er brought to jus­tice. BTW, I do agree that Islamist fun­da­men­tal­ism is a huge con­cern and I do think that pover­ty is not a root cause of the ter­ror­ism you are refer­ring to, though it is tout­ed as such by some polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect peo­ple.

  • With the excep­tion of Ku Klux Klan (I am sur­prised that the Holo­caust was not includ­ed in that list; per­haps, the mil­lions of inno­cent Jews that Hitler and the Nazis gassed to death in Auschwitz don’t count?), the exam­ple orga­ni­za­tions giv­en by Arunk, do not tar­get civil­ians, almost exclu­sive­ly, as the Islam­ic ter­ror­ist do. Of course, as all state­ments on human and social behav­ior, there are always excep­tions to this, too, but those are excep­tions.

    How many restau­rants, schools, and com­muter trains have the Shin­ing Path gueril­las blown up? Nax­alites blow­ing up trains and bus­es is a very recent phe­nom­e­non; prob­a­bly, they are tak­ing a cue (and more) from their new-found friends! It is child­ish, to put it mild­ly, to point to a cou­ple of LTTE sui­cide bombers blow­ing them­selves up, along with a hand­ful of their polit­i­cal oppo­nents, every time the Islam­ic ter­ror­ists butch­er hun­dreds of inno­cent men, women, and chil­dren.

    Besides, the avowed objec­tive of the Islam­ic ter­ror­ists is not alle­vi­a­tion of pover­ty of the Mus­lims. It is the estab­lish­ment of a reli­gion that has been his­tor­i­cal­ly (from its very incep­tion) root­ed in mur­der and may­hem, and its cru­el and inhu­man deriv­a­tive, Sharia. And, as I have point­ed out in one of my recent posts, Either Or, Islam has not reformed its ways even one bit.

    Mahen­dra is right. Islam­ic ter­ror­ism is nei­ther about pover­ty, nor about dis­par­i­ty in wealth. If Tutu want­ed to see dis­par­i­ty in wealth, he should vis­it one of those palaces in Jed­dah and then the slums of Dha­ka, before blam­ing the Unit­ed States, Infos­ys, or Bill Gates for Islam­ic ter­ror­ism. Why is Al Qae­da not blow­ing up the the Sau­di Sheikhs, the Kuwaiti Emirs, or the mem­bers of a hand­ful of clans that rule and own Pak­istan?

  • The Ratio­nal Fool,

    Per what I explained ear­li­er in that post as to what I viewed as ter­ror­ism — all those count. My list­ing was NOT to say that every exam­ple is as bad as here (i antic­i­pat­ed this inter­pre­ta­tion as a counter argu­ment) — but to point at a com­mon strain of thought in those peo­ple that led them to such actions. In my opin­ion — that is the real prob­lem for.

    Sure we can define ter­ror­ism with cer­tain para­me­ters and cer­tain scale such that only today’s Al Qae­da qual­i­fies — and declare that if we get rid of Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists you get rid of ter­ror­ism. I would just say we would be sim­ply delud­ing our­selves. Note how­ev­er that I am not at all imply­ing to ignore the prob­lem, or dis­miss it as “just anoth­er exam­ple”. I am just say­ing that we should not think it as one anom­aly, aber­ra­tion in human his­to­ry. It is def­i­nite­ly a big flare-up — but a flare-up of an old demon.

    And about Nazis killing jews — there is a a much more hor­rif­ic term than ter­ror­ism called “geno­cide” I would think that applies there. Of course it was car­ried by a gov­ern­ment. But did they ter­ror­ize the jews? Absolute­ly. Was it out of fun­da­men­tal­is­tic thought? Absolute­ly. Should it be treat­ed as much dis­dain as ter­ror­ism? Absolute­ly. Should we wish we can rid of human behav­ior that leads to geno­cide? As much if not more than for ter­ror­ism — I say! If the same Al Qae­da hap­pened to be a gov­ern­ment, they would not be just ter­ror­ists, but geno­ci­dal.

  • Mahen­dra,
    In my ear­li­er com­ment, I for­got to close the anchor tag after the title of my post, “Either Or”. Will you please edit my com­ment, and close the tag, for bet­ter read­abil­i­ty? Thanks.

    Arunk,
    About geno­cide and ter­ror­ism, Islam per­mits lit­tle or no dis­tinc­tion between the state and the reli­gion. Please read the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Islam­ic Repub­lic of Iran, if you have any doubt about this. The only mul­ti-nation­al orga­ni­za­tion of states based on reli­gion today is the Orga­ni­za­tion of Islam­ic Coun­tries (OIC). Tar­get­ed elim­i­na­tion of infi­dels is not any dif­fer­ent from geno­cide, whether al Qae­da or LET gov­erns a state or not.

    I am not say­ing that if we get rid of Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists we’ll get rid of ter­ror­ism, if we define ter­ror­ism as tar­get­ed killing or assas­si­na­tion of one or more inno­cent cit­i­zens (btw, I agree with that def­i­n­i­tion). We will not, because con­flict, rival­ry, and pre­da­tion, is part of nature, and there will always be a few mad men and women who’ll devi­ate from or take law into their own hands and destroy oth­er lives.

    Scale and fre­quen­cy are not some­thing to be scoffed at, though. They help us to iden­ti­fy and eval­u­ate pat­terns of behav­ior, and for­mu­late effec­tive counter-mea­sures and laws to mit­i­gate them. Laws against rape and child abuse are not guar­an­teed to elim­i­nate them, but we have them, so rape and child abuse will be iso­lat­ed, and not ram­pant.

    Unre­formed Islam is the most impor­tant threat today to the progress that human­i­ty has made towards a civ­il soci­ety. It should reform itself or be trashed into the “ash heap of his­to­ry”.

  • I would part­ly agree with you Mahen­dra.… pover­ty may not be the rea­son behind ter­ror­ism, but it sure is a cat­a­lyst… its eas­i­er to brain­wash poor peo­ple than edu­cat­ed ones because the poor are already upset with the govt and look at it as the rich man’s stooge.… yes but the orig­i­na­tors or ter­ror­ism (osama/al zawa­hari), thats a dif­fer­ent sto­ry.… they are mad­men

  • I’d add that not nec­es­sar­i­ly poor, but any­one who is angry at the sys­tem (gov­ern­ment, soci­ety etc.) because of per­ceived or real injus­tices to him or his kin. Such peo­ple are easy to brain­wash.

  • I have not read all the com­ments, but I read the last two and I agree with Oemar. There are mul­ti­ple rea­sons why ter­ror­ism grows and thrives. Pover­ty, dis­sat­is­fac­tion with govt, dic­ta­to­r­i­al regimes, past his­to­ry, etc and I am sure I have not list­ed all the rea­sons!
    I have lived in Africa for many years and I have seen that Africa is not as bad or starv­ing as peo­ple assume. We see images of sub­sa­ha­ran africa but in tan­za­nia for instance you will see even poor peo­ple tall, well­built and well fed. I was sur­prised myself. their pop­u­la­tion is small, their land fer­tile…
    even when we lived in Nige­ria I did not see that much mal­nu­tri­tion as we see in India. no skin­ny stunt­ed peo­ple which is a com­mon sight even in Indi­an cities.
    I have been to Kenya and the same there. In the slums there the peo­ple seem to be strong and tall, and even fat, unlike the slums here.

  • one more thing — what they lack in Africa are oth­er things that devel­op­ment brings — prop­er hous­es, good clothes, machines to run their homes, con­sumer goods, yes even watch­es are some­thing that the poor there will not have! Its real­ly sad.

  • She­faly

    Well on KKK, Ronald Fry­er and Steve Levitt have an expla­na­tion that they were just a social organ­is­tion.. Too much in a haste to trans­pose URLs, but it is on my blog under a post on aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom.

    Whether some­one is a ter­ror­ist or not is very much a case of the fram­ing of the issue in cur­rent polit­i­cal, social and eth­i­cal par­a­digms. Much dis­cus­sion above is on def­i­n­i­tion­al bound­aries which are mean­ing­less if not tem­po­ral­ly locat­ed in their right con­text.

  • Arun: Like She­faly has wise­ly point­ed out in her lat­est com­ment, our dis­cus­sion is mean­ing­less until we define our def­i­n­i­tion­al bound­aries.

    //If ter­ror­ism is push­ing your agen­da even at the cost of sac­ri­fic­ing inno­cent-cit­i­zens (and thus ter­ror­iz­ing them), then region­al con­flicts have used those tech­niques for a long long time. To sim­ply sep­a­rate the two and say­ing “region­al con­flicts is sep­a­rate from ter­ror­ism” — I can­not agree with it as it sim­ply is ignor­ing facts.//
    If your con­cern about ‘ter­ror­ism’ includes all the vio­lence and crime in the world — I share your con­cern, but not your def­i­n­i­tion.

    As RTF point­ed out, none of your exam­ples (with his­tor­i­cal excep­tions) tar­get inno­cent civil­ians world­wide. In each of your exam­ples, a vic­tim would have been able to iden­ti­fy why he/she was tar­get­ed — even for the most ridicu­lous rea­son that he/she hap­pened to be there in a spe­cif­ic geo­graph­i­cal region. If you’re con­cerned about region­al con­flicts, that is out­side the scope of my post. You seem to be view­ing ter­ror­ism as a ‘tech­nique’ of push­ing your own agen­da: in that sense, I can under­stand you. How­ev­er, more impor­tant to me than the tech­nique, is the world­wide phe­nom­e­non of ter­ror­ism today. The ter­ror­ism I’m talk­ing about, is when inno­cent peo­ple world­wide:

    - wor­ry if a bomb is going to blast in a local train they’ve board­ed in Mum­bai
    — have to go through humil­i­at­ing secu­ri­ty checks in air­ports world­wide
    — read about Indi­an doc­tors in UK being sus­pect­ed of being ter­ror­ists
    — live under a gov­ern­ment con­trolled “threat lev­el” in the most free nation in the world
    — have no idea why, for no rhyme or rea­son, are they being tar­get­ed today

    This ter­ror­ism is dif­fer­ent from the one you’re talk­ing about. This is what is expe­ri­enced today by all human beings on this plan­et, irre­spec­tive of their race, reli­gion, nation­al­i­ty, region/state, eco­nom­ic lev­el, occu­pa­tion, or age. This is fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent from all your exam­ples. As I said before, I share your con­cern about the crime and vio­lence that has spe­cif­ic region­al agen­das, but that is not what is gen­er­al­ly under­stood as ter­ror­ism today.

    And pre­cise­ly for this rea­son, Desmond Tutu’s state­ment angers me. If you are point­ing out that I’ve ignored facts, why don’t you accuse Desmond Tutu of ignor­ing facts, too?

    //to point at a com­mon strain of thought in those peo­ple that led them to such actions. In my opin­ion — that is the real problem.//
    The com­mon strain of thought that I believe you’re point­ing out is that of fun­da­men­tal­ism. You are right. I am focus­ing on Islam­ic ter­ror­ism as it is a much greater con­cern to all of us than any oth­er ‘kinds of ter­ror­ism’ that you’re refer­ring to. Pre­cise­ly because, as RTF points out, scale and fre­quen­cy are of utmost con­cern!

    //I am just say­ing that we should not think it as one anom­aly, aber­ra­tion in human his­to­ry. It is def­i­nite­ly a big flare-up — but a flare-up of an old demon.//
    Islam­ic ter­ror­ism in the world today is sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent from all oth­er kinds of ter­ror­ism, crimes, and vio­lence in his­to­ry. A big flare-up, not of an old demon, but a com­plete­ly new and dif­fer­ent demon. That is the core of my post.

    // there is a a much more hor­rif­ic term than ter­ror­ism called “genocide”//
    RTF: // Tar­get­ed elim­i­na­tion of infi­dels is not any dif­fer­ent from geno­cide, whether al Qae­da or LET gov­erns a state or not.//
    Do you get the point? Islam­ic ter­ror­ism is not any less­er hor­ri­fy­ing than geno­cide. It is just that the Holo­caust geno­cide is over and we all know the facts and fig­ures, where­as Islam­ic ter­ror­ism is just in its infan­cy.

  • Swan­ny: //With that said i don’t believe that pover­ty is the back­bone of Rad­i­cal Islam­ic Outrage.//
    Well said!

    Far­thel: //well, not only Islamism, but any type of fun­damet­al­ism will cause war.//
    Agree! And I’m not talk­ing about war at all.

    Amit: //Mahendra, would you con­sid­er US for­eign poli­cies and secre­tive CIA plots over the past 50 years in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca and South Amer­i­ca that caused deaths of thou­sands of inno­cents as terrorism?//
    I’m not very knowl­edge­able about these, but no, I would not con­sid­er those as ter­ror­ism. Those for­eign poli­cies did not affect me or my fam­i­ly when I trav­elled to Europe or US, unlike how Islam­ic ter­ror­ism does today. I am not jus­ti­fy­ing those actions of the US — they may have been very wrong and immoral, and led to lot of inno­cent civil­ian deaths, but they did not affect civil­ians glob­al­ly.

    //I do think that pover­ty is not a root cause of the ter­ror­ism you are refer­ring to.//
    Thanks!

    Nita: I said Africa is one of the poor­est con­ti­nents in the world — is that a false state­ment? I’m sure there are well-devel­oped regions with­in Africa as well, but if you com­pare con­ti­nents, isn’t Africa con­sid­ered one of the poor­est?

  • RTF: A spe­cial com­ment response exclu­sive­ly for you 🙂 Thanks so much for elu­ci­dat­ing on this top­ic, prob­a­bly much bet­ter than I ever could have!

  • Oemar/Nita/Amit and every­one who thinks that pover­ty acts as a “side-ingre­di­ent”, cat­a­lyst, and that it is easy to brain­wash poor peo­ple:

    1. I chal­lenge you to go get a few hun­dred or thou­sand poor peo­ple, and brain­wash them into giv­ing up their lives by act­ing as sui­cide bombers, with­out men­tion­ing or using reli­gion or God. If you can brain­wash and get me one poor per­son will­ing to give up his life in order to destroy other’s lives, with­out using reli­gion, I am ready to renounce my athe­ism, and do penance!

    2. Read the title and my post care­ful­ly again.

  • Arun: One last com­ment. For­get­ting the dif­fer­ences between our def­i­n­i­tions of ter­ror­ism, and con­sid­er­ing your def­i­n­i­tion as true, do you think pover­ty is the root cause?

    //to point at a com­mon strain of thought in those peo­ple that led them to such actions. In my opin­ion — that is the real problem.//
    Is the com­mon strain of thought pover­ty? I do not see pover­ty being the root cause of vio­lence and crime in any of the exam­ples you cit­ed.

    If you agree, now tell me why I should not pooh-pooh Desmond Tutu’s point?

  • Mahen­dra, I guess Africa as a con­ti­nent as com­pared to Asia is cer­tain­ly much much poor­er. But peo­ple gen­er­al­ly club africa togeth­er, and that is why I men­tioned the coun­tries. Actu­al­ly even south africa is not that bad in terms of enough food for its peo­ple, nor egypt…and if one has to see whether the major­i­ty of the coun­tries in africa are poor or not, I guess they are. but even the word pover­ty can dif­fer in its mean­ing, that is why I men­tioned the food vs the goods. i hope i am mak­ing sense. I just see this sub­ject to be very com­pli­cat­ed.
    and i don’t think i said specif­i­cal­ly that it is easy to brain­wash poor peo­ple, I would nev­er agree with any such gen­er­al­iza­tion. I did agree iwth oemar’s state­ment over­all — that pover­ty can act as a cat­a­lyst and often does.
    oth­er fac­tors have to be present (which I admit­ted I could not recount all) and there­fore I am unable to answer your chal­lenge about the reli­gion! I don’t think I ever said that pover­ty is the root cause of ter­ror­ism so I am not sure what you mean. Also, you will always find con­science­less peo­ple who will kill for mon­ey, whether reli­gion is used or not. About how many, or what­ev­er, I can­not answer. I am sure you will agree that there are peo­ple like that.

  • //i don’t think i said specif­i­cal­ly that it is easy to brain­wash poor peo­ple, I would nev­er agree with any such gen­er­al­iza­tion. I did agree iwth oemar’s state­ment over­all — that pover­ty can act as a cat­a­lyst and often does.//

    No, you didn’t say so specif­i­cal­ly — I assumed it because you agreed with Oemar, who said so. Nei­ther did I specif­i­cal­ly attribute it to you! 🙂

    //Other fac­tors have to be present (which I admit­ted I could not recount all) and there­fore I am unable to answer your chal­lenge about the reli­gion! I don’t think I ever said that pover­ty is the root cause of ter­ror­ism so I am not sure what you mean. Also, you will always find con­science­less peo­ple who will kill for mon­ey, whether reli­gion is used or not. About how many, or what­ev­er, I can­not answer. I am sure you will agree that there are peo­ple like that.//
    Pover­ty may act as a cat­a­lyst in help­ing to recruit peo­ple, but the point of my post is that with­out fun­da­men­tal, extrem­ist, Islam­ic ide­ol­o­gy, ter­ror­ism would not have been what it is today. I’m not talk­ing about con­science­less peo­ple who will com­mit crime for mon­ey and I agree with you that there are peo­ple like that in all parts of the world.

    But they’re not unit­ed with a com­mon ide­ol­o­gy. Pover­ty may act as a cat­a­lyst. A cat­a­lyst is by def­i­n­i­tion, some­thing that accel­er­ates a chem­i­cal reac­tion, not cause it. The cat­a­lyst, tak­en by itself, doesn’t cause any reac­tion. That is the sub­ject and top­ic of my post.

    When you men­tion oth­er fac­tors — think about which of them is the one most respon­si­ble? What is the root cause? Yes, there are sev­er­al fac­tors involved, but try remov­ing them one at a time and think whether ter­ror­ism can exist with­out it. Once you’ve exam­ined all the fac­tors in this fash­ion, let me know what you think is the one fac­tor that ter­ror­ism can­not sur­vive with­out.

    I fail to under­stand Oemar’s com­ment that he agrees with me “part­ly”. My post and stand is that pover­ty can­not, by itself, be the cause of ter­ror­ism. This is what Desmond Tutu is claim­ing and I refute it vocif­er­ous­ly. No one is talk­ing about con­trib­u­to­ry fac­tors here, nor deny­ing them. The whole point of my post is that if you ignore the fun­da­men­tal dri­ving force, the main ingre­di­ent, of ter­ror­ism, you’re going to con­tin­ue to delude your­self and oth­ers. It is appalling that a leader like Tutu is claim­ing that pover­ty is the core rea­son respon­si­ble for ter­ror­ism.

    The com­ments on this post so far (except RTF) seem to indi­cate exact­ly the very evil that Tutu’s state­ment can per­pe­trate. Focus on ‘con­trib­u­to­ry’ fac­tors, and ignore the core, real, dri­ving force behind ter­ror­ism: Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism. If we con­tin­ue to side­step the root cause, we will con­tin­ue to suf­fer.

  • I am afraid I am not sure whether Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism is the root cause of ter­ror­ism. Ter­ror­ism exists in the north east too, I mean nax­alites.
    an orga­nized form of ter­ror­ism that you are refer­ring to can exist in orga­nized crime (under­world, and mon­ey is the objec­tive), and also an orga­nized ide­al­o­gy, any fantat­ic ide­al­o­gy, it can be reli­gious or polit­i­cal like that of ULFA’s.
    in fact I believe that even the islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists who per­pet­u­ate ter­ror have polit­i­cal ambi­tions. they sim­ply use reli­gion for their nefar­i­ous pur­pos­es.
    I don’t think one can iso­late a core like you asked, at least I don’t think so. it depends on many fac­tors.

  • @Mahendra
    //I chal­lenge you to go get a few hun­dred or thou­sand poor peo­ple, and brain­wash them into giv­ing up their lives by act­ing as sui­cide bombers// Your answer is LTTE, IRA etc.… they dont use reli­gion to get peo­ple charged up… just a sim­ple brain­wahs say­ing that they will be doing a great good by killing the evil men and stuff… max num­ber of inno­cent life’s have been tak­en in the world for land.… includ­ing ww2
    //I fail to under­stand Oemar’s com­ment that he agrees with me “part­ly”. My post and stand is that pover­ty can­not, by itself, be the cause of terrorism// I agree with you that my coment may not be in sync with your post title… but I gave that com­ment so that we dont com­plete­ly side­line pover­ty as a cause.…

  • @Mahendra
    The tokyo sarin gas attack wass also not in the name of reli­gion
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarin_gas_attack_on_the_Tokyo_subway

  • So how was “God is not great” by Christo­pher Hitchens? 😉

    2. Read the title and my post care­ful­ly again.

    And I invite you to re-read (or read for the first time) the last line of my com­ment # 8 care­ful­ly. 🙂

    My oth­er com­ment was “I’d add that not nec­es­sar­i­ly poor, but..” — how you read that to mean “pover­ty is a fac­tor in Islamist fun­da­men­tal­ism” I’m not sure.

    I’m glad you’ve start­ed on this jour­ney and I’d invite you to dig some more and find out which par­ties were respon­si­ble for Al-Qae­da com­ing into pow­er in the first place. Or maybe the “9/11 Com­mis­sion Report.” I’ll assume that you have already read Mary Shelley’s clas­sic book. Islamist fun­da­men­tal­ism is indeed a huge threat, but the pic­ture is much big­ger than that, and if you focus on and iso­late only one part while ignor­ing oth­er fac­tors and play­ers, it’s an incom­plete analy­sis.

    Also, US for­eign pol­i­cy impact has been respon­si­ble for inno­cent lives lost in Chile, El Sal­vador, Nicaragua, Philip­pines, East Tim­or. I’d think that’s glob­al enough.

    Yes, you are talk­ing about a spe­cif­ic threat (and a nar­row def­i­n­i­tion of ter­ror­ism that affects you), and I ful­ly agree with you on that. And yes, in this par­tic­u­lar instance of ter­ror­ism, it’s the ide­ol­o­gy that is respon­si­ble, and not the pover­ty or illit­er­a­cy.

  • Nita: Would it be rude of me if I request­ed you to read the com­ments above? Nax­alite vio­lence doesn’t affect peo­ple in Africa or Europe. Under­world crime doesn’t have death and destruc­tion of mass­es of ordi­nary civil­ians around the globe as its pri­ma­ry motive. It is besides the point that none of these exam­ples have pover­ty as their root cause either!

    Oemar: if your answer to my ques­tion is the LTTE, IRA, then you’re prov­ing my point in a way, because none of these orga­ni­za­tions or their acts are moti­vat­ed by pover­ty!

    //max num­ber of inno­cent life’s have been tak­en in the world for land//
    Yes, and those are pre­cise­ly region­al con­flicts that are dis­tinct from ter­ror­ism as we’re expe­ri­enc­ing in the world today.

    //I gave that com­ment so that we dont com­plete­ly side­line pover­ty as a cause//
    Give me one exam­ple of ter­ror­ism that has pover­ty as the root cause. Not land, not reli­gion, not pol­i­tics. I still fail to under­stand how you ‘part­ly’ agree with my post.

    The Tokyo sarin gas attack that you’ve linked to is first of all anoth­er instance of a region­al, and domes­tic attack. Sec­ond, if you look at the group that car­ried out the attack, Aum Shin­rikyo, tell me whether it was pri­mar­i­ly a reli­gious group or not. Where was pover­ty involved?

    Amit: I’ve specif­i­cal­ly respond­ed to your com­ment in spe­cif­ic terms so please do not think that I have not read it!

    And I apol­o­gize for club­bing your name among the oth­er com­menters who are tout­ing pover­ty as anoth­er con­tribut­ing fac­tor. I apol­o­gize sin­cere­ly.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “Al-Qae­da com­ing into pow­er”, but yes, I have read the 9/11 Com­mis­sion Report. I haven’t read Mary Shelley’s book.

    //if you focus on and iso­late only one part while ignor­ing oth­er fac­tors and play­ers, it’s an incom­plete analysis.//
    I’m not offer­ing a com­plete analy­sis in my post. If world lead­ers ignore the pri­ma­ry fac­tor and play­ers, it is dis­turb­ing to me. That is what my post is about. I am not pur­port­ing to offer any com­plete pic­ture, per­spec­tive, analy­sis, what­so­ev­er. Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism is the root cause of ter­ror­ism in the world today and unless we rec­og­nize, real­ize, and accept this, we’re fail­ing to get the com­plete pic­ture. That is all I’m say­ing!

    The only thing I wish to com­ment on regard­ing the US for­eign pol­i­cy evils that you’re point­ing out is the fact that it is not ran­dom. It may have affect­ed sev­er­al regions in the world, that have been spe­cif­ic tar­gets of the for­eign pol­i­cy involved. It is not glob­al in the ran­dom sense that Islam­ic ter­ror­ism is.

    Regard­ing talk­ing about a spe­cif­ic threat, and using a nar­row def­i­n­i­tion of ter­ror­ism:
    My whole point is that Islam­ic ter­ror­ism has no spe­cif­ic threat. It can affect inno­cent civil­ians world­wide, there’s noth­ing spe­cif­ic about it. As regards it being a nar­row def­i­n­i­tion that affects me, you may be right — it is a glob­al phe­nom­e­non today that affects every­one every­where — is that nar­row? The def­i­n­i­tion may be nar­row, its impli­ca­tions, reper­cus­sions, and con­se­quences are world­wide, glob­al, and uni­ver­sal.

  • Mahen­dra, no apolo­gies nec­es­sary. 🙂
    The book is “Franken­stein” by Mary Shel­ley. It’s about cre­at­ing a mon­ster that bites the cre­ator in the ass (so to speak). To crit­i­cize the mon­ster for all ills with­out includ­ing the moti­va­tions and actions of the cre­ator is incom­plete, IMO. You may have a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, and that’s fine.

  • Mahen­dra,

    Thanks for the com­pli­ments.

    Let’s get one thing straight. Ter­ror­ism can­not be laid at the feet of its pover­ty strick­en foot sol­diers, nor at the feet of their rich gen­er­als. It’s not a means resort­ed to by a hand­ful, buck­et­ful, or a barn­yard­ful of mis­guid­ed Mus­lims, to redress their per­ceived or real griev­ances. Ter­ror­ism is the result of an ide­ol­o­gy, a col­lec­tion of loath­some and unfound­ed ideas, that asserts that those who do not sub­scribe to it do not have the right to live freely, or live at all. As Mahen­dra wrote, talk­ing or writ­ing about the con­trib­u­to­ry or col­lat­er­al fac­tors may win lau­rels for polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, but dis­tracts our atten­tion from the ide­ol­o­gy of Islam. It has but one goal: Islamiza­tion of the world.

    As for the “Franken­stein” and oth­er blow-back the­o­ries, bin Laden, al Qae­da, Tal­iban, LET, SIMI, Jemaah Islamiyah, and count­less oth­er Islam­ic ter­ror­ist groups around the world are ephemer­al, and not cen­tral to the prob­lem of Islam­ic ter­ror­ism. It is not a mat­ter of much doubt for the peo­ple from the sub-con­ti­nent, where or what Mohd. Gazni, Mohd. Gau­ri, and Aurangazeb, and their maraud­ing armies, orig­i­nat­ed from, is it? If one were des­per­ate enough to assign blame to more than one cause, a good can­di­date will be the smell of oil, that woke up this dor­mant mon­stros­i­ty a.k.a. Islam.

    I beg to dif­fer with you on one point, Mahen­dra. What we have here is not a new demon. It’s a very ancient demon. This month of Ramadan, it’s pre­cise­ly 1397 years old, if we were to believe the sources that claim that Muham­mad exist­ed, and received his rev­e­la­tion from his god in the year 610 CE. Since then, he and his fol­low­ers have spread his ideas by the Sword of Islam, killing, ter­ror­iz­ing, and forcibly con­vert­ing mil­lions of inno­cent peo­ple around the world.

  • She­faly

    Mahen­dra: I think there will nev­er be con­sen­sus on this issue.

    Depend­ing on per­spec­tive, one man’s ter­ror­ist is anoth­er man’s .…. (choose from: free­dom fighter/ martyr/ champion/ lobbyist/ many oth­er descrip­tions of oth­er kinds of inter­ests).

    Ter­ror­ism in my view is as much a philo­soph­i­cal choice of the per­pe­tra­tor as of those affect­ed by it/ ter­rorised by it.

    How many of us in India stopped using trains because there were bombs on it?

    In Lon­don, the day after the July 7, 2005 bomb­ings, peo­ple got on bus­es and into the tube and went to work.

    In Bom­bay, where I did my sum­mer intern­ship in 1993, the sum­mer of the mega-bombs, every­thing was nor­mal and nobody looked scared or untrust­ing.

    The day after IRA tried to kill Mag­gie Thatch­er in Brighton, she refused to call off the Tory par­ty con­fer­ence and spoke at it to stand­ing ova­tion.

    On the con­trary, even now many in the US are scarred by the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 episode.

    It is not just the action, that makes a ter­ror­ist, it is also the reac­tion.

    PS: The Fry­er-Levine paper I referred to is worth read­ing as an exam­ple of ter­ror­ism as social fram­ing.

  • nice obser­va­tion

    i think that a ter­ror­ist has clos­er rela­tion with a hasishin rather than a guer­ril­la.
    it involves indoctrination,to ter­rorise is to put fear in the mind of a com­mon man.

  • Had ter­ror­ism been a func­tion of pover­ty, we wouldn’t have had peo­ple from edu­cat­ed and well to do fam­i­lies join­ing or sym­pa­thiz­ing (which accord­ing to me is equal­ly bad) with the ter­ror­ists. A right point you make Mahen­dra. And as TRF says, thats the way Islam has tra­di­tion­al­ly been spread.

    PS: The com­ment box is par­tial­ly hid­den in this theme. I’m on Fire­fox 2.0, Ubun­tu Lin­ux.

  • @Mahendra
    Well I think its my turn to say “read my com­ments care­ful­ly”.…
    //if your answer to my ques­tion is the LTTE, IRA, then you’re prov­ing my point in a way// I nev­er said that pover­ty is the moti­va­tion­al force behind these acts… I always main­tained that it is a cat­a­lyst, not a root cause… fanati­cism is the main cause and I have nev­er dis­agreed with it (refer to the last sen­tence of my first post)… more­over, LTTE sui­cide bomber recruits are from very poor back­ground who are already upset with the govt, so the fanat­ics find it eas­i­er to brain­wash them. So again, cat­a­lyst.. not root cause. Tamil busi­ness­men in Sril Lan­ka are not involved in bomb­ings.. at least I have not heard of any..
    //Yes, and those are pre­cise­ly region­al con­flicts that are dis­tinct from ter­ror­ism as we’re expe­ri­enc­ing in the world today// how does it make it dif­fer­ent when inno­cent lives are being lost in both the cas­es?
    //Give me one exam­ple of ter­ror­ism that has pover­ty as the root cause// Again, I nev­er ever said that pover­ty is the ROOT cause.… refer to all my com­ments above…
    //if you look at the group that car­ried out the attack, Aum Shin­rikyo, tell me whether it was pri­mar­i­ly a reli­gious group or not// Reli­gion was not the cause here.. it wsa pol­i­tics..
    The pros­e­cu­tion said that it was an attempt to bring down the gov­ern­ment and install Shoko Asa­hara, the group’s founder, as the “emper­or” of Japan. The most recent the­o­ry pro­pos­es that the attack was an attempt to divert atten­tion from Aum when the group obtained some infor­ma­tion indi­cat­ing that police search­es were planned (though con­trary to this plan, it end­ed up lead­ing to mass search­es and arrests).
    Again, every act of ter­ror­ism may not have pover­ty as cat­a­lyst… its not a 2-way rela­tion ship and def­i­nite­ly not a root cause.
    One more thing — I am real­ly con­fused with your com­ment //another instance of a region­al, and domes­tic attack// about Tokyo Sarin gas inci­dent… how is ter­ror­ism defined — a mass killing of civil­ians of one coun­try by mil­i­tants of anoth­er coun­try?? I think whether domes­tic or inter­naiton­al, inci­dents where inno­cents lose there life is one cat­e­go­ry — Ter­ror­ism.… I may have mis­un­der­stood this line but that is the mes­sage being con­veyed by this line… hope I am wrong!

  • Cor­rec­tion to the above com­ment: “fanati­cism is the main cause and I have nev­er dis­agreed with it (refer to the last sen­tence of my first COMMENT here, NOT POST)… ”

  • Excel­lent post and equal­ly inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion.
    1.//Poverty may act as a catalyst.//
    2.//Even the islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists who per­pet­u­ate ter­ror have polit­i­cal ambi­tions. they sim­ply use reli­gion for their nefar­i­ous purposes.//
    3.//Anyone who is angry at the sys­tem (gov­ern­ment, soci­ety etc.) because of per­ceived or real injus­tices to him or his kin. Such peo­ple are easy to brainwash.//
    4.// There is a a much more hor­rif­ic term than ter­ror­ism called “genocide”//
    5.//Terrorism is old and it will con­tin­ue even if Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism is some­how tamed. The fun­da­men­tal prob­lem is NOT Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism, it is fun­da­men­tal­ism itself — i.e. the basic idea that “your way” is the only way for all, and you are will­ing to do any­thing, and sac­ri­fice any­one to remove obsta­cles in your path.//
    I agree with these obser­va­tions.

  • RTF: Point not­ed and accept­ed!

    She­faly: You’re prob­a­bly right. It’s dif­fi­cult to get a con­sen­sus!

    //It is not just the action, that makes a ter­ror­ist, it is also the reaction.//
    Inter­est­ing view­point, worth explor­ing further…thanks again for the info.

    Oemar: thanks for fur­ther clar­i­fi­ca­tion! I don’t think we’re dis­agree­ing here, except with respect to focus or empha­sis. I under­stand your inter­pre­ta­tion of ter­ror­ism, as any vio­lent acts against inno­cent civil­ians, whether domes­tic or inter­na­tion­al. I wouldn’t dis­agree with your inter­pre­ta­tion, but I choose to focus on the world­wide ter­ror­ism being per­pe­trat­ed by Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists today.

    Pre­rna: thanks and what a nice way to com­ment! 🙂 My ear­li­er respons­es to those would suf­fice I think. Thanks for stop­ping by and read­ing through all the com­ments!

  • Mahen­dra:

    For an instance of ‘one man’s ter­ror­ist is another’s free­dom fight­er” see this:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7009742.stm

  • She­faly — I was almost going to blog about this! 🙂

    I’m glad there was just protests and not any vio­lence in this inci­dence…

  • well, look what you got 🙂 bn fol­lowng this, wd come back to see wht happns…to this poor guy here too

  • //If ter­ror­ism is push­ing your agen­da even at the cost of sac­ri­fic­ing inno­cent-cit­i­zens (and thus ter­ror­iz­ing them), then region­al con­flicts have used those tech­niques for a long long time. To sim­ply sep­a­rate the two and say­ing “region­al con­flicts is sep­a­rate from ter­ror­ism” – I can­not agree with it as it sim­ply is ignor­ing facts.//
    If your con­cern about ‘ter­ror­ism’ includes all the vio­lence and crime in the world – I share your con­cern, but not your def­i­n­i­tion
    It is not just the action, that makes a ter­ror­ist, it is also the reaction.//
    Inter­est­ing view­point, worth explor­ing further…thanks again for the info.

    Oemar: thanks for fur­ther clar­i­fi­ca­tion! I don’t think we’re dis­agree­ing here, except with respect to focus or empha­sis. I under­stand your inter­pre­ta­tion of ter­ror­ism, as any vio­lent acts against inno­cent civil­ians, whether domes­tic or inter­na­tion­al. I wouldn’t dis­agree with your inter­pre­ta­tion, but I choose to focus on the world­wide ter­ror­ism being per­pe­trat­ed by Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists today
    Let’s get one thing straight. Ter­ror­ism can­not be laid at the feet of its pover­ty strick­en foot sol­diers, nor at the feet of their rich gen­er­als. It’s not a means resort­ed to by a hand­ful, buck­et­ful, or a barn­yard­ful of mis­guid­ed Mus­lims, to redress their per­ceived or real griev­ances. Ter­ror­ism is the result of an ide­ol­o­gy, a col­lec­tion of loath­some and unfound­ed ideas, that asserts that those who do not sub­scribe to it do not have the right to live freely, or live at all. As Mahen­dra wrote, talk­ing or writ­ing about the con­trib­u­to­ry or col­lat­er­al fac­tors may win lau­rels for polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, but dis­tracts our atten­tion from the ide­ol­o­gy of Islam. It has but one goal: Islamiza­tion of the world.

    As for the “Franken­stein” and oth­er blow-back the­o­ries, bin Laden, al Qae­da, Tal­iban, LET, SIMI, Jemaah Islamiyah, and count­less oth­er Islam­ic ter­ror­ist groups around the world are ephemer­al, and not cen­tral to the prob­lem of Islam­ic ter­ror­ism. It is not a mat­ter of much doubt for the peo­ple from the sub-con­ti­nent, where or what Mohd. Gazni, Mohd. Gau­ri, and Aurangazeb, and their maraud­ing armies, orig­i­nat­ed from, is it? If one were des­per­ate enough to assign blame to more than one cause, a good can­di­date will be the smell of oil, that woke up this dor­mant mon­stros­i­ty a.k.a. Islam.

    I beg to dif­fer with you on one point, Mahen­dra. What we have here is not a new demon. It’s a very ancient demon. This month of Ramadan, it’s pre­cise­ly 1397 years old, if we were to believe the sources that claim that Muham­mad exist­ed, and received his rev­e­la­tion from his god in the year 610 CE. Since then, he and his fol­low­ers have spread his ideas by the Sword of Islam, killing, ter­ror­iz­ing, and forcibly con­vert­ing mil­lions of inno­cent peo­ple around the world.