By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
15 February 2016
Terrorism has not only dominated our reality but it has also prompted several studies to research its roots and search for the energy that has helped it survive for the centuries Muslims have lived through. Terrorism gained its vitality by riding the wave of modernity for 30 years now and found its way into leftist and resistance movements as their goals intersected.
As discussions on globalization surged, the political interpretation of terrorism also expanded and turned into a global manifestation. Among these interpretations is the correlation between a solution to the Palestinian conflict and an end to terrorism. However, the thesis linking terrorism and globalization was the most common in some ideological studies about violence and terrorism.
The globalized interpretation of terrorism was tempting to Islamists. They thought it was a cognitive breakthrough to free them of responsibility and hold the U.S. and the West accountable for al-Qaeda’s emergence as a result of what happened in Afghanistan, Hamas’s emergence as a result of not resolving the Palestinian cause, and Hezbollah’s emergence as a resistance movement that protects civilians from Israel. This is how Islam has been interpreted on radical websites for 20 years now. Some Western thinkers and philosophers’ analyses intersect with these interpretations. For example, we can take what Paul Di Michele said in the book “Islam, Globalization and Terrorism” which he co-authored, where he warned that one cannot understand the current wave of terrorism and violence without linking them to globalization.
In the same book, Olivier Mongin discusses the concept of conflicting identities and globalization. He says that the notion that they led to a wave of violence only enhanced the concept of a “war of cultures.” This imposed itself after the Gulf War during the 1990s. Mongin added that this notion suggests that threats are always perceived as being from a foreign source.
A Third World Problem?
All these theories about the globalized interpretation of terrorism are no longer of any value or use because not taking the ideological attachment to terrorism into consideration is a waste of time. It is also an attempt to practice ideological reprimand by generalizing the economic and political analysis of terrorism and evoking civil disputes, resistance movements and demands for liberation in the Middle East and other third world countries. French professor Olivier Roy thinks that terrorism is a case of globalization, and is originally a “third world phenomenon.”
Terrorism is the weapon of criminals, and it’s not the product of an empire or an economic party but the product of the teachings available at hand.
In May 2007, Algerian scholar and thinker Mohammad Arkoun delivered a lecture on Islam and its confrontation of European challenges. He analyzed violence by referring to globalization. He said: “Violence, unlike what the Western media claims, does not only stem from extremists and fundamentalists, but also from the West and its allies. The violence of Western globalization is the strongest, considering the West’s tyrannical power.” Although Arkoun is an exceptional historian in the modern history of Muslims as he’s brave when it comes to condemning the guarded energies which terrorism attains support from, he practiced his favourite hobby of critique and launched “a war on all fronts.”
Arkoun cannot consider globalization to be the driving force behind terrorism and the base of religious violence because he’d be denying his other major research and work in Applied Islamology.
Author Ali Harb has engaged in this debate as in his recently-published book “Terrorism and its makers,” he condemns the globalized interpretation of terrorism. He says that he disagrees with Olivier Roy “who thinks that the jihadist organizations are a result of globalization and not a result of political Islam.” He adds that the belief that jihadist organizations are a result of globalization “is an opinion based on overlooking the ideological base of the jihadist project which is a translation of the fundamental ideas which Islamist movements planted in people’s minds.” He has thus responded to Roy’s book “The failure of political Islam.”
With the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the same analyses re-emerged. The Muslim Brotherhood’s interpretation of ISIS’s emergence revolves around the “government suppression” of the Arab Spring and state “conspiracies” against the MB running for elections. Others however consider that ISIS is a product of the technological revolution. Some analysts believe that ISIS is part of a Western conspiracy, while others think it’s a Baathist conspiracy.
At the end of the day, religious lectures and Fatwas (religious edicts) dissect these organizations better than any other interpretations. If experts continue to try to solve mysteries, understand vague root causes and looking into secret intelligence documents on the emergence of terrorist organizations, then Muslim societies – which failed to confront certain organizations in the past – will also fail to confront any other organization later. Terrorism is not the weapon of the powerful as American philosopher Noam Chomsky puts it. Terrorism is the weapon of criminals, and it’s not the product of an empire or an economic party but the product of the teachings available at hand. It has been rearranged in a repugnant, bloody manner which has now backfired on Muslims all over again.
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others.