By Na-Allah Mohammed Zagga
This Sunday is another dark day in Pakistan where a suicide bomber left more than 50 innocent people dead and another 100 injured. Once again, I am tempted to ask the same questions I had previous asked about global terrorism. Why can’t Muslim countries move forcefully against these terrorists who are causing incalculable harm to Islam’s image? It is not enough to pretend that this monsters are not Muslims. The fact that they are committing evil in Islam’s name doesn’t mean they are not Muslims. They are deviant Muslims giving the religion a bad name. And they won’t stop doing evil in Islam’s name until Muslim countries rose against them forcefully. Extremists feel safe in societies where they are glorified, and where they easily attract enthusiastic followers.
When Osama Bin Laden was smoked out in his Abbottabad hideout in Pakistan by US special forces in May 2011, thousands of Pakistanis took to streets to protest his death. When a Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yusafzai was shot and almost brutally assassinated by the Taliban terrorists in October 2012, I would have expected lynch mobs unleashed on theTaliban clerics and their followers by Pakistan’s Muslim society. Ironically, it didn’t happen, and it was the same society where thousands protested Bin Laden’s death. Does that suggest seriousness of a Muslim society that despises terrorists?
“At least 50 people were killed today, this Sunday, and over 100 injured during a suicide attack outside Gulshan-i-Iqbal park in the eastern Pakistani city.”(Aljazeera ).
According to Aljazeera, at least 50 people have been killed and over 100 others injured in a suicide blast outside a public park in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, quoting health ministry officials said.
The TV channel said that people from the Christian community were out to celebrate Easter when the bomber detonated himself. The victims included women and children.
“In 2014, Pakistan launched an offensive against Taliban and affiliated fighters in North Waziristan, seeking to deprive them of safe havens from which to launch attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan” Aljazeera recalls.
I however believe that government’s operations against the terrorists is not enough if the ordinary people in Muslim societies glorify extremists and accept their violent interpretations of Islam as the authentic representation of the religion. Extremists can’t thrive in societies where the people are hostile to them. As long as their poisonous ideologies are imbibed by others, and people are willing to die for them, extremists will continue to thrive. As long as extremists are free to run Mosques and schools to spread their lethal propaganda of hate and destruction of innocent lives, including the lives of fellow Muslims, it is pretty hard to destroy their influence and the source their power. As long as you allow them platforms in the name of freedom of worship, they will continue attract converts to their deadly ideologies and indoctrinate their fawning fans.
Muslims cannot fight terrorism with ambivalence. You can’t claim that the global war against terrorism is synonymous with the war against Islam without effectively feeding the extremist propaganda, thereby making them heroes, and giving them a licence to kill, and the excuse to legitimize their atrocities against humanity. Why should the Taliban and Al-Qaeda enjoy thousands of fans in societies that should lead the efforts to render terrorists irrelevant, and ultimately starve them of recruits to destroy the sources of their brutal power -the ordinary people ready and willing to become the cannon fodder for their monstrous career of mass murder?
These nagging questions cannot be dismissed with a wave of hand. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of World Trade Centre in New York(2001), Osama Bin Laden became an instant hero around the Muslim world. He was so popular that his T-shirts and face caps were selling like hot cakes while others celebrated him by pasting his pictures on their cars, or hanging his photos in their sitting rooms!
Wittingly or unwittingly, the Muslim world, especially the ordinary Muslim publics, have turned terrorists into heroes, thereby helping to breed more monsters that might become a major embarrassment to Islam in the future. Since September 11, the perception of Muslims and Islam has grown ever worse around the world. Innocent Muslims have become victims of hate crimes and hostility from members of their host countries in Europe and America. Terrorism is like cancer: if you ignore the early signs and refuse to destroy them, it becomes malignant and intractable. I agree with the American journalist Fareed Zakaria who said only Muslims can destroy terrorism. If the thousands that poured into the streets in Pakistan to protest Bin Laden’s death had used the same numerical power to revolt against extremist clerics, and stopped their children from learning at their feet, or proudly becoming their recruits, terrorists would not have achieved the influence they exert on the minds and hearts of thousands that mistake them as “God’s soldiers.” Extremists are like serpents: you either decapitate the deadly creature, or it may get out of your control and the destroy you.