Understanding what is going on in the world is not simple. Many things happen, there is a lot of information, there are many opinions, how to find your way? Is the information are all logical? I look from the area where I live, the Middle East. I do an attempt and mention factors which play a role in the present situation.
1. Religion and persecution
There is an image that Islam is threatening the world, this image is represented in the so called ISIS, Al Shabaab or Boko Haram. However, it simplified to divide our world in to be in favour of Islam or against it. This is not the point. I will explain this.
It is correct to say like Pope Francis and patriarch Kirill from the Russian-Orthodox Church did that Christians are threatened to be expelled from Middle East and Northern African factually by people who call themselves Muslims.[i]
The international organization ‘Open Doors’ signals also persecution of Christians in India by fanatic Hindus[ii] and Myanmar or Burma and fanatic Buddhists, who see Christians as a threat to Burmese-Buddhist heritage[iii]. Conclusion is that Christians are targeted by other religions. Moreover, in Malaysia it is forbidden for Christians to use the word Allah in the Bible for God, which is normal in Palestine, as the wor(l)d “Allah” is the literal translation of God in Arabic.[iv] The question is why?
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam signals persecution of Muslims in India and Myanmar too. Extremists on Buddhists and on Hindus side are forming a grand alliance against Muslims in South Asia[v]. For instance there is the persecution of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar. Also here is the question why?
In Malaysia Jews are persecuted. They are a very tiny minority there.[vi] Conclusion: also other religions are targeted by fanatics from different religions.
So we need to ask ourselves this question again: what is going on in our world?
I take you to another part of our world and step by step I will show you how our world looks like.
The American journalist Nick Turse researched the effect of American policy to control terrorism in Africa between 2002 and 2012. The result he discovered was the opposite of he’s assumption: Terrorism is growing.
He discovered that in some areas there are terror groups with an Islamic background, but there were also areas, where terror groups are not descended from have an Islamic background.[vii] Conclusion: terrorism is not specifically related to Islam.
3. Background terrorism
How to understand this? The Dutch terror expert Peter Knoope said in an interview in Dutch language that the West do-es-n’t realize how much hate there is against the West, he says that more than 5 billion people are against the West. ISIS has an attractive power in China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, in the central-Asian republic-s- unto Russia, the Middle East and North and West Africa. A flyer in the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, says that China ,which is not a Muslim country, is happy that the hundred years of the humiliation of the European barbaric dominance is finally finished. Anger has been stored in people outside the West by centuries lasting humiliation by the West.[viii] This leads to the question, whether terrorism is fed by humiliation by the West?
Humiliation is not the only background for terrorism. Once I spoke with two young Palestinians, 19 and 20 years old. Joking they asked me to provide them a wife. Then it figured out that they didn’t succeed their general secondary exams and they have no job and therefore they didn’t have money, by which they can’t marry. However, their dream was to study and have a decent life. But since they are not achieving that, they might be more vulnerable to become terrorists. Conclusion: terrorism has been rooted in a lack of perspective for a dignified future. People want to build up their future by themselves. They like to be proud on what they have managed.
4. Why young people choose ISIS?
The next question is: why do young Western people, beside young Muslims people living in the West, choose ISIS? Teenagers are very sensitive to justice. In their perception ISIS is a symbol of resistance against injustice committed by western colonialism. This colonialism appears now in the form of neo-colonialism telling the people how the future will be thanks to the West. But for more than five billion people it refers to what happened to them in the past (Knoope[ix]). Also they see that less people collect or steal more and more money only for themselves.(bonuses)
Young people are rebellious against this injustice. A son of a Greek Orthodox family and a daughter of a Catholic family joined ISIS in Syria. I think that they felt injustice is the background for these conversions.
According to the Dutch intelligence AIVD, people, who go to Syria, know about the atrocities committed by ISIS thanks to the information by internet. Nevertheless they go. But some people return after seeing these atrocities like the young woman Asha from a Catholic family. She became Muslim before she went to Syria. Other people are afraid to run away.
Here we see a gap between knowledge and feelings. Confrontation with reality can change their mind, but then it is difficult to escape this situation. Probably, as teenagers, their feelings for fighting against injustice are stronger than the information they receive online, so they join these fractions.
I compare this with smoking. People know that smoking is bad, but they do it anyway.
Sensitivity for injustice is a part of the development of their identity. They dream of an ideal world, for which they want to fight and to die.
5. Violence nowadays
What cause-s- this violence motivated by terrorism to erupt these days? I think to understand this, we have to start with the Iranian revolution. Iran had its own democratic development until 1953. The US didn’t accept the independency of Iran, kicked out the Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favour of strengthening the monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the United Kingdom (under the name "Operation Boot") and the United States (under the name tpajax Project)[x]
Iran was set back to a colony and the new ruler, the Shah, pushed the people to live in a western-like lifestyles, neglecting their own historical background and culture. The Iranian revolution made people aware that they have their own distinctive and significant roots and a very unique identity, different from the ruling West. A distinction between being a Muslim and others started to grow. Muslims become more and more that they are Muslim.
6. Identity and building own future based on religion
Here come together: youth, who wants to build up their own identity as basis of their identity, and humiliated people, who lost their identity and their capacity to build up their own future.
ISIS pretends to be based on the Islam. It uses especially Sura 9 to justify its atrocities. Reading carefully Sura 9, it is directed against wealthy Arabs who are hypocrite.
It doesn’t speak about atrocities, only about punishment. Young people dislike hypocrisy very much. It makes them angry, which is partially an explanation for the committed atrocities. People and youth compare these Arabs with the West nowadays, who are in their opinion wealthy and hypocrite without care for poor people. But Islam forbid to kill people.[xi]
Interesting is verse 111 of this Sura, where Torah, Gospel and Qur’an are put in one line. This means anyhow respect for Jews and Christians, who follow their Book.[xii]
Back to young people: they are both sensitive to injustice and despise hypocrisy which is part of the natural development of their identities. This makes them vulnerable to misleading calls the promise to achieve justice and end hypocrisy. They are afraid to make mistakes. A man from a middle class family in Saudi Arabia told this in an interview to the Dutch TV. When he was sixteen(!), he run to Bosnia Herzegovina to support his fellow believers. After more than a year he went to Al Qaida in Afghanistan, became responsible for the education of young fighters, who joined Al Qaida and heard from them that they feel them sinful. But they are also vulnerable, because they try to figure out who they are: what is their identity. They try to protect themselves by an armor to prevent that their feelings are hurt. Their conviction functions as armor. In this way religion plays for them an enormous role looking for confirmation that they are good people. They are longing for this.
7. The role of history
In is interview about terrorism Knoope speaks from generational solidarity or solidarity between grandparents, parents and children and so on.[xiii] He refers to humiliation of many peoples in the past. In fact he uses a notion that was developed by the Hungarian psychiatrist Iván Böszörményi-Nagy-, as he- speaks of invisible loyalties. He used this notion to deal with problems inside families.
But this notion can also be used for the imbalance between the West and the rest of the world. Under the notion of loyalty there lies the balance of justice or lacks it. It can lead to constructive and destructive entitlement based on committed justice or committed injustice. The last is now going on in our world. We need to know this in order to understand, why movements like ISIS get so much support. People from outside the Western feel them entitled to take revenge, but most of them don’t want to use violence. By this they are in a dilemma. They don’t want to support killings, but they understand why it happens. It is their own history.
8. Religion as justification
Being more and more aware that they belong to a certain religion; -,- people elsewhere mark it as a part of their identity. So, they search for understanding and backing for their position in their religion. Growing fanatism is a result and is an explanation of what is written above about India and Myanmar as examples about the persecution from Christians and Muslims.
Religion is also used to recruit suicide-bombers. It is a promise to flee away from the misery here on earth and reach eternal happiness. The target group has a low level of education and a low self-esteem.
So find three main factors by which ISIS get support: feelings of revenge in the so-called Orient[xiv], longing for justice by young people and search for identity.
Once, when I was sitting in a train in the Netherlands, I got contact with a young man from Algeria. He told me that he was opposed to democracy, because – according to him – democracy means that norms and values are a matter of 50% plus 1. Pushing back religion into the private yard, it is a serious question, on which norms and values have been based. Is there a solution?
I try: our world has to be based on mutual respect for every human being, who has the right to develop his/her talents serving our society. This is a –right and a- plight.
Everyone has the right to have influence on his/her environment regarding housing and work. Norms and values have to ensure these rights. We have to implement them as our duty.
10. What can we do for our future?
First of all: do we understand what has been written about the present situation? So we have to avoid being paralyzed by bad news coming from everywhere..
So, we need to look what we can do to build up a dignified future for each of us. I think that it is important to join us and find more allies who will work for the same. The use of social media would be used as a helpful instrument for this.
Also we have to learn how to use our anger, maintaining our self-respect. We have to make an appeal to people in the Western world to follow us without blaming them. We have to be clear that peace is finally only possible, if everyone can have a dignified life, connected with each other and respecting richness of the many cultures there are. Here I refer to the papal encyclical from Pope John XXIII in 1963 that that no-one is by nature superior to anyone else[xv]. (We have to be clear that peace is finally only possible, if everyone can live a dignified life, connected with each other and respecting richness of the many cultures there are. – double -) We need to build up trust based on attachment as fundament for healthy life on our world without fear.[xvi] We have to be clear that history of colonialism has caused pain among many people from many cultures without emphasizing that the present Western people are personally responsible for this. If they recognize what happened in the past, then we can look together for restoring justice now. Then we can live in peace together. Also our rulers have to be honest in this regard, stepping down from the position of a puppet-on-a-string for the real rulers in the West like they have to step down from a position (of a position) of being superior because of technological advantage.
Louis Bohte ofm
[iv] See: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/23/malaysia-highest-court-allah-bible-ban
[v] See: http://www.milligazette.com/news/11151-unholy-alliance-of-extremist-buddhists-and-hindus-against-muslims
[vii] See http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175714/nick_turse_blowback_central
[viii] See http://www.knack.be/nieuws/wereld/terrorisme-expert-knoope-een-groot-deel-van-de-wereld-haat-ons/article-normal-624191.html
[ix] See footnote vi
[xi] Sura 5,32 We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul, not in retaliation for a soul or corruption in the land, is like one who has killed the whole of mankind; and whoever saves a life is like one who saves the lives of all mankind.
[xii] Allah has bought from the believers their lives and their wealth in return for Paradise; they fight in the Way of Allah, kill and get killed. That is a true promise from him in the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’an; and who fulfils his promise better than Allah? Rejoice then at the bargain you have made with Him, for that is the great triumph.
[xiii] See footnote vi
[xiv] See book of Edward Said Orientalism
[xv] See http://www.papalencyclicals.net/John23/j23pacem.htm, nr. 89
[xvi] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAAmSqv2GV8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdCBip-8pC8#t=179.464498