EXTREMIST ATTACKS ARE NOT ROOTED IN RELIGION
BY DAWUD WALID
Recent attempted extremist attacks with international connections should prompt us to take a deeper look at root motives instead of simplistically faulting religion.
The tired cries of the un-nuanced, such as former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stating that President Barack Obama is complicit in the recent failed Times Square attack because he fails to use the nomenclature “Islamic terrorism” to define such attacks, plays no constructive role in making our nation safer. Moreover, the Giuliani-type discourse misses a clear yet painful point. Many of these criminal acts are direct blowback in response to our foreign policy missteps.
The admitted Times Square attacker, Faisal Shahzad, who is of Pakistani origin and ethnically Pashtun, did not have a history of radicalism up until close to one year ago. Like the overwhelmingly majority of Pakistanis, Shahzad held a sharply negative view of the expansion of drone attacks in the Wazirstan province of Pakistan, which have resulted in a large percentage of civilian causalities. Moreover, his Pashtun kinsmen in Afghanistan have also suffered civilian causalities by drone attacks, and many of them view our presence in the region as a military occupation.
Prof. Robert Pape, who leads the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, states that there is little connection between terrorism and extremist interpretations of Islam or any world religion; oppression, a sense of marginalization and occupation are the primary causes for international terrorism. Like points have been made by U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, regarding the correlation between extremist attacks such as the Times Square incident with the large number of civilian causalities via drone attacks, which some casually dismissed as “collateral damage.”
The painful reality is that violence begets violence and that there will always be a small percentage of people who will commit acts of extremism when they see their civilian family members and kinsmen subjected to violence. We can only imagine how some of us would react if Americans were subjected to drone attacks by Russians.
While our government cannot abstain from implementing measures that assist in making us more secure, it must be more cautious in avoiding tactics that may have the opposite effect. Increasing drone attacks, for instance — about which a United Nations special representative on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings stated have “absolutely no accountability in terms of relevant international law” — are not making us any safer.
This is not to excuse the likes of Shahzad or anyone else who wishes to commit crimes against civilians, which violates American law, international law and Islamic law. Misguided people, who act from pain and unhealthy emotions can justify wanton violence that no religion sanctions or teaches.
If we truly wish to decrease the potential rise of internationally based radicalism, it is incumbent upon us to look at the true roots behind the motives instead of using religion as a scapegoat.
Dawud Walid is the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Michigan (CAIR-MI).