Terrorism & Religion – Drawing the Fine Line

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re sick and tired of hearing everyone going over the moon, trying to prove their point of “Terrorism having no religious affiliation,” you should read this. It’s okay for you to go ahead and wrap your opinion around the stereotypical, but before that, you should read this article and think to yourself, if you’re putting yourself in a position you don’t want to be.

Terrorism – Definition

The best part yet – is that terrorism has no primary definition. There are many definitions in the basket of definitions for terrorism compiled by the United Nations, NGOs, IGOs, countries and ironically, “terrorists” themselves. Let’s take two definitions to understand how exactly terrorism could be of any religious affiliation.

“Terrorism attacks the values that lie at the heart of the Charter of the United Nations: respect for human rights; respect for rule of law; rules of war that protects civilians; tolerance among people’s and nations; and the peaceful resolution of conflict.” (UN, 2015)

“Terrorism flourishes in environments of despair, humiliation, poverty, political oppression, extremism and human rights abuse; it also flourishes in context of regional conflict and foreign occupation; and it profits from the weak state capacity to maintain law and order.” (UN, 2015)

Right and yes, none of the definitions categorize terrorism as a part of a particular “religion” in any way. That is the right thing – because none of the religions primarily encourage terrorism or activities of human destruction at all. It is the human perspective you interpret your religion, that makes you a terrorist individually and just because you’re a terrorist yourself, doesn’t make your whole race terrorists or even linked to your terrorist activities.

Still not satisfied? Of course not. Let’s take a look at some of the examples.

Terrorism Around the World

In Sri Lanka, we encountered a 30 year civil war – which was escaladed as a result of an ethnic conflict. The “terrorist” organization that operated within the country called themselves the Liberal Tigers of Tamil Eelam. (LTTE) If you believe that terrorism has a religion, here it represents a nationality – Tamil. So if you’re a firm believer that terrorism has some sort of representation to religion or in this case, nationality – all Tamils are terrorists.

Recently, Buddhist extremists in Myanmar and Sri Lanka opposed the expanding human numbers of Muslim nationalities and participated in inappropriate actions which could be categorized under “political oppression, extremism” and in some cases, definitely “human rights abuse”. So according to the theory of “Terrorism has some sort of representation of a religion,” it is clearly Buddhism. So all Buddhists are terrorists.

Of course – needless to say, you already think all Muslims are terrorists. So let’s not talk about it.

Remember the World War I, World War II and the Cold War where military powers went to war for political interests and conflicts of interests that they couldn’t resolve over a table? The mass destructions in Japan and genocide that took place clearly checked all the boxes of “terrorism” definitions that I have included in this article. So, if you belong to any of the countries that took a side in war and armed conflict, who killed civilians, you just called yourself a terrorist.

But how about Atheists – People who don’t believe in a religion? Can they be exempted from terrorism because they don’t belong to a religion? Let’s take time to think about all the state-less children who fled from the hands of poverty. If they take arms and take part in mass destruction, according to your narrow-minded opinion, they will not be called terrorists because they have no religion and are state-less.

What is the Difference?

Education. The gap of education is the primary difference of understanding real terrorists. As I said before in the article, none of the religions expose or encourage terrorist activities. If they do so, it is because the religious scripts have gone through years of transformation and human influence which then, interprets their aggressive culture and opinion. If they do so, that is human made – a religion is not to be blamed.

Extremism is a choice that is made by a handful of people. I am a Buddhist and I don’t hate the existence of Muslims. I have friends who are Muslims who don’t carry a suicide belt whenever they walk around. I know Christians who are not a part of the KKK Clan and I know Tamils who never supported separation in Sri Lanka. Terrorism could be born due to unlawful actions, demeaning of human rights and values of a minority culture or even for reasons of economic stabilization – if there is no war, there is no market for weapon manufacturers. Terrorism is fear and anger that is brought to the table by people and they themselves are responsible for it. Just like I am not responsible for activities of Buddhist extremists, all Tamils are not responsible for terrorism in Sri Lanka, not all Russians are responsible for countless illegal foreign occupation, not all Americans are responsible for bombings in Japan and Iraq attacks, not all human beings are responsible for poverty and natural disasters – not all Muslims are responsible for activities of Islamic extremists. Religion is only their political shield.