The November 2015 attackers of Paris were aged between 25-28 years. In 2001 they were 11-14 years boys and were surely not terrorists. So, what all went into their mind during these 14 years of 21st century that should not have gone? Had they been happy from within vis-a-vis the net world treatment to Islam and Muslims would they still have turned terrorists?
It goes without saying that irrespective of any of these considerations every terrorist deserves to be meted out the sternest exemplary punishment.
Simultaneously, in the interest of longer term world peace, it would be useful to ponder if a terrorist was peeved because if dozens of Muslims are brutally killed it doesn't warrant the attention of the world media and at times it is passed off as collateral damage. But if one westerner is killed it becomes major news item and a topic fit for TV discussions across the globe.
In India it is a common site that RSS volunteers wielding lathi (bamboo stick used as weapon) are taking rounds in various localities and some persons feel happy to see that. Yet the question arises in many other minds that they take these rounds against whom? Also, if one group of citizens - all owing allegiance to same faith - are showing off their muscle power then why it is bad if followers of another faith do likewise. Similar questions arise at the international level too.
We are aware that more than 99% of the world population including the 1.7 billion Muslims are nice people. But a minuscule number of world citizens, many of them Muslims, have of late been going astray and trying to take the law in their hands. That's definitely a scourge of the society in our world today and must be dealt with most harshly. But must we exhaust all our resources on post mortem only? Shouldn't the Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge and other universities carry out systematic dispassionate research, identify the issues that may bother the potential terrorists now or in future and based thereupon shouldn't the world statesmen take broad scale preemptive measures to ensure that all of the upcoming youth remain satisfactorily on the right path?
In April 2005 the Indian government appointed the Prime Minister's High Level Committee to write a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India. It was chaired by retired chief justice Rajender Sachar and comprised nationally acclaimed experts in the fields of sociology, education, planning, economics, administration and statistics. The Committee submitted its report in November 2006; it is treated as the 21st century's authentic reference book on the subject. It found the Muslim community lagging behind all others in almost every parameter. Some remedial affirmative actions have been taken by the central and state governments based on the Committee's recommendations.
Later in 2014, during his maiden speech delivered in Parliament after taking over as prime minister, Mr Narendra Modi reaffirmed that Muslims are backward in the economic and other fields and he too vowed to take remedial measures to ameliorate the community's plight; Indian Muslims felt reassured. The world needs to take a lesson from India and adopt this model.
In the context of the post-San-Bertrandino anti-Muslim reactions President Obama has rightly cautioned on 12 December 2015, in his weekly White House address, that prejudice and discrimination help ISIL and "it undermines our national security.” Muslims should not be judged based on the “twisted interpretation of Islam” used by ISIS to justify violence, he added.
Earlier on 16 November - at his press conference at Antalya, Turkey - Obama had emphasized that "the overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years, and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIL, are themselves Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims. This is something that’s been emphasized by Muslim leaders -- whether it’s President Erdogan or the President of Indonesia or the President of Malaysia -- countries that are majority Muslim, but have shown themselves to be tolerant and to work to be inclusive in their political process. And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam, those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem."
Thus, in addition to sternly dealing with acts of terrorism it is high time to study and objectively analyze the Muslim psyche emanating out of the community's perception of its grievances and to identify areas of possible intervention by individual nations as well as the international community to address the relevant issues. That would also facilitate and strengthen the work of Muslim leaders and intellectuals in pushing the terrorists to the wall.
[Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood is Chairman of Zakat Foundation of India, New Delhi.]