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Reasons Behind Islamic Terrorism: Illiteracy, Poverty and Deprivation? - By Alamgir Hussain

Reasons Behind Islamic Terrorism: Illiteracy, Poverty and Deprivation? - By Alamgir Hussain

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Published by Gilbert Hanz
Lack of education amongst the Muslims has been put forward as a prime reason for a sudden radical transformation of the Muslims in recent years with the concomitant increase in violent and terrorist acts.
Lack of education amongst the Muslims has been put forward as a prime reason for a sudden radical transformation of the Muslims in recent years with the concomitant increase in violent and terrorist acts.

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Published by: Gilbert Hanz on Jul 02, 2014
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Reasons behind Islamic Terrorism: Illiteracy, Poverty and Deprivation?
 by Alamgir Hussain 01 September, 2006
 recent surge in religious violence amongst the Muslims, particularly after the 9/11 (2001) attack in New York, has left the world desperately guessing about the underlying reasons behind it. In this hair-splitting brainstorming, pundits from all sections of the society, irrespective of religious backgrounds, have aired their opinions. The four common reasons that have received overwhelming acceptance are: 1.
 Lack of education amongst the Muslims. 2.
 Alleged desperate poverty in Muslim countries. 3.
 Alleged social and economic deprivation of the Muslim community, especially in the Western countries. 4.
 Muslims have forwarded another reason which is the oppression against them such as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that 9/11 and many other terrorists attacks took place before the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq easily rules out these two wars (4th reason) from the list of alleged underlying reasons for the surge in Islamic violence. However, Islamist terrorist group have definitely exploited these wars as an excuse to give a boost to their Jihadist recruitment drives. This means that these wars are only secondary reasons, if at all, but definitely not the  primary cause of religious violence amongst the Muslims.
In this essay, I will analyze these views of the  pundits in detail to evaluate if those are justifiable causes underlying the present scourge of Islamic violence and terrorism.
 Lack of education amongst the Muslims has been  put forward as a prime reason for a sudden radical transformation of the Muslims in recent years with the concomitant increase in violent and terrorist acts. If this reasoning is to be taken as valid, then we must conclude that as compared to now, the Muslim world was more educated in the 1950s and 60s, when there existed much less religious violence in the Muslim community anywhere in the world. But the reality says the opposite. Let us analyze this in the context of the subcontinent. During the colonial rule, the Muslims of the subcontinent resisted undertaking the secular education instituted by the British rulers despite desperate efforts by the government. Muslims considered the learning of English and undertaking the secular education un-Islamic and largely kept away from it. The Muslims instead insisted on the religious (Arabic) education so much so that the British rulers were forced to institute the separate Madrassa education for the Muslims of India. Thus, the Muslim community there remained relatively uneducated (in secular education) until the British rule ended in 1947. On the other hand, the Hindus and other religious sections embraced the secular curricula, comprising of science and literature, more openly. Muslims were left happy with the very limited scope of Madrassas education to learn Islamic scriptures in Arabic, which was of little daily-life value. As a result, the Hindus and other non-Muslim communities flourished in India while the Muslims were left behind as a relatively uneducated and backward class. The bottom-line is that Muslims of the subcontinent were a very uneducated people in the 1950s. Whatever education they had was mainly the religious type. However, Muslims started going to schools in large numbers to study secular curricula in the 1960s onwards in Pakistan and subsequently in Bangladesh. Schools were built at every nook and corner of the country which outnumbered the Madrassas to a great extent despite the fact that there were sharp rise in number of Madrassas after the 1970s, thanks to the oil-money coming from the Middle East. When I started going to school in the early 1970s, rarely parents in my village would send their children to schools. As a young boy, I recall people traveling a mile to find someone who can read a letter which they might have received from some sources. By the early 1990s, however, almost every child was going to schools (although many drop out)
 thanks to the
Government’s and various NGOs’ whole
-hearted efforts to bring every child to school. As a result, there has been a massive increase in the level of education and literacy amongst the Muslim population in Bangladesh, compared to the situation in the 1950s and 60s. Almost
Editor MA Khan's book (Feb 2009). Learn more 
every family in Bangladesh now has a member who can read and write. The same should apply to the Muslims in Pakistan and India. Likewise, literacy rate in Arabic (Madrassa) education has also gone up significantly. Hence, the present level of religious bigotry, fanaticism, violence and terrorism should have been substantially less amongst the Muslims in these countries, as compared to that of the 1950s and 60s. In reality, the opposite has happened. That is, there has been a massive increase in Islamic fanaticism and violence in recent years as compared to the 1950s and 60s. Hence, lack of education can no way be  blamed for the increase in fanaticism and terrorism as seen in the Muslim societies at all corners of the world today.
 The next principal reason put forward as the underlying cause of recent worldwide surge in Islamic terrorism is the alleged desperate poverty amongst the Muslims. To analyze this  point, I will once again compare the relative wealth and prosperity of the Muslims in the 1950s and 60s to those of the present time. When I was a young boy in the early 1970s, my father was a very ordinary farmer with limited lands and we used to make a hand-to-mouth living often with difficulty during some periods of the year. The income from the agricultural farming was such that when we, the 4 siblings, started going to school (2nd
 8th grade, free education); my father was failing to support the family. So, he decided to sell away all the land to set up a small business, which worked much better to feed the family and support our education. During those days, my mother would require some temporary domestic help during the harvesting season. When she used to send inquiries to the neighborhood about if anyone available to give her a hand, in a matter of hours a few parents would come to our house to request my mother to employ their young daughters, sometimes just for subsistence (3 meals a day). As compared to then, the quality of living in our family has improved no less than ten folds now. My parents live a kind of luxurious life in a beautiful bungalow house on the money sent by three of our well-off brothers. Recently, as my mother became frail with age, she tried to find someone to do the much simpler job of cooking and cleaning the house. She needed six months to find someone to do those simple chores in exchange of subsistence plus a good salary. There is definitely poverty in Bangladesh today. However, the situation has improved a lot as compared to the desperate poverty and hunger that existed in the 1960s and 70s. The above example clearly proves this assertion. Hence, if poverty is to be taken as a genuine cause of the current surge in Islamic extremism, then there should have been more terrorism in the 1970s than that of the present time in Bangladesh. But in truth, today Bangladesh is  plagued by Islamic intolerance and terrorism almost as much as any other Muslim country in the world. The same parallel also applies to Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and all of the Middle East countries. Indeed, the oil-producing Muslim countries have made massive economic strides with concomitant increase in religious violence. This clearly discounts
 as an underlying driver of the recent bubble in Islamic terrorism worldwide.
Deprivation/Disenfranchisement of the Muslims
 The issue of deprivation or disenfranchisement is more relevant to the context of the migrant Muslims in the Western countries or those living in the countries where Muslims constitute a

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