SOUTH ASIA’S GROWING VULNERABILITY TO EXTREMISM AND TERRORISM: REDEFINING THE DISCOURSE
Arshi Saleem Hashmi Senior Research Analyst, Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad Visiting Assistant Professor, National Defense University (NDU), Islamabad
It is militant forms or expressions of religion and religious ideology, which, under the guise of fundamentalism, are arguably the point of connectivity between religion and religious terrorism. Contrary to what Hent De Vries(1) argues that there is no religion without violence of some sort and no violence without religion of some sort, religion itself is not the cause of conflict. In fact, problems arise when powerful vested interests associate religion with violence, as Mark Juergenmeyers argues that religious violence is a result of people’s tendency to see their life as a struggle between good and evil. The clash between the forces of darkness and light can be understood not as a sacred struggle but as a real fight, often political manoeuvring taking place on the earth. He claims that when there is an identity crisis, or problem of legitimacy, threat of defeat, a real world struggle can be conceived as a sacred war and enemies are demonized.(2) Another school of thought, that includes Daniel Pipes, Samuel Huntington, Bernard Lewis and Jessica Stern, sees only Islam and not other religions as inevitably violent. Daniel Pipes, for instance, claims that radical Islam is an ideology incompatible with secular society. Muslims want to force the secular world to submit to their principles. They are thus “a radical network of terrorists,” “terrorists in this world who can't stand the thought of peace,” “terrorism with a global reach,” “evildoers,” “a dangerous group of people,” “a bunch of cold-blooded killers,” and even “people without a country.”(3) But there can be surely many other explanations to understand why religion has become an essential “tool” in politics and its extremist manifestation. For instance, Ted Gurr’s model of relative deprivation, mobilization and grievances is very relevant in order to understand the intrusion of religion in politics and the phenomenon of extremism. (4)
No doubt that the Taliban-Deobandi axis represents the legacy of revivalism that had, in the latter part of the 19th century, swept the Muslim world with a wave of militant insurrections led by the fundamentalist ulema, but it has become a fashion to trace all acts of violent behaviour to Islamic community. There is so much rhetoric in this regard that other possible reasons for the rise of militancy in the region have been set aside. The international media has found a new excitement about the activities of the militant groups and linking them with the Muslim ideology, notwithstanding their geographical location. It is being envisioned as if the origin and manifestation of extremism and terrorism is only confined to Islam or at least to people who believe in the religion and call themselves Muslims. This impression is further reinforced by the Greater Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes, which after 9/11 got the opportunity to strengthen their dictatorial rule, by deliberately misinterpreting the unrest in their respective societies. According to this propaganda tool, the element of dissent and revolt is branded as an act of extremism. In societies like Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, religious terrorism became an expression of ethnic identity as well, when the non-religious expressions of the communities were denied democratic outlet. In Bangladesh and Nepal, it is solely ideological expression than ethnic, which shaped into political violence. Militant expression of religious extremism is a global issue but South Asia is the worst affected region. Religious extremism and its expression through terrorism is a non-state, international phenomenon and, therefore, needs to be dealt with at the state, regional, and international levels.
Conceptual framework: Collective radicalization and mobilization
It is often said that religious extremists are not the poorest of the poor. In fact all the big names in the list of the culprits in recent history turned out to be educated and relatively better off. This leads us to explain that those who are most deprived, most oppressed, most in need are not those who usually rebel violently. Of course there have been food riots and peasant uprisings, but most often revolutions and violence have occurred when conditions are better or have been improving, and among those who are not the most deprived. Explanations vary but generally focus on two propositions. First, deprivation is subjective, a function of a person’s perceptions, needs, and knowledge. To nail deprivation to an objective or absolute lack of something such as freedom, equality, or sustenance, is to ignore that definition of these shifts according to historical period, culture, society, position, and person.
The second proposition deals with these norms. It asserts that we take our presently perceived or expected positions, achievements, gratifications, or capabilities as a base of comparison against our wants or needs, or what we feel we ought to have. The gap between wants and ‘ought to’ or gratifications and capabilities is then our deprivation, or relative deprivation in the sense that it all depends on our base of comparison. The literature on these two principles and on relative deprivation is well organized in Gurr’s book,(5) which merits discussion. The idea of relative deprivation has been used either to measure fairness, inequality, or social justice, or to explain grievance, social hostility, or aggression. Gurr’s concern is with relative deprivation as a cause of aggression. Ted Gurr’s articulated models suggesting that the gap between expectations and achievements would contribute to the willingness of people to rebel; in particular, rebellion was fuelled by movements in this perceived deprivation. In our discussion here on religious extremism, the aggressive, violent phenomenon of extremism attests to Gurr’s theory that it is actually the gap between the expectation of a regime based on “true” faith and the reality of an “adulterated” regime that leads these self-proclaimed custodians to resort violence in the name of religion.(6) The basic thesis of this paper is based on two theories; one that grievance borne of deprivation (either economic or political) is an individual concern that manifests itself collectively. Quite often material and political deprivation is aggregated within specific groups with a homogenous cultural identity. For example, a religious or linguistic minority might suffer disproportionately in a given society, and this form of grieve can lead to unrest across the social lines that distinguish the minority group.(7) True, in most regions of the world where we find ethnic and religious movements at times violent are minorities rebelling against the system. South Asia, however, is unique in the sense that the religious revivalism in extreme form in all of its troubled areas was initiated by the religious majority. This brings us to the second part of the thesis, in order to understand the phenomenon of religious extremism in South Asia, we need to look at the element of Fear. When Winston Churchill warned, “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself,” it’s doubtful he realized the sweeping political accuracy of those inspiring words. The common thread that weaves violent political movements together is fear and it is true for violent religious movements as well. The fear of being deprived of something drives one to act aggressively. Fear of being left out is the factor that drives the movements against the prevalent
Basic questions The paper addresses some basic questions. fear of being deprived of the role and status that they expect and want to achieve. Jew. So if relative deprivation can explain the phenomenon of religious extremism among the religious minorities. temples. but it is virtually always there. ideology: A fundamental difference or a false dichotomy
Ian Pitchford’s separation of a) ideologically-driven groups and b) grievance-driven groups may be read to suggest a distinction between a) groups whose terrorism we unequivocally condemn
.forces. or even comprehend. They fear a future they can’t control. or why they are willing to kill or die for a cause. For instance. and terrorism? Whether the role-played by religion in public life and in politics is proper? While focusing on South Asia. fear of being deprived of the status and achievement of the desired society can explain the rising religious extremism and militancy among the religious majority. modernization and loss of influence. It is not the only motivating factor behind political manifestation of religious violence. Muslim. others fear that the young will abandon the churches. why does religion so often become a source of conflict in South Asia? How can doctrines that emphasize harmony and peace get so politicized that justifies rioting. the answer is invariably fear. Whenever we ask why people hate. Religious radicals are united by fear. mosques and synagogues for physical and material gratification. Some groups fear change. Whether they are Christian. They especially fear education if it undermines the teachings of their religion. war. Hindu or Buddhist. nor necessarily the most obvious. is the common denominator. the study raises an important question: Does the religious confrontation in South Asian politics lead to regional instability?
Role of religion in South Asian politics Grievance vs. South Asian religious majorities are suffering from such fear that leads to tragic occurrences like the Gujarat pogrom perpetrated by the Hindu-majority extremists or Islamic militancy waging jihad against the “infidels” in Pakistan or Bangladesh or Sinhalese Buddhists resorting to violence against Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka.
to the extent that those outside the established religion feel themselves excluded from or peripheral to a defining characteristic of national identity. and therefore all terrorist groups are ideological. since members of every terrorist group.
. that attacking innocent civilians is fair game (or else that there is no such thing as an innocent civilian).(al-Qaeda. We know about the extremists in Iran and Saudi Arabia and about the Taliban and al-Qaeda. but a grievance all the same. insurgents in NorthEast India). The question is if there is any terrorist group without a grievance? But most importantly. The media and Western leaders speak often about this phenomenon in relation to Islam. Bangladesh has been suffering from fundamentalist Islam versus liberal Bengali nationalism and that has led to the election victories of the two mainstream political parties in the country. Though the establishment of one religion as a country’s official religion is permitted under international standards for freedom of religion or belief and thus is not problematic. it is the implementation of this right that unfortunately provides one community an edge over other and hence leads to exploitation and sometimes violence in the name of religion. and which undercuts national unity. Not the one that we recognize as legitimate. When upper-class Hindus organize violence against “untouchables” who try to win equal political status they are expressing a grievance. it must carry with it an ideology namely. But it is also the experience in all the other great faiths. Baluch in Pakistan.(8) This is hardly trivial. we need to pay more attention to the causes responsible for an ideology that endorses killing the innocent. Buddhist extremists in Sri Lanka have prevented reconciliation with the Tamil minority for decades. Regardless of what the specific causes of terrorism in one place or another may be. RSS Hindu extremists and b) groups whose terrorism we “understand” (Hamas in the Middle East. We have noticed that the establishment of a religion also establishes an inevitable formal inequality which implies some risk of discrimination. So whether somebody has a grievance is independent of our evaluation of its being just and genuine. Hindu extremists have been in Indian administration and Jewish extremists in Israeli administration and in both cases they’ve definitely got nuclear weapons already. say they have grievances. necessarily based on perceptions of common heritage and aspirations. since it is certainly not the case that everybody with a grievance launches into wholesale slaughter of civilians. Taliban in Pakistan. of whatever degree of mildness or severity. including al-Qaeda.
Those who support turning secular India into a Hindu state through constitutional amendments argue that Buddhism. one of the religions as practiced in this country has been placed above the others. A quick scan of these constitutions shows the importance of religion not only legally but politically as well
Constitutional umbrella and the politics of the South Asian countries Through the Proclamation (Amendment) Order No. But it was General Hussain Muhammad Ershad who completed this process by declaring Islam the state religion through the Eighth Amendment. It implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance. the Bangladeshi Constitution has lost its original secular character and has been highly Islamized. The government must not favour or discriminate against any religion. the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution would make Buddhism the official religion of Sri Lanka. every person has the right to preach.1 of the proposed amendment states that “The Official Religion of the Republic is Buddhism. Though still not part of the constitution. Buddhism has a special place in Sri Lankan politics. 1 of 1977. and discrimination and religious harassment or persecution against other religious groups intensified. In theory. Other forms of religions and worship may be practiced in peace and harmony with Buddha Sasana. and the
The Sri Lankan political system approves Buddhism enjoying “foremost place” in their society through constitutional guarantee. Jainism. practice and propagate any religion they choose.The South Asian countries being discussed here except India and Sri Lanka have given special place to religion in their constitutions. Article 2A of the Constitution says. It must treat all religions with equal respect. The process of Islamization of the constitution started during the rule of Ziaur Rahman with the insertion of Islamic words. and the military has incorporated Buddhist rituals into its ceremonies. officials pledge allegiance to Buddhist clerics after assuming power.”(9) The word “secular” was inserted into the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976. With this insertion. but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in the republic”. India therefore does not have an official state religion. and Sikhism share with Hinduism the concept of dharma along with other key concepts. Article 9. “The state religion of the Republic is Islam.
or of more recent introductions such as Christianity. it might also easily evoke feelings of being subsumed in a kind of Hindu-centric hegemony. in practical politics.242) provides that in the application of this clause to the personal law of any Muslim sect. but no law may contradict the beliefs and provisions of Islam.(10) The word Hinduism retains this sense in some usages in the Indian Constitution of 1950. but in fact Hanafi jurisprudence is one of the six branches of Sharia. the expression “Quran and Sunnah” shall mean the Quran and Sunnah as interpreted by that sect. also present in Nepal for many centuries. And of course it would not solve the problem of a religion such as Islam. Further explanation (Art. provides that all existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah. There is no mention of freedom of conscience. Followers of other religions are “free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites” within the limits of the law. and in fact apostasy is punishable by death in Islam
. Such a provision might have the effect of extending protection to Nepal's other widely followed indigenous South Asian religions. Hinduism is used in a narrower sense to distinguish it from the other religions of Indian origin. and Shamanism alike as inclusive rather than exclusive religions. Moreover. Part IX. Article 227 of the Constitution of Pakistan. and references to Hindu religion and religious institutions shall be construed accordingly. In this Part. However.four religions may be said to belong to the dharmic tradition. despite the long history of Hinduism. A system of civil law is described. Shamanist or other religions existing in Nepal over the course of many centuries. Reference to Hindus in the last Nepali Constitution(12) shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Buddhist. it is stated that no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such Injunctions. On the other hand. concessions are made to Shia jurisprudence in cases arising strictly between Shi’ites.(13) The 2004 Afghan Constitution describes Islam as the state religion. referred to as the Injunctions of Islam. able to coexist well with other religions. Buddhism. It was widely reported that the Sharia (the system of Islamic laws) is not specifically mentioned.(11) The constitution also provides that nothing in this Part shall affect the personal laws of non-Muslim citizens or their status as citizens.
Muslim. Political use of religion has heightened religious antagonism and acrimony.
. The Sikhs have battled for their own homeland. Pakistan and Bangladesh have Islam as state religion. influenced by economic and political change. Change and continuity still characterize the development of religious traditions in South Asia as they have in the past. since 1997. South Asia’s dynamic religious presence is manifested throughout the world. but in neither nation has conservative Islam exerted a definitive influence on governance. More importantly. Core religious beliefs and practices will continue to change. recent years have witnessed a resurgence of religious militancy in South Asia. Sri Lanka and Bhutan are Buddhist and Nepal a Hindu state. as living cultures do. new media. has made room for religious militancy and extremism.Policy implementation
The institutional provision of religion in the constitutions of almost all South Asian countries has made it a political force. The speed and ferocity with which political leaders are diminishing the civil and political rights of their constituencies indicates that South Asia is in for a prolonged period of turmoil. in the future. Religious traditions are transformed by this increasingly small world. The political leaders as well as military rulers in South Asia have used religion for political legitimacy and integration. and though a relative peace has returned to the Punjab. religious identity. Not only that. has raised concerns for all religious minorities in the region—Sikh. The legal system in India has retained differing systems for Hindu and Muslim personal law (more than 10 per cent of the population of India is Muslim). and Christian alike. slogans and symbols have often been used by political parties for political mobilization. the issue may emerge again. militant fundamentalism has emerged under the garb of religious extremism. In the South Asian region. India is technically a secular state. the ruling political leadership has been unfortunately suppressing those who dare oppose its theories of culture and civilization. and altering social expectations. Fundamentalist Hinduism. especially after the destruction of the Babri Mosque at Ayodhya in 1991. Pakistan and Bangladesh have experimented to different degrees with the integration of Islamic legal structures into the running of the nation-state. since the South Asian diaspora is a vital and growing community.
” asking “how” we see things. which fail to illuminate the extent to which movements of extremist religious nationalism in different parts of the subcontinent inspire and provoke each other. we mean at least two things. Without this.Politico-religious extremism in South Asia
What are the sources of religious extremism? When we ask a question like this. One is a question of “explanation. Hindu. the separatist movement inspired by extremist Sikh nationalism in the Indian Punjab and the Tamil separatist movement against Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka grew more alarming at the same time. and even terrorist movements. especially the Middle East.(14) Religion’s role in the politics of South Asia and its radical manifestation increased many times after the anti-Soviet Afghan War. The Gujarat pogrom of 2002 shows both: extremist Hindu nationalists. used systematic violence in a
. based on a “single casestudy” approach. in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The way Kashmir struggle became more of a religious struggle rather than a political/territorial dispute says a lot about the impact of religious extremism in one part of the region on the other part. bolstering each other as well as other ethno-religious azadi/separatist insurgencies. Buddhist — across South Asia’s major states. While this question is inevitable. This encourages us both to be more open-minded and to expect to find complexities. to provoke “reactive” religious violence. terrorism. and the Chittagong Hills. it is always risky. The other is a question of “interpretation. because of its persistence and virulence. religious extremism in South Asia is unique. religious extremism tends to inspire religious violence and terrorism and also. Northeast India. Of crucial importance for understanding South Asian religious extremism’s impact on the politics is to understand the relationship between religious extremism and violence committed by non-state actors. reactive or “retaliatory” effects are observable: Hindu-extremist attacks on Muslims in India have helped inspire Muslim-extremist attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh. many of them in government. Though prevalent in other societies too. Much before the azadi movement in Kashmir was radicalized.” asking “why” it happens. particularly in Kashmir. and strengthened the resolve and ferocity of Islamic militants in Kashmir. we are in danger of having only a series of isolated national or sub-regional perspectives. In particular. Proper understanding of the phenomenon depends therefore on sustained and comparative discussion of all the politically important cases of religious extremism — Islamic. In addition. for the answer can be both simplistic and reductionist. Kashmir was not the only case.
it is crucial to grasp the important political role religion and its extremist variant actually plays in South Asia. religious fundamentalism excludes. a phenomenon outside of government: What happens when the philosophy becomes a reality and tastes power. Most of the literature typically focuses on religious extremism. At the same time. on the other this same fundamentalism can display a propensity to include. and so regarded hostilely. in respect to considerations of the policies and praxis of social organization. virtually automatically. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. all others that fall within its frame of reference or worldview. The “other” is often cast as “satanic”. such violence has provoked a wave of reactive violence — almost certainly by Indian Muslims.(15) Another point is “negative value application. Similarly. as a necessary corollary. It is therefore very important to evaluate the impact of religious extremism on democracy. Pakistan. comprises the contextual scope of fundamentalism which is a mark of hardline fundamentalism and gives the first point of a profile of religious extremism as such. how religious extremism has promoted majoritarian and illiberal conceptions of democracy that erode and weaken the political rights and civil liberties of religious minorities. particularly in democratic politics. or at least seriously and significantly labelled as a hostile opponent.” which is a feature of fundamentalism. On the one hand.systematic fashion against innocent people to achieve political purposes — a practice which certainly fits textbook definitions of terrorism. a strategy the national leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has committed itself to replicating across India. However expressed or referenced. the superiority of the self is asserted. This holding together of an ideological exclusivism with an inclusivist polity. We have witnessed in India. It occurs where otherness per se is negated and. religious extremist parties on gaining power use violence as a semi-official instrument of governance and political self-preservation — as Hindu nationalists in India effectively used communal violence to win elections in Gujarat in December 2002. and how it attracts political support and exerts political influence beyond core supporters and succeeds in shaping national politics throughout the subcontinent. In other words. it will be clear that the fundamentalist is showing signs of deepening extremism in applying negative valuation to
. anything that relative to it appears liberal. where it occurs. in Pakistan the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA — or united action committee) used the slogan ‘Islam in danger’ in the 2002 general election in the backdrop of US attack on Afghanistan in 2001 and approves of the actions taken by the militants and the Taliban in the Tribal areas of Pakistan against the “infidels”.
that has been duly sanctioned. intentional terrorist actions against certain groups or the state. As the shift from a merely “hardline” to an actively impositional fundamentalism takes place. we discover two critical factors at work: sanctioned imposition and legitimated violence. in fact. though badly affected by terrorism. random. Sanctioned imposition and legitimized violence are the two sides of the chief coin of justification in the currency of religious extremism. The former sees the very imposition of the fundamentalist’s views and polity as. Cosmetic steps to go against the militants after the terrorist act is committed already cannot solve the problem. Since in South Asia we are still not so “civilized” to go for the root causes of the problem of religious extremism and its militant manifestations. often appear in various contemptible behaviours – intimidation. simply manifesting an underlying contempt in a comparatively spontaneous fashion. places of worship.(16)
Ad hoc and organized intentional terrorism in South Asia On the one hand manifestations of contempt. the region has not been able to address the root causes that are responsible for mounting terrorist activities. together with a corresponding assertion of self-superiority vis-à-vis any “other”. there is certainly the phenomenon of intentionally organized terrorism where extremism knows no bounds: the terrorizing of a targeted populace is itself both the means and the end. violent and destructive actions directed at nonhuman symbolic targets: works of art. as an expression of negative judgments and the negation of the “other”. coercion. For it is only so that the extremist ensures that the imposition.“otherness” as such. and so on. abrupt phases of violent expression as well as organized.(17) On the other hand. can actually be brought about. This leads naturally to the legitimization of extreme violence and so a platform of justification being established.
. howsoever that is conceived. which is a mark of impositional fundamentalism and the fourth point in the profile of religious extremism. These groups go underground when military action is taken by the governments and re-emerge when and as they feel the chance to exploit the grievances of the masses. sanctioned by a higher or greater authority. South Asia is unique as it has both temporary. Such behaviours may be ad hoc or temporary. They form the feature of explicit justification. at least in the mind of the impositional fundamentalist.
and others have challenged the status quo like the Bhakti poets and Buddhist sage
. Adam Dolnik puts it: first.(18) If militant theology is more often the consequence than cause of a militant orientation. leaders like Mr. third is self-radicalization. religious extremism fosters intense rivalries with other South Asian nations that do not share their religious identity. the question arises what leads religious groups to militancy in the first place? Why religious groups choose violence to improve the lot of their institutions and constituents. However. One reason could be that in religious societies. fanatical violence. Ambedkar. and finally. had its share of violent and not so violent episodes of religious extremism along with religious nationalism. they consider ethnic or religious identities different from those of the majority presumptively alien and disloyal and thus create a tiered conception of citizenship. the world’s largest democracy. a number of factors working on individuals pushing them to extreme behaviour. these variants have several distinguishing characteristics. the concept of Jihadization. they assume the religious identity of the majority as not merely one important aspect of the nation’s identity but as central and overriding. favouring one group over other suppressing all other competing sects encourages furious. preradicalization period. extremist religious movements are often propagated by movements that believe that communal and even terrorist violence are “normal” and legitimate means of promoting their visions and of keeping religious and ethnic minorities in their (subordinate) place. cognitive opening. who chose to convert to Buddhism to combat the stigma of untouchable. Caste continues to exert a profound influence both on individual lives and on regional and national politics. Second. by resisting repression and gaining political power. second.Shift from extremist politics to militancy Individual motivations to group dynamics
There can be many phases in the process when individual motivation transforms into group dynamics resulting in militancy in the society. the tolerant religious nationalisms that helped spawn these nation-states have been fiercely challenged by “extremist” variants. First. Third.
Modern India. Unlike their forebears. Finally and perhaps most dangerously. As Prof. a situation where we are ready to take another look at what we believe and it completely changes our perspective triggered by thematic events that happen. Since the South Asian states have achieved independence.
and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — to emerge as major forces on the Indian political scene. “We have allowed them to do their prayers and follow their religion. Vajpayee was reported as saying that wherever there were Muslims in the world. as demonstrated by the Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The architects of RSS ideology did not hide their love for Hitler’s ideas of superiority of German nation. the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). it has come to mean forcing their opinion through terror and fear. At a public rally in the state of Goa. The Indian Constitution explicitly rejects the communalist ideology of the BJP. Islam is run on jehad. there was strife.”(20) Having formed a stable governing coalition at the center in 1998. As ideologies of secularism and socialism lost credibility.” Vajpayee had said in the latter part of his speech. “Once Islam meant tolerance. By so doing they paved the way for the more ideologically committed and organizationally cohesive forces of Hindutva —the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).(19) The state is partly responsible for the reinforcing of stereotypes coming from the same mindset. if not explicit. religiously based majoritarianism to ward off regional threats. and organized a pogrom (in Gujarat in 2002) that killed as many as 2.000 Muslims. believing that similar notion of Hindu supremacy should rule India.”(23)
. “We were secular even in the early days when Muslims and Christians were not here. the Congress regimes at the centre turned to an implicit.” As the statement made its way through the media. drawing criticism and making Indian diplomats squirm at international forums. based on RSS’s philosophy under which the ideal state must be a Hindu state. the Indian government sought to put a spin on it. Hindu majoritarianism increasingly took on anti-Muslim overtones. claiming the prime minister was quoted out of context. Deployed initially vis-à-vis a Sikh 'other' in the early 1980s. The rise of a Hindu majoritarian politics since the 1980s in India must be placed squarely in the context of the many powerful regional challenges to central authority. and not just a Hindu state but an authoritarian and undemocratic state. they have used their unprecedented national power to make India an official nuclear power. truth and compassion — from what I see now.centuries ago.(22) Stephen Cohen warns that “the Gujarat riots… had the perverse effect of strengthening Pakistan’s resolve to resist what it views as Hindu chauvinism. orchestrated the destruction of churches and killing of missionaries. But the message was clear.(21) passed legislation that would subject religious conversion to government regulation. rewritten history textbooks to exalt the glory of Hindu civilization at the expense of Muslim and Christian “foreign” invaders.
and no less dangerous than. Though there are inherent differences. prime minister Rajiv Gandhi also proposed nuclear disarmament at the UN on 9 June 1988. The symbolic use of religion with the nuclear weapon is to use it for pride and national cohesion. the BBC journalist. it was within a stated policy of not going in for nuclear weaponisation . Prime Minister Indira Gandhi mobilized Hindu majoritarianism in India to suppress regional and separatist movements. The BJP's election manifesto was greatly influenced by the `Sangh Parivar'. The BJP did indeed make dramatic improvements in their representation in the Indian parliament. everyone I met felt religion should have a place in government.(24) Much before the BJP came into power and RSS stalwarts got a free hand to communalize history. which was the forerunner of the present-day BJP. But during my travels around India searching for an answer to militant Hinduism. Later. most politicians believe
. As far back as the early fifties. those madrassas all over Pakistan and Afghanistan which follow radicalism and spawned the Taliban. in revenge for which her Sikh bodyguards assassinated her in 1984. the Jana Sangh. made a pertinent remark on religion in Indian politics. he said. which had clearly subscribed to the acquisition of the nuclear weapon. “Anyone who says religion is needed in Indian politics — where Hindus in Gujarat took bloody revenge for a Muslim attack on a train — might well be accused of criminal irresponsibility. and came to power in a coalition government in 1998.(25) The nuclear bomb was considered to be a visible symbol of power. The Indira Gandhi-led Congress government conducted the first nuclear test in 1974. had also championed the cause of going nuclear.While Islamic madrassas are being targeted. That led to Pakistan’s decision to go nuclear and conduct six tests at Chagai on 28 and 30 May 1998. The policy of her government in dealing with the separatist movements culminated in a raid on the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar. strength and militarism and especially of a resurgent Hindu nationalism.They were quite clear that they would propagate and promote global nuclear disarmament. However. the Indian governments have maintained a disturbing silence on the role and functioning of the institutions run by Hindu fundamentalists such as the VHP and RSS.(26) The BJP government in an attempt to realize its long-stated goal of making India a nuclear power conducted the five Pokhran tests on 11 and 13 May 1998. including the extremist Sikh nationalism that sought to create a separate state. the aims of the RSS-run shakhas (training cells) and Saraswati shishu mandirs (kindergartens) are strikingly similar to. Mark Tully.
This schism on sectarian lines was the direct outcome of the process of ‘Islamization’ of laws in Pakistan that was introduced. more powerful. but the growth of extremism in that nation threatens those foundations. created an organization called Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqah-eJaffria (movement for implementing the Shia law) and protested against Zia’s policies. though not exclusively.
. more rigid Sunni family laws. violence against Ahmadis or Christians. The Shias. but we should have similar concerns about India as well — a country which is much larger. there are sectarian groups belonging to the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam that resort to terrorist activities which are mostly. The two sets are somewhat inter-related but show certain differences regarding their objectives. a country with nuclear weapons. areas of operation and targets of violence. First. They were successful in securing rider clauses in the new ‘Islamized’ laws for themselves and in having the Shias in general exempted from certain aspects of those laws. sectarian violence was very rare before that period.5 per cent on the savings of Muslims collected for distribution among the poor) or from other. There may be justifiable concerns about the possibility of Muslim extremists taking over in Pakistan. as noted above. and tolerance. and threatens to ignite not only internal violence but also conflict with other nations like Pakistan. the problem is not just against other religious communities. directed against the people from the opposite sect. feeling empowered after the 1979 Iranian revolution and embittered over Zia’s ‘Islamization’ programme.”(27) India’s political traditions are founded upon liberalism. In Pakistan.
Pakistan Pakistan’s suffering because of religious extremism is no secret. for instance. but within the Muslim community hard-line religious groups differ with each other on interpretation based on various sects which often leads to worst forms of sectarian violence. the Sunnis were also agitated at the time. Religion is politicized and abused for the instigation of terrorism by two sets of actors in Pakistan.this will only be possible if India’s age-old tradition of religious tolerance remains at the centre of its national ideology. They feared that people might seek conversion from the Sunni fiqh to Shiism in order to seek exemption from zakat (the annual tax of 2. by Gen Zia-ul-Haq in 1977–88. and which possess more nuclear weapons than Pakistan.
Not only did Zia get personally apprehensive about Shia power in Pakistan. democracy.
The vigilante Sunnis therefore set up Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (army of the companions of the Prophet). Pakistan’s official policy has changed considerably. we are still dealing with the problem of countering jihadi publications and “banned” terrorist groups who appear to operate under new names. Way beyond the Shia-Sunni conflict. In Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka shows the potential long-term consequences of implementing an extremist religious
. An interesting point to note in Pakistan’s case is that there is a distinction between “old” and “new” Islamists. the group vows to bring “ideal” Islamic system to the country. The new Islamists are not willing to consider such an option. The “old” Islamists are willing to co-exist in peace with secular politics. This group is led by the residue of Afghan Jihad movement. including Muslim states friendly to both) and the forces of virtue. Mainstream Islamic political parties.e Al-Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden. and military institutions. the West in general and the US in particular and all those who support these states. But domestically.
Sri Lanka Religious extremism is not restricted to Islam and Hinduism. The other set of religious extremists is of those who believe in a grand agenda. In the post-9/11 scenarios. i. educational. The war against terror is but one sign that the country is suffering from the malaise of “other people’s war” and the frightening situation that arms religious extremism with modern-day high-tech weaponry is a scary thing to imagine. the movement or network of the residue of the Afghan war. the deep rivalry between the majority Sinhalese Buddhist and minority Tamil Hindus has led the Tamils to wage a bloody separatist war that has left several thousands dead. though denying any link to the violent agenda of Al-Qaeda. With sure financial supply. are sympathetic to its objective of puritanical Islamic system in the country and any violence that takes place is sanctioned as an effort to please God. Extremist Islamic nationalism and an accompanying “jihad culture” infuse the country’s political. this group believes in a constant war with the forces of evil (meaning. partly as a result of a combination of Zia’s Afghan policy and his ‘Islamization’ campaign. The political strategy pursued by new Islamists in Pakistan is to seek to capture civil society institutions in order to eventually capture the state. the latter being the protagonists of “political Islam” who are seeking to transform politics through religion and religion through politics.
parliamentary elections. tens of thousands of houses were destroyed. but they all relate to a growing Buddhist nationalist sentiment — a folk belief that when the Buddha was on his deathbed. were on the upswing. And the Tamils who even if they were not supportive of the LTTE’s ways. strong opposition to secularism surfaced. all Hindus are Tamil. The riots occurred following a deadly ambush by the terrorist organization. and a wave of Sri Lankan Tamils left for other countries. and only Christians are found between both communities. especially Hindus. the Sinhalese have always felt insecure. on the one hand is good for the conflict-ridden nation but on the other it reinforces the hand of the majority against the minority. Islamic extremism became all-encompassing. The terrorists are now eliminated but the majority Shinhalese may become even more suspicious of the Tamils seeking to prevent any future movement. which Bangladeshis observed with increasing alarm since the Ayodhya mosque demolition in 1992. This has resulted in decades-long ethnic tensions with the Tamils.(29) The final episode of the end of LTTE supremo Villupilai Prabhakaran .(31) Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its coalition partners. all Buddhists are Sinhalese. Bangladesh originally had a strong secular foundation consisting of non-religious Bengali nationalism. Christianity is the only faith that cuts across ethnic lines in the country. Attacks on religious minorities. Although they are 74 per cent of the population.
Bangladesh Bangladesh tasted political role of religious groups soon after independence. It is estimated that 1. partly in retaliation for Hinduextremist attacks on Muslims in India.
There are several factors behind the persecution of the minorities. There is also what some observers describe as a “siege mentality” among the majority Sinhalese ethnic group. the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which killed 15 Sri Lanka army soldiers in July 1983.000(28) Tamil people were killed.(30) In the course of the 1990s. he asked for the island of Sri Lanka to be set aside to protect Buddhism. which included two Islamic parties. Interestingly. Yet after 1975. Bangladeshi politics had been
. According to Yogarajah. and now the escalating religious conflict. saw a decisive victory in the October 2001. and the state was made officially Islamic in the late 1970s.nationalism and then enforcing it through semi-official pogroms. would always be under pressure because they belonged to a community whose significant percentage was either involved in the armed struggle or was part of the sympathizers.
Pakistan’s military government supported Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.divided into those arguing that this large Muslim country might become a target of Western and Indian pressure and those who believe in secular ideas in order to be part of the post-9/11 world. Ja'amatul Mujahideen Bangladesh claimed responsibility for the bomb blasts. The rise of fundamentalism in Bangladesh is not just a side-effect of military politics. East Pakistan could have merged with the predominantly Hindu Indian state of West Bengal. it has suffered and has been a center of militancy and religious extremism.” says Khan. was responsible for transforming the idea of jihad into
. in which the militants exploded about 459 bombs in capital Dhaka as well as in 63 out of the total 64 districts. Enayetullah Khan.”(35) Operatives went scouting around the Arab world and Africa recruiting zealots. The CIA was responsible for the first trans-national
jihad in a thousand years.(33) Despite government measures (banning organization. “Are we Bengalis first and Muslims second. Subsequent suicide bombings also proved their existence. And when Muslim identity becomes an Islamic identity we're in real trouble. who then flocked to Afghanistan.”(32)
The Islamic militants came to the limelight after the countrywide simultaneous bombings on 17 August 2005. or Muslims first and Bengalis second? This is the problem. “We’re having a bit of an identity crisis here. says that a Muslim element has always been present. Unholy Victory reports the comment of a CIA officer that “fanatics fight better. where the same language is spoken. more because of his beliefs and policies than because of any actual achievements inside Afghanistan. Kurt Lohbeck in Holy War. otherwise. legal and police measures) the problem of Muslim militancy has by no means been resolved. The Awami League campaigned that a victory by the BNP and its Islamic-party partners would lead to the Talibanization of Bangladesh. Afghanistan is not new to the menace of terrorism. At the start of the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Military types are likely to prefer a disciplined kind of religion that is not too concerned about civil liberties and electoral process. monitoring funding and recruitment.”(34)
Afghanistan Afghanistan is one country that has been both the victim as well as the perpetrator of all sorts of radicalization. a pan-Islamist extremist. indeed. Editor of the Bangladesh weekly Holiday.
The second is the increased sway of political Islam.(37)
Growing vulnerability to extremism and terrorism
Alex Schmid. political mobilization. including Salafist thought from the Middle East. as the war against the Soviets dragged on. their impact is often overstated in the western
.(36) The first is the disintegration of Afghan social structures at both the state and tribal levels. These five lenses comprise crime. a leading international expert on terrorism. politics. has explored the definition and context of terrorism in terms of “five conceptual lenses”.
The rise of radical Islam along both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border has its roots in three major factors. The Islamic ideal of the Ummah. The third is the radicalization of the Pashtuns. Following an Afghan wartime tradition. communication and religious extremism. Religious extremism does not occur in isolation. Almost certainly. propaganda all contribute towards making a society religiously intolerant leading to violent acts and terrorism. civil war/chaos. mullahs stepped forward to become military commanders during the war against the Soviets. as a result. coupled with the destruction of the Afghan state. These three converging factors have created the current instability on both sides of the border leading to total chaos and militancy. thus providing a multiperspective framework. madrassas in Pakistan began to provide religionbased education to refugees. due mostly to outside influences. warfare.the indiscriminate sowing of terror. and the more local Deobandi philosophy.(38) Since we are focusing on religious extremism. the length and intensity of the war. crime. the dominant ethnic group along the border. it is important to note that though Schmid looked at terrorism through five different lenses. At the same time. increased the role of the mullah in society. beginning in 1979 with revolts against the communist government and communist infighting and the subsequent Soviet invasion. these are inter-related. the Afghan education system crumbled and largely ceased to exist. the one people of Islam transcending all differences of nationality and geography. Ahmed states that while Islamists are an important source of political instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. has thus been given a terrifying new meaning.
South Asia specialist Akbar S.
the ability of religious extremists to find such a wide audience in both Afghanistan and Pakistan is in fact a symptom of much deeper and complex problems within South Asia. In particular. Ahmed states that both Afghanistan and Pakistan are suffering from similar and deeply rooted breakdowns in the ability of the state to maintain law and order. 2. They are:(39) 1. Ahmed suggests that the growth in mutual distrust and the uncertain physical security in Afghanistan and Pakistan have left many feeling that they have no control over their lives.
. 3. many have turned to religion to regain a sense of control for coping with the difficulties of their everyday lives. Ahmed points to three problems that have contributed both to the rise in popularity of Islamist movements and overall instability in the region. A breakdown in the sense of control average people feel they have over their lives: Building upon his previous points. Ahmed argues. This has created an atmosphere where a sense of hopelessness has taken over. A general breakdown of law and order: Prof. where Muslim-Hindu differences are viewed on both sides as intractable. With rampant mistrust between different religious and ethnic groups. To the contrary. Ahmed argues that even within mixed communities inter-ethnic and inter-religious respect and tolerance are at an all-time low. A breakdown in inter-ethnic trust and dialogue: Noting that India-Pakistan relations are perhaps at a historic low point. This has created a situation where not only is physical security of citizens uncertain in many places. but the inability of the central governments to effectively provide social services also has left the leadership of both countries with tenuous popular support.media.
armed domestic Islamist organizations. Islamization in Bangladesh. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Apart from the radical Maoist movement in the region. Hindu extremist groups are as well making their space in Nepal’s bordering towns. Although the Maoist Movement played a major role in changing the course of history in Nepal. when states have failed addressing their economic and social grievances. divided along the borders make it difficult for a state to resolve the issues single-handed. Small-scale armed clashes on the Pak-Afghan border have become a routine matter. Kashmir has been a source of permanent mistrust between India and Pakistan whereas Talibanization issue is keeping mutual suspicion alive between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The South Asian states have been using the options of “force” and “politics” to resolve the disputes but the minority ethnic and religious movements. Maoist and Communist organizations have developed strong ties with each other. South Asian countries also lack confidence in each other. The complex influx of Taliban has also its impact on bilateral relationships of both states and the Durand Line is becoming an issue of concern. funded thousands of Islamic madrassas. which makes it difficult to form any joint mechanism to counter common threats. Maoist and Naxalite nexus in India. The radicalization of the separatist movements not only makes the border disputes complex but also starts shifting inside the countries. joint resolute mechanisms and inter-state cooperation. In Nepal and India. Talibanization in Pakistan. By supporting Islamist militias among the Pashtun.Contributing factors
1. Taliban and al-Qaeda presence on both sides of the border has made this area very important for the world. Pakistan government has tried to neutralize Baloch and Pashtun nationalism within its borders. especially. and their influence is growing in bordering towns. and in the process “militarized and radicalized” the border region. Hindu radicalism in Nepal and the sectarian and separatist threat in Iran cannot be countered without proper internal strategies.
. Pakistan’s then military dictator Zia-ul-Haq promoted the jihad in Afghanistan. Afghanistan sheltered Baloch nationalists in the 1970s while Pakistan extended refuge and training to the mujahideen in the 1980s and then later supported the Afghani Taliban. at the same time the separatist movement in Tarrai is also active with the same radical ideology.Porous borders
The long history of each state offering sanctuary to the other’s opponents has built bitterness and mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
3. or it is the existing system that is responsible for their deprivation. Almost every state in the region is multilingual. Extremism whether Islamist/Hindu or Socialist. multireligious. In South Asian context. we find both demand for new ideas or structural changes rejecting the old order like the popular uprising against the monarch in Nepal. including political relations. military approach is often used to deal with the problem. When people are not treated in the same way at social level and they don’t have opportunities equal to that of the elite classes. and aspirations are ignored. ensuring justice. creates a myth about change in constructive terms. It popularizes their ideologies and questions the legitimacy and relevance of existing ideologies. and so identity politics is increasingly a cause of conflict in the region. social and economic forces also play a vital role in radicalizing South Asian countries. interests. or calling for the old order that represented an ideal model of an Islamic state. extremist ideology tries to gain ground by influencing the minds of people looking for spiritual solace to avoid the effects of economic frustration and political instability. it just waits until the problem becomes uncontrollable and instead of right policy decisions. i. human freedoms and constitutional values and institutions. multiethnic. they are forced to think either it is their fate. When they revolt against the system they are declared “radicals” by the elites.e. Extremists and extremism are about fundamental structural change in all spheres of societal life. Government’s failure is that. Exploiting the basic grievances of the masses. The post-colonial states failed to perform their fundamental functions of the state. In addition. like Islamist radicalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh or Hindutva radicalism in India.Inept political and social approach Extremism primarily rejects existing means of political participation and finds existing social economic and political institutions inadequate to address the problems facing the society in general and some of its sections in particular.
. social development. and multicultural. economic relations and social hierarchies. instead of paying attention to a social approach to solve the problem.2-Governance issues
One of the weaknesses of democracy in South Asian countries is that their differing needs. Yet these diversities within our borders are not addressed at any level of governance. rule of law and order and security and safety of the individuals.
their problems would be solved by the state. for instance.
4. As mentioned above. Deobandi-Bralevi conflict in Pakistan. since the religious groups have become so independent and all powerful financially that the monetary tool that was once controlled by the state and which had made such groups dependent. caste conflict and Hindu/Muslim/Christian
. Balochistan has been struggling for political rights in addition to redressal of economic discontent. 5. Political deprivation is yet another factor. financial. it is not that they support extremism and militancy. unemployment and lack of freedom of expression in society are all pertinent factors responsible for growing numbers of the radicals despite the withdrawal of state patronage.
The root causes of identity mobilization are related to the underlying characteristics of politics in a weak state and its susceptibility to the intrusion of outside forces into its body politic. spiritual and emotional incentives by locals as well as outsiders.Political and economic discontent The deteriorating economic conditions. they do not have any option. People in South Asia are looking for right kind of solutions. These “emirates’ are well-resourced and well-equipped with modern weapons. There is nothing offered to them by the leaders that could convince them that if they do not support the extremist/religious groups. There are sectarian/majoritarian specific brands of religious groups espousing. Individuals feeling humiliated for variety of reasons to join these groups.Politico-religious mobilization Desire to promote specific political goals. ShiaSunni conflict. most of the time. has become ineffective as they have found other means to sustain. Out of four provinces. lack of political infrastructure in the Tribal areas paved the way for different religious groups to establish their “emirates”. Unless the state comes up with some financial attraction to the young and the frustrated they would continue to fill in the ranks of the jihadi organizations independent of the state. Speeches alone cannot solve the problem. hence no dearth of people joining them and challenging the state. now after the withdrawal of state patronage.There is no permanent social or political approach in place in all the South Asian countries to deal with the root causes of extremism and militancy and to assess how the political vacuum is often filled by extremist ideology. Similarly.
First. The other set of religious extremists comprises those who believe in a grand agenda. including Muslim states friendly to them) and the forces of virtue. for example. it was learned that al-Haramain. not economic. The campaign against jihadism and the campaign against global poverty are both justified. i. Saudi Arabia erected a number of large global charities in the 1960s and 1970s whose original purpose may have been to spread Wahhabi Islam. Sinhala Buddhist/Tamil Hindu problem in Sri Lanka and monarch/Maoist clash in Nepal. in the eyes of bin Laden and his allies). suicide bombers seek to change the policies of democratic occupying powers like Israel and the United States by influencing their public opinion — in a sense making the occupying power suffer the same level of humiliation they have felt. Way beyond the Shia-Sunni conflict. they are members of communities that feel humiliated by genuine or perceived occupation (like the perceived occupation of the sacred territory of Saudi Arabia by virtue of the presence of US bases. solutions. both foreign occupation and domestic autocracy are political problems that must find political. but which became penetrated by prominent individuals from al-Qaeda’s global jihadi network. University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape’s study of suicide bombers.” The central role of communal humiliation in inspiring terrorism is the key finding of the study. Palestinian. The three most prominent of these charities were the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO — an offshoot of the Rabita Aalam al Islami or Islamic World League). the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. According to Pape. All three are suspected by various global intelligence organizations to be funding terroirsm. Chechen. It would be a mistake to treat prosperity as a universal solvent that can deprive jihadists like bin Laden of allies and sympathizers in populations that feel humiliated by foreign domination or frozen out of politics. Second. and al-Qaeda suicide bombers. he said: “Men do not become tyrants in order to avoid exposure to cold. Dying to Win(41) is based on what Aristotle stated long ago believing that ambition was a more powerful incentive to sedition and revolution than deprivation. But they are not the same war. two factors have linked Tamil.e. was used as a conduit for funding al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia. It would be incorrect to view these charities as purely non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private charities. this group believes in a constant war between the forces of evil (the US and other states of the West and all those who support these states. al-Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden.(42)
. the movement or network of the residue of the Afghan war. The residue of the Afghan Jihad movement leads this group. Ultimately.riots in India. and the Charitable Foundations of al-Haramain.(40) From the CIA’s interrogation of an al-Qaeda operative.
In practice. a close and comparative look at South Asia’s different contexts reveals that except for Pakistan. it is very important to note the difference between characterizing Islamic extremists and to focus on terrorism as a phenomenon in its own right. The lack of a subcontinental and comparative perspective has yielded neglect in the literature of the extent to which religious extremism has — either directly or indirectly — fostered dangerous hostility and confrontation between South Asia’s major states. Hinduism or Buddhism. one simply cannot understand religious extremism in one part of South Asia — Hindu extremism in India.Is there a way forward?
Religious extremism is unique in South Asia because it cannot be understood in isolation and independently. which call for pluralism. (one wonders what explanation is given for religious extremism in the largest democracy in the world –India!). there seems to be strong connection between the doctrine and the politics in contemporary religio-political situation in South Asia. however. we have seen that democracy has facilitated religious extremism — BJP rule in India and MMA rule in NWFP and Balochistan through votes in the 2002 elections. Terrorists often seek legitimacy through particular religious idioms but the label “Islamic terrorists” was often used to suggest that it was a phenomenon that required no elaboration. One can argue that religious extremism undermines democracy. In other words. Similarly. But the reality on ground tells us the story of violence and extremism in the name of religion in both India and Sri Lanka. would never appear to be the source of militancy and extremism. Interestingly. religious extremism flourishes. It is often said in the West that due to lack of a true democratic system. For example. Ironically. Terrorism is a particular form of violent activity and not simply a natural corollary of any religion. This reinforced the stereotyping of Islam. for example — in isolation from the other manifestations of religious extremism that have swept over the politics of all the other South Asian countries — Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka and forms of Islamic nationalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as Afghanistan. which has been under military rule for more than 32 years of its over 60
. There is a great need to understand that religious philosophy and political violence may not necessarily have a link in theory.
It may be the other way round: democracy can and has actually brought the religious nationalist with extremist agenda to power. An interesting. Unfortunately. So what has exclusively been a conservative group of Islamic fundamentalists got into mass-based politics (for example in the 1985 party-less elections) as a consequence of democratic openings though short-term and politically weak. This is what makes religious extremism in South Asia a unique phenomenon as compared to other regions. politics was largely a matter of elite bargaining. however. Despite severe limitations in understanding. the country saw the rise of a strong Islamic nationalism almost as soon as the nation began to enjoy independence but little democratic self-government.years history. there is a huge percentage of moderate urban civil society in
. which was of course part of Pakistan as East Pakistan until 1971. This raises of course the question of Pakistan. and mass participation was severely constrained or narrowly channelled through the dominance of a single political party. mass electoral democracy has actually facilitated the rise of religious extremism in South Asia. religious parties could not play any significant political role and the country tended to be most secular when it has been most elitist and restrictive. Changing international situation provided a golden opportunity to the Islamic extremists to attract the masses in Pakistan and Afghanistan. for a short period after independence and in India for about 30 years after independence. Hindu extremists targeted the Hindu vote among Indians who were already quite disillusioned by not being part of the Congress politics which had become elitist and restricted. Sinhalese Buddhist often mobilized the poor and rural Sinhalese Buddhists of Sri Lanka and made them a political force to be reckoned with. transition to democracy in Pakistan after long military rules brought religious parties with confrontational agenda against the West to power. and to tackle the politics of medieval religiosity in a post-colonial Muslim-majority state like Bangladesh and Pakistan or a Hindu-majority India or Buddhist “ extremism” in Sri Lanka. Religious parties availed the opportunity by filling in the vacuum between the restricted political clout and the masses. In the initial period after independence. And in Bangladesh. It is true that military governments depended on religious parties for legitimacy from the masses. and during the same time. deliberate social engineering initiative is needed. In order to uphold the ideal of a modern progressive state. long periods of authoritarian rule helped these scattered religious groups to claim political power under the shadow of the military dictatorship. In Sri Lanka. yet alarming observable fact in South Asia is that democracy may not always bring the “moderates” in power. Later. analyzing and defining modernity and progressiveness.
rooted in indigenous religious and cultural traditions. South Asian nations have sometimes inflicted their religious politics in an extremist manner on other South Asian nations in an attempt to validate their political identity. religious extremism fosters religiously defined conceptions of national identity that politically unify and mobilize peoples and serve as benchmark of governmental legitimacy. It is important to note that due to their shared history as a single political unit under the British rule. rather than a deep-
. For instance. the South Asian states depend on ideologies that enable their people to identify with their own countries. coercion. no less obstructive of a peaceful international order than the old.South Asia which has the intellectual quality. Unfortunately. a new kind of cold war may develop. An analysis of the relationship of religious movements to political developments demonstrates how new forms of ideological bonds. are challenging the Western model of the secular state in South Asia. there could be any number of far-reaching political consequences of intrusion of religious extremism into politics in South Asia. To combat religious extremism — as opposed to extremist violence — with the powers of the state is to invite conflict if that extremism represents a widespread unmet demand for some set of services. particularly between Hindu India and Muslim Bangladesh and to a lesser extent Hindu India and Buddhist Sri Lanka. Religious extremism has undermined democracy in the region by promoting a majoritarian theory and practice of “illiberal democracy” that in the words of Fareed Zakaria marginalizes and disenfranchise religious and ethnic minorities. or psychopathology is to foster misunderstanding. To support “good” religion while repressing “bad” religion is to invite violence. the prospects for regional peace and stability are severely affected by further intensifying the longstanding hostility between India and Pakistan and by laying the basis for new rivalries defined on ethno-religious lines.(44) Also. To label religious extremism as the product of ignorance. Because there is no satisfactory compromise between the religious vision of the nation state and that of liberal democracy. organizational ability and experience of social activism and is the only visible social force that can fight the religious orthodoxy and could play an effective role in establishing a modern state. religious extremism is often considered as merely periodic interruption of the normal course of South Asian politics and national political development. (43) Finally.
Nepal’s unstable government. One of the major hurdles is the trust deficit between the countries of the region. Religious extremism has become a transnational phenomenon and in South Asia it is affecting all the states equally. The basic ingredient of the “regional approach” is to look beyond the national boundaries.
Joint Mechanism: Is it Practical?
The idea of Pakistan. India-China territorial dispute etc. the South Asian States need to let go of their trust deficit and devise a comprehensive strategy by identifying the enemy as one who in the guise of their respective religions is creating havoc in the region. The way forward is to realize the fact that given the nature of our geography. The mindset that once existed about a particular interpretation of religion in their respective countries has found its manifestation in the form of terrorism. Religious extremism by its very nature is assumed to operate at the margins of society rather than on the center-stage of national political life but this leads to politically crucial and growing alliance between religious extremism and political nationalism throughout South Asia. While some acknowledged its existence and came up with anti-terrorism laws and initiatives. Afghanistan along with the US and China jointly managing the conflict has both merits and demerits. The time. and Sri Lanka’s recent experience with a harsh and brutal war with the LTTE that led to the death of its supremo Villupilai Prabhakaran. Then between India and Bangladesh the border problem. India. However. If we do not recognize this. In such a situation the idea of joint mechanism to combat terrorism appears as wishful thinking. the same “demerits” can work in favour of joining hands to eliminate this menace from the region. exposing and trying the “terrorists” in each other’s country just to teach a lesson to other. Separating the enemy as Pakistani terrorist or Indian terrorist or Bangladeshi. others opted for a policy of denial. resources and energy and media attention wasted on this exercise would only benefit the terrorists and help them achieve their objectives. we have reached the stage where neither individual policies to deal with the problem nor denying its existence would work. Pakistan-Afghanistan conflict over the Durand Line. Iran. Unfortunately. Pakistan-Iran disagreement over Balochistan vulnerability. India-Pakistan conflict particularly the Kashmir dispute. i.rooted feature of the region’s national political cultures. The
. we would continue to engage in declaring .
Collective Approach to Deal with Extremism
Until now the South Asian countries have been dealing with the menace of extremism individually.e. Sri Lankan terrorist would not work.
have been internationalized to garner favourable support. It is not just about the FATA region which is out of government control in Pakistan. Ironically. Owing to this lack of economic and developmental approach. especially US President Barack Obama’s stance regarding the need to tackle Kashmir as it is the most important issue in South Asia. then it is imperative to mention that nearly all peace overtures in the region have been successful only through third-party facilitation. Indian National Security Adviser MK Narayanan’s statement that the US would be barking up the wrong tree. issues. once again. even as intractable as Kashmir. and then lobbying hard to get India excluded from the proposed regional approach to solve the problems affecting the two neighbours. serves no purpose. India being the biggest country in the region needs to strike the right balance vis-a-vis its neighbours. Should India place its boots on the ground? To what extent can India continue to expand its diplomatic and economic profile in Afghanistan without an appropriate security apparatus in place? The emerging political and military situation makes it imperative for India to evolve a clear policy.(45) As for Pakistan. They have also diverted them from focusing on developmental issues in their countries and bringing about economic change. If only the regional states stop waging proxy wars against each other. However. whenever it suits the parties concerned. to establish a meaningful presence in the region and realize some of its larger interest. Moreover. It is highly unfortunate that the security managers in New Delhi.abovementioned political/territorial disputes have prompted the South Asian states to wage proxy wars in each other’s country. the spillover effect of the war on terror. if India does not want to be party
. makes both the public as well as the civil-military administration wary of American intentions. The crisis in Pakistan’s frontier region not only accentuates the crisis across the border in Afghanistan but also drives the extremist threat to other states of the region. and a history of troubled alliance relations. successfully de-linked Kashmir from the larger picture. in spite of reservations. the new overtures have been greatly welcomed. these neglected areas became a safe haven for terrorists in the region. There is a serious need to deal with the concerns Pakistan has about India’s role in the crisis. most of the problems related to terrorism and militancy would be solved. the border areas between India and Bangladesh have been used for cross-border movement of a huge number of people.(46) If the idea was to prevent internationalizing the Kashmir issue and opening doors to third-party intervention.
it also shows that by engaging the Indians and Iranians. the best bet would be to become a part of the collective effort to combat extremism and terrorism and then enjoy the benefit of economic prosperity by focusing on mutual economic interests rather than continuing with the policy of confrontation. right policies could prevent its militant manifestation. The idea of a “religion free” South Asia would never be materialized given the nature of the societies in the region. Religion would continue to be a political force. Accommodative policy based on peaceful coexistence is the only option left with Pakistan. It is therefore important to have cooperation rather than confrontation on the part of the policy-makers to ensure possibility of a happy synthesis in which “essential elements of democracy will be conveyed in the vessels of new religious states. their followers would continue to look at the world through their own religious lenses. The US move to engage Iran and India in managing the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal belt has sparked some controversy in Pakistan. This strategy might also work in preventing India and Iran and Pakistan from fighting proxy wars in Afghanistan. behind-the-scenes actions of the two countries in Afghanistan as was the case in the past. the US has removed the hurdle in its way to have an administration that would guarantee safeguarding the US interests as well as providing economic opportunities to India and Iran. Pakistan is still struggling with the idea of giving up its long-lost goal of having a friendly government in Kabul. India and Iran have huge economic projects in Afghanistan that demands security and stability.to any US-backed regional framework. Aiming at getting the South Asians to change their lenses would be impractical strategy. however. By letting the two countries to invest in Afghanistan. the US has prevented any indirect. but on the other hand. but even Indian-Pakistani tensions in Kashmir as well. be it Hinduism or Islam or Buddhism or other religions. In present circumstance when its own survival is at stake due to the growing power of the extremists in certain areas.”(48) It is essential to know the distinction between the religious orthodoxy that we need to fight and the finer moral values of religion that needs to be assimilated in South Asia.(47) The political instability in Afghanistan over the past two decades has had a significant impact on the region's overall stability — affecting not only the politics of neighbouring Iran and Pakistan.
. then seeking Holbrooke’s attention to discuss alleged Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is not appropriate.
NJ: Princeton University Press.36-37. “A fundamental difference. 5.
Ted Gurr. 2001). is a motivating force that disposes men to aggression. a project of CNRS. to occur. aggression is quite likely. pp.
.” in Scott Atran. “The war against Islamic militants”. 7 October 2002.
3. 2000. 2002). if not certain.
8.”. Why Men Rebel. however. (Princeton.
Ian Pitchford.org/terrorism/papers/1>. The frustration-aggression mechanism is in this sense analogous to the law of gravity: men who are frustrated have an innate disposition to do violence to its source in proportion to the intensity of their frustrations. (Johns Hopkins University Press. available at <http://www.
4. 6 July 2003. the primary source of the human capacity for violence appears to be the frustration-aggression mechanism.
Ted Gurr. explains: “In summary. Mark Juergensmeyer.
Daniel Pipes. p. and violence for some men is motivated by expectations of gain. Frustration does not necessarily lead to violence. 1970). If frustrations are sufficiently prolonged or sharply felt. Ibid. 6.. 2000). Religion and Violence. Interdisciplines.10. CA: University of California Press.
7. Issue. DC: United States Institute of Peace Press. Vol. Paris. irrespective of its instrumentalities. ibid. Washington. for example.
Hent De Vries.58. (Berkeley.NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Human Events. The anger induced by frustration. 37. Genesis and Future of Suicide Terrorism. People Vs States: Minorities at Risk in the New Century (Washington. To conclude that the relationship is not relevant to individual or collective violence is akin to the assertion that the law of gravitation is irrelevant to the theory of flight because not everything that goes up falls back to earth in accord with the basic gravitational principle.interdisciplines. 2. Gurr..
Douglas Pratt.pdf>.9. Nepal. 1994).
Ibid.” SOF conference. Religious Nationalism: Hindus and Muslims in India (Berkeley.
16.net.” said Commission Chair Michael Cromartie.
Himalayan Research Bulletin. Director.msn. It replaces previous constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990.” Prof. 14.
The status of the Nepali constitution is currently uncertain. “Passage of this amendment would jeopardize the rights of all Sri Lankan citizens as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” New Zealand Association for the Study of Religions-Biennial Conference.researchgateway. Queenstown. 1-3. 6-8 June 2007. This has created a lot of problems for people belonging to minority sects interpreting the holy Quran according to their sect. 18.
Douglas Pratt.nz/bitstream/10289/754/1/Pratt%20June%202007. CA: University of California Press.html>. See Peter van der Veer.
Of particular concern are other articles in the amendment that would violate the internationally guaranteed rights of minority religious groups. Extreme Religion and the Threat of Terror.
15. Research Programmes and Senior Research Fellow at Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention (CTCP) at the University of Wollongong. available at <sof. Auckland. “Terrorism is a Product of Strategic Choices and Psychological Forces. 11. Adam Dolnik. “Religious Fundamentalism and Extremism: A Paradigm Analysis. XI. 1991. Australia. 17.ac.
13. New Zealand. is presently governed by an interim constitution that came into effect 15 January 2007.pdf>. “Contemporary Christian Extremism: Fundamentalism.wellington.com/encyclopedia_761555715/Hinduism. with no permanent constitution. available at
10. 19 July 2008. The same amendment was proposed last year and found to be unconstitutional by Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court.
stm>. Political Economy (London: Routledge. Culture. India: Emerging Power (Delhi: Oxford University Press. 25. 2002) p. 21. Mark Tully. “Hindu nation: What role for religion?” BBC News.
. Stephen P. Ramdas. “Religious Radicalism and State Policies of Democratic Governance and Human Rights. “Conversion.state. 1-3 November 2002. Ibid. Admiral L.org/.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18311.htm >.Speaking at a session on “What do we know about why do people become terrorists?” organized by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) on 15 January 2009. 20..apcss. p.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/ 3133273. <http://www. 1998). paper presented at Pugwash Workshop on South Asian Security. <http://www. Ghanshyam Shah. 27. pp. Switzerland. “Impact of Religious Extremism on Security of South Asia”. eds. 26. x.pdf>.pugwash. Geneva. 24.htm>. available at <http://www.” in Competing Nationalisms in South Asia. Modern South Asia: History. Ravi Nair.org/ reports/
rc/sa/nov2002/SAS_ramdas. “Democracy: Who Is She When She’s at Home?” Outlook (Weekly). 23. 28 April 2002. Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal. 28. 118-141. Reconversion and the State: Recent Events in the Dangs. Paul Brass and Achin Vanaik (Hyderabad.227.” <www.org/satporgtp/countries/shrilanka/document/papers/BlackJuly2004. 22.htm>. 11 August 2003.. 2002). India: Orient Longman. available at <http://news. Arundhati Roy.satp. 19.co. New Delhi. Cohen.bbc./ReligiousRadicalism/ PagesfromReligiousRadicalismandSecurityinSouthAsiach15.
<http://www.htm>. Christophe Jaffrelot.29. 33. SAIS. Gene TeSelle.org/religious_extremism. 36. Murshid. “Statistics on Terrorism: The Challenge of Measuring Trends in Global Terrorism".com/reports/Christian%20Solidarity%20Worldwide%20Sri%20Lank a%20. no.lankaliberty. Tromso.”
.witherspoonsociety. 39.59-60. 38. Tazeen M. Special Volume 11. 35. 34. “Back and Forth in Bangladesh”. Ahmed’s comments at “Religious Extremism and Governance in South Asia: Internal and External Pressures" — a Current Issues Briefing held at the U.
Report.. 2 (July 1995). 2002)." Contemporary South Asia 4. University of Tromso. 30. 32. “Democracy in Bangladesh…” ibid. pp. “Is religious extremism on the rise in Bangladesh?” Jane's Intelligence Review.S. Schaffer. 4(1-2): 49-69 -2004.1 (2002) 76-83.. Bolonga Centre Journal of International Affairs.” 19th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies (ECMSAS-) Center for Peace Studies.>. Mohammad Salehin. p-78. Howard B. Akbar S. “Religious Extremism and Militancy in the Pashtun Areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Forum on Crime and Society. Johns Hopkins University. May 2002. ed. A History of Pakistan and its Origins (London: Anthem Press. 1 October 2001. Robert Kemp.193-215. Institute of Peace. Ibid. Journal of Democracy 13. “Rise of Islamic Militancy in Bangladesh: Examining the Connections Between Poor Governance and Islamic Militancy. 37. 15 May 2003. Spring 2008.
Rogers. Norway. "Democracy in Bangladesh: Illusion or Reality.. Alex Schmid. Murshid. pp. “Thinking about Religious Extremism”.
“A Matter of Pride: Why we can’t buy off the next Osama bin Laden. Iannaccone and Berman “Religious Extremism: The good.
44. (Berkeley.htm> accessed on 2 April 2008.
42. “Religious Extremism: the good. winter. Afghanistan and the Holbrooke visit: Reviewing the messy inheritance. “Pakistan.gov/ press/releases/js1895.
See Fareed Zakaria.Ipcs.
.ipcs. the bad and the deadly”. Issue #3. available at
Peter Bergen and Michael Lind. CA: University of California Press. available at <http://www.com/abstract=819824>.
45. Ibid. Available at SSRN: <http://ssrn. 47.ustreas. Mark Juergensmeyer. New Delhi India.” IPCS Special Report # 69.
Ibid. New Cold War: Religious Nationalism Confronts Secular State.” Special issue of Public Choice on the Political Economy of Terrorism. available at <http://www. “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy”. edited by Charles Rowley.40. Foreign Affairs.org/
publications_special_details. “India and Afghanistan: Charting the Future. 2007. W11663. the bad and the deadly. November/December 1997.php?recNo=242&pT=4>. Salma Malik.
Laurence Iannaccone & Eli Berman. September 2005 National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) USA Working Paper No. 2002). 48.” Democracy Journal.php?articleno=2817>. 43. 46. IPCS Article # 2817.