Sunday, 13 August 2006

Putting a name to terror

American President George Bush's latest gaffe has everyone - liberals and leftists - in a tizzy. When commenting on the terror plot to blow up ten planes bound for the United States from the United Kingdom, he warned about the dangers of "Islamic fascism". The short point everyone is making is this: how can he brand the entire community and entire religion ideology like this?
It's not the first time such labeling has been done - Islamic terrorists is a common enough phrase in the West and India (and that's why I suspect a lot of the objection to Bush's words is because Bush said them) - and invited similar reaction.
That is not to say the point is irrelevant, but why does it apply only to Islam? Every terrorist movement comes to be known by the cause it espouses. The terrorists fighting for a separate Sikh homeland of Khalistan were known as Sikh terrorists. LTTE cadres are referred to as Tamil terrorists (not Eelam terrorists, though Eelam is the name of the Tamil homeland they are fighting for). The IRA is an Irish terrorist outfit. The insurgents in the north east are known variously as Naga, Mizo, Manipur rebels. Separatist militants in Kashmir are known as Kashmiri terrorists. So terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam, who say they are staging a jihad, come to be known as Islamic terrorists. Why should it be seen as anything more than that?
The counterpoint put forward to this is that the terrorists are misinterpreting Islam and misusing it for their own ends. Sure they are. No one seriously believes that any religion advocates or even condones the kind of violence we are seeing now. A majority of the Sikhs had little sympathy for the Khalistan movement or the terrorists. I don't know too much about the popular support for the other militant movements but am confident that ordinary people who may be sympathetic to the cause would not approve of the violent means adopted by those fighting for the cause. How come the other labels never invited this kind censure? Come to think of it, why is Hindu fanaticism an acceptable term, but not Islamic fascism?

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