The Origins of Terrorism are Geopolitical, Not Religious


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Why didn’t we hear the term “Muslim terrorist” or “Jihadist” before the 1980s? Islam has been around for more than 1400 years but “Islamic” terrorist organizations were not to be found prior to 1980. The first Islamist terrorist attack was the bombing of the Tyre Headquarters in 1982. Was Islam different prior to the 1980s or was there some sort of fundamental change among Muslims during the 1980s?
Even though the Quran permits defensive war, it was not until 13th year after the first revelation of Prophet Muhammad that God gave him permission to fight. He set rules and regulations for war which forbade Muslim armies to even cut trees in enemy areas. They were not allowed to destroy any buildings, especially churches or temples, and the most important rule of all was to not enforce Islam upon non-Muslims. But ISIS, who claim to fight an Islamic war, has chosen a completely different, inhumane and brutal way of war which includes mass murders, rapes, and kidnappings. Comparing the humane rules of war of Prophet Muhammad with ISIS or the Taliban’s ruthless and merciless strategy demonstrates that there is no correlation between the two.
So, if these terrorist organizations have nothing Islamic in them, then how did they develop this ideology amongst Muslims? An example of the actual origins of one of these organizations provides us with a clear cut geopolitical background rather then a religious motive.
For this example, we must go back to the Cold War era in which General Zia Ul Haq played an important role. He was an Islamist who wanted to impose his own brand of Sharia in Pakistan. As a general in the powerful Pakistani Army he overthrew the democratically elected government and started to “Ismalify” the country. He got an early break in his dictatorship as the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, which occupies the northwest border of Pakistan. The US saw this as a threat considering the proximity of Afghanistan to the oil rich countries of the Persian Gulf. Of course going into full fledged conflict with the Soviet Union was too great of an escalation so the US decided to take a different strategy. At the time Afghanistan had an amazing system of ‘Madrasas’ or schools in which parents sent their children to learn basic Islamic teachings along with a primary education. After graduating from these Madrassas, the alumni then proceeded to receive a middle school education. In a covert operation the CIA and their Pakistani counterpart, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), decided to train these young students and indoctrinate them into a warped concept of Jihad. They spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and Jihadi rhetoric. In this operation millions of text books were distributed all across Afghanistan that taught B for bomb, K for Kalashnikov, T for tank, J for Jihad and M for Mujahid.1 These text books were published by The University of Nebraska at Ohama which received $6.5 million to provide these textbooks and teacher training kits.2
This lead to the creation of the Taliban, a much needed militia to fight the Soviets. General Hameed Gul, who was a three-star general of the Pakistan Army and lead this operation later received an honorary piece of the Berlin Wall from the Germans for “delivering the first blow” to the Soviets. Even though this operation was a success and the Soviets lost the war in Afghanistan, it led to a much bigger problem of having an organized militia with a “Jihadi” mind set with access to modern weapons. The CIA and ISI had ignited the spark of Islamic Jihad in the region, which spread like a wild fire and controlling the fire became increasingly difficult. This led to another strategy of naming the friend a foe and a war on the Taliban was declared. The war on terrorism has been going on since then, against an enemy that we created.
The leaders of similar militias are criminals like Bin Laden, Abu Bakar Albaghdadi and Abubakar Shekau, and their origins stem from geopolitical forces rather than religion. They spread violence and teach hatred whereas the leader of about 20 million Ahmadi Muslims around the world, Mirza Masroor Ahmad leads with the same guidelines that Prophet Muhammad put forward 1400 years ago that can be summed up in a simple motto of the Ahmadiyya community, “Love for All, Hatred for None.”

About the author

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Sheheryar Ahmad

Sheheryar Ahmed is currently doing undergrad in Computer Science from the University of Washington. He has served as a producer, director, editor and camera man of Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International. Ahmed also partakes in the Alislam web team, and has serves as secretary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association of Seattle, WA.

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Avatar photo By Sheheryar Ahmad