Anyone who has proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle
-- Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his Nobel acceptance speech, 1970.
To a terrorist, human life is dispensable to secure his political goals and religion is a convenient instrument to brand all those who do not agree with him as 'infidels' who deserve to be killed. They pluck Quranic verses at random, distort their context and meaning and give an interpretation totally alien to the letter and spirit of the religious text. In the process, the terrorists have themselves become as much a threat to the moral and spiritual teachings of the religion they swear to defend as they are a menace to innocent civilian human lives.
The methods of counter-terrorism need to include a comprehensive approach and strategy to meet both the challenges. The media's reporting of terror events is only a short record of recent happenings and could have limited utility in shaping and strengthening our security establishment to fight the foot soldiers of terror. But terrorism itself can be fought only by challenging it on the level of ideology and thought. It cannot be curbed by mere police action.
The recent statement of LK Advani saying that terrorists have no religion and no religion or community should be blamed for their barbaric acts, carry a significant political meaning. He has decried the stigmatising of any community as wrong and counter-productive. The most important part of his statement was that in which he exhorted people not to malign a religion even if the terrorists are quoting its scripture in their emails. They are nothing but the al-Qaeda's interpretation and should be rejected.
The increased awareness of the need to fight terrorism as an ideology that is rooted in mindless violence and has nothing to do whatsoever with religion or scripture gives rise to the hope that new efforts shall be made to formulate a strategy to isolate and marginalise these agents of terror and to that extent the security establishment would be in a better position to bring the threat of terror under control.
We must be clear in our minds that fighting terrorism as an ideology requires a long term and sustained campaign. We need to equip ourselves adequately as the assertion that the terrorists have nothing to do with religion must be backed by solid evidence to carry conviction with people.
Since the terrorist use Quranic verses in their emails threatening violence and indulge in wanton killing of innocent lives, I would like to compare their assertions and actions with the provisions of Quran and show how blatantly they violate each and every precept of the holy book.
To begin with, let us see what the Holy Quran says about human life and human tendency to use religion to gain temporal gains or advantages.
The Holy Quran declares that man is God's vicegerent on earth and that God has endowed him with honor and dignity: "We have honored the children of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors above a great part of Our Creation. (17.70)
Further, it is said that all that is in heavens and on earth has been subjugated to mankind: "And He has subjected to you as from Him all that is in the heavens and on earth" (45.13).
It is important to note that all the verses that talk of vicegerency or conferment of honour and dignity and subjugation of nature to man are of general character and not specific to the group of believers. These are divinely ordained rights and can be described as shared heritage of mankind or basic human rights that cannot be altered or alienated by any government.
From this status flow all other rights including the right to life that has been declared as sacred. Quran says: "take not life which Allah has made sacred except by way of justice and law (6.151 & 17.33) and "shed no blood amongst you nor turn out your people from your homes (2.84).
Quran underlines the sanctity of individual human life by equating it with whole mankind and declares: "if anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people (5.32).
The only eventuality where Quran allows armed action is to fight back persecution, it says: "To those against whom war is made permission is given (to fight) because they are wronged and verily Allah is Most powerful for their aid (22.39). But even this conditional option is denied if there is an apprehension that armed action can result in the loss of innocent lives who were not party to prosecution and oppression. Quran says: "They are the ones who denied revelation and hindered you from the Sacred Mosque and the sacrificial animals detained from reaching their place of sacrifice. Had there not been believing men and believing women whom you did not know that you were trampling down and on whose account a crime would have accrued to you without (your) knowledge. (Allah would have allowed you to force your way but He held back your hands) that He may admit to His mercy whom He will (48.25).
Then there are other verses of Quran strictly forbidding killing of a girl child (81.8) or taking one's own life (4.29) to uphold the principle of inviolability of life.
Now let us examine the question of using religion for pursuing worldly gains including political domination or expansion of dominion. Quran denounces this human tendency in more than 30 verses. It categorically declares: "Woe to those who write the Book with their own hands and then say: "This is from Allah" to traffic with it for a miserable price! Woe to them for what their hands do write and for the gain they make thereby." (2.79)
On the other hand in more than 40 verses, Quran exhorts the faithful to spend worldly wealth to gain religious merit. It says: "Seek with the (wealth) which Allah has given you the Home of the Hereafter, nor forget your portion in this world, but do good as Allah has been good to you" (28.77). It further assures that looking after the kindred, the needy and wayfarer ensures prosperity (30.38).
The declared objective of the terrorists is to establish their power on earth by using brute force. But history has recorded the last prophetic will consisting of a Quranic verse saying: "That House of the Hereafter, We give to those who seek not dominance nor do mischief in the earth for God loves not mischief makers" (28.83).
But as Quran itself says everyone does not get light from this Book of wisdom, the evil doers are led astray by the book: "By it he misleads many and many he guides thereby. And he misleads thereby those who are rebellious" (2.26).
Arif Mohammed Khan is a former Union Minister and columnist