Dr. Ali S. Awadh Asseri
(Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon)
TERRORISM IN THE NAME OF RELIGION
Religious terrorism afflicts every region of the world, developed and developing, Muslim and Western. However, it is most prevalent in the
Middle East – the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – and South and South-West Asia, the region historically known for a pacifist religious creed. In the Jewish state of Israel, terrorist organizations such as Kach and Kahane Chai aim to establish a Greater Israel of biblical times. For the purpose, they have committed several acts of terrorism against innocent Palestinians. The state of Israel, also, has itself been involved in some of the most gruesome acts of terrorism in contemporary times. As for Palestinians, there are individuals and entities among them or outside of them who have deviated from the path of true Islam and adopted violence in order to pursue their largely pragmatic political agendas. This has not only created friction among Palestinians who are peacefully struggling against heavy odds, but also tarnished the image of Islam.
As for South and South-West Asia, both Afghanistan and Pakistan have suffered the most from terrorism committed by the Taliban and al-Qaeda who constitute the most prominent groups that have deviated from the path of their true faith by adopting a violent course that negates the spirit of Jihad in its truest sense. But terrorism in this region undertaken in the name of religion is not restricted to the Taliban or al-Qaida alone. Other examples include the conflict between the separatist Tamil-speaking Hindus and the ruling Sinhalese- speaking Buddhists in Sri Lanka, and the Hindu extremist violence against the minority Muslim, Christian and Sikh populace in India. In the 1980s, the Sikhs also invoked their faith to commit terrorism in the East Punjab state of India, a terrorist wave that led to the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
In South-East Asia, religiously deviant organizations such as Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and Malaysia and Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia have been involved in a number of terrorist acts targeting Western tourists, the most recent and lethal being the alleged bombing in Bali in November 2002 by militants of Jemaah Islamiyah.
Africa is not far behind in the contemporary wave of religious terrorism. In Algeria, the deviant religious entities such as the Armed Islamic group do not spare the ruling regime or the general public in their terrorist operations. Nigeria and Kenya are two other African states depicting a growing trend of indigenous or trans-national religious terrorism. In the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Catholic Croats fought with Orthodox Serbs, and Orthodox Serbs fought against the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo. Each side accused the other of practicing terrorism. In Kosovo, for example, while the terrorism committed by Serbian forces of the Yugoslav federation was quite obvious, the Serb leadership accused the Kosovo Liberation Army of committing terrorism. When NATO started to bomb Yugoslavia, the Slavic-Orthodox Serb leadership even perceived a Western Christian conspiracy in it.
(To be continued)
 William Maley, Fundamentalism Reborn: Afganistan and the Taliban (London: C.Hurst and Co., 1998).