Faulty analysis of 'jehadi terror' by the Western world has created a sorry mess today: America’s war on terror is in deep trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Europeans have begun to feel the heat of 'home grown terrorism'.
Such are the views of internationally renowned defence analyst and commentator Professor Michael Clarke - currently in India on a lecture series on terrorism.
The fixation of the Western world - Professor Clarke said at a seminar in New Delhi - has been on “what terrorists do” rather than on “what they stand for”. A more robust perspective ought to have been to develop long-term strategies to challenge the narratives that terrorists create and feed off - such as the elaborate conspiracy theories of the 'systematic oppression and humiliation of the Muslims'.
Terrorism is a lifestyle choice today and - while there is a global rhetoric to ideologies - the initiatives of fundamentalist groups are driven by localised factors, Clarke said while addressing a seminar titled, 'Common perspectives on terrorism - Europe and Asia'.
The King’s College, London, hosted the seminar at the United Services Institute (USI). Former counter-insurgency officer Major Maroof Raza chaired the lecture.
What is important is to address the wider public that provide terrorists the support that sustains them beyond the cycles of fashion and glamour, said Clarke - Professor of Defence Studies at King's College, London. He pointed to the fact that - of the 120 major terrorist groups worldwide - approximately 65 are inspired by religious ideologies.
Agreeing that the entire world did not share the Western perspective on 'promoting democracy', Clarke said this view needed honest evaluation by policy makers.
At the conference, it was pointed out that the United States - its commitment to promoting democracy notwithstanding - was not uncomfortable with the fact that its allies including Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were not democratic states.
It was also pointed out that the Islam was 1300 years old, while it was only in the postcolonial era that the term “Islamic terrorists” had emerged. Concurring with the view, Clarke said that societies including Western societies needed to confront its truth of the last 150 years for enabling the emergence of a more robust perspective.
Providing the South Asian perspective, Lt Gen Afsir Karim (Retd) referred to the 'flawed' Western approach in viewing terrorism activities in the region in isolation from one another.
An arc of fundamentalist groupings and the nerve centre of terror exists in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region -the largest congregation of Muslims in the world - he said, adding that the region needed to be dealt with as a unit.