Religion and terrorism
Presentation made by Dr Shabir Choudhry at a Seminar arranged by Interfaith International during 13th Session of the UN Humans Rights Council in Geneva.
Dr Shabir Choudhry 11 March 2010
Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues aslamo alaykam and good morning.
I am grateful to Dr Charles Graves and Interfaith International for arranging this seminar and allowing me to express my view from this platform.
All great religions of the world teach peace and tolerance. They strictly forbid killing of innocent people, inequality, injustice, intolerance and other bad things. Religion could be used to advance brotherhood, promote tolerance and build bridges of friendship and understanding.
However people with evil designs use religion to advance their political, regional and communal agenda. They use religion to justify violence, killing and to spread extremism and hatred.
At times terrorism and violence is committed to advance various agendas, which could be to advance political agenda, regional agenda or sectarian agenda. But religious terrorism has many dimensions. It has profound religious manifestations, and is generally used to motivate people to advance political, regional and imperialist agendas under the cover of religion.
All terrorists, no matter what cover they use, aim to terrorise people or groups of people to advance their agenda. They always look for reason to justify their acts, and for this purpose they have other organisation and sympathisers to promote their cause or defend their actions in public. Religion or ethnic issues are employed to conceal political goals and to generate support and to silence opposition.
Religious terrorism has become very serious threat to societies in many countries; and if it is not checked this could lead to wars between countries, as it nearly did between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai carnage.
Who would know better than us people of Jammu and Kashmir who have been victims of religious terrorism since 1947? We people were victims of unprovoked aggression in 1947, which was organised by the government of Pakistan. The uncivilised tribesmen from Frontier were sent to capture Kashmir in name of Jihad. These tribesmen killed innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir, raped women, looted and plundered the territory of the State.
In this naked aggression tens of thousands of innocent people were killed, thousands of women were raped, kidnapped and brought to tribal areas. Some of these unfortunate women were sold and others were forced to change their religion.
Saeed Asad in his new book Yadoon Kay Zakham meaning wounded memories, published last month interviewed those who witnessed atrocities committed by the tribesmen in 1947. On page 93 of the book, Abdul Ghani in his interview with the author said, and I quote:
“In 1947 we all Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus lived in peace. There was complete harmony among us. Then we heard that Muslims and Hindus of India wanted to live separately. The violence and communal riots inside the State started when Pakistan came in to being. Situation here also started getting bad. One day we heard that the Tribesmen from the Frontier have attacked Kashmir. They went from one village to the other and from one house to the next and looted and plundered everything. A group of 40 people came to our village. They killed all Sikhs and Hindus in our village and then looted their houses. During this they also looted Muslim houses……They slaughtered men with knives or killed them with gun. Jewellery of Muslim and non Muslim women were snatched from their ears and from their arms and necks….. If anyone resisted they killed them without any hesitation”.
Sheikh Abdul Karim in his testimony which is on page 70 of the book states, and I quote:
“In last four days a vibrant and peaceful city of Muzaffarabad tuned to rubble, the scene was horrific. Savage Tribesman destroyed everything, it was like earthquake. They killed Hindus and Sikhs mercilessly. They looted houses and shops. While looting jewellery they did not care whether they were Muslims or non Muslims. Anyone who resisted was shot on the spot. Thousands of innocent people were butchered. Many girls and women were also killed. Many women and girls were raped and taken to Frontier….some of them were sold and others were forced to marry. I know 300 women personally who were non Muslims before”.
This religious terrorism has not ended, at least not in the region of South Asia. With time sponsors of this new brand of terrorism have formulated new strategies and new tactics. They use Muslim youths, especially uneducated and impoverished youths from various sections of the society, brain wash them and use them to advance their political, strategic and ideological designs.
The terrorism, whether it is in form of religious terrorism or any other form, has behaved like Frankenstein Monster. It has become out of control and in some respects has turned against its creators. Impression is being given that now Pakistan wants to eradicate terrorism in all its manifestations.
That is not the whole truth. Those who sponsor terrorism are divided over this issue. Some sections of the establishment are still of the view that some variety of terrorists are their national asset. They could be used to destabilise and harass other countries; and advance their political and strategic policies.
The agencies which set up this terrorist network, could still care and provide them with all sorts of help and logistics support provided they behave like ‘good boys’, and do not commit terrorism inside the territory of Pakistan. In this regard various terrorist groups are freely roaming about in some parts of Pakistan and especially in Pakistani Administered Kashmir.
These groups, in name of jihad, have started their activities and infiltration and armed struggle inside Jammu and Kashmir. As far as Jihad in Jammu and Kashmir is concerned it is business as usual. People are still being recruited, trained in art of guerrilla war fare and sent across. As a concerned citizen of Jammu and Kashmir I am worried, because this policy will surely result in more suffering for the people of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the LOC.
What is alarming to all peace loving people is the recent threats issued by some terrorist organisations that they will commit acts of violence inside India to create war like situation between the two countries? If that happens and terrorist groups are allowed to call the shots then it could bring disaster to the region of South Asia.
As a true Kashmiri, who has always promoted a Kashmiri interest and not that of those who occupy us; I want to make it clear that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed. At present Jammu and Kashmir is not legally part of any country. Our struggle is for right of self determination and not accession with any country in name of religion or any other name.
Our struggle is for unification and independence of the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir. We want to create a liberal, democratic and secular society. We believe religion and use of gun has no role in our struggle; and we don’t want our struggle to be used as a proxy to advance interests of any country. We don’t want any violence or terrorism committed in name of our struggle and independence.
Mr Chairman I thank you for your patience