The ghastly lone-wolf terror attack struck Nice in France left at least 84 people dead and many more wounded. Just half an hour before this virulent incident of terror, I was trying to fathom what a Saudi-based journalist and moderate Muslim media scholar Turki Aldakhil pointed out in his latest opinion piece, What after the explosion at the Prophet’s Mosque? published in Al Arabiya English. He wrote in the intro of his article, “Terrorism entered its bloodiest and most brutal phase following the recent bombing at the Prophet’s Mosque in the city of Medina.” The conclusion he draws from his premises is that the extremist goons who went to the extent of targeting the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina, the holiest site in Islam, can go haywire anywhere in the world, any time. We never know.
The recent terror strike in Madina was a wake-up call for those still living in denial. Without an iota of doubt, the violent ideological underpinnings are playing out behind the ongoing global jihadism. Even before the France attack, it was self-explanatory that those having the temerity to terrorise his own prophet’s mosque and targeting his holy tomb, the most venerated site for the mainstream Sunni, Sufi and Shia Muslims, they would not waver to attack any European country, striking on in its secular, democratic and pluralistic ethos.
In a spree of the mindless violence, the attackers inspired by the radical ideology of puritanical fundamentalism have targeted the western and countries countries. This time, they chose to attack on Bastille Day, the very symbol of freedom, liberality and democracy, abhorred by the extremist Islamist outfits and their Salafist ideologues as values of shirk (the gravest sin in Islam) antithetical to the puritanical Islamism.
It should be a common knowledge now that a self-imposed caliphate is the long-cherished dream of all the extremist Salafists and radical Islamists across the world. The Salafist jihadist militants harbour a strong religious conviction that all the democrat-liberal European countries are actively engaged in a ‘perpetual war against the Islamic sharia. Last year, in April 2015, when the similar attack in Belgium was carried out by the hardcore Islamists, because it was ‘helping in this anti-Islamic war’, I had pointed out the same ideological nexus in an earlier article on Firstpost.
In her article The France Horror Has Shaken the World — but Terrorists Will Not Destroy Our Humanity, the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, Heather Digby Parton, writes, “France has a long colonial history in the Middle East, specifically in Syria and its experience in Algeria was particularly brutal. It has the largest Muslim population in Europe and French society has traditionally been somewhat culturally intolerant, insisting that newcomers strictly adapt to French mores rather than embracing diversity. All of this has unfortunately created a combustible mixture in a dangerous time.”
But there seems to be other well-pointed reasons why the terrorists are particularly hostile towards the French people, giving primacy to wanton killings in it.
The most self-evident reason is that among the European countries, France stands as an abode of the liberal, democratic, pluralistic and multicultural Western civilization. However, one cause behind this attack could be that France has taken an uncompromising, unequivocal and unambiguous stand against the Islamic State. Much like the earlier attack in Paris, the French President Francois Hollande has issued a clear and categorical statement against the onslaught of radical Islamism on the multicultural and plural fabric of the country and, thus, specifically naming the radical ideology as the problem.
Also, it should not be overlooked that France is standing up to mainstream the country’s Muslims inculcating them into its pluralistic and democratic ethos. This is something completely unacceptable for the Daesh. A recent statement of the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has distressed the Islamic State, in which he said, “We seek to establish a model of Islam that is fully integrated, fully compatible with the values of the Republic.”
Viewed this way, the Nice attack was an infringement of the pluralistic values that Muslims in the European countries are seeking to uphold. This is precisely why there were acts of retaliation against innocent moderate Muslims in Europe following the attacks in Paris in April, 2015.
Muslims living in the European countries try to emulate the universal values and secular ethos by intermingling with the Christians, Jews and people of other faith traditions. They profess an inclusivist Islamic faith that exhorts them to be compassionate towards the people of other faiths in particular. But the Islamic State is completely against this noble cause of Islamic pluralism and all universal and egalitarian values.
So, the basic point is that the radical Islamists have propounded an obnoxious idea that all the democratic and multicultural Western countries should be targeted in a bid to replace them with the self-imposed Islamic caliphate. It is patently clear now that Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel as being identified the killer of Bastille Day was indoctrinated into the Islamic State-inspired ideology; which calls for a permanent war against all the systems of governance and their followers, be they Muslims or non-Muslims.
This is the second terror atrocity in France when its innocent citizens and democratic values have been attacked by the radical jihadist outfit, Islamic State. The largest Sufi-Sunni Islamic seminary in the world Jamia al-Azhar has denounced the terror on France, stressing the need of concerted efforts to “defeat terrorism and rid the world of its evil". Al-Azhar’s vice-chancellor, Ahmad al-Tayyab, also a patron of an Egyptian Sufi shrine, is known for his categorical and unequivocal refutation of the terror ideology. He clearly pointed out to the twisted texts of the Islamic sources that have been manipulated over hundreds of years to justify political Islamism. Subsequent to his confession that there is a deep link between the extremist Islamist theology and terror, the current Egyptian government of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has banned the books and videos of all the Salafist theologians such as Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Abdul Wahhab, Sheikh Hasan al-Banna, Syed Muhammad Qutub and Shaikh Ibn Baaz and the ilk. Regrettably, while these hardcore Salafi theologians have been banned in a Muslim country, they are being propagated on a secular soil like India, by their fervent followers like Dr Zakir Naik. In his latest press conference, he went on record referring to some of these scholars as the authentic Islamic scholars who justified the suicide booming as ‘a tactic for war’.
Most deplorably, even in this grim situation, the radical Islamist preachers across the world are not willing to come out of their narrowed worldview and exclusivist narrative of Islam. As cases in point, Dr. Zakir Naik of India, Boro Hujur of Bangladesh, Shaikh Yusuf al-Qardawi, the leader of the global political Islamists and the ilk are still tacitly supporting the terrorists by providing them with weird theological justifications. For instance, suicide bombing — an easy tool of the global jihadists today — has been endorsed by the influential Indian Islamist-Salafist preacher, Dr. Zakir Naik though as war tactic. In his recent press conference which he organized to refuse the charge that his sermons had inspired terror activity, including the Dhaka attack, he stated, “Suicide bombings are permitted if a country is at war and is directed by a commander”.
Quite blatantly, he also made an attempt to justify his statement by making a reference to Second World War stating that “suicide bombing was used as a tactic during Second World War”. Actually, he was particularly asked to comment on one of his previous speeches justifying suicide bombings. He said that he considered such attacks as ‘haraam’ (religiously forbidden) in Islam. But shockingly enough, he added saying that, “however, many scholars permit it as a war tactic”, ANI reported.
When the global preachers of the Salafism like Dr Zakir Naik are still hell-bent on the rationalization of the grave terror tool of suicide bombing, strictly clinging to their theological books and thoughts, there is no point in a knee-jerk condemnation of the terror incidents.
A violent jihadist does not spare a moment to rethink his decision before engaging in the wanton and virulent killing of innocent lives, especially when inspired by an intolerant theology and emboldened by any religious justification of his attack.
Given this, the Nice attack is a reminder for us to call a spade a spade. Growing terrorism in the world is not just a law and order problem. It is a crystal-clear ideological battle that has deep roots in an extremist theology. As long as the extremist preachers continue to cherry-pick and quote the medieval jurisprudential rulings which are canonised in the so-called Islamic State, we should not hope for any tremendous upheaval breaking the cycle of brainless violence.
The world-renowned moderate Muslim scholar Hamza Yusuf has rightly pointed out: “This insidious disease [terrorism or extremism] has a source, and that source must be identified, so we can begin to inoculate our communities against it.”
The author is a scholar of Comparative Religion, Classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, JMI Central University.