From Islamic State to Boko Haram: We cannot wash our hands off religious underpinnings behind violent extremism

Urging the world governments to unite for counter-terrorism in the wake of recent terror strike in Brussels, Indian PM declared the menace of terrorism ‘a challenge for whole humankind, not just any one country or region’ and appealed to those who believe in humanity to join together to combat terrorism. “The challenge is a huge one. I have spoken to many important leaders, including religious ones, and explained them of the need to delink terror from religion...,” he said.

As a matter of fact, conflating “religion”, regardless of its adherents, with the term “terrorism” or “radicalisation” is a knee-jerk action taken by the global media as well as academia. Mistakably, it is an outcome of a shallow and short-sighted understanding of this phenomenon. But more deplorable is the world rulers’ futile and run-of-the-mill exercise to ‘de-link’ religion from terrorism. At a time when the radical religious currents the world over, most devastatingly in the Middle East, pose the gravest threat to the survival of world populace, it is pointless to merely repeat the axiom: ‘terrorism has no religion’.

People holding a banner reading "I am Brussels" for the victims at Place de la Bourse in the center of Brussels. AP

People holding a banner reading "I am Brussels" for the victims at Place de la Bourse in the center of Brussels. AP

True, all religions are based on universal values and are, thus, harbingers of love, peace and pluralism. But we cannot wash our hands of the religious underpinnings behind the violent extremism across the world. Wanton killings and massacres are being perpetrated day in and day out, by the jihadist zealots, who are not only politically motivated but also inspired by faith-based ‘false impressions’. For instance, while the essential messages of all Islamic beliefs are inherently peaceful and non-conformist, the extremist Muslim fringes commit mindless acts of violence avowedly with an inspiration of certain beliefs they profess. A fresh instance is the radicalization of the Muslim youth recruited by the Daesh or Islamic State (IS) in Belgium.

According to the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, a well-established research wing which published a detailed report entitled, Inside the Jihadi Mind, a perverted Salafi-jihadist ideology drives inspiration to Daehs and al-Qaeda.

Indoctrinated into the Salafism-inspired theology, the jihadist outfits hold a belief that democrat-liberal European states have perpetuated a “war against Islamic ethos”. In this backdrop, Belgium was recently targeted because it was ‘helping in this anti-Islamic war’.

Shockingly, one wonders how come more than 500 Belgians successfully travelled to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, while the Belgian establishment kept itself abreast of the domestic jihadism propounded by the “Sharia4Belgium” looming large since January 2015. Pitiably, the jeopardising results of Salafist religious extremism are on the rampage in European countries in a series of murderous incidents after the Charlie Hebdo incident.

The self-imposed caliphate of Abu Bakr Baghdadi is based on a complete religious notion of eliminating all democratic and liberal systems of governance from the world and replacing them with an “Islamic Sharia”. This is the reason why the IS militants keep playing havoc across much of the democrat and liberal world, resulting into the recent attack in Brussels. An official estimate of the Belgian government reveals that around 120 of the 500 IS recruits have now successfully come back home in Belgium. They purport to indulge in wanton acts of violent jihad. These Belgian murderers are associated with the extremist jihadist cult known as “Sharia4Belgium”, which calls for the imposition of domestic Sharia law. It is based in Antwerp and is luring the young European Muslims to wage war against non-Muslims across the world. Be it IS or Daesh, al-Qaeda, Jabhatul Nasra, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram or any other jihadist outfit, the most impacting jihadist influence comes from their religious rhetoric fomenting faith-based hatred, xenophobia, exclusivism, religio-fascism and self-supremacism. Thus, the brazen violation of human rights by these Islamist hardliners and other adherents of radical jihadism continues unabated in the name of Islamic Shariah. These religious zealots seek to ‘purify’ the religion of Islam in a bid to repossess the ‘purity’ of the ‘Salaf’ (the predecessors of Islam).

The Nigerian religious current “Boko Haram” is one more apt example. Literally, the very name of this terror outfit means: “western education is haram (religiously forbidden). Thus, Boko Haram loudly claims to recoil from all modern, scientific and secular education replacing it with the religious curricula. In its outlook, there is no liberality or secularism in the religious education system in an Islamic state that they wish to establish. Clearly, this goes completely against the rational spirit and historical achievements of the Islamic legacy of education called ilm walhikmah (broader notion of knowledge and wisdom as enunciated in the holy Qur’an).

In an article dated 17 November, 2015 published in Newsweek, Milo Comerford noted that “the ideology of Salafi-jihadism is distinct from the Islam practiced by the majority of the world's Muslims, yet is built upon Islamic religious principles, which it distorts to produce a single-minded focus on violent jihad”.

To our utter surprise, the heads of world states have miserably failed in their run-of-the-mill exercise of ‘delinking religion from terrorism’. Barring a strongly-worded and strategically well-considered approach to de-radicalization, there is no tangible development at this juncture. Apparently, these governments don’t take cognizance of the fact that radical thoughts cannot be dismantled until a complete, coherent and cogent counter-narrative is prepared to dismantle all the theological underpinnings of the global religious extremism. Similarly, social, political, historical, instrumental and psychological stimulus must not be dismissed.

The author is a writer and scholar of comparative religion. Write to him at

Updated Date: Apr 01, 2016 20:30 PM

Also See