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Radicalization is a secular phenomenon, not religious one: Dr. Tariq Rahman

Radicalism is not necessarily a religious phenomenon. It can happen in any ideological or secular leaning. It is secular. In fact, when Israel was created there was a group which was doing the same thing, i.e. creating terrorism, placing bombs, threatening the British and other forces to accept their demand. They practiced terrorism which culminated into the creation of Israel, said Dr. Tariq Rahman, who addressed a “Session on Defining the Phenomenon of Radicalization in Pakistan” held by the PIPS on November 27, 2008 at its premisesDr. Tariq Rahman is one of the prominent scholars in Pakistan and leading experts on the subject. Currently he is heading the National Institute of Pakistan Studies (NIPS), Qauid-i-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad. He is famous writer and produced many books and articles on a variety of subjects and issues.

Historically speaking, Dr. Rahman explained three different responses to the British colonization of India.

  • Confrontation
  • Resignation and withdrawal
  • Cooptation and cooperation

While elaborating these three kinds of responses he said that going back to the responses to colonialism, there is oneresponse that was confrontation with the British colonial power since 1831. It was a precursor to any military future action even against the military.

Second is the resignation and withdrawal. It also took place. That is to say that some people went to Madrassas. They tried to preserve the past as it was. That is why one sees that Madrassas has strong emotional attachment with Dars-e-Nizami. Some of the Dars-e-Nizami texts were from thirteenth century. The text represents the past and it cannot be sacrificed. Similarly, the Arabic books are extremely difficult. The Arabic is actually taught through books, which are written now, and whose Urdu translation is also available. But the old texts recommended for the sake of continuity and preservation of the past. In a way, Madrasas can be and are seen as the source of preservation of past and an identity. But Dars-e-Nizami itself is not radical, as some writers suggest. Such writers, in fact, are not aware of the nature of Dars-e-Nizami.

Third response was cooptation and cooperation with the colonial power. This meant subordination to colonial power. It also meant becoming part of large bureaucracy of the modern state. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan championed this response.

Those who were waging Jihad were a small group. A group was ready to use force in order to achieve political aims. It had young persons. They were committed enough to use force against the dignitaries of the empire. The idea was to destroy the empire but it could not happen.

If we go further back, both Shiites and Sunnis considered Kharjites as extremists. Kharjites were the people who would fight till the end. Such kind of commitment was also there. But when we see the same phenomenon in the modern world, we find things like forced motivation, etc. That is why people call it a new phenomenon. It has different manifestations due to modernity. The phenomenon is challenging the status quo and this challenge leads to fighting. The anarchist challenge in the late 19th century was an example of this kind of challenge. The anarchists thought that if we create enough terrorism, the state will be destroyed and human beings will be happy. It was a secular phenomenon.

The Marxists in Latin American and many other countries formed groups to fight against the state. Several of these groups thought that they could establish a better world and they claimed to have a roadmap for this purpose.

Dr. Rahman also addressed the question why do these people or extremists groups succeed? The answer, according to him, is because they have a strong sense of grievances, and that sense of grievances is easily converted into the response termed here as “Radicalization.” For example, the Chechen Movement, wherein Chechen people had a strong sense of grievances against Russians. After the fight they gained victory.

There is a background history and its consequences, which motivates people to react or to start responding against the whole system. So it is observed that certain conditions create a certain phenomenon. Following factors create such type of phenomenon in the system.

  • Role of the ruling elites (corrupt people)
  • Sense of frustration (within the deprived people)
  • Framework of the society (people living in an age of Jahiliyyah)

In Pakistan’s context those who are armed, trained and have anti-American feelings, have the ability to create such an environment where this type of phenomenon may occur, where people react in terms of fighting against the system or State. Same thing happened in Kashmir. Consequences led the people to become radicals.

Deregulation, globalization and flooded money etc. are also the factors which cause radicalization in a society. Other factors include lack of justice, society’s revenged based attitudes, unjust policies of the government (State), unjust use of power and the way it is used, sense of deprivation and its psychological impact. Class discrimination in any particular society, also contributes to the phenomenon of radicalization.

The radicals’ mindset is to bring ‘change’ in society because they are not satisfied with the existing order. If we want to overcome the impact of this phenomenon on our system we have to recognize our weaknesses and mistakes first and then to cutoff all the sources which work in support of anger, unjust attitudes and grievances within the society.

The address was followed by a brief question-answer session.