In the view of some historians, the 20th century was the age of communication. The century we are living in now is described as the age of information. Yet the wave of terror that began with the September 11 attacks and has reached a peak with ISIS is causing concern that it is growing further on international grounds.
The number of international acts of terrorism rose between 1968 and the late 1980s and then began declining. However, there has been an enormous rise in the number of people dying in such attacks. The number of people killed in international terror incidents in 1968 was 34, rising to 3,250 in 2001 (1). This number has increased considerably today if we also include the events after the Arab Spring.
Looking at the situation, terror is no longer a security problem particular to one region; its ripple effect is now international, not regional. Acts of terror are now more lethal and more widespread. Rather than being a regional security issue, acts of terrorism have now become an international problem affecting the entire world.
There is considerable research into the effect of wars on the economies and social lives of countries. Yet there has been little focus on the effect of terrorism. With the rise in acts of terror, research has shown that in addition to deaths and damage to buildings and transport links, terrorism also causes considerable indirect damage. Moreover, since acts of terror are sporadic they cannot be predicted and it is therefore almost impossible to take precautions against their economic impacts.
Acts of terror can now create an instant effect on stock and petrol markets. They can cause changes in travel habits and notions of security. Terrorism wreaks grave harm on the functioning of the financial system and national economies because of its economic and social impacts.
Investment declines in countries where terrorism has become chronic, tourism grinds to a halt and the entry of foreign capital ceases. Terrorism can even affect consumer behavior. People stockpile food and they consume less. Manufacturing and external trade slows down in such countries. Large sums are diverted from state budgets to the fight against terrorism and for national security. That creates economic deficits and cause citizens to suffer high costs of living. Since commercial life stagnates, the economy shrinks and unemployment rises.
Due to its increasing spread and the harm it causes, countries are now attaching much more importance to the fight against terror than before. When developing strategies against acts of terror conducted by terrorist organizations, these strategies generally focus on responding with armed intervention.
Terror organizations are capable of skillfully turning even these armed attacks against them into propaganda. They have the skills to portray the attacks against them as evidence of the just nature of their cause. For that reason, organizations either grow stronger or continue their activities underground and that makes the military struggle against them less effective.
In contrast to these organizations’ simple and fairly low-cost tactics, countries employ hugely expensive methods, unrealistic solutions and weaponry to fight them. For example, militants hiding in fields or in a cave are hunted with drones, but there is no research into precisely what terrorist organizations fear the most. Countries strive to develop material solutions but never bother identifying the most effective solution of all.
All these organizations, whether the product of fanaticism such as Boko Haram or of a communist ideology such as the PKK, target educational institutions. Organizations burn down schools, kill the teachers and kidnap the students. Actions of that kind are in fact highly indicative of the best way of fighting against terrorists; terrorist groups are more fearful of educational institutions and teachers than they are of the state’s police and military, because education is the primary factor that can eradicate these organizations’ reason for existing.
Terror organizations’ ideologies are invariably built on rotten foundations. Whether they use the name of Islam, or whether they are Marxists or ethnic nationalists, education is the most effective means of opposing their ideological foundations.
Young people in schools need be educated against the ideologies of Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism and racist/fascist organizations that falsely claim that ‘Human beings are all animals, there is a struggle to the death to survive and only the strong win that struggle to survive.’ Young people in schools must be taught about Darwinism and materialism, and even about communism, fascism and all such movements, but along with those, they must also be taught scientific rebuttals of these.
Education is also the best means of fighting organizations that misuse the name of Islam. The best measures that can be taken against organizations such as ISIS, Boko Haram or al-Qaeda is to negate their twisted ideologies through education. It is Muslims who must first and foremost demand to undertake that task, because it is Muslims who can best explain the moral values of Islam. Instead of proffering feeble objections or empty talk, Muslims must explain them that it is a grave sin to kill an innocent person according to Islam and that according to the Qur'an, it is absolutely essential to behave justly at all times and that people must be invited to adopt the values of Islam, not through brute force and compulsion, but with kindness.
An educational mobilization against all terrorist organizations, no matter what their ideological roots are, is what it will take to prevent the outrageous terror we encounter all over the world.
* Frey, B., Luechinger, S., Stutzer, A. (2007). Calculating Tragedy: Assessing the Costs of Terrorism, Journal of Economic Surveys.
Adnan Oktar's article on New Era & Daily Mail: