September 11 marked the beginning of an important yet troublesome period. To date, thousands of analyses have been written on how September 11 was a turning point in the fight against terror. Political analysts relate how the concept of “war on terror” has ushered in a new era in the struggle against radicalism; but something has been missing. The fact that violence alone cannot offer a solution to terror has not been highlighted much.
The trauma of that day led the US to respond to terrorism by resorting to “a war on terror”. Beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan, this period has cost the US trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives. As a result of the heavy attacks carried out as “anti-terrorism operations”, almost 5mn people in the Islamic world have lost their lives. Countries have been divided, cities razed. The 15 years that passed since September 11, 2001 has brought nothing to the world but bloodshed.
Despite all the blood that has been shed and the millions of dollars spent, compared to 2001 the world is a more dangerous place; there are now more terrorists in the world and violence is more rampant. The radicalism that was sought to be eliminated through the war on terror has found a wider base than before.
The US has used all technological means available in the war against terror. Warplanes, tanks, warships, missiles, all sorts of heavy and light arms have been wielded in the struggle. International coalitions have been formed. Hundreds of thousands of marines and the most modern armies from around the world have supported this war. Yet, despite all these full-force attacks, it is still impossible to speak of permanent military success.
The fight against terrorism has not only been waged on the field by means of marines. From Soros to Huntington, from Freidman to Fukuyama, the most internationally-acclaimed social scientists also have sought a solution. The most influential think tanks, universities, secret services and EU and US institutions have been striving to formulate policies that will end terrorism. But that has not produced any long-lasting results either. Often Muslims have been stuck with labels such as “radical, secularist, traditionalist, and moderate” depending on Western perceptions.
As a result of these unfavourable developments, the Western world seems to have turned into more inward-looking and less tolerant. At a restaurant in France, two Muslim women have been told to leave a restaurant by its owner recently. A US presidential candidate is talking about not allowing Muslims into the country. Anti-Muslim and anti-refugee discourse seems to have played a part in Britain’s decision to exit the EU. Many EU countries are trying to cope with extreme nationalism.
Part of the Muslim world has also been influenced by this atmosphere of mutual hatred. The enmity towards the West has escalated. In the name of protecting the Islamic world, some Muslim youths in Europe have left their homes, their families and joined radical groups.
The 17 November Group in Greece, the RAF (Red Army Faction) and Neo-Nazis in Germany, ETA in Spain, the Red Brigades in Italy, and many other organisations have killed innocent and defenceless people through terror and violence. The PKK has been carrying out terrorist attacks for the past 30 years in the southeastern part of Turkey, resulting in the martyrdom of tens of thousands of people. The nature of terrorism changes with changing world conditions and increases its impact and power with the new means made possible by advanced technology.
The seeds of hatred, it seems, have been planted between Western and Eastern societies.
However, the time has come for common sense to prevail, and the call for moderation and peace to arise in both the Western and the Muslim worlds.
Terror is unacceptable in any form. In particular, equating Islam, which regards the killing of one person as equivalent to the killing of all mankind, with terror is one of the most terrible tragedies of our century.
The fact that Islam is a religion of peace is in the Qur’an, and that fact needs to be proclaimed to the world, persistently and with full supporting evidence, through education. The Islamic world also needs to be purged of superstitions: Western support is of course important for that, but it is Muslims who need to do the job.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Gulf Times: