During debates on terrorism, one can find many a security expert insisting that terrorism be prefaced with the word ‘Islamic’ whenever it is mentioned. Because, it is said, the first step towards solving a problem is being able to correctly define the problem. If we get squeamish with definition, we’re in trouble.
Whenever I’m reading an article on Islamic terrorism by a security expert, I’m quite prepared for a lot of Islamic terrorism, Islamic extremism, Islamic radicalism, Islamic fanaticism and of course, Islamic fundamentalism. But it’s only being done in pursuit of defining the problem, which is a necessity if we ever want to solve it, so it’s all good.
You can imagine my surprise when I found a misplaced deployment of this definition, while reading Raghu Raman’s column in the Dec. 15th issue of Mint. I always thought an Islamic terrorist was one who was inspired by a certain interpretation of Islam to wreak havoc on the world. Apparently not. Here’s the gem:
Interestingly, secular groups, and not Islamic fundamentalists, have been responsible for more than half of suicide attacks, with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)—a Marxist group— holding top spot. Secular groups with Marxist or anti-religious beliefs (such as the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist organization) also account for more than one-third of Islamic terrorist attacks.
There we have it. How does one manage such inconsistency in the same sentence? How does one point to attacks by secular/anti-religious, Marxist groups and end that sentence by bringing all of them under the Islamic banner. My guess is that it comes from spending too much time and energy defining the problem and doing little else.