Sometimes it is the next door neighbour. At other times it is the soccer captain of the new school. And still at other instances it is the group of boys sitting late into the night in the coffee shop at Chinatown. It is very difficult to pinpoint who, when, where and how changes originate, start their process and finally culminate to unbelievable heights. Be it positive or be it negative. The world has become a different planet today - our living grandmothers and grandfathers cannot possibly recognize it. Forget about the scientific and technological advancements we have made. Forget about the environmental deterioration. Forget about the poison in our fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. Our older generation does not recognize the faces, culture, behaviour and lifestyle of the new generation. Where did they all go wrong? Who was responsible for these failures, for the fact that these people in our community have become so marginalized from the mainstream? Dependence on pain killers, drugs, narcotics and the easy way out. Tolerating terrorism and violence to an unbelievable height. Where and how did the roots of terrorism, fanaticism and radicalism originate and when on earth did they spread their violent tentacles so far?
Sociologists, psychologists and political scientists are often baffled. Sometimes the theories of rationality do not make sense. The entire universe today is the victim of war, violence, destruction, greed, selfishness and natural calamities resulting in unending poverty. The continuous politics of Palestine and Israel, the atrocity of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the betrayal of Bangladesh at the hands of Pakistan, the desperate and heartbreaking conditions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran and similar incidents and conditions may have been the cause of terrorism and radicalization of many people relevantly affected at various times and in various ways. It has often been researched and concluded that a particular incident, be it big or small, direct or indirect, sooner or later affects a person's life in some unimaginable way.
Some roots for radical behaviour can be identified while others cannot. In some households, hatred and violence are often observed and digested by children at a very young age. Many are abused physically and psychologically in their own homes or by individual caregivers. Often their behaviour erupts in a schoolroom environment. There are still others who burst out violently not immediately but at a later stage of their lives. If teachers appropriately report, social psychologists are brought in. Sometimes the Children's Aid Society is brought in and children are sent to foster homes. Their physical wellbeing is taken care of but their mental health becomes a question later in their lives. A proper balance between the stages of their mental and physical health remains unattainable.
Then there are those members of the female population spread all over the world who have a preference for dominating partners. They enjoy the status of being frail, dependent and of the helpless kind. The men in their lives take all decisions for them and regulate all their small and big activities and become male chauvinist pigs. These women enjoy this and think life does not have any other alternatives for them. They subject their children to the same kind of behaviour and as a result they grow up spineless and dependent, and some copy their fathers and become overly extreme and violent. Sometimes these people cross borders, but mostly they cause their brand of terror at home.
The roots of many kinds of radicalism may be traced back to identity issues, vulnerability, historical differences, peer pressures, community and environmental influence. Sometimes there are cult-like behavioural factors. At this present age and time sociologists and councillors for de-radicalization are hired by many countries all over the world to try to resolve some of these endemic problems. It is like a raging bonfire. The flowing lava of the volcano sometimes cannot be capped.
The Nine Eleven incident in the United States of America has had its repercussions and set a precedence. Although this was not the first terror attack of its kind or of this magnitude, the image of Islam and role of Muslims underwent a drastic change, in many ways, unfairly and disproportionately so. Many people who were Muslims prior to this incident became more religious. Some analysts say that the important factor here is a proper understanding and interpretation of the Holy Quran. Anywhere relevant, the totalitarian outcome should be denied. Everywhere there are groupings, the students and younger people are looking for identity and its meaning to fill the vacuum of living. There are many places and environments where the extreme interpretation of the Quran is happening. No matter what, Islam was always extending and still is, but violent extremism is not the answer. The religious leaders say that Moderate Islam is the solution. The testimony of the Islamic Faith and the Hadith should be pure and interpreted accurately. A reasonable separation between religion and state is important. Violent extremism and radicalism are definitely not an answer or appropriate solution.
All of this being said, can we really say, as a society, that it is an appropriate response to harass, discriminate and be suspicious of all Muslims because of the actions of a few? Why is it acceptable that we are afraid of every brown-skinned man who boards an airplane, yet when a white man walks into a movie theatre, an elementary school or a shopping mall, we neither homogenize nor suspect him, despite the history of white men committing acts of terror and murder on innocent civilians in public spaces? Why is every brown-skinned person, every Arab, every Muslim being held accountable for the actions of a few? Why did airport security in America radically shift after Nine Eleven, yet we have seen no gun control reforms, despite the mass killing sprees committed by young white men such as Elliot Rodger, who murdered innocent college students on campus, or James Eagan Holmes, who shot innocent movie watchers in a cinema hall, or Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who shot their teenage classmates in an elementary school? One failed attempt at a shoe bomb, and we all have to take our shoes off at the airport. Thirty one school shootings since Columbine and no change in the regulation of guns. This is ineffective, racially charged dangerous hypocrisy.When white people commit acts of terrorism, we term them mentally ill. When governments commit acts of war and terrorism, we call it Foreign Policy. When a Muslim commits an act of terror, we call it terrorism. It's all the same car, just with a different driver.
Violence often results in death or crippling a person for life, be it visible or invisible. It is pathetic when societies of the world do not recognize the cause and effect of mankind's personally and collectively created social, cultural, political, environmental, artificial rules and regulations. All acts that terrorize people are indeed acts of terrorism. . This is applicable to Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Africa, Caribbean, South Asia, Japan, China, basically all countries of this world, be they black, brown or white. When we can start to address this question, we can start to have a real conversation about terrorism.
Rummana Chowdhury works with the Canadian government and writes from Toronto. She is the author of 19 books. Her poetry book WHERE DO I BELONG was published in October this year in the US