The Tragedy of Peaceful Resistance?

Pick up a newspaper, switch on TV and you are confronted by news of barbarism, of bloodshed, of bombing, of human tragedy. Is this the famed human destiny. The news abound with infamous acts – Boko Haram atrocities in Nigeria; Islamic State brutalities in Iraq; Taliban barbarities in Peshawar; terrorism in Paris: no rigorous analysis shows this senseless violence as inherent in Islam. Most Muslims are not terrorists but believe that references to violence in sacred texts are context-specific and defense-oriented.
The counter-protestation then that most terrorists (particularly anti- US ones and the most brutal ones) today are Muslims requires a contextual political explanation. Muslims must discourage violent responses within their societies.
Serious analysis links this upsurge of violence by Muslims to political factors like the unfortunate US, Pakistani and Saudi support for ‘mujahideen’ to fight an already terminally ill USSR; the subsequent support by oil-rich Gulf individuals to them and US support for Muslim despots facing popular uprisings. Terrorism is always practiced by small minorities. ‘Muslim’ militancy is bigger today simply because it has received more support from powerful sponsors, both Muslim and Western, than other terrorists.
Resistance to tyranny is simply not there. Whatever is there, it is usually peaceful where education is high and regimes allow peaceful resistance. Thus, even in the US, there is peaceful resistance today against US-led global capitalism with alternatives like green, Buddhist, solidarity and wisdom economies (the last being my humble contribution) proposed. Elsewhere, violent resistance against local despots and their US sponsors often predominates.
Attitudes towards the US vary globally, being largely positive in Europe and East Asia where US support has spawned prosperity but largely negative where the US has supported malignant despots as in many Latin American, Southeast Asian and Muslim countries. Thus, these latter regions have experienced brutal reactions against the US and its local lackeys under the banner of communism and Muslim fundamentalism, which invariably have harmed local people more than the US itself.
Latin America’s case is particularly relevant, where violent communists have now been replaced by non-violent progressives who challenge US hegemony peacefully as the space for non-violent resistance has expanded. Perhaps, the same may happen eventually in Muslim countries.
The above analysis is not condoning terrorism. Sociological analysis differs from moral and legal analysis, and focuses proactively on root causes which produce widespread societal pathological attitudes. Legal and moral analysis reactively, though still rightly, focus on individuals already afflicted with these pathological disorders.
Even under despotism, it is rightly expected that everyone has had the opportunity to differentiate right from wrong from some source in society. Thus, people, especially followers of Islam which equates killing one innocent to killing humanity, should not harm innocent people, and must be punished if they do so even while fighting tyranny.
There have been largely peaceful anti-tyranny movements even under despotism, as in South Africa and undivided India, though both were mostly inspired by one individual (Gandhi). Ironically, the Muslim populations facing tyrannies and in whose names much of this mindlessness is being committed by others do not participate much in it. Few Kashmiris populate leadership positions among Pakistani jihadist groups and Azad Jammu & Kashmir is ironically the most peaceful Pakistani region while the rest of Pakistan burns due to the blowback from the jihad started by the Pakistani establishment to liberate Indian-held Kashmir.
So, the problem facing Muslims is not about following a religion teaching mindless violence or collective criminal culpability. Rather, the problem is that a few fanatics are sullying Islam’s name, which Muslims hold in enormously emotional reverence. The issue is about urgently protecting their religion’s name from misuse by a tiny minority. While many Muslims may agree with the basic grievance of terrorists, ie, US hegemony, it is important for them to champion non-violent, intellectual, social, diplomatic and political strategies for dealing with it and discourage violent responses within their societies.
The most important element in this regard is to accept the legitimacy of the slowly evolving international legal system based on the principle of non-violent diplomacy even though the system’s most powerful players such as the US often break system rules. Countries such as China, Brazil and even Muslim Turkey and Malaysia provide powerful examples of peacefully rising within the current system and opposing US hegemony.
It is also important for the OIC, Muslim rulers, clergy and intellectuals to forcefully assert that Muslims harbor no serious dreams about conquering the globe violently to establish a global caliphate. Finally, it is vital for Muslims to liberate Islam completely from the clutches of clerics with an obsessive focus on bodily punishment and female bodily confinement.

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