Walking into the jihad trap

Data shows that jihadi terrorism has actually declined

Written by Salman Anees Soz | Published:January 26, 2016 12:20 am
pathankot, pathankot attack, india, terrorism, jihad, jihadi terror, terrorists, muslim terrorists, pakistan terrorists They were just looking for a fight and a speedy dispatch to hell. It is our incompetence that gave them sufficient time to start dreaming of heaven. (File Photo)

How often have you heard statements along the lines of jihadi terrorism posing an existential threat to society? So prevalent has this narrative become that many people take it for granted. Headline-grabbing terrorist attacks carried out by self-styled guardians of Islam fuel this narrative. Ill-informed or agenda-driven opinion-makers, especially on the right, help sustain this dangerous and, frankly, terrorist-friendly narrative that sparks paranoia, prejudice and bigotry. A recent column in The Indian Express by one such opinion-maker, Tavleen Singh, inspired me to put on my researcher’s hat; what I found was a revelation.

In her column, ‘After Pathankot what?’, Singh asserts, “Jihadi terrorism is the biggest threat to civilisation as we know it.” Do such statements have an empirical basis? Should we even question such statements? Is that not being friendly with terrorists or with proponents of radical Islam? I will get to these questions later, but first, based on available evidence, “jihadi terrorism” is not “the biggest threat to civi-lisation as we know it”.

The Global Terrorism Database (GTD), maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Mary-land in the US is the most comprehensive repository of information on terrorism incidents around the world. According to the GTD, between 2000 and 2014, India suffered 6,023 terrorist attacks in which 8,613 persons died. The number of incidents linked to terrorist groups operated by Muslims were 436 (7 per cent of total) and the fatalities were 1,650 (19 per cent of total). Mind you, some of these groups may not necessarily draw inspiration from radical Islam as much as they do from nationalism, as in the case of a few Kashmiri groups. Nevertheless, I lumped all of them together to cast the net as wide as possible to capture this jihadi element.

Some may make the case that jihadi terrorism is a bigger problem now than it was earlier. Well, let’s look at more recent data. In the five-year period from 2010 to 2014, India suffered 3,468 terrorist incidents resulting in 2,515 fatalities. The so-called jihadi terrorists were responsible for 146 such incidents (4 per cent) and 236 fatalities (9 per cent). This suggests that the share of terrorist incidents and fatalities attributed to jihadis has in fact declined.

While jihadi terrorism leaves an indelible mark and creates fear, the numbers are hardly reflective of an existential threat. For the overwhelming majority of Indians, the threat of violence is likely from other sources of terror. But, even for them, terrorism is not an existential threat. US President Barack Obama in his recent State of the Union address may have articulated the real existential threat. While acknowledging the threat posed by terrorism, he was emphatic in stating that climate change was the “greatest threat to future generations”.

Is the terrorism inspired by radical Islam a major problem? Sure. You won’t find much disagreement on such questions. In fact, Muslims around the world are beginning to see the threat radical Islamists pose to, well, themselves. Not only are Muslims the biggest victims of Islamist terrorism in countries like Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, they (or let me say, we) are viewed stereotypically as potential terrorists. Is it any wonder then that a recent Pew Research Centre survey of 11 countries with significant Muslim populations found that people “overwhelmingly expressed negative views of [the] ISIS”? With almost 200 million Muslims in India, a narrative of civilisational conflict is likely to create an environment of mistrust and prejudice, a dream scenario for terrorists. If this is not a recipe for a weaker India, I don’t know what is.

That six terrorists managed to engage us in an air force base in Pathankot for so many days is not because they were superhuman. They were just looking for a fight and a speedy dispatch to hell. It is our incompetence that gave them sufficient time to start dreaming of heaven.

If a bunch of terrorists is all that is required to make India worry about its existence, they have already won. Let me assert that India is one of the biggest economic and military powers in the world. Period. Terrorists, jihadi or otherwise, as an existential threat? It is not even close.

The writer is a national media panellist of the Indian National Congress. Views are personal

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    Sirius
    Jan 26, 2016 at 10:53 am
    Mr. Soz uses statistics cleverly to prove that jihadi violence is not an existential threat ! But, existential or otherwise, it is still a potent threat that endangers the existence of non-muslims. And that's why, we should disregard moderates like Mr. Soz, and keep up our efforts at preventing Jihadi violence from happening and ' nuetralizing' jihadi's ...
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      US NRI
      Jan 26, 2016 at 5:45 am
      It has not declined..it's been brought under control...thanks to power shift from appeasing govt to actionable govt
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        Ambarish Singh
        Jan 26, 2016 at 4:21 pm
        Having lived in India for the past fifteen years, I find the data churned out by the GTD on India hard to believe. 6023 terror incidents is high by any standard. May be their nomenclature of counting and defining terror attacks is different from us. It wouldnt be prudent to base observations without digging for facts from govt sources. According to NCRB 197 terror incidents have taken place since 1989 till date I agree with Mr Soz on the question of some sections in Kashmiri insurgency woven around Kashmiri nationalism, however it is their alignment with global jihad which provides them the ideological glue, resources and shelter to stick together as well as the audacity to commit dastardly acts against others. Surveys are deceptive and should be taken with a pinch of salt. A survey conducted by a Saudi news channel Al Hayat shows a whopping 92% of the Saudis extending support to the ISIS. A very disturbing statistic given the grip Saudi has in the Islamic world. Jihad is an existential conflict for the Islamic world more than anything else and would certainly bring annihilation for countries and the current world order. It may be tempting to brush it aside but that wont mitigate or brush away this threat. It is high time we took the bull by its horns instead of trying to obfuscate facts and dismiss these threats
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          Anil Merani
          Jan 26, 2016 at 6:37 am
          if we are milatary powerhouse how come stan gets away despite repeated provocations. is it because we dont mind few deaths every year to faciliate continuted econcomic growth.
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            Anmol Phutela
            Jan 26, 2016 at 4:33 pm
            And yes happy republic day.
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              Anmol Phutela
              Jan 26, 2016 at 3:41 pm
              Daily the suspected are being tracked at different places including Bangalore, uttarakhandand goa.yes climate change is the biggest threat for upcoming generations, but for this generation TERRORISM is the biggest threat which must be contained.if not, then there would be no future generations to bear the climate change. WITH DUE RESPECT.
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                bryn
                Apr 19, 2016 at 11:30 am
                To all the people in Comment section : You all are nothing but fear mongers whether it is India or US the same Jihadi terror is being fed up the brains of people while evading critical issues of non equality among the mes ,climate change, Oligarchy. But you people will never understand HATE is all that you know and believe in.
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                  Girish Phalke
                  Jan 26, 2016 at 7:05 am
                  Sure only person realted to congress can write such articles... May be ISIS is an friendly organisation for you people and pathankot was just a mock drill by Indian military.
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                    Rohit
                    Jan 27, 2016 at 4:59 pm
                    Decline in terrorist activity is not because of improvement on moral slandered of terrorist (what you actually trying to justify by misinterpretation of various data) , It is due to strengthening of security infrastructure and awareness among mes.....do correct your perception.
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                      David
                      Jan 26, 2016 at 5:33 am
                      Its not me, its a fact and discussed everywhere. Countries after countries are in turmoil because of religious fanaticism. Eg. stan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lybia, Sudan, Egypt and others like Saudi are boiling.
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                        David
                        Jan 26, 2016 at 3:00 am
                        Let me list a few terrorists attacks on India. Then you the people decide. Mumbai bombings, attack on Kashmir embly Building, Parliament Building Attach, countless train bombings , in Kashmir separating Hindus and killing them, displacement of Kashmiri Pandits, Mumbai siege of 2008 by Kasab and company, bombing of Sankat Mochan Temple, and now Pathankot. I am sure I have missed some. If these are not earth shattering events in the life of a nation then what are. And all perpetuaters belonged to one community. This m0slim writer as usual plays the victim! Islam needs reformation for its own good. First step, accept there is a problem.
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                          David
                          Jan 26, 2016 at 4:17 am
                          You point well taken. A karma Hindu, not janma.
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                            S T
                            Jan 27, 2016 at 8:45 am
                            The jihadi threat is an existential threat to all societies and cultures in the world other than the Arab/Muslim community. The threat may not destroy the cultures today. But over a few centuries, the effect can certainly be that of complete destruction as can be seen from what has happened in Afganistan, stan, Bangla Desh, certain areas of India and many other places. The radical islam when it is minority, becomes majority at some point in history and then annihilates the now minority original religion/culture. This has been happening since the advent of Islam, and those who were responsible for it are of the same characteristics as that of todays Jihadists. First do you agree with this and do you agree that it is not fair. Almost peoples of all other religions are willing to/have already modernized themelves and willing to say let bygones be bygones and lets us now live in a democratic manner where all are equal. Will Islamists accept that all religions are equal? Will even modeate and educated muslims accept? Will muslims stop conversions ? Why has percentage of non-muslims in stan reduced to 2% from 15% in last just 60 years? With potion percentage growing steadily, what is the guarantee that they will not ask another parion of India in future? If that happens, then is it not existential threat?
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                              sachin Sachin
                              Jan 27, 2016 at 4:48 am
                              Next time author might try to justify that only 7 security persons died in Pathankot. India has a potion of 1.3 billion so 7 deaths are irrelevant. More people die of illness in India everyday. Hence, Pathankot was not an important incident as much as health issue. We are so unfortunate that we have to read such nonsense articles published in major newspapers. Journalism- Please improve.
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                                sachin Sachin
                                Jan 27, 2016 at 4:35 am
                                The data being used is improper. Using just two data- No. of incidents and no. of fatalities does not convey in any manner the gravity of threat posed which the author is trying to confuse the people. One terrorist incident like Pathankot is far more threat than other mundane incidences. It is time that such authors should protect his community from getting radicalized by making them aware of the threat posed by extremist ideology, the intention of such articles is to undermine the threat posed by radical islamism. The author says that environment challenges is greater threat than ISIS. What stupidity is this.
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                                  Rocky
                                  Jan 26, 2016 at 6:36 am
                                  The greatets threat to human civikization is sickular journalists and sycphantic suck-ups like the author here
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                                    shekhar
                                    Jan 26, 2016 at 7:38 am
                                    I hope more people like you, mani shankar aiyyar occupy the highest places in Congress. Then we will soon see people writing about Congress with nostalgia in past tense. While there is a need to introspect in what has gone wrong in the religious tenets which needs reforms, people like you love global conspiracy theories of defaming islam with cokked up facts and interpretations.
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                                      Nik
                                      Jan 26, 2016 at 1:06 pm
                                      I will be very honest here. I read the le, and started reading the article and within two minutes I realised that I am reading someone who is sympathetic to one party's ideology of "Good boys and the less good boys (pun intended) ". Only at the end I found that I was not wrong.
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                                        Thomas George
                                        Jan 26, 2016 at 4:13 pm
                                        Did he say that? He only said that terrorism is general is not an existential threat to India based on some source. You can refute the source, provide other sources, or refute the argument used to reach the conclusion. His membership to a political organization has nothing to do with the soundness of his data, argument, or conclusion.
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                                          Vinod Vinayak
                                          Jan 26, 2016 at 4:49 am
                                          Mr. Salman Anees Soz Watch this::::: 2M then say some thing apologetically, it will really make sense.
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                                            Vivek
                                            Jan 26, 2016 at 5:01 am
                                            Interesting how you have left out several other terrorist attacks. The purpose of your statement appears to indicate that only one community breeds extremists or terrorists. A person breaking the social compact is a criminal. Treat him like one. Not any one who is sane would go about killing people because a character in a holy book (a jibe at all religions) asked them to do. Problem is not with Islam but with discrimination and broad generalization that only one community is capable of creating violence. Extremism of every religion is a problem for a country like India. If you are listing terror attacks on India please start from the first which would be the ination of Mahatma hi.
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