US & UK must stop interfering in other nations if they want to stop terrorism – Ken Livingstone
The world watched with horror as our TV screens showed the killing of at least 253 people in Sri Lanka, as locals went to their Sunday churches and holidaymakers relaxed in their hotels. This came shortly after the equally horrific mass murder of Muslims at prayers in New Zealand mosques.
All around the world people fear the rise of terrorism and increasingly people believe the real threat comes from the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. But the truth is Islamist terror incidents have been reducing across the world and particularly in the West since 2014. The decline of Islamist terror incidents has been matched by a surge of terror attacks by far-right racists which make up a third of terror attacks around the world.
Most people will find this surprising because our media focuses on Islamist terror rather than that of the far-right. In a recent report published by the Guardian, Scott Atran, who is a founder of the Centre of the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at the University of Oxford, revealed that attacks by Muslims received over four times more coverage in the media in the US than other terrorist incidents.Also on rt.com ‘I’ll never forget the scene’: Sri Lankan cricketer recalls bomb attack horror
So, is Islam the natural home of terrorism as implied by so much of our media coverage? To discover the truth, we need to look at the teachings of the founder of Islam, the prophet Mohammed. Born in 570 AD, he was the son of a poor merchant who was orphaned at the age of six and reared by his grandfather to be a merchant. Although he continued as a trader he was drawn to religion claiming he received revelations by the angel Gabriel and just like Jesus Christ he was a strong advocate that the rich should provide more support for the poorest. He started with a small band of devoted followers but within a decade had gained control over all of what is today’s Arabia.
Shortly before he died on 8th June 632 he delivered his last sermon which stands out as remarkably liberal: “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab any superiority over an Arab. Also, a white has no superiority over a black nor a black any superiority over a white.” He then went on to say that God had created humanity “and formed you into tribes and nations so that you may get to know one another.” Not so you may fight or oppress or occupy or convert or terrorise but so that you can “get to know one another.”
So, if these are the rules laid down by the founder of Islam how can someone like Osama bin Laden plan the murder of over 3,000 Americans in the attack on the Twin Towers back in 2001 and do the Sri Lankan terrorists even know that this was the message of Mohammed. And if they do how could they justify the monstrous crime they unleashed on their Christian neighbours.
The grim fact is that every faith has its extremist elements. The Ku Klux Klan, which hanged thousands of black Americans identified as a Christian organisation. Back in 2015, Rabbi Benzi Gopstein was asked in an interview: “Do you support the burning of churches in Israel?” He replied that of course he was in support. This unleashed a wave of criticism, but Israel’s attorney general refused to prosecute him for this extreme statement. Since 2009, at least fifty-three mosques and churches have been vandalised in Israel. Perhaps one thing that could have fuelled Islamist extremism is the fact that the great mosque al-Masjid al-Kabir was destroyed by Israeli missiles on 8th July 2014 and the PLO claim that sixty-three mosques have been destroyed by Israel.
The growth of far-right terrorism is seen as being fuelled by Islamist threats. Dylann Roof killed nine African American churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015 and said he was “Like a Palestinian in an Israel jail after killing nine people… the Palestinian would not be upset or have any regret.” Nor can we forget the vast number of Norwegian young socialists who were killed by Anders Breivik.Also on rt.com Weapons ending up with terrorists is OK, as long as Obama did it: The world according to CNN
I could go on endlessly listing terrorist attacks but it’s more important that we can look at what we can do to restrain them. How can we create a less violent, more tolerant world by dealing with what fuels the anger that leads to these acts of terrorism? Undoubtedly for many the terrible poverty has been a factor but as we saw with the terror attacks in Sri Lanka many of the individuals involved were relatively well-off.
There is no doubt in my mind that one of the major causes of the rise of terrorism has been the foreign policy of US presidents who have consistently interfered in Arab states for decades. In July 1979, President Jimmy Carter was briefed by the CIA about what was happening in Afghanistan. At that time the Afghan government was pro-Soviet and firmly clamped down on Islamist extremism whilst promoting equal rights for women. The CIA told President Carter that if the US started providing arms for the Muslim groups that were fighting to overthrow the pro-Soviet government, this could provoke the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan and ‘it would be their Vietnam.’ Carter agreed, the Soviet Union invaded and forty years on the violence in Afghanistan continues.
The United Nations has just reported that the Afghan government, with US support, has killed more civilians in the first quarter of 2019 than the Taliban and other Islamist groups. American air strikes caused 140 deaths, a quarter of the total. The Afghan government was responsible for a fifth of deaths. Altogether 581 civilians have been killed and 1,192 injured between January and March.
We still live with a similar consequence in Iraq, following the invasion unleashed by US President George W Bush and UK PM Tony Blair. The West’s involvement in trying to overthrow the governments of Syria and Libya have been equally devastating in their consequences. Since 1945, the US has been responsible for many foreign invasions and coups to overthrow governments that they did not want to see continue in power. None of this was ever about defending human rights or democracy, it was always about defending US commercial interests.
The people of Britain and America were told we had to invade Iraq because it had weapons of mass destruction and had been linked to the 9/11 terror attacks in the US. The US Congress conducted a detailed investigation of this but when their report was published, twenty-eight pages were withheld. Had those pages been revealed Congress and the British House of Commons would not have voted to support the invasion of Iraq because these pages alleged that the funding for Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organisation came from Saudi Arabia.Also on rt.com Appalling that the UK govt supports Saudi regime, one of the most brutal on Earth – Ken Livingstone
Of course there are extreme religious elements that fuel terrorism. We know now that the slaughter in Sri Lanka was inspired by Zahran Hashim, a preacher whose video was released by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) claiming responsibility for the attacks. We know little about Hashim. He is believed to be about forty-years-old and was driven out of his town in Sri Lanka because of his extremist views. Many, if not most, of these terrorist attacks, whether by religious groups or the far-right are inspired by charismatic individuals.
If we are to stop terrorism, the US, and its main ally Britain, have to stop interfering in other nations and we also have to mobilise international pressure to stop Saudi Arabia funding terrorist organisations.
We also have to recognise the importance of religion in our world. Although I have been an atheist since the age of twelve, through all my time in politics I have engaged with different faiths. Back in the 1970s and 1980s I was defending the Irish Catholic community here in Britain. In those days the IRA was letting off two or three bombs a year but the British media demonised the whole Irish Catholic community with one appalling cartoon depicting every Irish Catholic as a terrorist. The media coverage fuelled intolerance towards Catholics and there were many physical attacks just as is the case today with Muslims. The vast majority of people who believe in God are appalled by terrorism and we should no more be denouncing the Muslim community today than we did the Irish Catholic one forty years ago.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.