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Is terrorism the result of differences between religious beliefs of people?

Karan Chaudhary

In this essay, I’ll argue that differences in religious beliefs don’t result in terrorism. I’ll prove that it is socio-political and economic conflicts that trigger terrorism and I’ll show how religion is used as a scapegoat to justify these acts.

The argument that religion causes terrorism is inferred from the notion that religion is absolutist and that violence forms a latent part of many religions’ core structure. 9/11 attacks had put the spotlight on the role of religion in terrorism and there has been a steady increase in religious violence over the last couple of decades. It is not uncommon in the face of such tragedies to categorize religion as one perpetrating terrorism. Islam, for example, is regarded by many as a religion of terrorism. Still, faithful Muslims regard Islam as a religion of peace. Not only Islam but, followers of almost every religion refuse to believe that their religious beliefs could result in any type of violence.

The problem with such a notion of regarding Islam or any other religion as a religion of terrorism is based on the assumption that the whole of religion has supported terrorism. The argument, then, would shift to the flawed debate about scriptural examples of the militant side of Islam, which is flawed because it takes away the responsibility of the victimizer and misses on the interpretational part of the scripture.

Socio-economic and political conflicts remain to be the major drivers of terrorism. Middle East, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa, with Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, and Syria are dominant regions of conflict where terrorism is pervasive. Conflicts result often in the defense of territory or culture, that is deemed by members of that community to be under threat from foreign powers. When no other path is in sight of protecting their culture or territory, violence comes into play. Until 2003, the number of suicide bombings was the highest by a secular ethnic movement: The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. There was no role of religion in this conflict, rather, it was a sense of collective purpose to protect its cultural identity.

However, liberating religion of any responsibility would be unfair in acts of religious terrorism. Of course, the tensions that lead to conflict are usually political and socio-economic. But, religion is often used as a weapon to religionize the conflict, and when religion comes into play, It transforms the conflict into one of a holy conflict. Where heavenly rewards would be promised. Images of sacred warfare are prevalent in every religion for example the Hebrew Bible, the epics of Hinduism, and Jihad in Islam, etc. What makes religion a deadly weapon is that it places conflicts in the sacred realm, where, the act of participation against oppression is rigged with heavenly rewards.

It is imperative that terrorism is caused by socio-economic and political conflicts. However, religions’ role cannot be ignored, although, It isn’t an initial part of terrorism it plays an integral part in the latter stages of the chain of terrorism.

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