Psy­chol­ogy of Ter­ror­ism

Southasia - - Book review -

Dr. Unaiza Niaz’s mas­terly work on the roots of wars, in­sur­gen­cies and ter­ror­ism is the first of its kind by a Pak­istani author.

It is also one of the best and com­pre­hen­sive guides on the sub­ject. The painstak­ing re­search and in­ci­sive in­tel­lec­tual ex­trap­o­la­tion go­ing into the work, of­ten hard to as­sim­i­late, is rec­om­pensed by the smooth flow of the nar­ra­tive. Read­abil­ity emerges un­scratched through the tan­gled wood of tech­ni­cal ver­biage and tech­ni­cal jar­gon of­ten un­avoid­able in a se­ri­ous work like this.

The book is a ‘col­lage’ of guest writ­ers - for­eign and national from Pak­istan, Afghanistan the Mid­dle East, Africa and all coun­tries where there are Mus­lim pop­u­la­tions. It is a ‘voice’ from the Mus­lim world to cre­ate aware­ness of the ‘silent suf­fer­ers’ of the mal­ady world­wide.

The bat­tle­ground to­day lies within the civil­ian do­main rather than on a dis­tinct bat­tle­field.

Hence the tyran­ni­cal term ‘Col­lat­eral Dam­age’ to cover up and jus­tify the use of air power in FATA headed by Drones, helicopter gun­ships, Chi­nooks and Black Hawks – even F-16 fight­ers/ bombers, where nec­es­sary.

The ‘plight’ of the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion in the FATA re­gion, caused by the loss of life and limb, along with the rest of the Mus­lim world - Su­dan, So­ma­lia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bos­nia – Herze­gov­ina, etc. is cru­elly dis­missed as ‘col­lat­eral dam­age.’

A young Pathan in­tel­lec­tual, a Ph.D can­di­date at Har­vard, whom I hap­pened to meet in Pe­shawar, be­lieves that be­sides the ‘psy­cho-trauma’ there would not be many amongst the sur­vivors in Waziris­tan, North and South, with­out a limb or an eye miss­ing, worse still com­pletely blinded and dis­abled.

Ac­cord­ing to one of the con­trib­u­tors, Jes­sica Stern, ram­pant ter­ror­ism orig­i­nates in the vi­cious hy­poth­e­sis of us­ing it as a ‘mean of de­mor­al­iz­ing the en­emy.’ The four­teenth cen­tury Chi­nese strate­gic sage Sun Tzu’s dic­tum ‘killing one to frighten ten thou­sand,’ a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for hundreds of Drone vic­tims. It seeks only to keep blood­shed to the min­i­mum, in ef­fect, to avert war al­to­gether. Sun Tzu would rather have war with­out ‘blood­y­ing one’s sword.’

Dr. Niaz iden­ti­fies ‘Wa­habism’ at the root of rad­i­cal/po­lit­i­cal Is­lam and the driv­ing force be­hind the growth of ter­ror­ism in most of the Arab and Is­lamic world. Wa­habism is mainly di­rected against Western pow­ers, for their un­qual­i­fied sup­port of Is­rael and Mus­lim deviants from pris­tine Is­lam.

Nearer home, the fes­ter­ing Kash­mir dis­pute and the run­ning war (Ji­had) and the vir­tual oc­cu­pa­tion of Afghanistan by NATO/ISAF un­der Amer­i­can com­mand wa­ters the poi­sonous ivy of ter­ror­ism.

No less than 70, 000 are re­ported killed in Kash­mir and the tally con­tin­ues to rise day by day. Noth­ing short of geno­cide, over­whelm­ingly Mus­lim. It has had enor­mous psy­cho­log­i­cal con­se­quences af­fect­ing the ‘phys­i­cal cog­ni­tive emo­tional health of the en­tire pop­u­la­tion.’

Pales­tine has an even sor­rier tale to tell. The Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion of bonafide Pales­tinian parts of ter­ri­to­ries, of the Jor­da­nian West Bank along with the Syr­ian Golan Heights and re­cur­ring in­va­sions of Le­banon are the worst kind of ter­ror­ism un­der the de­cep­tive la­bel of war. As a re­sult the re­gion re­mains torn by per­pet­ual con­flict.

In her chap­ter ‘Ter­ror­ism and its Af­ter­math,’ Dr. Niaz fo­cuses on the ‘in­ter­est­ing and strange sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween ter­ror­ism and me­dia.’

The ter­ror­ists of­ten take ad­van­tage of im­ages of groups of masked in­di­vid­u­als co­erc­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing their cap­tive to ‘con­vey the mes­sage’ that the act is a ‘col­lec­tive dis­play of the group’s power rather than an in­di­vid­ual crim­i­nal act.’

The ‘ran­dom­ness and ubiq­uity’ of the threat tends to give the ‘im­pres­sion’ of vastly greater ca­pac­i­ties sub-

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