The terror attacks in Sri Lanka may seem as yet another Islamist terror incident. However, this is a new territory, a whole other game, and a new chapter in terrorism. The Islamist terrorism that our generation has known stemmed primarily from the teachings of Syed Qutub, whose book Milestones inspired a generation of Arab Takfiris, including Ayman Zawahiri, the current head of al Qaeda. The events of late 1979 — the siege of Makkah, the Iranian revolution, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — started a chain reaction creating the Mujahideen and then al Qaeda during the 1980s. Then came the unforeseen Soviet Union’s collapse followed by the Gulf War of 1991 which eventually led to the turning of al Qaeda against its erstwhile patron, the United States, resulting in the attacks against the US embassy in Tanzania, the Khobar Towers bombing, bombing of the USS Cole and finally 9/11.
If we closely look at these terrorist attacks, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, they represent hatred and anger by one religion against a nation-state — the United States — either for its support of Israel, or the despotic leaders of the Middle East. Mujahideen were also driven by nationalistic and religious zeal against a superpower. The Taliban’s DNA had been nationalism from day one. The Takfiris, whilst looking for martyrdom instead of defending their nation and for returning Islamic governments towards what they regarded as true Islam, did not want to kill adherents of other religions for revenge. The IS was created as a result of the US invasion of Iraq and their DNA being an anti-Shia terrorist group. Hezbollah was created as a result of Israeli aggression in Lebanon. It was religion versus aggressor.
This new form of terrorism is religion versus religion. When the Christchurch attack happened, the IS issued a call for revenge. IS spokesperson Abu Hassan al Muhajir said, “This slaughter in those two mosques is no more than another tragedy among past and coming tragedies, which will be followed by scenes of force that reach all who were tricked [in] to living among the polytheist. The scenes of death in the two mosques are enough to wake up from sleep and incite the supporters of the caliphate who live there, to take vengeance for their religion and for sons of their Ummah, who are killed everywhere in the world.”
The Sri Lankan attack is believed to have been a response to the New Zealand attack. The Sri Lankan minister of state for defence said, “The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch, but we are continuing investigations.” A Christian terrorist killed innocent Muslims in New Zealand and as retaliation a bunch of Muslim terrorists killed innocent Christians in Sri Lanka. Those other terrorist groups are driven by religion too but their hatred is directed towards the West or their own government or at countries that have deployed their soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The Christchurch attacker was driven by hatred for Muslims and immigrants. Hatred is delicious. More importantly, he was driven by revenge. He expressed solidarity with a group he identified with against a group he had hatred for. One might argue that the Christchurch attack is an example of nationalism with hatred for a religion. However, the attacker had made the attack in New Zealand (not his country) to send a message that no place was safe for Muslims.
Adherents of one religion attacked those of another just because a member of one religion (Christianity) killed the others’ co-religionists (Muslims) in a different country. Neither of the attackers were linked to their co-religionists that they were avenging. The Christchurch attacker wanted to avenge the IS terror attack in Stockholm. This is an example of religions uniting people across the world, but all the wrong people and for all the wrong reasons.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2019.